RETRO REVIEW: 2001 – A Space Odyssey #8 (July 1977)
Or – “A Dramatic Debut Of Another Stripe…”
These days, I have been known to joke that IDW and Dynamite are fighting to see who can option the last licensed property first, but once upon a time, Marvel Comics was the king of adaptations. Back then, though, the House of Ideas usually did their adaptations in-universe, which led to moments like Shang-Chi rising and advancing from their adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu novels. And then, there was 2001. How weird could it get?
You’re about to find out. Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!
JACK KIRBY ART!
A trippy concept…
A very short chapter…
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY #8
Writer: Jack Kirby
Penciler: Jack Kirby
Inker: Mike Royer
Colorist: Petra Goldberg
Letterer: Mike Royer
Editor: Jack Kirby; Archie Goodwin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 30 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $20.00/$80.00
Previously in 2001 – A Space Odyssey: Bearing little resemblance to the Kubrick movie that spawned it, Jack Kirby’s 2001 was a strange and wonderful place filled with monoliths appearing at appropriate moments to help ordinary people figure out their place in the universe. Or, not-so-ordinary in the case of one Aaron Stack, whose story begins in an underground government bunker, with a VERY angry android…
As X-35 rages akin to machines (You’re welcome!), his mysterious masters watch from a safe place. Nothing that the army has to throw against the steely monster has any effect, leading the eggheads in charge to take drastic action…
The rogue ‘bot goes up in smoke, blasted to bits by the very masters who created him, along with fifty of his brothers. But, not all the “thinking computers” were being trained in military disciplines. The unit designated X-51 was taken by cyberneticist Doctor Abel Stack, who believed that, in order to teach the machines to THINK, he first had to teach them to FEEL. Raising X-51 almost as his son, Stack hoped to overcome the programming issues that drove X-35 mad, even naming him Aaron and building him a human face…
As he watches his son fly away, Abel Stack calmly watches the explosive device ticking down, thinking about the others who gave their life in the service of science. It’s a really sad scene, made even sadder as we cut from the explosion that ends Abel’s life to Aaron enjoying his new anti-gravity abilities…
Doctor Stack’s theories are proven correct, as Aaron travels through the world, awestruck by the wonderful things he sees. Unfortunately for him, the authorities don’t take the reports of a flying man with the same sense of wonder, dispatching first police, then the military with heavy weapons to deal with him. A confused Aaron can’t understand why so many people are trying to shoot him, landing to contemplate whether they’ve made an error, but allowing the military to nail him with an incapacitating sonic blast. In what has to be described as cruel irony, his face is taken from him, and he is verbally abused by one Colonel Kragg, triggering the very emotional instability that killed the other fifty X-series models…
Aaron’s existential quandary triggers the intervention of the one recurring character in the 2001 series: The monolith itself, the one that taught the monkeys how to use tools and transformed Commander Bowman into a star-baby in the orbit of Jupiter. Does the alien monolith have something to teach even an artificial being?
It seems, the answer is yes, and that the lesson for Aaron Stack may be anger… anger and retribution. That may seem like an odd lesson to teach, but it’s 1976, a year of great malaise, and Aaron has a long road to walk before he makes his way to the Avengers. There’s no mention of Machine Man in this issue (or, to be more specific, his first super-heroic alias, Mister Machine) and not a whole lot of signposts that would make it clear that things are taking place in the Marvel Universe. The charm of mid-70s Kirby is in full swing here, and the usual complaints about his later style will almost certainly show up in the comments section, but I’m pretty enamored of his work in this series, showing as it does the alien perspective of the monolith on a world filled with weirdos. 2001: A Space Odyssey #8 isn’t a perfect issue, and Aaron Stack would go through many later permutations that make his characterization here seem out-of-character, but all in all, it’s a satisfying (albeit 70′s short) issue, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. The wild inventiveness that marked Kirby’s work pretty much went nuts in the 2001 book, and I have to say, it works for me.