Saturday, 17 September 2011
AMA #14: "The Vampire Machine"
("The Beast needs a lesson in death!")
Even if one could plausibly (albeit cynically) assume that it's mainly done so as to stick Iron Man on the front cover, I do like the start of this issue, with Hank seeking out Iron Man to try and understand what exactly happened at the conclusion of AMA #12. It's a nicely logical move. There actual meeting is a bit problematic - this comic doesn't seem able to decide if people should be treating the Beast with fear, revulsion, empathy or respect - but that's a comparatively minor gripe.
The espionage angle - and its attendant ideas about masks and deception - are back in force this issue, after taking a back seat last time round. The degree of double-dealing has reached truly impressive proportions. Undercover agent Linda goes to visit Hank to fake concern for his well-being, forcing Hank - who's left most of his disguise at the lab - to pretend to be ill so as to get her to leave. Once he does, he leaps his way across town to grab the rest of his costume. Immediately after, he's accosted by Buzz Baxter, who's been looking for him since last night, and demands to know where he's been.
Hank is busy trying to extricate himself from this potentially very dangerous situation when Linda comes back to the lab, and demands to know why Hank is there. He fobs her off with some story about rushing back to Brand building in a hurry so as to talk to Buzz, but that just sets the Air Force man off again. By now presumably sweating rather heavily under his latex mask, Hank then claims he's been with Linda the whole time, hoping she'll lie for him and save him from arrest.
Linda, who is clearly at this point the world's worst spy (she's been whining for days about the chance of losing Hank and therefore failing her mission) refuses to back him up. It now looks like Beast is for the chop, but before Buzz can have him arrested, reports come in from the soldiers guarding the building that the Beast has been seen somewhere else on the compound, and Buzz rushes off to deal with that.
My fingers ache just from typing all that. It's brilliant. It's a walk-in wardrobe and an overweight battle-axe away from being a French farce (you might need rid of the guns, though). And after all that, it turns out that Quasimodo (the Quasi-Motivational Destruct Organism last seen in charge of a giant bee hive filled with evil robots) is the fake Beast seen earlier, and that he works for the same people as Professor Maddicks and Linda Donaldson (not that Hank knows about any of that, yet).
I'm not a huge fan of Quasimodo as a villain, but his appearance here is very appropriate - not only does he want to become fully human, but his problem is both in his appearance and his make-up more generally, just as Beast's is. Indeed, during their fight, Hank briefly wonders whether or not he should let Quasimodo kill him - suicide by literary figure, essentially - until the hunchbacked robot gets close to actually doing the deed, and Hank chooses life as the Beast over death. Then, in response to his defeat, it is Quasimodo - himself wearing a mask, of course, as both a fictional character and a flesh and blood organism - that chooses suicide over his continued half life.
That's a pretty major character moment for Hank right there, when you think about it, especially for someone who was so unhappy with himself back when his biggest problem was finding shoes large enough to fit him. It rounds off what was already an impressive issue, and continues to ensure this story is amongst the very best of those Marvel produced in the early seventies.
This story takes place over a day and a night.
Buzz Baxter tells McCoy that they started looking for him the previous day, which means this issue starts on the day that follows the night Beast defeated the New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Thursday 2nd April, 1981.
The USSR and Canada agree to a payment of three million Canadian dollars to the latter country, as compensation for the impact of multiple radioactive remnants of the Soviet satellite Kosmos 954, which scattered over a large section of Canada in 1978.
"That is not logical! I am your superior in all ways" I should get that on a t-shirt. Or possibly adopt it as the family motto.