Marvel Graphic Novel #16

Issue Date: 
May 1985
Story Title: 
The Aladdin Effect

Jim Shooter (plotter), David Micheline (writer), Greg LaRoque (penciler), Vince Coletta (inker), Lynn Cohen (associate editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Without any explanation, the isolated, small, Wyoming town of Venture Ridge has become cut off from the rest of the world via a forcefield. Inside, desperation rules and Sheriff Ember can barely keep order. His young daughter Holly-Ann wishes for the superheroines she adores – Storm, Wasp, She-Hulk and Tigra – to save them. Strangely, the next day she runs into an amnesiac woman who looks like Storm. With some prodding by Holly, she indeed turns out to be Storm and soon they find the other three heroines also in Venture Ridge. In the meantime, the culprit has revealed himself. AIM agent Timekeeper has imprisoned the town because his sensors have shown a mighty power source there and he demands it. She-Hulk confronts him and his lover, only to be beaten up. The heroines soon figure out that Holly-Ann has some kind of wishing power and is the power the villain is looking for. Sheriff Ember considers giving his daughter up for the good of all, but she inspires him to fight, as he in turn inspires the rest of the town. Together with the heroines, they fight and actually beat the AIM troops. Afterwards, Storm gives Holly the X-Men’s address, should she ever want to train her powers.

Full Summary: 


A gas station on a lonely interstate in Wyoming, somewhere between Caspar and Cheyenne. A couple gets out of the cat and asks Ed Bondurant, the owner, if he can tell them how to get to Venture Ridge. Nope, he replies. The two don’t understand. Neither does he, Ed admits, but he can’t tell them how to get there no more.

The man suggests a map. Wouldn’t do them any good. Roads don’t go there no more. Even folks trying to walk to the Ridge end up somewhere else. Really? the couple asks politely, clearly not believing him.

Happened overnight about two months ago, Ed continues. If they ask him, it’s them Eetees from the moon or maybe even the government itself. He hasn’t trusted them since they started putting fluoride in the…

They thank him and try to find the place itself but, two hours later, after a frustrating and fruitless search, they will come to realize that it is impossible. You can no longer go to Venture Ridge, Wyoming from anywhere…

Chapter 1:

A darkened office, the windows are partially broken or covered with blinds. Electricity no longer works. Joseph Ember is the local sheriff of Venture Ridge. But he no longer knows what to do.

He is interrupted in his musings when his wife Mary and their eight-year old daughter Holly-Ann come to fetch him and walk him home. Joe reminds his wife the sun’s almost down. Things could get dangerous. Holly-Ann chirps they’ll protect him. He jokes that takes a load off his mind, but he wishes her mom were less adventurous. Mary reminds him that things can happen anywhere these days. They might as well face them together.

They leave Joe’s office and step into streets that look more like post-war Berlin than the avenues of small town America. Houses and windows are broken, some people are gathered around fires burning in garbage tons. A young man cries: “Hey, lawman, that’s some sweet mama ya go there. Wanna trade her for a bottle of the good stuff?

Joe tells his family not to pay them any mind. Reaching for his gun, he promises he will protect them. Mary remarks she can’t help remembering when they didn’t need protection not to walk down the streets of their own town. How long ago has it been? A year? Five? Ten? Two months, Joe replies curtly. Grimly he thinks about the wall… the source of all their troubles… the invisible force field that was just there one morning.


Unburnable, unbreakable, impenetrable. Taller than any could climb, deeper than any could dig. With no way in or out, Venture Ridge had been cut off, its occupants trapped like bugs in a sealed and lidless jar.

At first, Mayor Hoppel tried to keep the peace, telling his constituents that this was a natural phenomenon and would soon go way. But “soon” stretched to days… to weeks. And people in the Ridge got scared. Then they got antsy. People began to loot and fight, and that was only the beginning. Because slowly, surely, supplies began to run low and neighbor turned against neighbor. Men who had been boyhood chums and fishing buddies started hording canned peas and cattle feed like jungle cats guarding their young.

Kids who had longed for years to leave for greener pastures but had never had the courage started bringing their own vision of big city morality to Venture Ridge. While elders, sure that Judgment Day had arrived, prayed to their God and found only blind faith to comfort them when those prayers remained unanswered.


The Embers return to their cold home. With no kindling left, hey scrounge for things to burn. Joe asks Holly if she has anything they can burn, books, posters, stuff like that. Holly-Ann denies it quickly, hiding a certain scrapbook from him and hurrying upstairs.

After Joe has started the fire, he admits to Mary it’s getting pretty grim out there. The boys and he patrol when they can but it’s punks and slugs who own these streets now. Everyone’s better off staying begin locked doors with shotguns nearby. Without petrol, with communication and supplies cut off, he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to them.

They have a quit dinner of cornflakes washed down with well water. Later, the still-hungry Holly reads the book she saved in the moonlight; her scrapbook, her collection of all the pictures and articles about her favorite superheroines.

One day she wants to be a superheroine too. She wonders which one she’d like to be like: a cat-lady like Tigra? Like the Wasp, able to shrink and fly? Able to control the weather like Storm or strong like the She-Hulk? Holly-Ann daydreams of having intergalactic adventures with her crew of mighty women warriors. Through all the adventures, the smiling heroines are by her side, helping, confiding, making things right. They are her friends and Holly is one of them.

Her dreams are rudely interrupted when her father enters. Angrily, he grabs her scrapbook. She was supposed to give them everything burnable! He orders her to go to bed and walks downstairs. Mary asks if he had to be so hard on her.

He admits the situation is making him a little crazy as he throws the scrapbook into the fire. Hoppel and the town council are meeting again tomorrow. They say they’d be happy to give whoever’s trapped them whatever they want but they have no idea who’s behind this or what they are after. So they are expecting him to come up with recommendations. And he has no clue.

Mary assures him he will think of something. Mollified, he promises to make things up to Holly in the morning. He’ll take her to the courthouse with him. She always likes that.

Upstairs, Holly cries herself to sleep, wishing with all her heart that her friends, the heroines, were there with her. While outside, silent and unseen, sinisterly out of place crafts float over Venture Ridge, hovering and then moving, as if looking… watching… searching.

The next morning, Joe makes good on his promise and Holly is looking forward to the visit. Suddenly, in the streets, she sees a black woman with long, white hair covering herself with a blanket. Holly asks her father to stop. But he tells her there is no time to dawdle and she shouldn’t talk to strangers. But already the woman who Holly believes to be Storm is gone.

Moments later, Joe Ember faces the Venture Ridge town council while his daughter waits in the outer office, listening to tales of the past the elderly secretary tells her.

Holly decides to run away, certain the woman was Storm. Her wishes came true! She wonders why Storm looked so skittish but she has to find her!

She runs into a gang. What have they here? the leader announces. Lunch, another one suggests. The youngsters demand she hand over her coat peacefully. Holly shouts ‘no’ and runs, chased by the mob. Panicked, she runs into the woman she was looking for. The mob believe they have her, but the regal, white-haired woman stands in front of Holly and orders them to leave the girl alone. The boys figure they have her outnumbered. She stares at them silently and self-assured and the kids realize they are out of their league.

The woman assures Holly she is safe. Perhaps she could do her a favor as well and tell her who she is. Is she kidding? Holly asks. She is Storm! She is a superhero who can make the weather do what she tells it to. The woman doesn’t believe it. Surely she’d know that. Holly urges her to try. She accedes, waving her arms. “Hear me, o sky and clouds! Let there be great rain! And mighty wind! And … umm… stuff.

Holly is keeping her ears covered in expectation, but nothing happens. She’s got to try harder! she chides. The woman apologizes. Holly’s fantasies are colorful but… They aren’t fantasies! Holly insists. Storm is one of the X-Men and… That word rings a bell. Holly continues that she’s a mutant and has friends named Wolverine, Cyclops, Ariel. Names that stir images in her mind.

Holly continues that she lives in New York and their leader is this bald guy named Professor Zayvier. Please, she’s gotta remember! And she does. She is the mistress of the sky and tempest… she is Ororo! Lightning engulfs her. She is Storm!

Exalted, she rides the winds, wondering how she could have ever forgotten. Storm lands. She still doesn’t know how she was brought here or why. Storm’s here ‘cause she wished it, Holly is sure. But she can’t explain the rest. They have to find her dad for that. He knows everything!

Chapter 2:

However, at a town council’s meeting, the public has a different opinion. Joe Ember tries to calm them. They want to fight. Fine. Who are they gonna fight? They don’t even know what’s going on here.

Suddenly, the secretary comes in agitated. There’s a crazy woman outside with wild eyes and crazy hair! Storm enters, shooting a lightning bolt at a cop’s gun. Some of the crowd recognize her and the emotions run the gamut from fear, to hope that she will help, to the belief she is to blame.

Joe whistles to quiet everybody down, repeating they need more information. He addresses his daughter but is suddenly interrupted as a hologram of a cowled man appears.

He introduces himself as the Timekeeper and informs them the town shelters a power undreamt of. Power that he must possess. The source is hidden from him but he sees it is growing and it has been employed recently. They will bring him this power within twenty-four hours. Refuse and Venture Ridge will blow away like ashes from a funeral pyre! They have one day, he repeats and the hologram disappears.

Storm walks outside with Holly, intending to find out what all this means. While she still doesn’t know why she came here, it is obvious that she has to protect the town. Holly asks her to let her come along. She wished Storm here and besides, she thought they were friends! Storm takes Holly’s hand and flies upwards with her. She spends the next hours exploring the containment field, which proves unbreakable.

They land at an abandoned homestead at the barrier’s edge. Holly tells her what’s been happening. Storm notes that the people seem to have forsaken hope and there is little she can do. Holly urges they need a heroine to show them that good people are strong too. Isn’t there something she can do? Storm decides to try. She focuses and unleashes as much lightning as she can muster at the dome… to no avail.

Holly tries to comfort her. Maybe there’s another way. She wished Storm here. Maybe she wished other people here too. Maybe they just need to look!

Suddenly, a tree lands next to them. The search doesn’t prove necessary, as the She-Hulk steps up. Does either of them know where civilization starts around here? Jennifer Walters asks. She is so hungry she could eat a cow.

Storm warns her to stand back and tells her not to harm the child. Jennifer tells her to relax. She is one of the good guys. Or maybe Storm’s memory is as scrambled as hers was before she saw her reflection in the stream back there. When you are as big and green as she is, it is sort of hard to forget who you are for long.

Jen admits she doesn’t know how she got here. She was on her way to Avengers Mansion in New York and then… poof! Storm remarks her story is similar and adds that the people here are in danger and need their help. Jen isn’t interested in working together. She will check out things on her own. If she comes up with anything interesting she will let them know. She jumps away. Storm decides they better look for any others.

Outside another farm building, a group of thugs have found a petite brunette dressed only in a nightie and decide how to best play with her. When she struggles, they tie her up with a rope. She pleads that she doesn’t know what’s going on, but she remembers that she has money.

The men have other interests. The woman spits at the one manhandling her. He is about to hit her, when she looks up. She sees Storm flying above her and, when she recognizes her, she recalls her own name. She is Janet van Dyne, the Wasp!

She shrinks out of her chains, then grows again, hits the man and follows this up with an energy ray. The others run away.

Jan is still shaking badly from the shock. She needs some clothes. A new outfit might be just what she needs; maybe then she won’t feel so much like vomiting. She flies away.

Twilight in Venture Ridge and, somewhere in an abandoned warehouse, a woman hides; a catlike woman who doesn’t know what she is. She’s covered with fur. Who is she and where is she? She moves around trying to find any clue and finds a mirror shard. She is shocked to see she has cat eyes. She’s scared but decides that by hiding she won’t learn anything, so she climbs outside wishing she could think of another word than “prowl.”

Following the scent of food, she ends up in an alley littered with refuse and garbage and pounces. However, when she hears voices, she throws something at the intruders… Storm and Holly.

Storm simply gestured and the wind bats the quarter ton engine block aside. The catwoman is about to attack and so is Storm, until the diminutive Wasp flies between them, telling Tigra she didn’t follow Storm all the way to see Tigra rip her legs out.

Tigra still hesitates and Wasp realizes she is also amnesiac She reminds her she is Tigra, and a sometime Avenger. Storm urges her to remember. Holly marvels that her other two heroines have shown up as well, while Tigra begins to remember and admits she feels like a nerd. What is going on here? she asks. Storm suggests they compare experiences. They need a place to regroup. Holly suggests they go to her house.

Chapter 3:

Meanwhile, at the edge of the barrier, the She-Hulk hits it with all her strength. Suddenly, armed men in yellow suits order her to freeze or they’ll tear her apart. ”You, and what army?” she mocks only to see that indeed they comprise an army. Figuring they are the trouble Storm mentioned earlier, She-Hulk attacks them, only to see they’ve got some heavy high tech on their side. Belatedly, Jen realizes she should have taken Storm up on her offer. She uproots a tree and hits the men until she is taken out by one of their ray guns. The master will be pleased, the soldier who took her down announces.

And soon, half a mile below Venture Ridge, in an installation as large as the besieged city itself, the hum of nuclear reactors mingles with the cadenced stamp of hard-soled boots. A strangely costumed men and his scantily clad lover are informed that one of the infiltrators has been captured. The woman suggests they bring her here. It might prove… amusing. The man announces he has anticipated her wishes.

Chained, She-Hulk is brought. He tells her he is the Timekeeper and this is his domain. He runs this complex for AIM – Advanced Idea Mechanics – and everything in it… including her…is subject to his commands.

Angrily, she blusters he should strut while he can. When she’s got the strength back to bust out of these shackles, she’s gonna wind his clock for good! He doubts it. The complex is fortified beyond imagining. They’ve done weapon research here for decades, mostly dealing with radiation energies. Though recently, they’ve detected a power source in the village above, one that dwarfs anything they have here. She-Hulk is not that source but possibly she might lead them to it.

His lover asks if she should ask her nicely, woman to woman. Would she like that? she asks She-Hulk. Would she perhaps enjoy it? Not only does she have nerve, She-Hulk replies, but she just struck one. She tears out of her manacles.

Is the focusing mechanism operational? the woman asks and it told it is. She-Hulk hits her, to no avail. The woman hits back and Jen stays down, surprised she was knocked down. Reaching for her glove, the woman agrees. It’s called broadcast power. Shall she give her a further demonstration?

In the meantime, Joe Ember returns home to find unexpected guests at his home, Holly’s friends. He demands to know what’s going on. The Wasp introduces herself and sharply tells him to get his hand away from his gun. The other two heroines introduce themselves and his wife assures him they are for real. Storm adds that they are here to help. Joe is happy to accept any help they can get.

Looking out of the window, Tigra announces trouble is coming in a wheel barrow. The deputies bring a beaten up She-Hulk, whom they found dumped in a garbage can. Anybody got an aspirin? Jen jokes. Tigra and Wasp help her inside.

She-Hulk explains that they are up against AIM. They’ve got research facilities under the town and they are using something called “broadcast power” – energy they can transmit directly to their soldiers. Makes them tougher than nails. They kept asking about some kind of super power source here in town and kept hitting her. So she told them where they could stick their question.

Joe Ember despairs. If those AIM characters can stomp one of those superheroes nearly to death, there is no way simple farmers and merchants can stand up to them. It’s obvious they’ll have to give these animals what they want…

Wasp interrupts that there is another factor he had better take into consideration. She thinks there is a good chance the power source AIM is looking for is his daughter. When he blusters, she repeats the facts. A few hours ago, the four heroines were in such diverse places as New York and Los Angeles, then, bang, they are all amnesiacs in the middle of Wyoming. And for no other reason that they know than a little girl wishing them here, like she rubbed some sort of mental Aladdin’s Lamp. She doesn’t know how Holly could have gotten such abilities. Maybe it has something to do with growing up near the radiation experiments that AIM has been conducting but, unless someone can come up with a better theory, she thinks they should get used to the idea that AIM target is Holly-Ann. Oh golly! the girl exclaims.

While the adults talk and plan, Holly-Ann falls asleep. She wakes up when she hears her mother crying. She asks what’s wrong and Mary admits her father has made a decision. He’s gone to see the council. He is going to recommend that they give up. They have to! When people find out that Holly is the one those bad men want, they might try to take her away or hurt her. But if they cooperate, AIM might just examine Holly and then let them all go. What else can they do? she cries. They can fight! Holly-Ann shouts and runs outside.

She doesn’t understand the grown-ups. She runs again into the youths who wanted to steal her coat earlier. The boy grabs her. She wriggles loose, shouting she is doing this for the whole town, even for them! She runs away to the town hall where her father is.

She begs him not to do it. They’ve got the heroines on their side and him too! He can save them. She knows he can! Joe admits he wants to. And he believed they might be able to pull it off when her friends showed up. But the town’s given up, and without them… he’s sorry. He enters the town hall.

Inside, the mayor asks if he has a plan. Not much of one, Joe replies. The town’s heartsick… bone weary. They’ve given up trying. It looks like the only chance any of them has is to surrender. That might not sit well with the town folks at first, but he’s sure as soon as the mayor explains the reasons… He expects him to take the blame? Hoppel blusters. He’d go down as the mayor who turned Venture Ridge over to a bunch of hooligans! That’s political suicide! He resigns! And leave her as the chairperson of the town council to be the scapegoat? a middle-aged woman asks. Fat chance! She hereby delegates her authority to the next chairperson pastor Weems. The pastor stutters that his parishioners might not understand… Everybody begins to argue, even the dogcatcher quits. Angrily Joe storms from the council chamber.

Later, in an auditorium where the bulk of the population has gathered, Joe announces it looks like he’s been “appointed” to give them the news. At first, he thought he’d talk to about practicality, about facing the facts… about surrender. But now he’s decided to talk about what this is all really… about cowardice… and courage. These thugs want his daughter Holly-Ann. And for a while, he was going to give her to them. He figured that sacrificing one to save many was the noble thing to do but now he realizes that his daughter had more courage than the rest of them put together. Because Holly still believes in heroes. She believes in people helping each other and even more important, at least for him, she believes in him!

He is not going to tell them to surrender. He is not going to tell them to do anything. He’s only going to tell them what he’s going to do and that’s fight those bloody bastards until the last breath is crushed from his body! The rest of them can do what they want!

Outside, Holly hugs him and tells him how proud she is. Mary borrows a rifle, intending to stand with them. Ashamed of their own fear, several of the citizens choose to stand with them as well. For the next few hours, they begin to work, building barricades, allotting weapons and ammunition, stockpiling supplies, all under the watchful eye of Sheriff Ember.

Night passes. Preparations are competed. And the sun rises over what may well be the last day of Venture Ridge. The superpowered heroines will serve as the town’s first line of defense with one stationed at each of the four borders. To the north, Tigra crouches. In the east, the Wasp pauses briefly after one of her many short flights to check the invisible barrier. To the west, She-Hulk stands, stiff as a stone, battered but not beaten. And to the edge of the southern mesa, Storm attunes herself for the battle to come.

Chapter 4:

Below, the Timekeeper is informed of the fortifications taking place. He marvels about human stupidity. All they had to do was surrender and they could have lived. In slavery, true, but lived. What will he do? his lover asks. The only thing he can, he replies, attack!

Moments later, the heroines are beset by AIM troops popping from the ground. Hundreds of them. Bravely, the heroines fight, some like Storm enraged, others like Tigra enjoy themselves.

However, reinforcements for AIM arrive in the form of a giant robot attacking She-Hulk and heat missiles going for the Wasp.

Tigra is surrounded by AIM troops. One of them brings a big gun which shoots strands that wrap around Tigra. She finds she cannot break loose form the ties. Furiously, she nevertheless tries to fight.

Nearby, Storm uses a localized whirlwind to deal with the flying vehicles and throws lightning at the ground troops. However, the troops are prepared. They put in earplugs and activate sonic phasers. The pain of the sound overwhelms Storm and she passes out.

She-Hulk has been wrestled to the ground by the robot which has trapped her. Surprisingly, the citizens of Venture Ridge show up, trying to attack the robot and rescue her. She has to admit they are good people.

While they cannot really harm the robot, they can at least distract it and its balance, allowing She-Hulk to shift enough to get a little more leverage. She frees herself and tears off its foot.

Another group of citizens frees Tigra and yet another destroys the sonic gun that disabled Storm.

And so it goes: fists against armor, handles against gun, common citizens against trained soldiers. Despite the laws of probability, the tables begin to turn and the people begin to win.

However, that moment, the Timekeeper and his lover themselves join the battle. With more flying guardsmen, powered by the Timekeeper himself, he attacks the Embers.

Seeing her parents on the ground, Holly is shook up. She-Hulk, who is attacked by the woman, tells Holy he is going to hurt them all more unless she uses her powers.

Angrily, Holly-Ann wishes he grow bat ears, that he turn into a frog, that he go away forever! But nothing happens. The Timekeeper announces that her fledgling powers are still sporadic and she has no control over them. She will learn it under his control. By then, he will control her. He slaps her.

Somewhere above, the Wasp is chased by a heat seeker missile. However, she manages to lure the missile towards a flying AIM agent, who gives off more heat than she, thus disabling both.

Tigra also gets rid of her foe and Storm takes out another of the special guards. The three meet up, just in time to witness She-Hulk taking out the Timekeeper’s lover.

As she threatens the woman’s face, the Timekeeper orders her not to or he will kill the girl. She-Hulk points out that he is bluffing. Holly is what he’s been looking for all along… That doesn’t matter, he replies. Power can be created, bought, stolen… But love

Joe Ember comes to see his daughter in the Timekeeper’s hands and tackles him. Angrily, he hits him for all he has done. Before he can kill him, Holly begs him to stop. He realizes she is right. There is no need to sink to this scum’s level. After all, he is the sheriff of Venture Ridge and he tells the other man he is under arrest.


Days later, agents from the FBI, the Red Cross and SHIELD have done their work. Though most of the AIM installation has self-destructed, much information has been garnered. All that remains is for the residents of Venture Ridge to claw their way slowly back to a normal existence.

Do they have to go so soon? Holly pleads with the heroines. Storm reminds her they have duties elsewhere. The Wasp promises they’ll keep in touch. And, if she is ever in New York, drop by Avengers Mansion and she will introduce her to the rest of the guys.

She wishes she’d remembered to bring their costumes, Holly muses. A moment later, the heroines are dressed in the costumes. She-Hulk remarks that, when Holly learns to control her powers all the time, she is going to be something to be reckoned with. The Embers are not sure if they want that but Storm tells Holly she has a kind heart which will guide her to a wise destiny. When she is ready and, if she chooses, come to this address. The people there helped Storm learn the vistas of her own abilities. They may help her as well. She hands Holly a card of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, leaving it up to Holly to decide her future path.

Characters Involved: 

Holly-Ann Ember

Storm (X-Man)

She-Hulk, Tigra, Wasp (all Avengers)

Joe and Mary Ember

Citizens of Venture Ridge

Ed Bondurant

Tourist couple

Teenage gangsters


His lover

AIM troops

Story Notes: 

Actually the X-Men’s connection to Professor Xavier isn’t common knowledge, so it’s unclear how Holly knows.

So far, this is the first and last appearance of Holly-Ann Ember.

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