Back when the Marvel Comics Group could accurately be described as the House of Ideas, some of their finest writing could be found every month in the checklist of new titles. They were promoted with the most bodaciously breathless boasts that one sage and salient soul could ever hope to conjure up. Every story was promised to be earth-shattering and startlingly stunning. Over and over again, true believers were promised that the twists, turns and final pages would leave them reeling. How well were these pulchritudinous pledges fulfilled? There’s only one way to find out.
The Mighty Marvel Checklist promoted Captain America #136 as follows: “Take a surprise super-villain — mix with a machine that will destroy the earth — and add the most mind-boggling climax of all! This is IT!”
While the checklist blurb makes no claims about the shock or value of the comic’s opening pages, I think the splash that begins the book is worth considering in this instance.
There you have our star-spangled superhero plummeting down “the very deepest hole man has dug upon the planet Earth!” Joining him on this terrifying descent? A giant gorilla. This, my friends, this is how you start a comic book.
With that bit of greatness properly noted, it’s time to move on to the daunting and dramatic developments duly designated as defining dimensions of this description of derring-do. We, the rapt and rapacious readers, are promised a “surprise super-villain.” Mid-story, he emerges.
It’s none other than the very first character who could claim that terrible title in the Marvel Age of Comics, the malicious and malevolent Mole Man from the monumental Fantastic Four #1. So how does this fare under the scrutiny of the HyperboleCheck? Since the story is taking place deep below the Earth’s surface, even the most muddled members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society could probably have intuited that the Mole Man, dastardly denizen of the cavernous community concealed by the Earth’s crust, was the likeliest culprit to cause consternation to Cap in this issue. Still, he was simply promised as a “surprise super-villain” with no modifiers like “shocking” or “startling.” He’s not touted on the cover, or named in any way in the story’s title. This hyperbole checks out.
This leads us to the assurance that this issue contains “the most mind-boggling climax of all!” For those still hoping to head down to the local drugstore and select this stirring saga from the silvery spinner rack, you may want to turn away from the following panels to preserve your chance at an unsullied surprise.
That’s the gargantuan gorilla from the opening panel, a fearsome figure known as Monster Ape, hurling himself to his personal doom in order to prevent the Mole Man from firing a weapon that would wreak havoc upon the land above. Since the woman he loves would have been an inevitable victim of the attack, our smitten simian saves the surface world. How does this look when run through a HyperboleCheck? Not so well. This is exactly the sort of tragic turn that stalwart scribe Stan Lee loved to tack onto the tail-end of his titanic tales. A conspicuous collector of comics could probably construct a sturdy stack of similarly sorrowful stories. That hardly qualifies as “mind-boggling.”