The Avengers #167

the avengers 167

The next issue in the Korvac saga brings us to Avengers Mansion where The Beast, Captain America, and the Scarlet Witch are reacting to an alarm. Turns out it is Nick Fury on the SHIELD space station, where he appears to be drunk. Maybe this is why David Hasselhoff decided to play him in that horrible television movie? Anyway, the call is made for the Avengers to Assemble. But Iron Man is late. Turns out Tony Stark is on the space station with Nick Fury. He excuses himself to head back to Earth…in order to get into his Iron Man gear and head BACK to the space station to handle the crisis with the team.

Why? There was no reason to do this but to kill a few panels of space in the comic. This is what blows my mind about Iron Man in the comics. There is absolutely no reason for him to keep his identity secret. None. For any friend or family member that would be in danger, he is soaking in so much money that he could pay for security for the people he loves ten fold. The fact that his identity was kept secret during this era when the Fantastic Four, another group that had tons of money but had their identities out there for all to know, just tells me that the folks at Marvel weren’t thinking correctly. The movies had it right. Someone as rich as Tony Stark would have an ego. He would LOVE to have the world know he is Iron Man. Hell, let’s say he doesn’t tell the world. Why would he not tell The Avengers his secret? It would make the situations that Tony faces as the leader at this time a little easier to go through when Captain America gets pissed at him. It just created unnecessary conflict. Problems for the sake of problems.

Turns out a big space station has appeared out of nowhere that SHIELD wants The Avengers to investigate. They board the ship only to find the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians inform the Avengers that Korvac has come back in time in an effort to kill the Guardians leader, Vance Astro (not the best name you can give a hero. Sounds like the name of a porn star.) There’s reminiscing and then we switch scenes and see Janet Van Dyne Pym, The Wasp, as she shows off her fall collection.

Yes, The Wasp, when she’s not a super hero, is a fashion designer. Now granted, this is part of her character from day one but it is still annoying as hell. But hey, I’m not going to like every character. Hank Pym is in the audience along with Nighthawk and a strange man who stares intently at one model and says nothing throughout.

Out of nowhere the fashion show is disrupted when a group of criminals with their leader barge in demanding everyone’s money. The leader? His name is The Porcupine. This comic came out in 1977 and they’re naming bad guys with names that would have been made fun of in the 40’s. What, does the guy have the proportional strength of a porcupine? Was he stung by a radioactive porcupine and now is pissed off at the world?

Characters like this are why people made fun of comics for years. While the character is never shown as much of a threat in this issue, it is annoying to see such a pathetic character being presented as anything resembling a threat. It was like watching the WWE in the 1990’s when they had characters like Mantaur, Doink the Clown, the Repo Man, or Irwin R. Shyster. These were characters that, while the wrestlers playing them were fine wrestlers, were never, ever going to be considered as any sort of real threat towards the champion or would ever be taken seriously as athletes. Why couldn’t they come up with something novel like having criminals that were just, you know, criminals? I know that’s a wild idea and all that but at least at this point in time it was still so insane an idea to use that they had to come up with a character called The Porcupine and try and make him appear as if he were a real threat.

The end of the issue was intriguing. An unknown character who earlier had been ogling a model, sets eyes on the model when all hell had broken loose. She’s entranced by him and they meet, embrace, and end up disappearing. This was a nice little way for the issue to end because while this issue ended up resolving, thankfully, it gave you enough intrigue to see what happens in the next issue. While I may end up disappointed, it was a nice way to end the issue.

The artwork was top notch apart from the clothing. I don’t know, I think that too often I have seen DC and Marvel during the ages try and present their characters in ways to make them appealing to people of that time. By the time the issue comes out, whatever fad the creators wished to bank on was probably over and close to forty years later now the characters just look plain stupid when they’re dressed like people of that time. Why they could not dress the characters in neutral clothing is beyond me. I mean, these comics are supposed to be timeless stories, why could they not be drawn as such?

Bottom Line:

This is not a good second issue. Despite my criticism I’m not going to go so far as to say the issue was bad but it simply doesn’t stand the test of time. One annoying part I forgot to mention was the stupid flashback at the beginning of the issue. Show, don’t tell is a common adage they give writers. The writers of this issue forgot that by having the Guardians tell the readers what happened when Thor teamed with them. Yeah, it could be argued that there are some readers who have not read other issues with characters they may not like so having a refresher on what happened is not a bad idea. While I agree with that, I do think there could have been a much better way of retelling the story. Even something as having The Avengers scan security tape of Thor’s adventure would have been better than just people talking.

So yeah, it’s not horrible but I cannot recommend reading this issue. It’s a part of the Krovac saga so if you want to read that story from start to finish you have no choice. This is just not the type of story that you read just for the hell of it. It’s like the Star Wars prequels. You watch them just to say you did and you move on.

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

Nick_Fury,_Agent_of_S.H.I.E.L.D._Vol_1_1

 

The mark of a good story is one that, regardless of when you read it, it feels alive. Folks that read Tom Sawyer today are immediately drawn into the world that Mark Twain has created. It doesn’t matter that the story is set in the 1800’s, the way Mr. Clemens wrote that story, it could happen today for all I care. You know these characters intimately and care about them from first page to last.

And then you get stories like this. This was just…my god it’s bad. The writer of the piece is one Jim Steranko. (I’ll go into his history a bit later.) The story in question is a weird fusion of three separate stories that just don’t work together. The main story involves Nick Fury discovering someone named Scorpio is out to get him. Fine and dandy…if it weren’t saddled with two other stories, one involving a failed comedian who gambles too much and a mobster who was heading to Vegas to collect some money. Mr. Steranko tries and fails miserably this issue to try and meld those stories together.

The main story is Nick Fury and Scorpio. But it’s tough to call it a story because you don’t really know why the hell Scorpio is after Nick Fury. Well it’s a comic book, you may argue. Future issues will detail why he is out to get him. Yeah, doing a little research on the character (Thanks reddit!) I discovered that Scorpio does in fact have a very personal connection to Nick Fury and a reason to want revenge against him. Not that he’s right in his thinking but still it’s something that is not touched upon at all in the issue.

There really is nothing moving the story forward. There is just a simple premise that someone named Scorpio is after Fury. Everything else in the issue revolves around pure luck or pure stupidity in the case of the failed comedian. The side story is about a guy who owes the mob money. By the end of the issue he is mistaken for the mobster who was heading to Vegas to pick up some money and he gets the money instead. Thinking he has all his problems solved, he proceeds to try and call home. But whoops, there’s a bomb in the briefcase where he thought the money was. So bye bye douche bag. A character we are given no reason to like is killed. We’ve had our time wasted on a pointless story that does nothing for what we are reading at all. It was almost like the editor, Stan Lee, told Mr. Steranko that the issue didn’t have enough drama so they shoehorned a story in that was supposed to be a morality tale about how evil gambling was. Fuck that guy. Anyone thinking their problems were solved that simply deserves a quick death.

The story of the mobster is even worse. He’s almost a dead ringer for the comedian which is how the guy gets the money in the first place. The only reason the mobster appears to be included in the story is to have someone shoot the shot that appears to bring down the ship that Scorpio was attempting to escape from. Then he dies. And you wonder why you should care because he was in the story on just a couple page. They should have just named him Deus Ex Machina. Without him, Scorpio escapes. But without him, the story still happens pretty much as it happens. Why they couldn’t have Fury take the shot is beyond me. Nick Fury was a soldier who would not hesitate to shoot a bad guy. You could even explain it that maybe he didn’t want to kill the guy but was looking to bring the plane down and Scorpio, being a bad pilot, crashed. I get that maybe you don’t want your hero just shooting folks but come the fuck on.

Now onto the art. While the art is very much dated it is pretty much the only thing that can keep your interest in the story. There was a scene early on where a bomb goes off in the desert and you discover that Nick Fury was in the blast radius testing a special suit. The drawing Mr. Steranko uses to illustrate the explosion is a black and white drawing, abstract, but amazing in the power it shows.

The art looked quite familiar. There was a familiarity to it that I just couldn’t put my finger on. Then a little research brought this image.

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Jim Steranko was responsible for how the Indiana Jones movies looked. He drew the preproduction images that were used to make the movies into what they became. He also did work with other movies like Bram Stoker’s Dracula from Francis Ford Coppola. So at the end of the day, no matter how much I didn’t care for the story in this issue, the art saves the day.

Bottom Line:

I can’t recommend this comic. I just can’t. While the artwork, especially the cover, and worth a view, the story just makes you shake your head at how fucking horrible everything is. You can’t have a story where everything just happens by chance and the main character is just reacting to everything. That is not a good story. It’s not even a story, it’s just a glimpse into the life of a rather unlucky person. How can you be expected to care a lick what is going on when you don’t know the motivation for the bad guys actions and when half the characters in the story are there simply to take up pages that could have been used to better explain what the hell was going on in the main story? The seed of a story is there. I would have liked to know how Scorpio got his troops in SHIELD. I would have liked to have known WHY he had a grudge against Nick Fury. Instead we get something that passes for a story with artwork that, while it most certainly is dated, is still pretty interesting to look at.