Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

So I had this idea. I was reading through the Earth X trilogy again. I just can’t get enough of it. I know it’s really, REALLY out there, even for Marvel Comics. But I’m just so upset that the budget for the last few installments got cut- because if anyone was paying attention, I think they’d realize what a comprehensive, well-written, brilliant comic this really is. Don’t believe me? Well, okay, so here’s my idea- I was thinking maybe I’d annotate the thing. The whole damn thing, here in print. If you haven’t read it, you are welcome to read along with me. But if you have read it, I guarantee there are a few themes or characters tucked in there you didn’t notice. My goal here is to emphasize what a masterpiece this really is. If you don’t believe me, than at least agree with me on this one point- it’s ambitious. The idea of tying all of the mythology of the Marvel Universe together into something uniform is staggeringly overwhelming, most of the time. The thing is, Krueger doesn’t just try to pull that off, he tries to appeal to a variety of different eras that characters were popular AND highlight some of the major philosophical issues that Marvel Comics’ have raised over the years. So, without further ado, please- the following notes are intended for the Marvel’s Finest reprint of Earth X #0. Page 1- Krueger’s love for the entirety of the Marvel Universe- right down to every written character- is probably obvious by his choice of narrator: Aaron Stack, A.K.A. Machine Man. A really off-beat hero, Machine Man was actually a really great concept way ahead of its time. While most robots in science fiction spend time sitting around pondering what it’s like to be human, Aaron was programmed to believe that he is human. Consequently, he’s always been touchy and a little bit uncomfortable about the topic of being different- although his recent appearances in the comic Nextwave (which you absolutely have to go read right now if you haven’t because it is so frickin’ hilarious) show him taking a more upbeat attitude. Page 2- I love the shots of Aaron here, just doing the things that his father would do- because it is human to do it. Flushing a toilet, opening a cabinet… No, that isn’t a coloring mistake at the bottom of the page. Aaron has weird, freaky robot eyes. First time-readers don’t know it yet, but the eyes build up great tension for one of the greater issues that Krueger likes to play with- whether viewing the world with detached, cold, hard science is more enlightening and revealing than chasing after one’s convictions and passions. Page 3- Big, freaky, black monolith-doorway thing. Okay, I know this is weird- but I’m pretty sure that Machine Man actually got introduced in a Marvel Comic version of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (you know how Marvel will get a license and sort-of make it part of main continuity for a little while? Like, the X-Men would team up with Conan or something). 2001 was a story about evolution- about the human race reaching a greater potential. So it’s a nice allusion to the character’s origin, as well as a set-up for what lies ahead. Page 4- X-51 was Aaron’s designation. Robots X-1 through X-50 all lost their minds because they couldn’t comprehend what it meant to be human. Page 6-7- That’s him without the human covering, all wire and mesh. Him touching his ‘face’ at the top of page 7 totally break my heart. It’s such a human pose. Page 8- Sort of biblical almost, with the light coming over the horizon. Aaron says there’s no water, vegetation, civilization- ‘and then there was light’. Again, this is a creation story. Although, like Aaron’s reaction shows, a possibly scary one- ‘A terrible light. And it was after me.’ Page 10-11- That’s the Blue Area of the moon Aaron is walking through. It’s an abandoned Kree city, complete with its own ecosystem. The Kree built the city as part of a competition between themselves and the Cotati (another indigenous inhabitant of the Kree homeplanet Hala), hoping to curry favor with the Skrulls (who had promised to help the winner of the competition a chance to evolve). The Kree provided the buildings and the Cotati the air and gravity. In the past, the Blue Area was home to the Inhumans- a strain of humanity that were originally mutated by the Kree to help them fight the Skrull empire, as well as Uatu the Watcher. Of course, none of these groups are present- but Aaron alludes to the history: “Great Civilizations stood here once.” Page 11- Okay, this kills me. Look REAL close at the second panel on that page. I SWEAR, that is the weird, alien laser cannon that Jean Grey kills herself with at the end of the original Dark Phoenix saga, WAY back in the 80’s. There isn’t a single line about it in the comic- Aaron is just walking past it. Everything I read this comic, I notice something different like that. It blows me away. As for the astronaut, you should probably realize that there’s only one Jameson who works for NASA- and it isn’t J.J. On the other hand, J.J.’s son John is a NASA test pilot with ties to various Marvel characters. John had a wolf-like form he could shift into and was sometimes called Man-Wolf or Stargod (it’s a long story). Page 14-15- I’m pretty sure that on the rare occasions when we’ve seen a glimpse of Uatu’s home, he has contacted visitors this way (the weird, big screen image, I mean). Uatu’s line "Something Wonderful" echoes the creepy, ambiguous line from 2001. Page 16- The Celestials are probably the strangest, most mysterious creation in the Marvel Universe. Totally inhuman and incomprehensible, and towering over entire planets (even Galactus seems tiny in comparison), the Celestials seem to tamper with different race’s genetics for purposes that we can’t understand (although Krueger is going to go there. Like I said. Ambitious.). In theory, mutants and unlocked super-powers all evolved from seeds that the Celestials installed in the human race thousands of years ago. Page 16-17- I have a little trouble following the art here, but if I’m not mistaken, Uatu suggests that the moon itself was carved out of the Earth by the Celestials, resulting in the extinction of most pre-historic life: “Today most on Earth believe a meteor roughly the size of the moon struck the Earth. Were I given to Human Irony, I’d…” Page 20-21- The Deviants and the Eternals- a somewhat complicated piece of Marvel lore. These two ‘races’ are off-shoots of humanity, created by the Celestials in ancient history. The Deviants mutate like crazy- so their children often have completely different bodies and powers than their parents. Either because of the Celestial tampering, or because of their inhuman appearances, the Deviants have mostly monstrous personalities and, in ancient history, enslaved portions of humanity. The Eternals, on the other hand, are kind of the opposite extreme- powerful and immortal, it’s sort of like the Celestials cranked up the mutation for the Deviants but put the Eternals on ‘permanent hold’ (hence the name, Eternal). A few Avengers’ have been Eternals- like Sersi. And actually, they make it clear that Sersi is THE Sersi (or ‘Cerci’) from the Odyssey. Like Uatu says, some of the members’ of these races have been the source of human myths: “To the humans who lived below in the valleys, they were gods. Sersi. Ikaris. Markuri. Zuras.” Page 22- 23- Like I said, the Inhumans. That silhouette in the background resembles Kree Sentries. A standard Kree military unit, a Sentry is an autonomous robot used to guard Kree outsposts. Now, here’s what I mean about tying mythology together. The Terrigan Mists is the strange substance that the Kree (and the Inhumans themselves) use to trigger the mutation. But Krueger makes it clear that it’s the Celestial seeds that the Kree are tampering with. So ALL of humanity’s mutation, whatever the form or circumstance, comes from the Celestials. Page 25- Yeah, in case you ever wondered, this is why Atlantis sank and why the Deviants didn’t go on to dominate all of Earth history. The Celestials wrecked the Deviant empire so fast and so hard, that even the only nation with the power and courage to stand AGAINST the Deviants (i.e. Atlantis) was practically obliterated in the process. And you wondered why they didn’t like surface-dwellers, right? Page 26-27- I like this bit about good and evil. Because how many comics have you read where in some alternate reality, Spider-man is the villain? And Doctor Doom is the hero? I think morality and circumstance is an interesting theme in Marvel comics-how much is morality real or just a human lens to view things with? The barrage of mythological Gods present in the bottom panel include the Asgardians (Norse myths like Thor, Odin, and Loki), the Olympians (Hercules, Zeus), and even one or two Egyptian figures (I think?). Most ancient mythologies are kind of ‘equally true’ in the Marvel U. Krueger treats these figures more ‘cerebrally’ and ‘scientifically’ than ‘magically’-so you might think of these guys as alien races that the human race misinterpret. BUT Krueger has another idea about what makes the Marvel Gods- well, Gods. It’s really fascinating. We’ll get to it. Page 28-29- A few of the panels have interesting bits of Marvel history thrown in here. That’s probably Atlantis sinking on the far left. I’m pretty sure that COULD be Conan the Barbarian tearing into some unlucky soldiers in the second panel- he IS an official Marvel character, after all. The fourth panel has images of Phantom Rider (the precursor to Ghost Rider), Rawhide Kid, and probably two other Marvel western heroes that I just don’t know. Page 30- If you look close, one of the panels has a shot of Fury’s Howling Commandos. That’s Fury and Dum Dum Dugan running into battle there. Page 31- The original ‘three’ superheroes of the Marvel U.- Human Torch, Captain America, and Namor. Again, Krueger says "it’s all coming from the same place." This is where it gets a little out there though. Most people don’t realize this, but Namor is kind of a mutant- a cross breed between a human and an Atlantian. So in his case, the celestial potential is unlocked just through natural genetics. Cap, on the other hand, gets a super-soldier drug. Still, Krueger is kind of suggesting that the drug kick-starts the celestial seed. And the Human Torch? The first Human Torch is a robot, sure. But part of what Krueger is suggesting in this sequence is that even the artificial creation of a superpowered being is related to the Celestial seeds. It’s hard to really think about this, but a lot of the Earth X story centers around the idea that a huge chunk of our existence- the thoughts, emotions, ideas we have…even the fact that we die…has been programmed into us by the celestials. So maybe the idea to create a superpowered android is, in some way, an extension of the Celestials’ work. Page 32- Like Uatu says, that’s the Red Skull standing behind Hitler. Again, the need to create a master race is a big theme in this story. But whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is the issue. Uatu, disturbingly, suggests that Hitler was a pathetic man but that he had a good idea- ‘The world was not yet ready for a master race’. Those of you who know Uatu well, as a character, should probably realize by now that Krueger is giving us a very different interpretation of him than you might have expected. In the past, Uatu has been frequently shown as neutral and opinion-less- but here, it’s kind of like Uatu is forcing opinionless-ness down your throat: like the only GOOD opinion is to not HAVE opinions (which, you know, IS an opinion). The fact that he would even passively endorse the actions of a man like Adolf Hitler is unsettling and unexpected, heightening your tension for what’s to come. Page 33- Not exactly sure when and where I read this, although I know it has been implicated in many marvel comics that the use of the atomic bomb in WWII greatly increased radiation levels across the planet, intensifying the possibility of genetic mutation (i.e. mutants). Again, though, Uatu states that it’s the Celestial Seed that’s being tapped into here. Page 34- 35- I can’t possibly track where all of these creatures come from, although I’m pretty sure the one of the far left is the thing that the Fantastic Four fought in the very first issue of the comic. I think it’s called ‘Gormammu’ or something? Can’t remember. Page 36- All stories you’ve heard before- Peter Parker, the F.F., Bruce Banner, Matt Murdock. Again though, it’s the seed that is awakened by the circumstances they are thrust into. Page 37- The fiery hand of the unseen figure helping the amnesic Namor belong to Johnny Storm, the F.F.’s Human Torch. The F.F. helped Namor get back on his feet after WWII and remember who he was. Page 38- That’s the original team of Avengers there (with the addition of Cap who joined later)- Hank Pym (Giant-man) and Janet Van Dyne (the Wasp), Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Thor. The Kree soldier Uatu is talking about, Mar-vell, was the original Captain Marvel, who fought against his own race for Earth’s sake. Mar-vell doesn’t have much of a presence in this first chapter of the trilogy- but later, he’s very important. I like this because, you know, the guy’s name is Captain Marvel. He should BE important to the Marvel U. right? Page 39-40- On the left, all characters you’re likely to be familiar with, but just in case- Dr. Ock, the Kingpin, the Lizard, the Mandarin, Magneto, Doom, and a bunch of Skrulls. On the right hand side, the now classic F.F. story where Reed fends off Galactus with the Ultimate Nullifier. Uatu gave Reed the Nullifier, supposedly as a rare act of benevolence. Interesting that we get this recap here- after all, Uatu isn’t exactly turning out to be the way you thought he was, is he? Kind of makes you wonder what might have been going on in this story then, right? Page 41- Aahh, mutants. Probably no big surprise that that man running from an angry mob and covering his eyes is the X-man Cyclops. We’d know those optic blasts anywhere. That’s Xavier’s original X-Men near the bottom- Angel, Iceman, Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Beast (before his blue-furry mutation). Page 42- Among the Inhumans depicted are: Black Bolt, Medusa, Triton, Gorgan, and Karnak. The bit in the bottom two panels alludes to the creation of Adam Warlock (also known as Him). It’s a weird story, but the gist is that a group called The Enclave set about making a perfect human being. Him rebelled against his creators though, judging them for their immorality. Warlock originally emerged from a cocoon (shown in the middle panel) and he still enters it from time to time to rejuvenate- or even to be reborn. Page 43-44- Huge spread, too many characters to track. But it’s no surprise what Uatu is talking about. Prejudice and fear of power is a big theme in the Marvel U. At the same time that humanity needs help, it tends to be afraid of the people who help it. Page 46- This just freaks me out- Uatu: “I was caught unaware”. Aaron: “But how could that be…you see everything. How could you be surprised by anything?” Not exactly the omniscient, perfect Uatu you thought, huh?