AVENGERS. “And There Came Another Day…”

There are some interesting threads on this forum, already covering issues of Marvel’s early series – ‘re-reading’’ of the Avengers and Journey into Mystery/Thor and so on and there was quite a good issue by issue thread on the Invaders around too, until it caught up with the present.
What is more rarely discussed are the later periods when these series were in full flow and while perhaps less iconic still number among them some classics…

I therefore present to you an issue by issue critique/discussion forum for one of these mainstay Marvel titles.
Not beginning at the very debut – as others have that covered well – but (and I hope I don’t step on anyone’s creative toes here!) – I would like to pick up the Avengers title after a watershed/bookend issue provided an opportune point at which to begin …
Issue #100 featured all Avengers to that point together in one tale and everything that goes before it is pretty well easily contained by then. The next issue launches the title into its second century of publishing and its next phase of greatness…

What has gone before…?
And so there came a Day…

The formation of the team.
The Hulk leaving. Captain America’s return. The Original members giving way to Cap’s kooky Quartet.
Goliath and Wasp returning. Hercules coming and going. The creation of Ultron. The arrival of the Vision.
Yellow jacket Hawkeye as Goliath II and then back again. The Squadron Sinister/Supreme. The Kree-Skrull War and of course…the Lady Liberators!
(I’m sure you’ll have your own highlights!)

And so there came ANOTHER Day…

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Fantastic Four#12 has General Ross tell Sue that the purpose of a woman in a group is to inspire the men (or something like that, I can't dig out my copy now.) Reed tells him that's how he, Ben, and Johnny feel about her. "Just stand there and look pretty and let us take care of everything, okay?"

But it wasn't just Stan. In the infamously unanimated Marvel Super Heroes cartoon, they somehow found the budget to have Jan try to make Hank jealous by shaking her butt at Thor in the Space Phantom episode. This was pretty much the most animation in the entire episode.

Warlock, back when he was still just Him, got himself into a lot of trouble when he saw Sif in her summer, come hither outfit.  He came a hithering and Thor had to hammer Him down.  "Him or Warlock, whatever thou callest thouself, I call thee Nail!"

Was Him supposed to be a villain until Roy Thomas decided to turn into a good guy? He killed his creators (although they somehow got better) then tries to steal somebody's girlfriend. I'd say since he just came to life he didn't know what he was doing, but his dialogue when he blew up the scientists that made him says otherwise. Pity we can't ask Jack exactly what he wanted to do with the character.

Kirby's intentions for the original HIm story were so derailed by Lee's dialogue, that Kirby essentially gave up trying and afterwards mostly provided re-treads of older stories or adaptations from tv or movies for the remainder of his run on the FF.  Him might also be regarded as a much improved re-tread of the Infant Terrible story -- Him, after all, essentially being a new-born, with vast powers and intelligence but still too immature to use them wisely.  So he wasn't really meant to be a villain, but could do really stupid stuff, like try to take off with Thor's girlfriend!  Thomas just wised up a bit more and gave him a purpose.

Haven't read anywhere if Kirby had any real long-range plans for Him -- maybe something close to what he'd originally planned for the Surfer, which was scuttled when Lee & Buscema gave him an origin entirely at odds with Kirby's conception.

Ron M. said:

Fantastic Four#12 has General Ross tell Sue that the purpose of a woman in a group is to inspire the men (or something like that, I can't dig out my copy now.) Reed tells him that's how he, Ben, and Johnny feel about her. "Just stand there and look pretty and let us take care of everything, okay?"

I remember this being cited awhile back by someone, possibly you. Referring to my second FF Masterwork, this is the exchange verbatim:

Page 8, Panel 3:

Sue:  "Looks as though I'll just be going along for the ride! I'm not sure how I can help!"    

General Ross:  "Harrummph! Miss Storm, a pretty lady can always be of help -- just by keeping the men's morale up!"

Reed:   "That's just the way we fell about Sue, general!"

Putting it into context, this was 1963. Sue didn't have her force field powers yet and she was already putting herself down. You could make a case that both men were trying to make her feel better. She had been spending a lot of time as a hostage in earlier issues.

Even though you used quotation marks, inadvertently making it seem like text from the comic, the "just stand there and look pretty" text doesn't appear at all.

But also please  note:

Page 22, Panel 1:

Using her invisibility power, Sue prevents the spy/saboteur from killing Ben with his atomic weapon. So despite the earlier text she is a true hero at the end.

Seems it would be difficult to make any superhero  whose only powers are to become invisible really useful in an action-oriented comic.  Alan Moore did some very interesting things with the Invisble Man in the League of Extra-Ordinary Gentlemen, but that character was hardly a hero and came to an, ahem, really bad end!  Giving Susan the ability to create force-fields, among other powers, really made her a more considerable force to be reconned with, although as with all of the Silver Age heroines, it was really left to much later writers & artists to make Sue a real equal to her teammates.

I don't usually point out typos, but did you mean "reckoned" or "retconned"? :)

AVENGERS  #106 (12/72)

Writer – Steve Englehart

Art – Rich Buckler &   George Tuska      Inker – Dave Cockrum

Cover Art – Rich Buckler & Dave Cockrum

A Traitor Stalks Among Us!”

That’s an interesting cover that is a refreshingly different angle shown of our heroes.

 It is a rare and creditable appearance of Hawkeye in ‘that costume’ on a cover  and  the white cover frame works well  here, especially with the light blue spotlight behind the Vision masthead echoing the spotlight on Iron Man in the foreground.

Most fascinating however is …..has anyone ever noticed that Cap is depicted as part of the ‘Avengers-In-the-tunnel’ when he’s never actually there in the story…?

 

Inside and the first thing to mention is that there are TWO artists credited, as well as the inker…I’ll come back to this…

 

We open with the Vision, left behind by the other Avengers who are searching for Quicksilver, brooding  in the gloom as Captain America returns from his most recent adventures in his own title (the ‘other Cap’ storyline)

The moping Vision explains to Cap why he’s such a misery until Rick Jones bursts in, shouts a lot and changes to Captain Marvel to show off his heroic identity.

This is an almost retread of his argument with Cap in #103? but with a much better and more dramatic, effect….Cap screams!

Forgotten memories flood his mind and he /we get a very detailed flashback to just after #113 of his own title and learn that instead of a quite fade out there was actually an entire further battle against Hydra that he had forgotten altogether.

The lever for these memories returning is Rick, who Cap is now remembering was acting as his partner ‘Bucky’ at the time.

Meanwhile the rest of the Avengers literally fall into a trap into tunnels under a back alley…..

Avenger battles Avenger for no apparent reason until it is realised that ‘someone’ is taking over the Avengers or replacing them, or…aha! - Iron Man works it out!

The team is confronted by the Space Phantom who first and last fought the team back in #2 and only Iron Man was a member then so only he could remember the alien villain.

The Phantom replaces people and sends them to ‘limbo’ while he takes over their form in our world. (Although at the end he’s there and so is every one of the Avengers so who got thrown in limbo then?)

The Phantom explains his long planned …um…plan…to destroy the Avengers and as if shock following shock had not been enough…he reveals his comrade in evil…the Grim Reaper!

 

There’s a lot to cover here. Forgive me if I miss a few vital points.

The Space Phantom’s reveal does not close the issue, mainly because I don’t think it was deemed enough of a reveal…would many of the readers remember him at all?

So the Grim Reaper Reveal holds more interest and I like that double ending here. 

The Phantom’s plan to make a few people go missing in a back alley to attract the attention of the Avengers and then kill them…not so foolproof and not very convincing I’m afraid. 

The sequence where each Avengers gets replaced and attacks the others in the tunnels is actually a very good set piece, it is very claustrophobic and suspenseful, read it again, its class. 

The revelation that Rick Jones now has a link to Captain Marvel is – again – ridiculously late isn’t it?

Rick’s had this relationship for a long time hasn’t he and why should it be a secret from the Avengers?

 

So, back to the fact that there are two artists here…

The flashback scenes here and in the next issue of Cap and Rick/Bucky against Hydra are all drawn by George Tuska while the recent stuff is by Rich Buckler while Dave Cockrum inks them all.

There is way too much content in the flashback storyline than is necessary to  convey the story ‘remembered’ and added together I make the flashback pages total about 17 – or an entire issue of it’s own minus any obvious splash page etc.

Jeff will probably prove me wrong (??)…but I’ve always clung onto the idea here that these pages were an abandoned storyline by Englehart for Cap’s own mag, either to have been originally published straight after the Steranko issues they reference or shortly thereafter,.

I should probably mention it during the next issue’s  write-up, but the shock unmasking of the head of Hydra by Cap and his reactions to seeing who it was ….foreshadows Englehart’s Secret Empire epic.

Why would Cap be so shocked – he’s never met the Space Phantom?

Did this begin life as a Cap issue drawn by Tuska only to be resurrected by Englehart when he needed a bit of a head start in his Avengers duties?

So much mystery.

Jeff’ll probably detail the ‘official version’ from Englehart but please…don’t disillusion me Jeff….?

 

The art throughout the book is excellent and that has to be so much down to Dave Cockrum’s inking. To make Tuska look relevant alongside Buckler’s modern approach seamlessly is no mean feat and Cockrum’s inks make this version of the Vision one of the greatest ever. 

I personally loved his X-Men stuff but I know he has some detractors…he clearly doesn’t not get enough credit for his inking which is a joy.

The story, despite its plot holes, rattles along at such a brisk pace that it’s cinematic in its pacing and the cliffhanger is a joy. 

Englehart has arrived and it’s good stuff.

Come back...

 

Actually, the flashback pages were from an abandoned storyline for issue #114 by ...Stan Lee!  George Tuska was slated to take over after Steranko left but Lee wasn't too happy with the results, and got John Romita to do the art instead on an entirely different story.  So Tuska's art had been around long before Englehart even started on Cap's own mag and he simply made use of it to incorporate into this Avengers story (whether that was his idea or Roy's I don't know, although I suspect it was Roy's as it brings to fruition a subplot started by Roy).

I thought Cap's "shock" at the Space Phantom's reveal wasn't of recognition but of revulsion -- S.P. has a rather ugly face!  Also, even tho' that first encounter took place when Cap was still on ice, I'm sure he was dutiful enough to have read up on the Avengers' few cases (all 3 or 4 of them) from before he was defrosted so he would at least recognize S.P. from the descriptions by Thor, Iron Man, Hank & Jan (they never could get the Hulk to record his remininces of that encounter).
 

Just as issues #102-104 were a sequel (of sorts) to the classic Thomas/Adams Sentinels story from X-Men (and Avengers #52), so too are issues #106-108 a sequel to the classic Steranko issues of Captain America (and Avengers #102). The issues under discussion are really a transition from “pure” Thomas to “pure” Englehart, but I love ‘em.

The Tuska pages were from an inventory story. Englehart discusses #106-107 in depth, but he deals with them both together, so I thought I’d wait to post his comments until after Richard has dealt with #107.

I couldn’t agree more about Cockrum’s inking.



Jeff of Earth-J said:

The issues under discussion are really a transition from “pure” Thomas to “pure” Englehart, but I love ‘em.

I love 'em too Jeff - this was a favourite period for me and one that doesn't get much attention - I have the issues in a much prized early trade collecting issues 102-111 and it's had alot of reading!

The Tuska pages were from an inventory story. Englehart discusses #106-107 in depth, but he deals with them both together, so I thought I’d wait to post his comments until after Richard has dealt with #107.

As usual Jeff, look forward to them. thanks for the input.

I couldn’t agree more about Cockrum’s inking.

Thankyou, I love his work here and I think it is a strong reason why I find these issues so memorable. (Although I had not realised/forgotten who actrually pencilled the next issue...!)

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