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Captain Marvel #45: Review

Jul 1976
Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom

Story Name:

The bi-centennial

Review & Comments

4 stars

Captain Marvel #45 Review by (May 8, 2020)
This issue was published in the month of the US Bi-Centennial, and as far as I can tell this was the *only* reason for using it as a title.

Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom were co-plotters.

We last left Captain Marvel in #33 at the end of the Thanos War. Since then he's kept to his own series.
Steve Englehart took over the scripting reins from Jim Starlin. Starlin plotted and drew #34 where CM fought Nitro ( which later is revealed to have given him the cancer which will kill him in Marvel Graphic Novel #1 by Starlin). Jim also drew the brief new state-of-play stuff in the mainly-origin-reprint #36.
#35 started a long Kree-based sequence by Englehart which is still going on. #37 saw the beginning of an Englehart/Milgrom partnership where Al Milgrom was usually co-plotter as well as penciller (and often inker), again which is on-going. #35-39 involved the Kree Lunatic Legion and the Watcher. #40 was a 1-off. #41 began the story arc of which this issue is the penultimate chapter.

This is the 1st time we hear that there are 6 Soul Gems. The Soul Gem here will eventually be called the Mind Gem (despite the fact that the General claims they can all affect minds), and the set will be known as the Infinity Gems, but for the time being they will all just be called Soul Gems. This Gem previously had a 1-panel cameo at the end of #41, in a set of cameos prefiguring bits of this story arc. The 6 Soul Gems will be gathered together by Thanos in Avengers Annual #7.
Jim Starlin will pick up on the idea of 6 Soul Gems in Warlock #5 and then run with it in Av An#7 and Marvel Two-In-One An#2. Given that Englehart and Starlin collaborated on #34 and #36 could the 6 Gems be Starlin's idea initially? TGo confuse thing's further the next 2 Gems will be unveiled in Marvel Team-Up #55 by Bill Mantlo and John Byrne.

We 1st met the Aakon, enemies of the Kree, in #8-9 and #11. Some were seen amongst the Thanos-Thralls during the Thanos War in #26-27 and Av#125. They'll be represented among other aliens in Thor #262 and #335 and Alpha Flight #98, and 1 named Aalbort will crop up in a Starfox, brother of Thanos, story in Marvel Comics Presents #22. But their next significant app won't be until Nova (1994) #13-16. Rambu and the General will be finished with next issue.
Deneb-IV is not the homeworld of the Aakon, but it may be a colony of theirs. Zenn-La, the origin world of the Silver Surfer, is a planet of Deneb. SS(2003)#2 will claim that *it* is Deneb-IV, but that doesn't jibe with this story. (However the only other claim for Zenn-La is made in some Handbooks that it is Deneb-III, but that is the homeworld of another species.) Av An#7 will agree that the planet here is Deneb-IV.

The story will conclude next issue but Chris Claremont will be the writer before Gerry Conway takes over as the next regular scripter. This is because Steve Englehart abruptly quit Marvel at this time. But Claremont obviously followed Englehart's plan, evidenced at least by his use of the Millenia Bloom which Steve cameoed in #41.
The General, the Null-Trons and Bun-Dall disappear from the plot, but Bun-Dall will make 1 more app in Ms Marvel (1977) #18.
CM, RJ, Fawn and Rambu go to Hala to confront the Supremor who occupies 2 avatar bodies to fight CM and RJ separately. Each can only be defeated by the full power of the CM/RJ combo, but whichever of them uses it will kill the other. The survivor will be exposed to the Millenia Bloom which will wipe his mind allowing the Supremor to control him and his power. Fawn turns out to be a creation of Rick's mind, but Supremor still manages to kill her. Enraged Rick uses the power to defeat *his* Supremor and then fires all the weapons of the Kree spaceship he's on to cause a giant solar flare threatening Hala. The Supreme Intelligence has to divert all power on Hala to the planetary shields, including switching himself off. Rick revives CM and they leave. (Rambu doesn't do much and is forgotten about.)


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain Marvel #45 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Captain Marvel and Rick Jones used to be doomed to exist 1 in the real universe and the other in the Negative Zone, with only the ability to swap places. But in #39 they learned how to split and merge at will in the real universe. In #40 the Kree Supreme Intelligence claimed that everything that happened to them since Mar-Vell was 1st sent to Earth (Marvel Super-Heroes #12) was orchestrated by him to get them to this story arc. He needs to absorb Rick Jones' latent mental powers (which ended the Kree-Skrull War in Avengers #97) in order to break the Kree's evolutionary stasis (as described back then). The Supremor then granted Rick a share of Mar-Vell's powers, and sent them both on a galactic odyssey.

In #42 they got involved with some asteroid miners and the Stranger, and Rick got himself a costume and a girlfriend only he could see. In #43 Supremor nudged Drax The Destroyer into their path, who was hunting for Thanos (who returned in Warlock #9) and who still bore a grudge for Mar-Vell 'killing' his predestined target the 1st time (CM#33). And Rick learned the ghost-girl's name is Fawn. Last issue CM defeated Drax but in doing so drained power from Rick, almost killing him. Fawn made Drax go away by telling him where Thanos is (and he'll follow the trail to W#15). CM took Rick to Deneb-IV for medical aid but found it overrun by giant robot heads called Null-Trons, ancient Kree weapons who were destroying all life. The duo were captured by an armoured resistance group and taken to their leader, a Null-Tron controlled by a humanoid head on top. The leader told Mar-Vell that his and Rick's minds are merging into 1, but he can cure them.

The General explains that the surviving inhabitants of this world have become cyborgs, now almost completely machine, during their long war against the Null-Trons. Mar-Vell agrees to do whatever the leader says to save Rick.

The general tells him of the properties of the large crimson sphere in front of them which he claims to be 1 of 6 Soul Gems, all of which have different powers but all can affect minds. 1 is in the possession of Adam Warlock, he doesn't know where the other 4 are. The cyborgs take comatose Rick from his life-support chamber and push him into the Gem, and CM follows.

The inside is much bigger than the outside and Rick and Mar-Vell appear separated by a transparent barrier which CM thinks is RJ's 'madness' keeping him away. He tries to break through but Rick interprets this as an attack. He thinks Mar-Vell wants to kill him and decides to fight back.

Out in the world the cyborgs and the Null-Trons clash, echoing the duo's words. 1 of the cyborgs named Rambu has stayed with the General. Rambu removes his helmet and we see he is of the alien race we know as the Aakon. It turns out it was he who stumbled on the Soul Gem (in a 1-panel cameo in #41). And it seems the Gem is using the energy of our heroes' conflict to reinvigorate the war. But there seems to be some ambiguity in what the General deems a desirable outcome.

On the Kree homeworld Hala the Supreme Intelligence gloats to his minion Bun-Dall that he arranged for Rambu to find the Gem as part of his overall manipulation of Captain Marvel's fate. He also increased the ferocity of the Null-Trons (they were originally designed to kill opponents of the Kree, not wipe out all life on a planet). Bun-Dall is worried that 1 of CM or RJ might kill the other. The Supremor says he doesn't need them both, either 1 will do (presumably because of the mind-merging). Bun-Dall still thinks his boss isn't as in control as he thinks.

The General confirms to Rambu that the outcome of the  war will be determined by which of CM/RJ wins. But he reveals that he doesn't care *which* side wins as long as war is replaced by peace. And that is because he is an Aakon merged with a Null-Tron. Rambu is understandably miffed.

Within the Gem the 2 heroes break through the barrier between them, and their minds get closer. Each realises that the other could win control of both bodies, and each is determined not to lose. Mar-Vell sends a large monster against Rick, who defeats it by stealing power from *him*. And outside the battle gets more ferocious. But suddenly both sides pause as our duo do too. Both CM and Rick have realised that their fight can only harm them.

Outside the General expects the fighting to soon resume. But Rambu starts to pound on the Gem with his cyborg fists, which causes debris inside to batter the heroes. And outside the Null-Trons and the cyborg army fall over in response. But then Fawn appears and persuades Rambu to take *her* into the Gem, over the General's objections. (Is Mar-Vell the only person who *can't* see her?!)

Our pals struggle towards each other as the substance of the Gem holds them back, and Rick at least realises that they themselves are causing the obstruction. Rambu and Fawn arrive just as the heroes finally clash. Fawn knows that their fight to avoid merging is actually causing the merger. The result could be death for 1 or both, and she says if Rick dies then so will she. Her mesmerising affect on Rambu means that he separates the combatants to save *her*.

Now she is visible to Mar-Vell as well. She persuades him and Rick that fighting each other is the wrong solution. They can take control of their powers and *stop* themselves from merging. And they see the light.

And then Fawn leads the 3 men out of the Gem.

Al Milgrom
Al Milgrom
Ellen Vartanoff
Al Milgrom (Cover Penciler)
Mike Esposito (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)
Plot: . Letterer: Tom Orzechowski.
Editor: Marv Wolfman. Editor-in-chief: Marv Wolfman.


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