November 13, 2009

Space War #34 [1979]

A trio of Ditko reprints in this issue. The cover is the absolutely splendid giant alien squid monster cover to SPACE ADVENTURES #11 [1954], one of Ditko's best from his first stint at Charlton. Recoloured the monster green here, but that works.

The issue opens with the oft-reprinted 6-page "Mystery Planet" from STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES #36 [1958]. There are some excellent visuals in this one of a killer planet on the rampage, with an evil face on it and destroying other worlds. I'm pretty sure this is the only story with this cast, the heroic Commander Bryan Bodine, his beautiful navigator Nedra and Dr. Wradek, but they're treated as on-going characters very much in a Buck Rogers type set-up. Anyway, the story is a visual treat, with the planet and the aliens and lots of heroics. The ending is a bit of a letdown, but about what you'd expect in a 6-page story. An interesting note is how well this story would fit in with some of the solo stories Ditko did 20 years later for QUESTAR, so I guess he found a lot to like in the basic set-up.

Later in the issue is the less well known "Automata Ultima", a 3-page story from MYSTERIES OF UNEXPLORED WORLDS #12 [1959], in its only reprint to date. An intriguing title, although the story doesn't quite live up to it. It opens with a future Earth, where the automated machines continue to make an endless supply of weapons long after the human civilization is dead and gone. This turns out to be a nightmare of a 1950s arms-maker, I guess reflecting his fears about the weapons he's working on. I'm guessing this made more sense in 1959. A couple of neat images by Ditko, not marred by any speech balloons on the first two pages.

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