Thursday, October 21, 2010

Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force #1

Spoiler Level: High, especially for the endings of both original 1980's Micronauts comic runs.

Finally!  Marvel's Micronauts are back, and not as guest stars, but in their OWN mighty Marvel magazine!

Well okay, the book is spinning out of "The Incredible Hulks" so they have to share the title, even though the Hulk isn't in it.  And okay, they're still not allowed to be called "The Micronauts," so now they're Enigma Force.  But that's okay.  It's still Commander Rann, Marionette and Bug.  And to be honest, I think Enigma Force is a better name than Microns, anyway.  Microns worked, but the Enigma Force itself was actually the driving power behind the Time Travelers, Captain Universe, and many other key elements of the original Micronauts comic, so having the team take that as their name feels very, very right.

Now, I was a huge fan of the original Micronauts, and I have to admit, I always get confused on how to take new attempts at the Microverse.  Most notably because of Micronauts: The New Voyages.

New Voyages was Marvel's relaunch of the Micronauts.  The constant warfare with Baron Karza has wiped out all life on Homeworld, so the Micronauts leave in the Endeavor II to explore the wonders of the Microverse.  They discover the Makers of the Microverse, and that the pain of the holocaust that Homeworld has endured has driven its Worldmind insane, and that pain is rippling out, destroying the Microverse itself.  To save the Microverse, each of the Micronauts sacrifice themselves via the Prometheus Pits, which breaks them down and redistributes them throughout the molecules of Homeworld, and starts life throughout the Microverse anew.

So.  As pleased as I am to see the gang back again, the question in the back of my mind whenever I read new stories with them is, "Is Marvel disregarding New Voyages, or does this story fit in somehow?"

Now, there's an easy explanation for this: Even though the implication from the end of New Voyages was that the Micronauts were creating new life and weren't rebooting the Microverse timeline, it could simply be that the new life patterned itself after its donors, and gave rise to a very similar Microverse, with a new Commander Arcturus Rann, Princess Mari, Bug, and even a new King of Spartak.  However this time the race from Spartak weren't called Acroyers, the despot who took over wasn't called Baron Karza, and Rann's robot wasn't Biotron.  This is perfect, because it allows Marvel to keep the basics of the Micronauts history, but alter any details the writers may want to for modern audiences.  Plus it gives Marvel the bonus out of being able to bring back everything original that Bill Mantlo created about the Microverse without using anything that falls under the Micronauts toy license.

(And as to the time differences-- the time needed for new life to grow, evolve, give rise to a new civilization, and then have Commander Rann embark on another 1000 year journey-- there's two very good explanations: (1) Time in the sub-atomic Microverse may travel at different speeds; and (2) This is the same Marvel Universe where Franklin Richards was a member of Power Pack, but he's still a little kid and all the rest of Power Pack are now adults.  It's comic book time.  Don't over think it.)

So now that I've reconciled it in my mind, what I want to know is... have the writers come to that conclusion?  Or are they just writing this as if New Voyages never happened and they can't mention Baron Karza by name?

To assist us in this, the new Enigma Force #1 has a nifty little "Legends of the Microverse" timeline in the back.  ...Which could be either a timeline of the "new" Microverse or just be writer Scott Reed ignoring New Voyages and not being able to mention Baron Karza by name.

(And to top it all off, the name of their Bio-Ship is the Endeavor III.  Which makes me very happy and makes me smile... and also leaves me wondering even more.  Maybe only the ending of New Voyages didn't happen?  Maybe they got better?)

So, as to the story of itself: is it worthy of the Micronauts?  Oh, yes.  This issue felt more like the Micronauts to me than the entire runs at Image and Devil's Due.  (Who had the opposite problem, in that they had the rights to the toys, but not the Microverse and original characters Bill Mantlo created for Marvel.)  Commander Rann has a goatee now and is harboring an angsty, dark secret about his 1000 year history.  Mari is more of a 21st Century angrier kick-butt female fighter than the original 1970's angry kick-butt female fighter.  Bug is a little more serious, but still the light-hearted one of the team.  (And he was a regular in Guardians of the Galaxy: Legacy?  Did I know that and not buy it anyway, or did I just miss that completely?)  New team members include Carl the Death's Head Robot, who I love; he's got the ferocity and armored look of Acroyer and the banter of Microtron.  We have Jentorra, who is from the planet K'ai, a sub-atomic world that the Hulk spent a lot of time in (okay, there's a flashback featuring the Hulk for one panel).  And we have a nasty alien Psyklop.

There's space battles, lots of action, lots of humorous dialogue, and lots of rich characterization.  Rann and Mari were generally a couple, but they had their times when they weren't, and for a while Mari was even involved with Bug.  This book acknowledges all of that by having Rann & Mari being divorced and Bug flirting with Mari while Mari's getting jealous over Jentorra's interest in Rann.

Would I read this as an ongoing?  In a heartbeat.  Do I think it'll sell well enough that I'll get to?  No.  But at least, for three issues, the Micronauts are back in spotlight.

The Micronauts are dead-- Long Live Enigma Force!

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