Tuesday, February 1, 2011

108: Tales of Suspense #49

Tales of Suspense #49
October 8, 1963

  • Guest-starring the X-Men! Well, Angel, to be precise. Which seems a bit ... odd. Oh, it makes perfect sense that Stan would want to showcase his new title in another book and market them a bit more. But ... the Angel? I know The X-Men has only been around for a couple of issues so far, and hasn't had much of a chance to really develop the characters - and yet, the Angel isn't the team member I would have thought to be most appealing or interesting. Really, in a setting as weird and wondrous as the Marvel world has rapidly become, the ability to fly is as unremarkable of a power as ... well, the ability to shrink. (Note that characters such as the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Iron Man all possess the power of flight, and in ways that are completely secondary to their main abilities.)

    I feel this way every morning when I wake.

  • Although the Angel is the main guest-star / temporary villain of the piece (after flying over Tony Stark's nearby atomic test site, the nuclear explosion turns him EVIL!), the rest of the X-Men appear as well, and in not just a quick cameo. When the dark Angel angrily tells them that he's quit the team, they realize something must be wrong and immediately launch into action. From then on, it's the X-Men's story almost as much as it is Iron Man's. All of the X-Men get good face time, introducing the characters to readers who might not have picked up their book yet - and providing good reason as to why they should! On the other hand, not faring nearly as well in the guest department are the Avengers, the other members of which simply receive one panel apiece to show why they couldn't answer the X-Men's call for help, leaving it just to Tony. But note that this is the first acknowledgment of Tony's new team in Tales of Suspense! (In fact, it might be their first mention outside their own book at all.)

    But if he leaves now, he'll never meet the menace of the Blob in issue #3!
    (Wait.  Could that have been his plan all along?)

  • A word about the art: As previously discussed, this is the third (and last) part of the three-issue guest-stint by Steve Ditko. In each of those issues, Ditko received a different inker, with varying degrees of quality and effectiveness; as a result, only #48 looks really, blatantly like Ditko to the untrained eye. This time out, his inker is Paul Reinman, and while the inking is certainly competent, the combination does sadly look a bit bland. Fortunately, next month Don Heck returns on art, where he will stay for the next two years - and I, for one, couldn't be happier!

    These two scenes actually appear on two separate pages, mirroring each other.
    But I love how they play out, and I think they go grandly together.

  • Still, when all is said and done, it's an odd story. It's a simple story, to be sure, though not as egregious as being one story-length fight scene (as also hit the stands this same week). And although very little happens in it, the character flourishes are interesting enough that it's not a boring comic. But it's also not an exciting one. So, was this a successful comic, do you think? Well, that depends on what it was going for, I suppose. In the area of cross-promotion, I think it has to be considered a pretty decent success. But was it successful at being a great Iron Man story...? Well, as mentioned, it's not bad, per se - but it's, frankly, not all that memorable either.

    Somehow, I've a feeling they'll see each other again....

  • Bonus! In Tales to Astonish #51, Marvel began a new (if ultimately short-lived) backup feature "The Wonderful Wasp Tells a Tale!", in which a small framing segment shows Janet Van Dyne telling stories. This new method was clearly something Stan was testing out, as this issue of Suspense gives us the first instalment of a similar feature entitled "Tales of the Watcher", starring the cosmic observer who first appeared in Fantastic Four #13. Just like the Wasp backup, it's by the same creative team of Stan Lee (plot), Larry Lieber (script and pencils), and George Roussos (inks), and they turn out just as enjoyable of an effort here. Sadly, these tales have never been reprinted in any Marvel Masterworks, as the framing device was felt to be too slight as to warrant the interest.

    In this first tale, we're told of the Sneepers, distant aliens intent on destroying
    the human race - until their remote findings indicate we're fast on that path for them....