Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Skull The Slayer #2 - Marvel Comics

SKULL THE SLAYER No. 2, November 1975
Written by two-time Jack Kirby Award-winner Marv Wolfman, “Gods and Super-Gods” represents everything both good and bad about “Marvel Comics Group” publications during the mid-Seventies. On the one hand the Brooklyn-born author’s narrative concerns an entertainingly corny concoction of modern day man, cave-dwelling cannibals, long-dead extra-terrestrials and an assortment of dinosaurs from “two hundred and twenty-two million years” ago. Whilst on the other the New Yorker populates this eighteen-page periodical with some astoundingly one-dimensional protagonists, such as Jeff Turner, a young runaway whose “domineering father… thinks he owns me!”

Indeed it is hard to sympathise with any of this title’s lead characters, as all of them carry some dislikeable ‘chip upon their shoulders’, even the beautiful Ann Reynolds, who having come “top in my class… was told they didn’t hire young girls because we’d be trained and then we’d leave within a year once we were married!” Such a crass chauvinistic attitude is as prehistoric as the historically inaccurate, heavily-fanged Brontosaurus Jim Scully faces at the conclusion of this issue.

However nothing arguably compares to the hateful attitude of Doctor Raymond Corey, whose belief that “every white man’s out to put you down!” makes the scientist seemingly appear to be just as much of a racist as the bigoted prejudicial people he resents; “Don’t worry white jungle god -- we’ll get on our knees to thank you! Or would you prefer we sacrifice some native girls to your magnificence?” Such an obnoxious disagreeable group of ‘heroes’ makes it incredibly hard for the reader to actually care about any of these hapless time-travellers, especially when they spend the vast majority of their ‘screen time’ bickering or threatening one another.

Fortunately Wolfman does still manage to imbue Issue Two” of “Skull The Slayer” with plenty of action sequences. “Murderer” Scully’s fist-fight with a number of the cave-dwelling “sub-microscopic morons” and subsequent defeat of "five tons of rampaging Styracosaurus" is as dynamically thrilling as any bibliophile could want. Whilst the adventurers’ exploration of an alien-made chamber, complete with the decaying corpse of a long-dead ‘Martian’ and tantalising wall etchings, proves a suspenseful compelling read.

Somewhat disappointing however has to be the artwork of Steve Gan. The “naturalised Filipino of Chinese origin” is perfectly capable of drawing some truly outstanding looking panels, such as Jim and his compatriots being savaged by a “Bucking Bronto” whilst swimming through “the murky green waters” of a primordial river. But the penciller then ruins the impact of such illustrations by producing some truly poor pictures, complete with misshapen-heads and odd-looking limbs, on the very next page.
Creator/Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artist: Steve Gan, and Letterer: San Jose

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