The Avengers #55

The Silver Age of Comics has brought about changes in pop culture that will reverberate for years to come. From the two major companies, Marvel and DC, the sheer amount of work they created that is still being mined is amazing. But do they stand the test of time? Not always.

To get back in the saddle of reviewing I thought I would dive into a classic issue of The Avengers. This issue was the debut of Ultron-5, the evil robot played so amazingly by James Spader in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The premise of the issue is that The Avengers have been kidnapped by the reformed Masters of Evil under the guise of the mysterious Crimson Cowl. While the previous issue came out and said Jarvis, Tony Stark’s butler, was The Crimson Cowl, it turns out Jarvis was being hypnotized by Ultron. The scheme was to have a hydrogen bomb held over the Empire State Building while Ultron contacts authorities for a ransom. The Black Knight arrives after Jarvis is able to escape, hijinks ensue, and The Avengers save the day.

The overall story itself was not horrible. I’ve certainly read much worse than this. Yet it does have a couple major failings. The biggest one is how Jarvis is dealt with. First, they imply he’s being hypnotized yet at the end of the issue Jarvis tells The Avengers that his mother was sick and he needed money so he sold them out. Which is it? Was he forced against his will through hypnosis or did he go along with the plan simply to help his mother? Also, maybe someone can fill me in as to what Tony Stark’s fortune was at this point in time but I strongly suspect that Tony would have willingly given Jarvis whatever cash he needed to care for his family.

Secondly, he was attacked by the Melter (after previously being attacked by Ultron) yet was able to escape with essentially minor bruises. When Jake and Elwood Blues in The Blues Brothers were attacked over and over again yet were able to simply walk away it was done for humorous effect. When a simple butler is able to survive an attack from a robot and a hardened criminal with simply nothing more than an Excedrin headache, it takes the believe ability of these villains, tosses it out a window, and lets birds use them for scraps for their nests. While I could let it slide when it happens to one of The Avengers, because let’s face it, even during the 1960’s you would expect members of a group to train for situations for like this, for an average civilian, you’d expect them to be straight up murdered.

Another issue I had was something I’ve seen a lot in Silver Age Comics. They introduce the big bad villain yet only showcase that villain for a couple of pages. Granted, I’m admittedly being a little impatient here. This issue was during the era where they were just getting into the groove of multi-issue stories. If you take early Avengers stories, early Spider-Man stories, most would be single story issues. With what is called decompression, they were letting stories breath really, letting them flow longer and more organically like a story in a novel or movie compared to the compression stories of the past eras. One drawback of the decompression method is if you find yourself in the middle of the story you may find that certain characters you want to see are simply not going to be around in a particular story simply because they’re not needed. Yet, I still found myself frustrated because for Ultron’s part in the story, we mainly saw him as The Crimson Cowl. Once he reveals himself as Ultron, he only appears in four more pages of the story in only a small handful of panels. This is a complaint…but a complaint I am sure a writer wants to see a person have because I wanted to see more of him.

So where do I stand on this issue? You have to take it in full context honestly. It’s a part of a longer story told in previous issues. With that, as a stand alone story, it doesn’t hold up too well. However, what it did right was not having the enjoyment of this issue be completely reliant upon total knowledge of what happened in previous issues. To me, the sign of a good comic is one that you can pick up with any issue and enjoy it. They have to have the mindset George Lucas said he had for Star Wars, that each film is its own story but all the films together tell one coherent story. This issue fits that formula nicely so I do recommend it as a read. It’s certainly not a classic in comics history along the lines of Amazing Fantasy #15, with a solid beginning, middle, and end, it does what it needs to do. In the age of graphic novels and comics available upon demand digitally, I think this is something some comics creators are forgetting today. They have the mindset that each issue is a chapter in a story and write it accordingly. Comic stories, even today, share more with old movie serials than they do with books. Basically, you have one issue to sell a new reader on your story so make whatever issue they pick up feel like a complete story, not a small part of something bigger. If they like what they read, they will purchase the other issues.

The Avengers #1

I’ve decided to change things up a bit. For a while I tried reading the first thing that interested me on a particular day. Then I went through the Spider-Island story. From there I’ve been reviewing Ultimate Spider-Man. While I am loving the Ultimate run, I do see the need to kind of have some variety. As the old saying goes, you can’t live on bread, or just Spider-Man alone. So with that, I’m going to have a schedule.

  1. Sunday-The Amazing Spider-Man
  2. Monday-Civil War
  3. Tuesday-Age of Apocalypse
  4. Wednesday-Death of Wolverine
  5. Thursday-Ultimate Spider-Man
  6. Friday-Fear Itself
  7. Saturday-The Avengers

This of course will be subject to change. Whether it be boredom or finishing up a particular story line, there will be times I shift to another series or event story. In the end, I think this will give me the variety I want plus more exposure to more writers and artists.

So what is there to say about The Avengers? For one, I really enjoyed how the backbone of the story has stayed pretty consistent throughout the years. There have been changes of personnel and relationships among the group have changed over time but the basic premise for the story has stayed surprisingly consistent. Contrast that with DC Comics titles from this time the you’d be hard pressed to find a story that bears any resemblance to their modern counterparts.

To me this speaks well to the genius of Stan Lee and the other contributors at Marvel. The only reason I single Stan out of course is that he’s pretty much the figure head for the writers and artists that Marvel have employed throughout the years. And for the longest time Stan was the man behind the words in all the comics Marvel put out which, even using the Marvel Method (where Stan would provide an artist a basic story outline, the artist would draw the entire comic, then Stan would furnish the story for the written work), is an amazing feat we won’t see from a major comics publisher again.

So what works in this issue? To me, it boils down to simplicity. A bad guy, Loki, wants to fight Thor, frames the Hulk for a crime he didn’t commit, and inadvertently gets a number of other heroes on his case before he is ultimately defeated. While it goes without saying that you would probably get a much deeper appreciation for the story if you have read the stand alone issues for each of these characters, another wonderful part about The Avengers is that the story for the most part stands alone. Prior knowledge of events that happened in other comics is not needed to enjoy what is happening, yet you will find plenty of editor’s notes indicating which comics in question you can read to find out the back story you may be interested in.

One character I haven’t really gotten used to is The Hulk. I will admit that this is because I grew up on the old Incredible Hulk television show which for my money is still one of the best comic book shows ever made. Since getting back into reading comics, I have found it quite strange to see the Hulk more cantankerous than I remember him to be. And the Hulk talking? Come on. To be clear, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the Hulk in this. Apart from him suddenly joining the team after being hounded by them all issue, he’s a wonderful character that I want to see more of in this story.

The only real complaint I have about this issue is Stan’s penchant for filling the pages up with as much text as possible. I fully appreciate that this story was written at a time where most folks were still used to radios being the main form of entertainment even though by this time radios were pretty much being regulated to a secondary entertainment tool in the home. The story comes across like a radio play. I found myself annoyed at some instances where Stan is describing what is going on when there was no need to do so because the art clearly showed what was going on. Again, this comic was a product of its age. If the comic were written today it would be much different. (As evidenced by this great reimagining from Joe Casey and Phil Noto.) Despite that, the story holds up incredibly well. The flaws for the most part add charm to the story because it is very much the type of feeling you get when a team gets together for the first time.

Bottom Line:

This is a must read. That goes without saying. This issue is one of a few issues in comics history that stand as a true corner stone of what make comics great. While Joss Whedon didn’t follow this comic at all when he created the first Avengers movie, I was surprised at how much of a spiritual remake of the comic that movie was.

The art work is crude by today’s standards but make no mistake, most artists wish they could achieve a tenth of what Jack Kirby created. While images have gotten more streamlined and outfits of our heroes have changed over time, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t say these characters are the same as the ones in the comics today.

Interestingly, you can also say this was the time where the Fantastic Four handed over the mantle of Marvel’s most important team. Spider-Man and to a lesser extent Wolverine and The Punisher, may be the money cows of Marvel. For my money, The Avengers teaming up was the most important act Marvel could have made during this time even though admittedly if it weren’t for a little team at DC called The Justice League, who knows if The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, would have heeded the call and joined together.

The Avengers #176

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Starhawk arrives at the mansion and asks Iron Man why he was summoned. Iron Man gives him the Cliff’s Notes version of the story so far and enlists his help. When he’s done telling the story, Starhawk says something that’s on the mind of everyone reading the story by saying he feels the ultimate bad guy in all this is Korvac but hey, for shits and giggles he’d be happy to help The Avengers. You would think that when a group arrives in the 20th Century claiming that an all powerful being has arrived in their time and is out to get someone that maybe someone in The Avengers would put two and two together and think about maybe seeing whether the threat the Guardians face could be the threat they are facing. You would think that would be someone that someone would consider but naw, not when there are city buses to destroy!

We cut to Moondragon who is contemplating events when she feels a disturbance and sets about getting the team together to tell them what she sensed. She witnesses Quicksilver and Hawkeye having an argument about Jocasta and The Vision. Moondragon zaps Quicksilver after he says something quite bigoted which causes him to get some clarity. You would think that someone who in the story is the offspring of one of the most notorious mutants alive would know a thing or two about bigotry of people that are different but what do I know? Then she walks in on Wonder Man and Black Panther having an argument about not being able to do anything. Then Thor busts through a wall as he and Hercules are fighting. Black Widow chews out Hercules which is so damn out of character for her. I could see her putting him in a choke hold but not talking to him like they were on the set of a daytime talk show.

So Moondragon gets everyone together only to tell them that she has to get ALL The Avengers to show up so she sends a message with her mind to the others who quickly arrive. Comics from this era were horrible in regards to a sense of time. It’s like the television show 24. When they needed to get a character from one side of one of the largest cities in America to the other, it would take all of ten minutes, sooner if they were on a chopper. The comics from this era were worse. They’d have characters travel great distances and the caption at the top of the next panel would be ‘Seconds Later…’ It is frustrating to see things like this because it takes you out of the story. When you’re shaking your head telling yourself that something is dumb, you’re not enjoying the story. There have been stories set in the most bizarre of locations and with the most unique characters. But if written well, you don’t notice it because you’re lost in that world. The writer here is his own worst enemy.

So after two pages of time killing filler, Moondragon has the grand plan of everyone putting the clues they found into a computer and have the computer give out the common denominator of everything. Good idea especially for a situation like this if everyone seems to be lost. But Iron Man has to be a dick here and assert his manhood to the woman who dared come up with an idea that could potentially solve their problem. He might as well have told her to help Jarvis do the dishes and have Black Widow do the laundry. He admittedly had no clue where the big bad guy was but when someone actually steps up with a possible solution, he does his best to show that he doesn’t like the fact that they stepped up with an opinion. What a great leader.

We cut to Michael Korvac sensing that Iron Man and the team are getting closer to sensing his presence. Korvac recounts how he killed and raised Starhawk back to life as well as removing the ability to sense him from Starhawk’s mind. What I question is, if he has the power that the comic is presenting, why would he be pretending to be just an average middle class joe in a suburb of New York? Wouldn’t he want to be moving around to different locations so that a team like The Avengers would not be able to do what they’re doing? Would Doctor Doom pretend to be an insurance salesman in Boise, Idaho in order to fulfill his evil schemes? Staying in one spot just screams of lazy writing. Especially when, after 11 issues to get us here, the team that are presented as so horribly in equipped to deal with a being of this magnitude so easily finds his location.

From there, the single dumbest scene I have ever read in comics occurs when the team head outside and after realizing they all can’t hop into a quinjet to get to Forrest Hills, they commandeer a city bus. Once they board, they mention that Tony Stark would pay for cabs for all of them which begs to question why the hell they couldn’t just call a bunch of cabs? And why wouldn’t one of the richest men alive have a fleet of cars at the ready that could take them where they needed to go? If Jay Fucking Leno can have an airplane hanger full of cars, Tony Stark has to have much more! The lack of logic in this scene is mind blowing. George Lucas after he wrote the prequel trilogy of Star Wars would say this was written horribly.

So they arrive. The residents worry for a moment about their homes being wrecked but than someone says that the team is probably there to open a 7-11. That puts great confidence in the reader. They find the house they were looking for, knock on the door, and are invited in by Michael Korvac himself who invites them in. They inspect the house, finding nothing. Tony Stark asks the psychics of the group to do a sweep and they find nothing. The only clue they have as to something being wrong is when Starhawk acts like the rest of them are cuckoo bananas because he doesn’t see Korvac. While you as the reader would assume that Korvac, when he mentioned that Starhawk would not be able to sense him referred to him being sensed with mind powers, seems ol’ Korvac meant sensing him period.

Korvac  gives them the usual bad guy spiel that he had great things in plan for the human race but now he would have to destroy them. They banter among each other wondering what they should do next when Korvac attacks.

Bottom Line:

It seems The Korvac Saga is anything but. Korvac has not been in the story much and when you have someone presented as being all powerful doing such stupid things you can’t take him seriously. The only reason Starhawk was kept alive by Korvac was apparently to set up this scene. There was no other reason for it. Korvac is not presented as a reasonable guy with compassion. Even if he was, we’ve hardly seen him in the story. His actions so far have been self serving and bad. It was a stupid mistake. Also staying in the suburbs when he should have been roaming about was another decision made by either the dumbest supreme being ever or by lazy writing. I vote for the later. Thankfully we have one more issue to go because this so far has been a painful read. It didn’t have to be because the ideas presented make for an intriguing idea of a story. It’s just written so horribly my nine year old son would think it’s written bad.

 

The Avengers #175

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The Avengers stare at the ash that was The Collector wondering about the powerful being that would be able to do something of this nature to another powerful being. For a moment some of the team thinks they are in danger but Iron Man points out that with a being that powerful, if that being wanted them dead they’d be dead. Iron Man decides they need to check out the ship to find some clue to to who they may be facing. Any computer system that had information on it is promptly destroyed. At this point Iron Man decides they need to find a way to leave, ignoring the fact that Vance Astro is still on the Guardians of the Galaxy ship and could easily transport them home. Don’t you love it when a writer forgets what happened previously in a story?

They look around for something that could get them home. Iron Man discovers the time travel device that The Collector used in order to gather the specimens for his collection. From there, he discovers the little mystery that the writer was kind of, sort of hinting at when it came to Thor. It seems that Thor had been taken in and out of time with the help from The Collector to help battle the little brush fires to help keep The Avengers safe since he wanted the team intact. With that explanation everyone breaths a sigh of relief and moves on. I have a problem with this. To me, it seems like a big deal that a member of the team was taken so easily. The fact that there was doubts that he could be who he is should have been something that caused them to quarantine Thor from the rest of the group just to make sure he is no threat. As I mentioned before, the Marvel Universe has already established Life Model Decoys as a thing so to not act on suspicions that Thor is not who he says he is as well as take the explanation from the security tapes of a ship that was owned by a villain that kidnapped them was just plain frightening. I would do a lot more than absolutely nothing to make sure that Thor was on the up and up.

From there, a character who’d been in a total of maybe five panels decides he wants to use the time machine to go back to his own time. Bye bye Two Gun Kid. I get that in the Marvel Universe, he had a lot more adventures than what is presented in this issue. My problem with this development has to do with the fact that in regards to this particular story, the Two Gun Kid had no point being there. If they really wanted to retire the character or something by sending him back to his own time they should have done that in a comic where he had more involvement in the story. Doing it here was pointless because in this scene we’re supposed to be sad that a member of the team is saying his final goodbye when in reality I could have cared less because he was barely in the story.

Next up, The Vision finds a teleportation machine they can use to get back to Earth. Why have the Guardians of the Galaxy in the story, a team that has the ability to teleport them wherever they want to go, if you’re not going to use them? They’re presented as almost an after thought when at the beginning of the story their mission was of the highest importance. Logically I can see where a writer would hesitate having that many people actively involved in a story because when you’re dealing with the limited real estate that comics give you, you have to use each page wisely. At that point though, you should be asking yourself as a writer whether those characters are really going to be needed if you don’t plan on using them. Not every character is going to be needed for every page, every scene but you have to have a plan for them.

So from there The Vision transports the team back to Earth. Seems his aim is off because Wonder Man ends up in traffic, the Scarlet Witch appears in the sky and plunges to the ground, and Hawkeye ends up on a flagpole. Captain Marvel ends up saving the day, rescuing the members of the team that need his help. Another pointless scene if you ask me. What really bothers me is that there is no mention of any sort of communication disturbance to Vance Astro. If they simply had one line about the lines of contact to the Guardians ship were cut off, I could buy this scene. They would have to rely on a technology they had no clue how to use in order to get home. As it stands, this scene is presented as a bad attempt at comedy. We’re talking Jar Jar Binks level of bad here.

From there, we head to the home of Michael and Carina where we finally discover that Michael is Korvac, the being we met all the way in Thor Annual #6. Seems after Thor defeated him he escaped in time to our present day where he came across an empty ship that used to be owned by Galactus. From there, he used his computer circuitry to learn everything he could, in the process becoming a god! Seems the level of knowledge Galactus had on his ship was infinite so Korvac ended up with more power than he ever contemplated having. From there he turned himself human again and decided on a new mission, ending injustice throughout the world. Apparently on his terms which makes him the bad guy.

I’ve found that the best bad guys are ones that at least in their head think they’re the good guys. What they’re doing has to make sense to them. The flaw of course in bad guys for stories like this has to do with the means they use to achieve their goals. Regardless of their intentions, they’re going to run through anyone and everyone who gets in their way. The Daredevil television show illustrated this brilliantly with Wilson Fisk. Wilson was very much a bad guy in this story but his goals, if you sat back and thought about it were actually to make Hell’s Kitchen a good place to live. It’s literally not until the last twenty minutes of the last episode where he says fuck it and becomes a bad guy. Villains that are there to just cause destruction and chaos are not as interesting over the long term. There may be some enjoyment seeing them wreck havoc but once they’re stopped you promptly ignore them. The best villains have that little shade of gray which allows you on some level to relate to them. For Korvac, his effort to make the galaxy a better place is certainly a goal I would hope most of us shares. The fact that he’ll straight up murder the faces of anyone who gets in his way is the trait that makes him the villain.

Back to the story. The Avengers make it back to the mansion where they discuss tactics. We have an interesting bit where Quicksilver questions whether they should have Jocasta help and whether she can even be considered alive being that she’s an android. From there, The Vision gets in his face like they’re about to throw down. You almost expect Jerry Springer to pop out of somewhere while Quicksilver and The Vision fight while the Scarlet Witch takes off her top and pole dances for the reader. From there you see Wonder Man attempt to impress Ms. Marvel with a show of strength that back fires. Because we’re all ten year old boys and we all know that the way to impress the ladies is by lifting things in the air, not trying to treat them like human beings and getting to know them as people. Iron Man attempts to use some of The Avengers equipment to look for the force that is behind what happened to The Collector only to find out that Gyrich from the NSA took the machines. From there, Jarvis casually mentions the Guardians in a conversation where he’s bitching about having to help so many people and it’s at this point that Iron Man thinks to have them help with their cause. They may already be looking for an incredibly powerful creature that is looking to kill a member of the Guardians but there is no way at all that those two events could somehow be related. There’s no reason to even consider that question because you know, science.

Iron Man contacts the Guardians in the home he bought for them for their mission and gets Starhawk’s assistance to help look for the being behind their problem. All the while, Michael Korvac sees what is happening and smiles, knowing that after his earlier battle with Starhawk, Starhawk will not know where to look for him.

Bottom Line:

We’re nearing the finished line. This particular issue was not as bad as others but it still left a lot to be desired in terms of quality. It’s not that this is a bad story. I think it’s a great idea for a story, it’s just horribly written. There are way too many lapses in logic that make you question the editing standards at Marvel during this time. It’s like it is written by a fifth grader. They want to throw everything into the mix and then promptly get distracted at the slightest whim. They’ve also had elements introduced in one comic and promptly forgotten in the next. Writing a long form story is tough, believe me. Writing my novel Time to Play the Game was by far the toughest bit of writing I have ever done. It’s like a big puzzle that you have to put together while blindfolded. I think I did pretty good in my case but I am also sure that if I went back to that novel now I would find some pieces that are missing which detract from the story much like I’ve seen in every issue in this story. That does not excuse it from happening. I get the idea that while Marvel wanted a story that was told over many issues they did not properly plan it out. They winged it which would explain all of the lapses in logic you encounter in this story. If you’re going to tackle a story of this size, there has to be SOME planning. If you fail to do that, the story, and your reader, suffers.

The Avengers #174

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We start off with the team facing off against The Collector, the character most folks met for the first time in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie played by Benicio Del Toro. The Avengers tell him to let the other Avengers go which The Collector politely refuses to do. Battle ensues.

I liked the little subtle jabs the writer took against collectors of pop culture artifacts in this issue. In a line that is pretty ironic, Iron Men says that The Avengers aren’t collectibles. The late 70’s saw a marked increase in collectibles like action figures, trading cards, and other toys. While collecting in and of itself it not a bad thing, it can be taken too far. Take comics for instance. You have people that will buy a comic and without even reading it board it up and have it on a shelf where they hope it will make them money someday. What is the purpose of buying a comic if not to read it? Now I get that if I were to somehow get a mint copy of Action Comics #1, taking it out of the package and reading it now would be the dumbest thing to do. But comics are stories. They’re meant to be read and enjoyed.

Anyway, The Collector fights against the team until the only Avenger left standing is Hawkeye. The Collector doesn’t take him too seriously but pays for underestimating him when Hawkeye is able to destroy a machine that has kept the other Avengers in stasis.

Defeated, they get the story from The Collector as to why he attempted to collect The Avengers. The Collector has been around for ages. Being that he has the gift of prophecy, he was able to sense the coming of Thanos. So, like an intergalactic Noah, he decided to collect people from all over the galaxy in order to preserve the species. Being that he was taking people by force you don’t have too much sympathy for the guy however being that his ultimate goal was preservation of life, you can somewhat let his actions slide. He had the right idea, just the wrong way of accomplishing it.

He gets around to letting them know that he sensed another danger, one far greater than Thanos, that was a danger to the world. Because of this danger, he thought it imperative to start collecting again.

We head to the home of Korvac where his wife is telling him that she had plans to betray him but could not follow through because she loves him. She admits that she was sent to foil his plans by her father but love screwed that plan up. Her father? The Collector.

We head back to The Collector’s ship where he is just about to reveal who he fears the most in the galaxy when he is poofed into a pile of dust. The team reflects on the power of the person they will have to deal with…even though at the beginning of The Korvac Saga, the Guardians of the Galaxy made it quite clear that Korvac was in our time. If it weren’t for Vance Astro in the first place they would not be aboard The Collector’s ship to begin with so simply forgetting who this big power is just seems a little too far-fetched for my liking.

Bottom Line:

Things are starting to make a little more sense in the story. If you treat this story line like a season of a television show, this follows a formula that Joss Whedon and others have followed well. You have a big bad that lasts throughout the particular story with little side adventures that may or may not have to do with the bad guy along the way. At the end, everything needs to wrap up with the protagonists defeating the bad guy. While it has been quite rough getting to this point, we’re at a point now where The Avengers are getting set to face off against Korvac. Finally.

I don’t like the fact that it has taken this long for them to realize what is going on. From the outset of the story Korvac has been acknowledged as a bad guy but then he was promptly forgotten. Sloppy writing. And the fact that the Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in issue one of the story and then almost forgotten as well. Yeah, they’ll make an appearance when they set about defeating Korvac but I wish they had more involvement in the story than almost nothing.

So where does that leave this issue? It’s light on story but what it does is get the ball rolling for the big finale. It finally addressed what has been happening with the disappearance of The Avengers and gave a pretty compelling reason for their disappearance. And while The Collector is very much bad in this story, he does have some very interesting shades of gray in regards to his motivations which make him a much more intriguing character than your standard mustache twirling baddie. This almost comes across like the true beginning of The Korvac Saga because now things are about to get serious.

The Avengers #173

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The issue starts with Iron Man explaining the severity of the The Avengers current situation to an assembled team that The Wasp brought together. It’s one panel that quickly sums up the main problem the team is currently facing. While I wish there would have been more than one panel to have a recap, it’s better than nothing. I simply think of readers that may have started the story with this issue. You have a very generalized idea of what is going on so you’re not lost in the story.

From there we get Hercules and Black Widow arriving in New York on a plane. Black Widow wants to get off the plane and to the mansion as soon as possible to deal with the situation they were called in for but Hercules is more concerned with impressing the ladies. There’s a way to show a hero when he’s faced with a situation that could put the world at peril. Have him more concerned about scoring with a handful of ladies. While the comics of this era were horrible when it comes to how women were treated for the most part, men were in their own way held to their own stereotypical standards. Now compared to how women were treated this is not THAT big of a deal mind you but treating characters as stereotypes severely limits what you can do with them.

Now Hercules is told by Black Widow that they have to get to the helipad on the other side of the terminal. He thinks it’s a perfectly good idea to rip a hole in the side of the airplane and hop through it towards their destination. The late 70’s may have been quite lax at airports before 9/11, I get that. But I don’t see how someone ripping a hole in the side of an airplane, no matter who they were, would be accepted by the authorities. Now maybe you could argue that if Hercules owned the plane it wouldn’t matter because the money was coming from his pocket. But later they say that they had to rely on Tony Stark to pay off the airline in order to leave. This was just pointless when these two heroes were needed at the Avengers Mansion in order to save the world. It is even another example why Gyrich the government official was very much in the right to deny The Avengers government support for their actions. Hell, after Hercules and Black Widow appear on the helipad and are refused service on the helicopter, Hercules decides it’s a ok to throw the helicopter across the tarmac destroying it. Again, while it may go a long way to showcase the physical strength of Hercules, it shows that in the smarts department he is quite lacking to say the least. His actions should have put him in prison, not delayed him twenty minutes.

Soon Hercules and Black Widow arrive at Avengers Mansion where Iron Man fills them in on what is going on. He tries in vain to contact folks on Tony Stark’s secret communication channels but has people that have helped him before like Nick Fury cut off communications. The Nick Fury panel confused me because that character has always been portrayed as someone who would always fight for the common good no matter what got in his way. I just didn’t buy his response that SHIELD would not assist The Avengers if the world were truly in danger. Maybe his assistance wouldn’t be overt but he’d find a way to lend a hand.

Anyway, we next head back to see what Korvac is up to after many, many issues of him being gone…in the story line that is about him. So, we see that he is very much aware of what is going on with The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. We’re told that he is doing what he can to make sure that anyone and everyone who could put a stop to his plans is being attended to. Then we see a bizarre scene where the woman who is his wife (it’s not explained if she is really his wife or taking on that mantle after meeting up with him at the fashion show) cries, shimmers with cosmic energy, and then goes back to normal. We see so little of her character up to this point that you have no basis to understand what is going on with her and why this scene is important. Things may end up coming together at the end of the story where as the reader you’ll realize the importance of her role in the story but with no character history to go on, as the reader you’re left confused which is not good. Not that you need a thirty two volume history of her life to understand her importance or anything but you can’t just treat her as a background ornament one minute and suddenly important the next. The readers have to have a reason to care.

We get a bit of an idea as to Korvac’s intentions. He wants to go after a being called Eternity. Eternity is the highest of high, most omnipotent being in the universe and if Korvac could destroy him, or her, he would have ultimate power. Before we can get further details Korvac senses the power coming from his wife. He investigates with what looks like every intention of snuffing out that power like a candle but senses her love and hugs her. Corny. Just corny, soap opera nonsense that has no place. The writer was trying to go for something deep here with this scene but again, with no real clue as to who anyone is apart from Korvac we have no reason to care about them. They’re bad. The wife may have some powers. We have no reason to care about their importance to the story because they’ve hardly been around.

Next we see the emergency meeting at the mansion has finally ended and the heroes all break up to do their own investigating, some alone and some in pairs. Iron Man in the previous issue made a big point of everyone pairing off but apparently didn’t think it was important for that to continue. Even a throw away line like him acknowledging that the pairing off last issue was pointless would have satisfied me but that didn’t happen. Anyway, we next see The Scarlet Witch crying about her brother and her husband both having disappeared. Hawkeye attempts to cheer her up but understandably fails. Then we see a character on a boat who is carving a Scarlet Witch figurine. It’s promised that he would cause problems for her in the future. I actually liked this tease. I have no clue where it is going. It was only two panels long but it does a lot to interest me in future issues.

Next up we see Thor enter the mansion kitchen where Jarvis is making Wonder Man lunch. Thor has no clue as to who Wonder Man is even though Wonder Man points out that they had fought in battles before. Thor tells him he is wrong. We’re again left to question whether the man we are seeing is Thor or not. Nice enough tease and all but it is apparently not important enough for these people to act upon. You would think that with the work they do they would take a moment to ask a few questions or do a little investigating. At least at this time in the comics life model decoys were very much a reality. Why would they not investigate whether Thor was real or not when he could potentially be a life model decoy sent by an enemy? Yet another reason why I agree with the government that The Avengers, at least presented in these pages, should not have anything to do with saving the world because they positively, absolutely suck at their jobs.

We cut to Iron Man talking to Black Panther. Black Panther suggests that they contact Vance Astro on the Guardians of the Galaxy ship for his assistance in location where the missing Avengers are. Vance has been alone on his ship all this time and could have helped them from the moment of the first disappearance but NOW they decide it’s a good idea to contact him. How convenient. I would have even accepted this development if someone, anyone, responded with a ‘Duh, I should have thought of that’ type of response. We don’t get this. We’re supposed to just accept that someone with the technology to help them, that could have helped them many issues ago in locating the first disappearances, was not thought of by anyone in order to help. Maybe it’s just me but I would think that if your job is to protect the world you’d take advantage of every tool at your disposal. But what do I know?

Suddenly Black Panther and Yellow Jacket disappear. They contact Vance who quickly locates where the missing Avengers are which again lets you as the reader question the competency of The Avengers for not contacting him sooner. Vance teleports them to this mysterious person’s ship. It turns out to be The Collector, who crows at the fact that he doesn’t have to capture the rest of them because they are now all there.

Bottom Line:

Yet another uneven story in The Korvac Saga. I find it bizarre that we are seven issues into this story and Korvac’s involvement so far would probably fill a half a comic if that. There are some good ideas that are tossed out there but some of the silliness like Hercules throwing a helicopter just cause makes any enjoyment of the story invalidated. If the writer cannot take the time to have the story make sense, why should the reader invest their time in the story when scene after scene occurs showing just how imbecilic The Avengers are. Especially in this day and age, when you have to sit back and agree with the government that the team that is supposed to be the heroes in the story should not have the power to do what they do, you have to admit the writer has done a horrible job in creating the story. It’s a shame too that such beautiful artwork for the time is being wasted on such a horribly written story. This is classic era homage on the pages and beautiful to look at. If the writer had just allowed the work to go through a proper editing stage at least once the story would be so much better. I cannot recommend this issue at all.

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.

The Avengers #151

Avengers151_399

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Avengers_Vol_1_151

The Good:

I wanted to be a little nostalgic today so I decided to see what Marvel comic was released the week I was born. From there, the cover that interested me would be the one I would choose to review today. I came across this issue of The Avengers and decided to give it a read.

This issue concerned the reveal of a new lineup of Avengers. Every now and then the bullpen at Marvel decides they need to add or remove members of the team to kind of spice things up. I like that they do this for the simple fact that the same group of people being put in the same type of situations can lead to repetition. I think of the Fantastic Four here. While I don’t hate that group and can read some of their issues and enjoy them, for the most part that story gets old fast because it is more of the same for each and every issue. You read one, you’ve read them all.

Whereas you take a tv show like The Simpsons for example, a show with a core group of characters that had quite a number of minor characters elevated in order to add more depth to what was going on. You can argue till the cows come home as to when the show jumped the proverbial shark. Fact is, if the show had stayed with the same format it had during its first couple seasons the show would not be on the air now. Not that the first few seasons were bad, there are some classics there. But the show needed to expand beyond its core cast in order to keep repetition from boring viewers. While you may make a pretty good argument about the quality of that show compared to where it used to be, the fact that it is still on the air says something about the formula they use.

Similar to The Avengers. While the same core characters will always be there in one way, shape, or form to influence things, the strength of this comic is the fact that things change up. New characters with new temperaments are mixed with established characters to create new tensions. You don’t have to worry about repetition boring you to death.

The art work is beautiful. I would call it classical if it were released today but this is the artwork that set the template for how we view these characters today. And the cover, man. The covers of comics were a lot like album covers used to be back in the day. Often times you’d have a cover that was completely bad ass that may not even have anything to do with what happens during the story at hand but it is still enough to get you to want to but the issue in question. This issue is no different. With Captain America clearly in charge, you get the sense that something great is going to happen. You want to dive into the story to see what action is about to happen.

The Bad:

While the art initially pulls you into the story, the story itself does its best to bore you to tears. Back before DVD’s of television shows were popular, television shows would commonly have one episode per season that were flashback episodes. They would take the tiniest thread of a story and pad the show with scenes from earlier in the show. The episodes, while they could be entertaining, were throwaway. They were used to remind you of successes past of your favorite characters. This issue is no different.

Now I wouldn’t have had too much of an issue with a flashback issue if there was something going on. Up until the last page the majority of the issue either consists of a newsman pontificating on the importance of The Avengers, old members reminiscing on their former life as Avengers, or the current team sitting at a table deciding who would be on the team. Whoever thought that would be a good idea deserved to be tossed out on their ass for creating such a boring horrible story.

Hank Pym was treated horribly this issue as well. He starts off melodramatically leaving the team because apparently he wants time off to focus on his knitting or something. By issue’s end, he’s suddenly back full force without any hesitation. I can see him reluctantly coming back just to make sure he could protect his wife but the way he comes back here just comes across like an episode of Days of our Lives. There was no real motivation for him to come back other than to allow the writers the chance to make The Wasp fawn all over him because isn’t that what women should do with their men?

There was just no need to have the issue set up like this. None. They could have just had the team members that wanted to leave make their exits and have Captain America or Iron Man bring in new recruits. I mean think about it. You read comics not just for the words but for the pictures on the page. Why did someone thing it was a good idea for a whole issue where people just sit there? Just because the last page promises action in the next issue doesn’t make this issue good. In fact it pisses me off. Why didn’t we get some problem that arises that allows the new members of the team prove themselves as Avengers instead of sitting back and watching a committee meeting decide? Horrible.

Bottom Line:

Ignore this issue. While it has a great cover, there is nothing of value on the inside of this comic. If I had not come across this issue with my Marvel Unlimited subscription I would have hated myself for actually buying it because nothing happens. Nothing at all. It’s like C-SPAN made a comic of a day in the life of the House of Representatives. Unless the Speaker of the House uses his gavel to attack people with a hidden cosmic ray in his quest to take over the world, nothing of note happens worth making it a comic. Same with this issue. Voting on new members of The Avengers is just silly and pointless especially since there is no action whatsoever. Now a story that involved taking a new person out on an adventure, have that new person prove themselves to the team, and then get voted into The Avengers would be a smart thing. It keeps you interested as well as goes about introducing the new members of the team. But what do I know? I give the story a 2.

What saves this work is the art. Despite being drawn in 1976 the art doesn’t really give its age. Apart from shortening the male newscasters hair it could pass for a modern piece which speaks well to the talent of George Perez. The art takes what would be a comic that didn’t deserve a spot in a landfill to a comic that at least visually you have to see once. It may not be classic but it is still well done. I give the art a 7.

assemble

Mighty Avengers #7

Mighty_Avengers_Vol_1_7

Issue 2 in the Secret Invasion story commences!

Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Mighty_Avengers_Vol_1_7

The Good:

The story sort of picks up where the previous issue ends. Spider-Woman sneaks her way onto a heli-carrier and lets Tony Stark know of their discovery of a Skrull infiltrator. I dug how the two characters interacted with each other, referencing previous stories without you as the reader having to know everything about them to make the scene meaningful. While there was tension between the two characters you also sensed a respect between the two which helped thaw the tension.

The team dynamic of the new Avengers was built up well. You got the sense of each character without them having to really talk too much. It also helped build the tension too since you knew that one of the team was a Skrull infiltraitor. Each member had a little moment that helped cast doubt about their true identity.

The landing of the Venom formula from space and latching onto the citizens of New York was a great was to end the issue. Being that comics aren’t built like television shows with seasons encompassing one story line (which I have read Marvel is considering doing which is a great idea.) at times you will have stories within stories come up that will keep characters busy. While I have yet to know how this will work out over the course of the comics it was a great introduction, especially the baby in the carriage that had the Venom formula latch onto it.

The art as usual was pretty solid. Drawn in the classic style with more modern touches, you get a sense of the characters in how they stand, pose, shake their heads, little things that give the characters more depth without having to speak.

The Bad:

Janet Van Dyne. The Wasp. While I love the character I really hate how she is constantly presented in pretty much every story I’ve read with her in it as a vain woman more concerned about fashion than the job at hand. I get it, some woman can be like this at times. Constantly presenting her as a stereotype really keeps me from wanting to invest emotionally in her character. I don’t think she has to pick up a machine gun, put on a belly shirt, and start killing lots and lots of bad guys to be a good character either. They just need to offer more depth.

While as I mentioned the intro of Venom into the story ended well, the start of it was quite sudden. You turn a page and two guys are talking while doing work on a space station. Something falls to Earth and viola, Venom everywhere. There could have been more buildup to bringing Venom into the story. Maybe my mind will be changed with further issues but I think of the person who picks up this comic for the first time not knowing much about the Marvel World. Would this interest me to invest further in the story or not?

Being as Civil War was a BIG event in the Marvel Universe, I thought it quite odd that Spider-Woman was accepted back into Tony Stark’s version of the Avengers as quickly as she was. I get that everyone involved were friends before the Superhero Registration Act happened and that with time, anger settles down and rationality sets in allowing people to be friends again. But for someone who for all intents and purposes was Tony Stark’s enemy to be accepted back into his team so quickly just did not seem realistic. I would have accepted it more if it was played out over multiple issues.

The artwork in this issues suffers from being claustrophobic. Again like being on a movie set. While I can’t expect every page to be drawn as if it were a Sergio Leone epic there could have been a lot more depth added to locations they were in, especially the exterior scenes.

Bottom Line:

Not a bad issue. While it will not go down as an historic issue in the history of comics, its purpose of continuing the tension of who is a Skrull and who isn’t was well done. While I would have liked the easing of tensions that Civil War brought upon these friends the character dynamic between everyone involved felt natural and did great to show the personality of each character especially since not all of the characters really had much to say. This was a Tony Stark centric story. I give the story a 7.

The artwork was good. Again, I liked how the characters were able to show off aspects of their character without even speaking. That says a lot for the artist and the passion he brought to the story. Despite the fact that the images felt claustrophobic, I give the artwork an 8.