Captain Marvel #22 (1972)

By 1972 Captain Marvel wasn’t a Space Born Superhero! anymore, or at least Marvel decided being a Space Born Superhero! wasn’t that important, because the only adjective used to describe him was sensational. He wasn’t sensational in this comic, really only mediocre, but that’s much more what you’d expect from Marvel. How often was the Hulk incredible or Spider-Man amazing?
One of the men who made Spider-Man not amazing was the insufferable Gerry Conway, whose work spread like a virus through Marvel, then DC, then Marvel, then DC again in the late ’70s and early ’80s. His many series – most notably Spider-Man, but also Thor and this little gem that I’m writing about today – were commonly characterized by dull and pointless plots, poor continuity and frankly dull revisions of existing characters. When I was a kid, we knew Conway as the worst writer. When he took over a comic, it drifted quickly towards mediocrity. It was agonizing. We’d be grooving on Legion of Super-Heroes or Justice League of America, loving the exciting plots and stories by Paul Levitz or Steve Englehart, when Conway would suddenly be assigned to the series. It would quickly slip into utter crapitude, and we would talk in utter disgust about how we hated it. Conway was his generation’s Chuck Austen. Though Conway did have the last laugh on we fans, since he now has a lucrative job writing for TV shows such as Law & Order.
So Conway was writing Captain Marvel, who by 1972 had finally gotten rid of his ghastly costume and picked up a flashy early ’70s number. Cap had seen his series cancelled twice, and this revival appeared some two years after the previous issue. (This, by the way, is yet another Conway cwirk, pointlessly reviving old series). The previous revivals had featured spectacularly dynamic art by Gil Kane and wonderful scripts by Roy Thomas. In those issues, Cap had somehow gotten fused with a guitar-strumming hippie named Rick Jones who wandered the country.
Now under the revival he was in the hands of Conway and, bizarrely enough, former longtime Superman artist Wayne Boring. Boring was actually a nice artist, but he just didn’t fit the Marvel style. Marvel’s dynamism just didn’t fit his more static style, no matter how much he tried to work in that style.
And the story, well, there seems to be a theme with this week’s postings, lots of weak stories. Conway does have some neat touches in this story, especially how Captain Marvel acts strange and alien to everyone he sees, but the plot hinges on an insane coincidence: Hippy Rick Jones meets a fellow folk singer named Lou-Ann who just somehow ends up being the niece of a scientist who happens to be doing work on molecular biology who can help him with some problems: "only a bath of positive charged photons can help him now." Thankfully he’s saved, but only saved so he can meet a dork called Megaton, the Nuclear Man. Talk about ugly costumes.
Thankfully good issues of Captain Marvel were right around the corner.

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