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 Amazing Spider-Man #673

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All good things, scratch that. All mediocre things must come to an end and we finally reach our end destination in the Spider Island story. To date I have been pretty critical but what would be the point if I just gushed over how amazing everything I read was? If people were honest, they would find something to critique in anything. And let’s not forget that most critiques involve purely subjective opinions. When I’ve written work and given it to others for their opinion, I realized that their opinion was simply what I was going to get. Said opinion may show me an insight to the story that I did not consider which would cause me to make changes to better reflect the new idea. Said opinion may have no bearing on the story whatsoever so I promptly discard it. Unless we’re talking about break the rules of modern English, grammar or spelling mistakes, how people create a story will be unique to each person. Add on to that an artist and the other members of the creative team and you have a whole group of folks who have input on the story at hand, much more than a simple novelist who apart from friends will have to deal with an editor and maybe an agent depending on how far along they are in their career.

So the epilogue to Spider Island, what did I think of it? Rushed would be a term that comes to mind. There were a number of elements that were still unresolved up to this point like the location of Carlie, Mary Jane still having the sickness, Kaine still being around, and the aftermath of the plague which were briefly resolved but not to any real satisfaction. The aftermath alone takes up all of three pages and the writer is more eager to whip out double entendres than going into any detail as to what it was like for so many people to get sick like that. Of course they’re not going to be able to do personal stories on each and every person but I really think there was a chance here to explore some of the human tragedy that most likely happened. How do I know this you may ask? Look at how J. Jonah Jameson almost killed a guy when the sickness transformed him. You cannot tell me that this was the only isolated case where that happened. Maybe they’re didn’t need much explanation but I do think they could have had a little more emotion than glibness and embarrassment over being suddenly naked.

Peter Parker apparently cares so much about Carlie that he promptly forgot about her the moment she turned into a spider. Once everyone was well he had time to go see his Aunt off at the airport and swing through town before heading home. Once he gets home, Carlie splits with him. She ends up revealing that duh, she knew he was Spider-Man. Seems the fact that once he claimed he was sick with the disease he suddenly know some kick ass karate while everyone else had to struggle a bit kind of blew his cover, even though like the old Lois Lane not knowing Clark Kent is Superman deal, you have to wonder what the hell is wrong with anyone that is close to Peter who he saves on a consistent basis doesn’t know he is Spider-Man. You would think that he would try changing his voice like Christian Bale did for the Batman movies but he’s always presented as talking just like himself. I don’t blame the writer for this one. It is a logic flaw in the character that’s never really been explored. We do have a bit of a back story of Doctor Strange putting a one time hex on everyone so they would not know that Peter is Spider-Man unless he reveals himself. But Peter is so careless with letting others know who he is despite his protestations otherwise that it amazes me that some inquiring reporter would not have been able to track him down. In the real world, much like Phoenix Jones in Seattle, there would come a time where the hero would make a mistake and be caught, having his identity revealed. Or someone would spot him and just follow him. He swings through the air. He may go at a decent clip but with the right vehicle you should be able to get an idea where his base is. But I digress.

The artwork was much better in this issue. What really stands out is the scene where Carlie splits up with Peter. That last shot where she has left the room and he’s standing there alone, we have a glimpse from above which just magnifies the sadness which is great. Despite not being in the story much, she was in enough that I ended up liking her. Yeah, Peter and Mary Jane are meant to be together which is why Peter screws this up but you feel bad for Carlie here because I get the impression that she really would have dug it if Peter had revealed the truth to her.

Bottom Line:

Spider Island has its flaws but it is still one hell of a read. I wish more time was given to some of the main characters in the story instead of spreading the available story so thin with sub plot after subplot. If they really wanted to focus on certain side characters, they should have given those characters free reign in other supplemental issues and not included them at all in this story. For the Venom subplot, if you took it out of the Spider-Man issue and simply left it all in the Venom comics, nothing would change. We’d still get a pretty decent story of a guy dealing with his past while juggling the responsibilities of the present. But tossing him into the main story just took away from time that could have been spent expanding the main story.

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 #172

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First off, to fail to address a major terrorist incident in the world today and just plow on without comment would be silly and wrong. Helplessness floods through you like pouring ink into a glass of water when you see images of violence on this scale. Who knows at this point what caused some nut jobs in Paris, France to pull off a killing spree like they did today but the survivors sure do have my sympathy. The perfect response on my part is to give the review. I think back to 9/13/2001, two days after the worst images I have ever seen. Every channel had the news. You couldn’t escape the sadness. Then UPN, the precursor to the CW, decided they were going to continue with the latest episode of WWE’s Smackdown television show. That was the first night I smiled since 9/11. I was able to momentarily forget what I just witnessed and was able to have a little fun. I am under no illusions that anyone in France is thinking about checking out my blog tonight. I do this more for myself than anything really. But life goes on, even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy. While we’re here, it’s best to make the most of it.

So we start off with Hawkeye arriving at the Avenger’s Mansion like he was just coming home from a hard day’s work at the local factory. It’s a real ‘Honey, I’m home!’ moment that seems so out of place in a superhero comic. Right after he arrives, the NSA adviser who had previously warned The Avengers to focus more on security shows up and notices the front door to the mansion open because apparently while Hawkeye is a great shot with a bow and arrow, he can’t close a fucking door. The adviser gets rightfully pissed at seeing a building that has so much classified material and equipment in it just left open for anyone to stroll into and retrieve that he goes inside to have a word with the team.

Next up we head back to the final scene from the last issue where Beast tells everyone that Jocasta and Captain America have disappeared. From there, a nun appears and tells them to leave and they will clean up the mess. They do. They were fools to do so. Like any comic book villain, Ultron has found many creative ways over the years to come back to haunt The Avengers. Yet at the urging of a nun, they decide leaving the metallic remains of a machine that was hell bent on destroying the world was a ok. It’s scenes like this which make me agree more and more with the NSA adviser that The Avengers should not have any sort of official backing from the government. They’re making mistakes left and right that, if something similar happened in real life with a real military or spy organization, the country would be up in arms over. I’m all for characters doing something out of left field only if the author in question has a reason for them to do so. That is not happening in this story.

Once they leave they head back to the mansion where they meet up with Hawkeye. After greeting them, Hawkeye casually mentions that he had captured an intruder. After describing him, the team realizes who it is and rushes to free him. Once freed, Gyrich informs them that they no longer have government backing and lose access to all the fun toys and secret files they previously had access to. The writer at this point wants us to have sympathy for the team but frankly they deserved it. They deserved to be put in prison for being so haphazard with important material and just plain being bad at their jobs at this point. Maybe it’s the 39 year old in me coming out. The comics had a different audience at this time but that is still no excuse for bad writing.

Once Gyrich leaves, two things happen. One, Quicksilver’s girlfriend contacts The Avengers to let them know he disappeared and two, Jarvis appears suddenly to tell them that Tyrak is loose and wrecking havoc on New York. Despite the restrictions placed upon them by Gyrich, the writer promptly ignores that and sends the team out, apart from Iron Man, to fight Tyrak. Iron Man stays behind to continue a search for their missing comrades. Why put restrictions on the team if they’re immediately going to ignore them? It reminds me of a dog I used to own that would constantly get out of the yard. We would do everything we could to get him to stay in the damn yard because the last thing we wanted was him crapping in the house but the moment we opened the door, he bolted outside, slid under the fence, and ran off to get some tail. There is no point in placing restrictions on a character if those restrictions are promptly ignored. A good writer, not a great one but a good one, would be a little creative and find a way to get the heroes to solve the problem without relying on their usual powers that why do that when you think your readers have the attention span of a fish?

From there the team fights Tyrak for many, many, MANY pages. The Vision is able to stop him by applying heat to Tyrak’s body. Tyrak is a deep ocean creature so I can accept that he would not be able to handle extreme heat. Once defeated, The Avengers realize that those restrictions they ignored somehow magically came back which prevents them from getting Tyrak into custody before he dies. Their solution? Wonder Man throws him back into the water. Yes, a villain that just tried to kill them and others is treated like a fish that is too small to keep when you’re on a fishing trip. When three of the heroes on hand have the ability of flight yet they decide it’s best to just let the bad guy who tried to kill them go, you realize that the Mighty Marvel Bullpen didn’t take too long when it came to editing the story properly. At the end of the scene though, The Vision promptly disappears and Wanda, The Scarlet Witch, freaks out. Interesting development.

From there you get a short interlude with The Wasp calling Black Panther on the phone enlisting his support. Then you have Yellow Jacket and The Wasp commiserate with Iron Man about not being able to find their missing friends. They talk about The Beast and Thor being off on their own adventures which editor notes point out are detailed in other comics. From there we get a frame FINALLY bringing us back into The Korvac Saga officially. We see our missing heroes encased in glass tubes while a figure, who’s hand is the only part we can see, spies on Iron Man, Yellow Jacket, and The Wasp. He tells himself that Iron Man should already know who did all this and that they will eventually meet. Nice hook to end the story.

Bottom Line:

The writing is becoming intolerable. As a writer myself, I do find it helpful to read stuff like this because you get a firm reminder of why it’s important to keep track of all the little details in a story. Characters have to act in a logical fashion, whether they’re protagonist or antagonist. They also have to have obstacles they have to overcome. If they just do whatever the hell they want or if they simply ignore the obstacles placed in front of them, there is no tension in the story. The concept for this story is not bad at all. They’re just executing it horribly.

One bright mark once again has been the artwork which has been getting better each issue. It’s timelessness is quite refreshing to see especially since this was the start of an era in comics where they did everything they could to visually tag the stories in the era the story was written which can make an otherwise enjoyable story not so exciting to read thirty years later. They also did a great job this issue with addressing the elephant in the room when it comes to how women are treated in comics. Wonder Man tries to be the valiant knight in shining armor for Ms. Marvel but she proceeds to save his ass while kicking her fair share. It was great to see an actual woman in the story, not a caricature of one.

Overall, this is an easily forgettable issue. For every good thing this comic accomplishes, it has ten errors which make reading the story quite unbearable.

The Avengers #170

Avengers_Vol_1_170

Back to the Korvac saga! We see Captain America working out and Beast pops in to have a conversation with him. They talk a bit about an interaction that Cap had with the Scarlet Witch where she called him out for not contributing to the team. He’s playing the macho role of working out his anger and embarrassment by some sort of physical activity.

From there Iron Man shows up and asks to speak with Cap alone. Cap talks a moment about a machine that Tony Stark had built before they discuss the argument they had in issue #168. Iron Man ends up apologizing for his distracted loyalties and promises to be better. Cap also apologizes a bit. An interesting bit of action here was Tony Stark coming close, oh so close, to admitting to Captain America his identity which under the circumstances would have resolved so much unnecessary tension that hiding their identities have caused. Why they couldn’t pull the trigger and have him reveal his identity is beyond me.

From there we get another glimpse of Hawkeye as he calls the mansion to tell The Scarlet Witch what happened with him and the Two Gun Kid on the train. He says he’s in Colorado at this point. Scarlet Witch says they can be there within an hour which is laughable even with access to a private jet. Hawkeye says no, he wants to be back at the mansion to have Tony Stark’s computers aid in finding him. That’s all well and good but they do mention later in the comic that Hawkeye would be back at the mansion soon. Maybe the late 70’s were different but I cannot imagine a regular airplane getting from Colorado to New York City in under an hour even when traveling in first class. The sense of time the Might Marvel writers have in regards to travel is ludicrous at its best.

Next we’re off to Attilan, home of the InHumans, where Pietro Maximoff, Quicksilver is enjoying a moonlit night with the woman of his dreams. While they talk about his happiness, he disappears. These disappearances of characters is definitely an intriguing aspect of the story and something I want to see followed up on but the scenes themselves are so short that you’re in and out of it before you have a chance to know what the hell is going on. Yeah, you know that Korvac must have something to do with it but at this point we’re just seeing them disappear in a page of action, in this particular case just a couple of panels, and you’re expected to know what is happening. This is just wrong on so many levels. It doesn’t have to take a whole comic to explain it but some shot of a bad guy looking on a collection of our heroes after he transported them would be enough to keep me quiet on this. You know it must have SOMETHING to do with the story. The point it WHAT does it have to do with it?

Yellow Jacket, the former Ant-Man, and The Wasp arrive at the mansion with a special delivery. Jocasta, the android completed by Ultron to be his bride. Seems in a previous issue, The Avengers stopped Ultron from taking Janet Pym’s life force and placing it into Jocasta’s metal frame. Well, turns out all that action was for no real reason because Jocasta wakes up and has the voice of The Wasp anyway. There a mad rush to stop her but out of nowhere Iron Man and Captain America let her escape. Then Thor arrives talking about being away for a long time and getting back just in time which throws others for a loop because they’d recently seen him when the Guardians of the Galaxy first arrived. Iron Man and Captain America seem to already know about Jocasta and what her plans are and are simply looking to track her. Which is all fine and good if there had been some scene, even a simple panel, describing how Iron Man and Captain America know she is in the building and what her purpose was. SOMETHING would have been nice. Just showing up acting like they know everything just felt more convenient than anything. Now the Thor revelation is a little more intriguing. Thor was just there with them two issues ago. Why is he talking about being away for awhile? Is he a life model decoy? Is he simply an impostor sent by Korvac? I want to know more.

You’re left with a lot more questions than answers when you finish this issue. That’s not a bad thing when it’s executed well. In this case, most of the questions resolve around what the hell is going on. We see once again characters suddenly knowing everything that is going on when previously they were not even in the scene. We have definitely intriguing scenes of major characters that are disappearing but they’re so short in execution that we have no real emotion apart from confusion to experience. There are some definite good events happening in the story that make me want to read the next issue, the execution of it is so damn poor that it’s taking the fun out of reading the story. While some may argue that this is how comics were written back in the day, I counter with the fact that bad writing is bad writing, no matter the era. While books my not be written like Oliver Twist in today’s day and age, there is no denying the fact that Oliver Twist is a classic book. From first page to last you have a compelling story where everything is done for a reason and everything makes sense. Here, while you have a good idea for a story, there’s not been a lot of thought in making sure that it’s put on paper correctly.

Bottom Line:

There are some intriguing elements in regards to the Korvac Saga in this issue but once again we have a weak story. There are good moments for sure but you’re expected to just accept a lot of stuff that once you think about it makes no damn sense. While you could argue that it is one chapter in a longer story, they could still make sure this chapter was able to properly advance the story which this one did not. You have to get through this and it will be over quick but man, James Shooter and George Perez should have known better.

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.

Thor Annual #6

Thor_Annual_Vol_1_6

Of all the major Marvel characters out there Thor would have to be my least favorite. Now I’ve loved what they’ve done with him in a supporting role in The Avengers movies, not his stand alone films. They’ve found a way to temper the thees and thous the comics seem to sprinkle on like a fat person slathers on salad dressing onto a salad when they’re trying to diet. But don’t get me wrong. Saying Thor is my least favorite Marvel character would be like saying McDonald’s makes my least favorite hamburger. It’s still a damn good burger when push comes to shove.

This issue is the start of the Korvac Saga. Korvac is a former human who, thanks to evil alien masters, is grafted into a computer making him a cyborg intent on universal domination. (When you type that out it does sound a little silly but trust me, it’s presented better.) Thor starts the issue off preventing some terrorists on Earth from igniting a nuclear reactor. He succeeds only to be sucked into a vortex that brings him to the 31st Century where he faces off against Korvac who shuttles him off into space presumably to die. There he is discovered by the ORIGINAL Guardians of the Galaxy. From there they discover Korvac’s location and proceed to stop his evil plan of sending our sun into a super nova in order to siphon off the energy.

Thor’s dialogue in this really comes off like someone attempting to sound like a bad Shakespearean actor. It was sometimes difficult to read without having to go over what was said more than once. I get why they chose to have him speak the way he did but it was quite distracting to say the least. However, I do like the fact that Thor has a bit of an innocent naive streak to him. He’s a hero who sees the world in black and white. You’re either good or bad. Sure he’ll give you a chance but once you screw that chance up, guess who gets swatted in the ass with mjonlir?

Korvac was all right as a villain but he suffers from something comic book creators are a little too guilty of. He’s from the 31st Century. He’s part computer and has the brain capacity of infinity. He has tools at his disposal that make our most extreme weapons look like pea shooters. Yet the heroes from modern times always find a way of foiling their evil plans. Not just partly stopping it mind you, completely putting an end to whatever evil machinations the bad guy had planned. I get that this was the late 70’s when this came out (damn I feel old) but even then comics were breaking away from stories that started and resolved in one single issue. You would think that every now and then you would have a time where a bad guy was able to even partially succeed. That would be more realistic and add a little bit more drama to the story and give them further reasons to fight. Sure, this particular story is part one of a twelve part story. But they have Korvac’s plan snuffed out at the last minute and have him escape before anything happens to him. Where is the tension? Where is the consequence of fighting someone you’ve built up as much as you have?

The artwork was good for its time but I did have one issue. Korvac looks like he’s melded with a Xerox machine. Predicting the future of technology is impossible of course. We recently had the anniversary of the day that Marty McFly traveled into the future for to see what happened to his kids. Back to the Future 2 was a brilliant film for so many reasons but tops on that list was that they made no effort to try and make a realistic future. They went all spacey with everything. While yeah, they got a few things right, and gave that little bitch Elijah Wood his first screen role, everything else about the future was a big eff you to what people may have guessed. Because you never know what the future would hold. Hell, ten years ago, who would have thought that tablet computers or smart phones would be around in the ways they are? That was technology strictly for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Dr. Crusher wrote her reports on an iPad. I was never meant to read comic books from one! The fact that the artist tried to draw the future in a way that used images we as the reader could relate to was a failure simply due to the fact that even five years after this issue debuted the art looked dated.

Take the Superman film. Richard Donner and crew made no effort to make Kryptonian technology look like anything we could relate to. Everything was based on crystals. While hippies may think that crystals contain the keys to the universe, they also took a lot more acid than humans should be allowed to take so their opinions don’t count. The Superman film had it right by going wild with what alien technology could be. The 31st Century technology as drawn in this issue was a big failure because while it was trying to emulate what the future could look like, it looked like cheap 70’s office furniture. Besides that, the art was fine. Yes, I spent two paragraphs bitching about one thing but that is one complaint. The rest was fine.

Bottom Line:

The Korvac Saga is the start of a twelve issue story. This is going to be much more reasonable to attempt to tackle than the 98 issue story that was the Secret Invasion. For that, I will be reviewing this story in the suggested reading order that the Marvel Unlimited app recommends. And this was a pretty good way to kick off the story. Think of it like the little action sequence that always starts off a Bond film. While it may not have much to do with the main story, it’s still an exciting piece that cannot be missed. While I wish the artist was a little more inventive when it came to drawing objects from the future as well as wishing the writer made Thor’s dialogue a little easier to read, it’s not bad and tackles the subject of freedom quite well. Freedom is great to have but if you have to sacrifice your freedom or the freedom of others to achieve your goal, are you or anyone else involved in your plan truly free?

 

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.

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