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Comic Book Throwback Review – Tales of Suspense #96 (Marvel Comics)

Tales of Suspense #96 (Marvel Comics) cover (detail) by Jack Kirby
Tales of Suspense #96
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Tales of Suspense #96

Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Gene Colan, Jack Kirby
Inks: Frank Giacoia, Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Maturity Rating: Everyone

Tales of Suspense features double trouble! Two stories: one featuring shell-head himself, the Invincible Iron Man, and one featuring the Star Spangled Avenger Captain America!

 

Two Stories for One in Tales of Suspense #96

Another day another Comic Book Throwback Review. Today we are going back to 1959 with Tales of Suspense #96. I like the Tales of Suspense comics; we get two stories for the price of one and you can’t beat that, now, can you? Well, I guess if they are both good stories. So, we are in luck because Tales of Suspense #96 features two good ones with Iron Man and Captain America.

Tales of Suspense #96 (Marvel Comics) cover by Jack Kirby
Tales of Suspense #96 (Marvel Comics) cover by Jack Kirby

Quick story about Tales of Suspense #96 and how it came into my hands. I got this as a Christmas present from my brother probably around ’93-’97, don’t really know; I was young, though (my grandfather or parents bought it, but he picked it out). So, this was an issue I would always see back behind the counter at a local comic shop. They always put the older, more expensive comics on display up there. I always gazed at them, never figuring one would be mine. $20 for a comic book! Who could afford that? Well, to my surprise, one Christmas morning I opened a present containing Tales of Suspense #96 (and another issue I might feature later). As a big Captain America fan, I treasured it. I was madly excited never thinking I would own an old issue like this.

Stan “The Man”

So, as previously noted, Tales of Suspense #96 features two stories penned by Stan Lee. These are two classic Stan Lee stories. Now I reviewed a Spider-Man issue a few weeks ago by Lee and while the dialogue was infectiously enthusiastic, it was a little much. In both of these stories, Lee seems to be hitting his sweet spot. He is still all “giddy” and over the top, but it seems like he tones it down a bit and lets the story flow a little more easily.

The first story features Iron Man battling the Gray Gargoyle. It’s a fine little romp with the Gargoyle trying to get a device that will help him beat Thor. Iron Man is trying to stop him, but also has been turned to stone by the Gargoyle’s touch. Lee plays with the Gargoyle’s powers well, with Iron Man having to dodge his touch and devise a way to defeat him. It’s a fun little story and actually keeps your interest. I love Stan Lee’s writing of Iron Man, having to think of a solution and also playing in his heart condition.

One thing about Gray Gargoyle’s powers. So, whatever he touches turns to stone for an hour, and at one point in Tales of Suspense #96, Iron Man throws a tarp over him that Gargoyle touches and it becomes stone. This is a nice trap, but does this mean the Gray Gargoyle cannot touch anything? How does he get through doors or handle anything? Lee might have wanted to think that one through.

Captain, My Captain

The next story in Tales of Suspense #96 features Captain America, but this is one of the many times Steve Rogers has decided to stop being Captain America. But there is a wealth of people donning Captain America costumes and impersonating the Star Spangled Avenger. One guy says he does it to prove to his co-workers he is as fit as any superhero. Which, one, why would you have to dress up like Cap to do that and two, by his looks he is not in any kind of shape. So, weird flex, but okay.

Anyway, pretty simple story, people are out to kill Cap and Steve has to save one of these imposters from “the sniper”, a bad guy with glasses that are basically binoculars who, for some reason, has exploding bullets in his gun. Which I think defeats the purpose of being a sniper, but okay. This is another classic Stan Lee story. He is so enthusiastic that even though it is extremely silly you cannot help but be drawn into it. He gets you excited and enthralled with what is going on. Again, I feel this is Stan Lee when he was in his prime. He doesn’t overly word the issue, but lets it flow a lot better than earlier work.

Artist’s Artists

Tales of Suspense #96 features the cream of the crop of artists. I am talking Gene Colan and Jack “The King” Kirby here! Gene Colan handles the Iron Man story with Frank Giacoia on inks. Colan delivers some spectacular work. I love his clean, rounded style. His characters have this more realistic feel to them. He also has a wonderful sense of movement across the pages.

I also love this era of Iron Man’s armor. Colan plays with the more rounded, human-like feel of the armor so well. It just looks tremendous on the pages. I like that the Iron Man armor shows expression. I know it’s supposed to be armor but Colan gets good story work out of a little movement in the eyes and mouth.

I can’t say much that hasn’t already been said about Jack Kirby. he delivers his bombastic, square-jawed style in full force in Tales of Suspense #96 (with inks by Joe Sinnott). Now, this isn’t full “crazy” Kirby, as this issue doesn’t feature any sci-fi elements for him to show crazy contraptions, vehicles, or whatnot. But his character stylings are all still there. His layouts are fantastic, and his character designs, wonderful. Those imposter Captain Americas are great. Each one has a wonderful individual look that Kirby captures perfectly. I wish the colorist were credited in Tales of Suspense #96, as even today the colors look beautiful.

Suspenseful

I really enjoyed my re-read of Tales of Suspense #96; not only did it bring back some great childhood memories, but I got to revisit a comic book done by some of the best that have ever done it. Again, this is a different era of comics, but the story, while geared more toward kids, is still really enjoyable and a fun read. Stan Lee writes two enthusiastically-infectious stories that you can’t help but smile at. Plus art from Gene Colan and Jack Kirby—you can’t ask for much more than that. 4 shields out of 5.


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About the author

Brent Jackson

Brent is happily married and an avid comic book consumer who loves nothing more than the smell of comics in the morning and diving through a long box of back issues. By day he is a nutritionist and has also been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over 10 years. He is probably not the coolest person you have ever met. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @brentjackson30

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