Saturday, November 16, 2019

Deathlok and the Cosmic Cube

Captain America #288 (Marvel, December 1983, 60 cents)
"Mazes" Scripter: J.M. DeMatteis, Penciler: Mike Zeck, Inker: John Beatty, Colorist: Bob Sharen, Letterer: Diana Albers, Editor: Mark Gruenwald, and Editor in Chief: Jim Shooter.

Captain America is a decade in the future, following his guide Godwulf with the cyborg Deathlok through the streets of New York City circa 1993. They witness the aftermath of a corporate takeover of the United States by Roxxon Oil and the Brand Corporation, its clandestine group the Nth Command sending the country's superheroes into "hostile realities" to kill them, ridding the world of heroes.

Some pockets of humanity found safety from the warring factions and the madman Hellinger. Godwulf leads the two to a group of his friends, including Sage, Swashbuckler, Gentle Sam, Big Man, and Iron Butterfly, who carries a guitar strapped to her back.

Hellinger is in fact Harlan Ryker, a Brand researcher who focused on bionics and cybernetics, creating Deathlok out of Luther Manning. Godwulf's friends and other survivors rally around Deathlok and Captain America to take the fight to Hellinger, now a cyborg himself.

They arrive at his headquarters in upstate New York and gain entrance to his fortress, where they encounter an automated, ever-changing maze. Only Captain America and Deathlok make it through the labyrinth to face Hellinger.

DeMatteis's script is exposition heavy, which is necessary to situate the issue. While I haven't read the other comics in this storyline, there's a lot of potential here, and the idea reminds me of the "Days of Future Past" storyline in The Uncanny X-Men. Zeck's artwork is strong, and the large panel featuring Hellinger on page 19 is excellent. It'd be worth seeing where this storyline started -- and what repercussions it'll have on life back in 1983, especially given Scarlet's hypnotic kiss with Nomad.

The issue also includes ads for ABC and NBC's Saturday morning cartoon lineups, Victory Games's James Bond role-playing game, TSR's Star Frontiers, and a letter column featuring four letters of comment.

Read Also: Marvel Spotlight #33 and Marvel Two-in-One #27.

Availability: This issue is collected in Marvel Masterworks: Deathlok Vol. 1 and Deathlok the Demolisher: The Complete Collection.

Captain America Annual #7 (Marvel, 1983, $1)
"The Last Enchantment" Writer: Peter Gillis, Penciler: Brian Postman, Inker: Kim DeMulder, Letterer: Diana Albers, Colorist: Bob Sharen, Editor: Mark Gruenwald, Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter.

Featuring the "ultimate tale of the Cosmic Cube," this annual opens with three groups being drawn to the no-longer-dormant Cosmic Cube at Project Pegasus: The Aquarian, formerly known as Wundarr; Advanced Idea Mechanics; and a shadowy figure that might represent the Skrulls. AIM attacks the project, and a garbled plea for aid draws Captain America into the fray.

He meets the Aquarian, who's claimed the Cube during the battle, only to allow AIM to gain control of it. Captain America goes to AIM's mammoth home base, where Bernard Worrell is about to utilize the Cube. The Aquarian and Captain America are unable to stop him, and he remakes the world. That doesn't go very well for anyone.

In fact, the Cube is about to hatch. It's an egg! And the Shaper of Worlds, the shadowy figure from the first pages, arrives to return the Cube to its previous dormant state, restoring the world to normalcy and averting disaster.

Holy cow, this issue! Most of the really cool ideas are told in flashback, with Worrell's exposition on pages 15-17 featuring no lesser than Modoc, the Red Skull, Modok, and Thanos. Similarly, the Shaper of Worlds's explanation of the creation of the Cube on pages 35-37 features the Skrulls, the Kree, the Supreme Intelligence, and Captain Mar-Vell. The actual events of this issue pale by comparison to what led up to it. Regardless, Worrell does teleport the bones out of Captain America's body and turns his shield into a crab. Good stuff.

Kudos to Gillis for cramming so much into this issue. Postman's art is a little thin in spots (The Aquarian's character design is particularly weak.), but his work showing the sheer numbers of AIM on pages 12-13 is impressive. The issue also includes ads for Star Frontiers, Grit, and multiple video game cartridges.

Read Also: Marvel Two-in-One #43-44 (actually #42-43, I believe) and 58, and Fantastic Four #137.

Availability: This issue has not been collected. We recommend Captain Marvel: The Complete Collection.

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