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Review of Tales to Astonish #87 (v1) [A Story]
Published: January 1967
Reviewer Rating: Star Wars RatingStar Wars RatingStar Wars RatingStar Wars RatingStar Wars Rating
Avg User Rating: Star Wars RatingStar Wars RatingStar Wars RatingStar Wars RatingStar Wars Rating
March 28, 2018
As StrictSnow points out, we've reached story #500. Well, in my case, a little more because I also read Silver Age WWII and don't always follow the Order. And since I was already planning to post a little review on my part before I got here and saw that Snow beat me to it, here's my take on it.

In my opinion, it takes two things to make a good series: a good set of villains, and enough supporting characters to allow interesting sub-plots. Of course, you can add to that a good storyteller and great artist, but since they change so often, let's focus on the first two.


It too me a while to realize how specialized each title is and how each have their own types of villains. And I now realize that it's not a bad idea. What makes a great villain is not really the magnitude or even the originality of his powers. To me it's also the backstory for these villains. Give some background to a Gladiator or an Ox and you can make your bad guy as interesting as Loki, Magneto or the Red Skull.

The Fantastic Four are meant to fight large scale baddies in a sci-fi format. The Avengers also deal with large scale threats but more often, they are villains or groups of villains that one or several of their own team has fought in the past. The X-Men tend to specialize in evil mutants or mutant haters, at least for now. While Iron Man is more focused on Cold War threats against the USA, Captain America tends to follow suit a little with what remains of the Nazis, but it is a bit too early to judge considering how little contemporary stories were published so far. Nick Fury and SHIELD are totally focused on secret agent stories where he and his team fight secret evil organizations.

On a different scale, you find Thor whose enemies took long to match the extent of power. But what works well for him is when he is confronted to godlike creatures, machines or monsters, whether they are in Asgard or on Earth.
Then you have Spider-Man and Daredevil whose villains are more local and who tend restrain their criminal activities to New York City. Very often, these villains have personal vendettas or agendas against the hero, as opposed to plans to conquer the world.

The Hulk and Sub-Mariner are the anti-heroes. They would be called good guys if citizens knew what they really do. But fate (namely Stan) has decided otherwise. In case of the Hulk, he fights for his freedom and occasionally saves humans in the process. Sub-Mariner fights to protect his people, but up until now, he was more focused on trying to keep his throne.

For Gi-Ant-Man and Wasp and Torch solo, let's just say that they happened early in the order. Torch still left us with a few long-lasting villains like the Wizard and the Trapster so it can't be all bad despite the poor quality of their first appearances. Hank and Jan, well... hum, some of the art was good.

Finally let's not forget Dr. Strange, whose powers would make it impossible to pit him against regular villains. I mean, how can you battle someone who can send you to another dimension whenever he wants? That would make boring stories. So instead, let's take the fight to other dimensions, and explore dark magic and mysticism. And Ditko's talent was a perfect fit to launch the series and set some kind of standard for years to come.

No doubt about it, Spider-Man has the best supporting cast. Not only does he have his main storyline with a very diverse menagerie of foes, but he has a family, a lot of schoolmates and some co-workers, all of which having distinct personalities. That leads to an amazing potential for character development and it is always a treat to read.

The Fantastic Four could have been a self-sufficient cast because the team is composed of four people with very strong and established personalities. In addition to Reed and Sue's relationship, very early in the series, they initiated a romantic sub-plot with the extraordinary Alicia Masters and the Thing. Then they started to introduce characters that will shape this whole universe, like the Watcher, the Sub-Mariner, the Inhumans, Silver Surfer, and soon, the Black Panther. And the recent addition of Wyatt Wingfoot made Johnny's storyline a little more interesting at last.

Thor is my third favorite series. And it is not because of Jane Foster. That doomed relationship felt like a love triangle because of Odin, but the analogy stops there. Odin has been a total d1ck from the beginning with his son. But the recent improvement in the baddies in the main series and the arrival of the Warriors Three in Tales of Asgard took to title to a new level.

For Iron Man and Daredevil, unfortunately, the cast is basically limited to two co-workers. One of each sex, because Stan has this thing with love triangles. This makes for very poor and redundant sub-plots. It's a pity, because in their first appearances, Happy and Pepper were quite fun to read until they got to serious. At least now, Happy has a different relationship with Tony since he knows about his secret alter ego. We'll where that takes it. There is also the Black Widow, who was introduced in Iron Man, but now, she's more or less a supporting cast for the Avengers. I believe that if it weren't for the extraordinary artist that worked on both series, I would not have appreciated them at all.

Being about the same age as Spider-Man and Johnny, the X-Men could have had the same kind of entourage, but they don't. Bobby and Hank do have interesting friends at the coffee shop, but other than that, it is pretty limited for now because of their imposed reclusion. Let's hope Jean going to another school will bring more.

The Hulk does have an interesting cast. Of course, Rick Jones can be annoying at times, the love triangle with Betty Ross and Glenn Talbot is getting old, and General Ross single-mindedness irritates me. But taken as a whole, Banner's condition because of the Hulk is a sub-plot in itself and can be quite interesting psychologically speaking.

Sub-Mariner is too busy fighting for his throne to allow much for support characters, but with this issue, we can hope that the romance will no longer imply love triangles. Lord Vashti could also be an interesting character but they need to give him a personality other than mere loyalty, because he is boring now.

Captain America suffers much from a lack of supporting characters. All he does is fight, fight, fight, then he stops to mourn Bucky and sink deeper into his PTSD. Of course, the limited number of pages does not help when it comes to sub-plots. Let's hope he finds some friends because his storylines are pretty boring at the moment.

Dr. Strange would have a lot of potential, given the weird universe he's in. For now, he has only has mentor, the Ancient One, and a budding romance with Clea. But like Cap America, only a few pages each issue leave very little room for character development.

Nick Fury, whether he is with the Howling Commandos or with SHIELD, does not have any extras at the moment. Both series are very different because of the context. You do not need too many additional characters Sgt. Fury because WWII is a totally different environment and the members of the team already make up for it. Still, the romantic affair with Pamela was one of the best, and unfortunately the shortest, relationships we've had until now. With SHIELD, they could do more, but Dugan, Jones and Sitwell can be considered as main characters already. So it is not so bad.

Finally, for the Avengers, it is a little more complex because it is a big team which was composed of characters who already had their own series. Or at least it was in the beginning. Now that Pietro, Wanda and Hawkeye have joined, they brought along their own storylines so things are already getting better. I know it is hard to add more characters to a cast of heroes that is already huge so let's hope that the creators focus first on writing great main stories.
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