Captain Marvel #5, "Mark of the Metazoid!"

official indicia title of the comic as well as the cover logo at this
point.  Did somebody fear that simply titling the comic CAPTAIN MARVEL
might lead to legal objections from previous owners of the name?); September
1968; Marvel Comics Group; Stan Lee, editor; featuring "The Mark of the
Metazoid!", written by "Affable Arnold Drake" and pencilled by "Demure Don Heck"
with inks by John Tartaglione and lettering by Artie Simek.  On the cover,
the green and white clad spaceman whose true name and rank is Captain Mar-Vell,
is struggling to escape the gooey grasp of a creature who appears to be a
blue-black alien version of Plastic Man or Mr. Fantastic, or maybe Gumby. 

Review by Boisterous, or maybe Bumbling, Bill Henley

The original
Captain Marvel was one of the greatest costumed superheroes of the 1940's, but
he wasn't published by Martin Goodman's company which off and on called itself
"Marvel Comics".  The actual character of Captain Marvel was driven off the
stands by DC's lawsuit in 1954, but the name and trademark remained up for grabs
and a fly by night company named MF Enterprises used the name briefly in 1966-67
for an android character who could split into pieces. (I've never read those MF
Capt. Marvel comics, but by all accounts they were god-awful, though one account
calls them a "camp classic".)  Once Martin Goodman found out the Captain
Marvel name/trademark was available again, he decided that if anybody was going
to publish Captain Marvel it should be Marvel Comcs.  He grabbed the rights
to the name from the defunct MF and insisted that Stan Lee create a new
character to go with the name.  And so, the "space-born superhero" with a
famous name debuted in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES during its tryout-comic phase and
then moved immediately into his own monthly title.

But though the very
busy Stan Lee worked with one of his best "second wave" artists, Gene Colan, to
create the new Captain, it seemed as if Stan didn't have the time or interest to
put very much thought into the project and create a character memorable enough
to match the name.  Captain Mar-Vell was a humanoid alien belonging to the
Kree, an alien race that had recently been introduced in a Lee/Kirby FANTASTIC
FOUR story.  The Kree were interested in conquering Earth, and Mar-Vell was
part of an advance team sent to scout out the planet.  But he was
sympathetic to the Earth-humans, and besides he and the commander of the Kree
expedition, Yon-Rogg, hated each other.  So Mar-Vell began trying to
sabotage Yon-Rogg's efforts to lay the groundwork for a Kree takeover.  And
when he was seen flying around in his jet-equipped, green and white spacesuit
with a ringed-planet emblem, Earthmen took him for a new costumed superhero
called "Captain Marvel".  He also acquired a human secret identity by
adopting the guise of Walter Lawson, a deceased Earth scientist.

Stan Lee
only scripted the first CM story in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES and then left the series
to his right-hand man, Roy Thomas, who worked with Colan on the second MSH
tryout issue and the ensuing series.  As a teenage Marvelite I was excited
to see Marvel introduce a new hero and willingly bought the new title. But when
I picked up issue #5 I was somewhat surprised to see a whole new set of names in
the credit box.  Thomas and Colan were both gone.  The writer was
Arnold Drake, a name then unfamiliar to me (I didn't realize that he had been a
DC mainstay for years and had written DOOM PATROL, a comic I liked before
converting to an exclusive Marvel acolyte).  The artist was Don Heck, whose
name and work was certainly familiar to me as a Marvel fan.  But though
both men were highly talented, Stan seems to have viewed both of them at this
point as second or third string talents to be assigned to less important, poorer
selling Marvel titles.  Though Marvel hype insisted that the "Space-Born
Superhero" was a huge hit like everything else Marvel produced, it looks like
early sales suggested the new Captain Marvel was not going to be a big success
and so was not worthy of retaining top-line talent like Thomas and Colan. 
(Incidentally, the "Marvel's Space-Born Superhero" tag was removed from the
cover logo with issue #6 and from the indicia title with #7.  Martin
Goodman was notoriously leery of sci-fi characters, and maybe he decided the
"Space-Born" tag was hurting the character?) 

Anyway, the splash
page depicts a scene from the previous issue in which Mar-Vell slugged it out
with Prince Namor-, the Sub-Mariner.  "Why are the sensational Sub-Mariner
and our ALIEN ANTI-HERO still locked in heated conflict, even though the fight
ended LAST ISH?" asks the caption.  It turns out that this is a video
recording being viewed by Yon-Rogg and the other crew members of the Kree
expedition-- and its purpose, as far as Yon-Rogg is concerned, is to provide
evidence proving that Captain Mar-Vell is a traitor to the Kree!  Some of
the Kree are inclined to give Mar-Vell the benefit of the doubt, assuming that
Mar-Vell was simply overwhelmed by the superior power of the Sub-Mariner. 
(At this point our "alien anti-hero" really didn't have much in the way of
special abilities besides the protection and flight ability provided by his
spacesuit uniform, and a vaguely defined degree of super-strength compared to
Earthmen..)  But the yucky Yon-Rogg contends (more or less correctly, as it
happens) that Mar-Vell was consciously plotting to "trample upon his allegiance
to our far-flung galactic EMPIRE!"  He wants Ronan the Accuser, the one-man
Kree kangaroo court (who was earlier defeated by the FF) to declare Mar-Vell
guilty of the ultimate crime of being "un-Kree!"  In the privacy of his own
thoughts, Mar-Vell acknowledges that he did indeed , amidst the battle with
Namor, destroy the experimental germ-warfare bomb he was assigned to plant in
Earth's ocean.   Asked for her own judgment, Una, the female Kree
medic who is Mar-Vell's true love, gives a spirited defense of his innocence and
heroic service to the Kree cause.  But Yon-Rogg is not displeased, since he
figures that Una's obvious affection for Mar-Vell will taint her testimony and
eliminate her as a credible defense witness in Ronan's eyes.

But Ronan
decides that Mar-Vell's previous record of loyal service outweighs, for now, the
"anger and concern" elicited by some of his recent suspicious actions.  To
the frustration of Yon-Rogg and the temporary relief of Mar-Vell and Una, Ronan
"decides not to decide", putting off a final verdict and commanding Mar-Vell to
prove his loyalty by his "future actions".  One of the actions required of
him will be to eliminate the threat of a hospitalized, coma-bound Earthman named
Jeffrey Logan who may have learned of Mar-Vell's alien origins in a previous
story.  Mar-Vell manages to convince Ronan that, rather than simply killing
the human, it will attract less dangerous attention to employ a Kree "mind
eraser".  And so, Mar-Vell takes off from the orbiting Kree spaceship to
return to Earth.  "Once more into the void of space Capt. Mar-Vell
hurtles-- equipped with every protective device of the supreme science and
technology of Kree-- but ALONE and UNWANTED on the world he may one day be
ordered to DESTROY!  For nothing can protect him from the carbon wheel of
LONELINESS that may grind even a steely KREE soul into dryest DUST!"  (I
noticed quickly when Arnold Drake started writing for Marvel that much of his
dialogue and captions had a deep-purple tinge that wasn't so much present in the
more familiar scripting of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas.  As a teenage fan at
the time, though, I kind of liked this.) 

Meanwhile, somewhere
under Earth's sea, a submarine belonging to an unidentified foreign power
(probably Soviet Russia, but by this time Marvel was more disinclined to use
explicitly Communist villains than it had been a few years earlier) releases a
new weapon intended to threaten the U.S. and its space effort centered at "The
Cape".  The weapon is not a torpedo or missile, but a living, vaguely
humanoid creature; "Now, there stalks, the METAZOID!"  The creature
ruefully reflects (in more of Drake's purple prose), "Here walks the most
MISERABLE of living beings!  Neither man nor beast, I live only to do the
bidding of those who MADE me thus!  For once done, I am promised LIBERATION
from this ugly guise-- and the return of my OWN face and form! But is the EVIL I
must now perform an honorable price for some selfish share of
happiness?"   It seems this creature was once a man found guilty by
some Eastern nation of "anti-state activity" and offered the chance to redeem
himself by volunteering for an experimental treatment to adapt his body
chemistry for survival "on the alien conditions of almost ANY PLANET!  And
if we FAIL, we have lost nothing but a CONVICTED TRAITOR!"  The experiment
quickly goes out of control, but the result, though not exactly what the enemy
scientists had in mind, isn't displeasing to them.  The hapless convict is
turned into a massive, blue-skinned humanoid being with "the metabolism of 50
men" and "strength and survival factors (that are) equally phenomenal!" 
The creature (it's not clear where exactly he gets the moniker "Metazoid") is
informed that he has been inducted into his nation's "glorious army," and that
his first mission, rather than exploring a new planet, will be "the capturing of
a leading U.S. missile expert!"  And the expert they want is none other
than Dr. Walter Lawson, the man who is actually dead but whose identity is
serving as a refuge for Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree!  And so, the Metazoid
crawls ashore near The Cape and cold-cocks a US Army sentry, while engaging in
more guilt-ridden, masochistic musings; "What CRIMES will a man not condone--
what PUTRID ACTS will he not embrace-- what NAKED TERROR will he not blind
himself to-- in order that he may gain some TWISTED shadow of personal--

And meanwhile, his target, "Dr. Walter Lawson," is also
the target of a pointed interrogation by The Cape's security chief, Carol
Danvers.  (Some time later, her association with Captain Mar-Vell would
lead to her gaining the Kree-based super-powers and the name of Ms.
Marvel.  She would later be known by other names such as Binary and
Warbird, and, the last I heard, has herself inherited the name of Captain
Marvel, which Marvel Comics is determined not to surrender even if it can't
settle on a character to bear the name.)  Carol wants to know why Walter
Lawson's personal file is bare of any previous photographs of him!  The
true reason is that Mar-Vell destroyed the photos when he took over the identity
of the dead Lawson-- apparently the real Lawson didn't actually look like the
white-haired Mar-Vell.  "Lawson" manages to evade her questions by saying
that he is "a missile expert, not a photographic model" and hinting that Carol's
suspicions of him are a symptom of insecurity because of her status as a woman
in what is normally a man's profession.     (But you'd think
that a real security expert, male or female and even in an era long before the
Internet, would have means to seek out previous photographic records of Lawson
besides whatever was in his employment file.) 

"Walter Lawson" sets
out, riding in a taxicab driven by a friendly fellow named Chester, for the
local county hospital where he intends to use the Kree "mind eraser" on the
hotel clerk who in an earlier issue may have learned about "Captain Marvel's"
alien origin.  Though the eraser is untested on humans, Mar-Vell hopes it
will do the man no harm other than a "disturbing feeling one has lost a piece of
the past".  But he is being stalked by the mutated Metazoid, who somehow
manages to jump on top of the taxicab and ride along without Mar-Vell, Chester
or anyone else hearing or noticing.  The remarkably unobservant locals also
don't pay attention when the Metazoid crashes through a hospital wall to
confront "Lawson" and demand that he accompany the creature.  "Lawson" has
his own reasons for wanting to avoid attention, but "if Walter Lawson,
scientist, can NOT fight-- Captain Marvel, super-hero of Earth, CAN!" 
"Lawson" makes a seemingly suicidal leap away from the Metazoid, and before it
can pursue, the creature is accosted by hospital guards who have finally noticed
the strange goings-on and aren't sure whether they are fighting a "nutty lab
animal" or an "escaped hallucination from the alcoholic ward"!  The
Metazoid brushes aside the guards, only to be attacked by the green and white
clad apparition calling himself "Captain Marvel".  Mar-Vell is baffled by
his opponent, since Kree researches on Earth indicate that creatures with such
strength "ought to have died with Earth's prehistoric eras!"  Nonetheless,
our quasi-hero expects his own enhanced Kree strength to win the day, but
discovers an annoying attribute of his foe; "My fists-- they STICK to this beast
as to wet DOUGH! I cannot FREE myself!  What MADNESS is this?"  
Even if he doesn't like his new form, the Metazoid is convinced that his
stick-to-it-iveness and other exceptional abilities will inevitably defeat this
costumed upstart, freeing him to continue seeking out his prey "Walter
Lawson".  Mar-Vell makes a jet-powered leap into the sky, hoping to defeat
his enemy by an aerial assault, but the Metazoid hangs on like a limpet and
batters at his foe.  And overhead, Yon-Rogg watches on a viewscreen and
roots for the Metazoid, hoping that the creature will eliminate his arch-rival
once and for all!

The Metazoid's super-strength and unbreakable grip are
indeed more than a match for Mar-Vell's Kree abilities and
weaponry.    Mar-Vell bitterly reflects that after being sent to
"subvert the growing scientific and military power of an advanced people," he
appears to be doomed by "a monstrous brute that has barely stepped from the dark
cave of evolution!"  (He doesn't realize that the Metazoid is actually a
product, however inadvertent, of human "scientific and military power".) 
Perhaps, thinks Mar-Vell, "Yon-Rogg will strike a medal for this beast-- my
ASSASSIN!"   He also doesn't realize that the only reason he is not
already dead is the inner humanity of the creature he battles, who doesn't want
to be an "assassin" even though that appears to be the only way to accomplish
his mission and win his outward humanity back. 

jet-powered suit is unable to hold the weight of both himself and the Metazoid
aloft, and both crash back to Earth.  When they land in such a way that the
Metazoid's body cushions the fall enough for Mar-Vell to survive, our hero
begins to get a glimmer that maybe his foe isn't a primitive bent on his death
after all.  But both of them still have missions they must fulfill, at
whatever cost to the other!  And now, suddenly, Mar-Vell has an idea how to
defeat his foe.  He lures the Metazoid into the hospital's radiology lab,
where he bombards the Metazoid with radition from an X-ray device.  The
Kree warrior has recalled another foe once battled by the Kree, the "Vintar of
Galaxy-7".  These alien beings were of "a non-finite cell structure" that
"nothing could penetrate or destroy".  But at the last minute, the Kree
space fleet tried attacking the Vintar army with "giant X-ray cannons" and
discovered that that one form of radiation was the only thing that could cause
this enemy to "crumble".  And so it is with the Metazoid,  whom
Mar-Vell quickly discovers is not only defeated but dead!  (Though one
might wonder how he can be so sure that such a bizarre life-form is actually
dead.  I don't recall the Metazoid ever reappearing, though.) 
Regretfully, Mar-Vell suspects the truth about his foe; "Could it be that IT,
like CAPTAIN MAR-VELL, was on some grim and ghastly mission at which its SOUL
rebelled?  Was it.. or HE... a mere PAWN in some larger, deadlier game-- a
victim of men MORE ruthless but LESS courageous than he?" You got it, Marv, but
you'll never know for sure, as you still have to complete your mission of
insuring that the "mind erasure" on the human Jeremy Logan has succeeded. 
As he confirms that the eraser has done its job without harming the patient,
hospital orderlies burst in and demand to know what he-- viewed by many as a new
superhero but nonetheless sought by the police-- is doing there.  "I was
merely checking this man's BLUE CROSS coverage, Doctor!  My apologies to
the police, but tell them CAPTAIN MARVEL had no time to WASTE!"  As the
doctors check on Logan and find him awakening from his coma, albeit without some
of his memories,  Mar-Vell rockets back into the sky, headed for the Kree
ship.  As an image of the tragic and tortured Metazoid appears behind him
in the clouds, Mar-Vell wonders if he really is guilty of the treason of which
the evil Yon-Rogg accuses him.  "Will you let a few brief moments on the
soil of an alien world  rob you of your PROUD identity?  You are MAN
OF THE KREE-- and THAT you must never FORGET!"  And the final caption warns
him to "beware the rising TIDE of understanding and sympathy for your
ENEMY-BY-EDICT! For in those surging waters, you yourself may well be

Mar--Vell's position as an alien agent with divided
loyalties indeed put him in a tough position-- and not one that writers (Drake
remained on the strip through issue #12 and then was replaced by another Marvel
second-stringer, Gary Friedrich, for #13-15) could maintain indefinitely. 
Eventually in issue #11, Yon-Rogg got the goods on Mar-Vell and put him before a
Kree firing squad, but our hero was (supposedly) rescued by a super-alien named
Zo who offered Mar-Vell greatly increased super-powers and revenge on Yon-Rogg
in return for becoming his servant.  Then Zo turned out to be a "humbug"
(read his name backwards) and with CM #17, the book was taken over by Roy Thomas
and Gil Kane, as it was evidently decided to try to salvage the strip with a
return of first-line talent and a completely revised premise.  That was
when Mar-Vell-- gifted with a new, primarily red costume-- was exiled in the
Negative Zone and empowered to return to Earth temporarily by changing places
with perennial teen sidekick Rick Jones. (All of which gave him a certain
slightly suspicious resemblance to the original Captain Marvel, with his red
costume and juvenile alter ego.)   That version was cancelled after
three issues, briefly revived and cancelled again after two more-- then revived
again to feature early work by artist/plotter Jim Starlin. Eventually Starlin,
who had sort of a death fixation, killed off Mar-Vell by the mundane means of
cancer, in the noted "Death of Captain Marvel" graphic novel. Through it all,
though-- at least in my present-day opinion-- Captain Mar-Vell himself never
really became an interesting character in his own right worthy of carrying on a
famous name.  Meanwhile, DC revived the real Captain Marvel under the
SHAZAM! logo, but Marvel stubbornly hung on to the Captain Marvel trademark and
has applied the name to one character after another without any of them finding
great success (though I liked the African-American energy powered heroine who
was part of Roger Stern's AVENGERS run in the 80's).