As i related yesterday, this was one of two consecutive issues of MARVEL PRESENTS that I got copies of, coverless, in those bundles of stripped comics being sold by my local drug store outlet. I seem to think that I got them both at the same time, which means that either the both of them were in the same bundle, or else I bought two bundles that day and they happened to be one in each one. The former is more likely, though, given the limited state of my finances in 1978. I didn’t get to experience this cover until many years later, but it’s certainly doing its best to convey the idea that Guardians of the Galaxy is a super hero series, isn’t it? Apart from the vaguely spacelike background, there’s nothing to tell a prospective buyer that he was about to enter the 30th Century.Given how much Marvel traded, even then, in its assorted releases all existing in the same continuum, I can see why this might have been the strategy taken.
The writing credit on this issue of MARVEL PRESENTS had changed from the previous issue. Newcomer Roger Stern had replaced Steve Gerber as the wordsmith on this issue–I believe that this was one of Stern’s first scripting assignments, if not his very first. And I’d imagine that Gerber plotted the story, at least broadly–though how much of what made it into print was his inspiration or Stern’s is difficult to say from a distance of so many years. I have a vague memory that I read this issue before the one yesterday; that I somehow either didn’t realize that there were two issues of teh book in this stack, or else mistook which one came first. Without covers, it was easier to slip up like that.
I didn’t really mention artist Al Milgrom while talking about the other issue yesterday. He was one of a number of fans who came out of the Detroit area and became professionals–Jim Starlin and Rich Buckler were two others. Over the course of his career, Milgrom worked almost all of the different disciplines that went into creating a comic book: he was, at different times, an editor, a writer, a penciler and and inker (and likely at least occasionally a colorist and letterer, to say nothing of production man.) He had an art style that was somehow a bit chunky, with lines that often felt as though they had been inked by somebody with a heavy hand. This early work is quite dynamic and energetic, but over the years–somewhat under the constraining strictures of soon-to-be-EIC Jim Shooter, his penciling lost a lot of its spark and became functional at best. I really liked the look of these two issues, but I’d grow steadily disenchanted with Milgrom’s pages as time went on.
Stern provides a more straightforward and middle-of-the-road reading experience than Gerber did last time. Stern was more interested in telling a Marvel story than perhaps gerber was, and so the end result reflects that. The opening half-dozen pages resolve the cliffhanger in which the Guardians were under attack from a boarding party of Reavers who had invaded their starship, the Captain America. It’s an effective action sequence in which the different Guardians each get to show what they can do and display their individual powers. Elsewhere, Starhawk is speeding to a confrontation with teh old man who dispatched those Reavers to attack the Guardians, an Old Man who is holding three children as his ultimate trump card in his quest for vengeance upon the One-Who-Knows.
From here, without any segue at all, we move back into a flashback to the origin of Starhawk. (And, indeed, given the way certain of these pages show evidence of lettering changes and corrections, I suspect that they started out life as part of the earlier issue, but were shifted to this one. I wonder if maybe Gerber tried to do something here that somebody objected to, and so these pages needed to be reworked.) We’re back in Arcturus, where Stakar and Aleta are searching around through the temple of the Hawk-God of their people. Aleta, a fighter, is aggravated by her step-brother’s obsession with knowledge and book-learning, and at one point she grabs the thought-helmet that he’s looking at and dashes it to the ground in anger. This causes the thing to go off, seemingly disintegrating Aleta. But what actually happens is stranger still–Aleta’s essence is transplanted into the huge statue of the Hawk-God, animating it. I remember being suitably impressed by this double-page spread of the Hawk-God taking wing–Milgrom had some chops then.
But Aleta can’t control the power of the Hawk-God, not alone, and out of control, the figure embarks on a rampage across the countryside, destroying the Reavers and anything else that comes close. Stakar gives chase, realizing that he can still communicate with his sister through the thought-helmet that she tossed aside. As he grows close, his mind touches that of Aleta, and the statue explodes. When the Old Man, their father, reaches the area, only Stakar seems to be left. But a second later, he has become Aleta, and a moment after that, the two are reborn as Starhawk, imbued with the power of the Hawk-God. But Starhawk won’t put his power at the command of his father, and he soars off, with the Old Man vowing vengeance for his/their betrayal.
Back in the present, it turns out that we’re almost out of pages, so to provide this issue with the appropriate cliffhanger, the Old Man of Arcturus collapses the energy field surrounding the Captain America, and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy are seemingly incinerated in the process. To Be Continued! But not for me–I’m not certain that I’ve read the concluding chapter of this story even to this day.