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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AVENGERS ANNUAL #9 (1979)
Writer – Bill Mantlo                                 Penciller - Don Newton
Inker – Jack Abel & Josef Rubenstein
Cover Art – Don Newton & Josef Rubenstein 
  

 “--Today the Avengers Die!"


That's a unique and individual cover and new vignettes of each hero as per the roll call corner boxes  by -- Don Newton!!
I confess that I have NEVER realised Don Newton drew this issue and cover or indeed that he ever drew ANY Marvel stuff (does anyone know any other Newton Marvel examples?) - I  have no idea how he came to draw this book and indeed I never really rated this one after the Starlin epic of Annual #7 and Perez in Annual #8 but I must look with more informed eyes now that I see Newton is the craftsman behind this.....come with me.......


The cover itself....isn't that great actually, it IS a scene straight out of the issue which is always welcome but something in the way Arsenal cradles the Beast's head makes him look careful and caring rather than ominous and violent.
The inking doesn't help I believe, it's a bit dull and shadowy.


We open with Arsenal the robot we met (apparently) in Iron Man #114 having healed/repaired and ready to do the bidding of it's unseen 'Mistress'...


Neat use of his speech to envelope the title but it's a dull splash page, the most Don Newton-like page of the lot as there is more background than feature character...
What I am struck with throughout the whole issue is the relative lack of backgrounds or detail of them - Newton always seemed to draw a scene with heroes in them in his Batman book rather than heroes in a scene with a bit of background - if that makes sense (?) Did someone (Shooter?) tell him to change his style to better fit into Marvel??


The Assembled Avengers listen to Iron Man who has called a special meeting...it's a strange grouping and if it wasn't for the in story references to this Annual in the next main book #189 I would say this Annual probably should have been placed elsewhere in continuity as the grouping is so odd but ...the explanations for who's who is that.....
The Falcon is off solving his solo case in Marvel Premiere #49, the Wasp is off helping the Defenders wrap up the Omega events in Defenders #77-#79 and Ms Marvel and Wonder Man  are still around after the Eastern Europe adventure while Hawkeye and YellowJacket have been called into replace those unavailable. It kind of just works.


The mystery posed is what happened to Arsenal after that Iron Man appearance and the battle with the then Avengers that it contained. There's even a bit of bickering about how with Thor this time will be easy while those there defend their losses by bigging up the threat of Arsenal.


Arsenal's 'Mistress' laments the loss of is 'Master' and prepare for war against the Enemy,

"Be careful, Arsenal. You are all I have left."


Hawkeye thinks he faces Arsenal only to team-up with the Beast, "You flea-ridden excuse for a watchdog! What's the idea?" and as they find unmapped depths of Avengers Mansion and YellowJacket follows them.
As the two/three Avengers do meet Arsenal and fight the rest of the team receive a briefing on the history of the project, "You mean, Arsenal was America's version of the Nazi Sleepers --" and eventually it is revealed that the creator of Arsenal was...Iron Man's father Howard Stark!
"Thy Sire?"    --     "Yes, Thor-- My Father!"


Arsenal plugs the beaten Beast and Hawkeye into a 'Brainprober' as we learn Arsenal/Mistress still think they are fighting World War II against the Axis forces.


YellowJacket gets quite alot of action discovering the truth and warning the team of events as we segue into ..

."Avengers Assemble! Part II Something Deadly Lurks Below!"
It is a revelation to everyone that 'Project Tomorrow' has been secretly beneath the Mansion all along.
The Vision (who had been out of the mansion until now) - returns. and attacks Arsenal himself but falls victim to a mysterious force-field around the Arsenal floor making him have to retreat.
Wanda runs to help him, gets caught in a rockfall and Wonder Man runs to help her. (He's always concerned for Wanda isn't he..?.)
The floor gives way to a seemingly endless fall beneath the battle and Thor goes after fallen Wonder Man both into a swirling floodwater underground.


This begins to push the suspended disbelief of we the readers, I can kind of accept that Howard Stark may have stored Arsenal in a secret hidden basement but that Iron Man was not aware that the Mansion was built over a huge cravass with deep water at it's base is not likely at all.
The water opens out into nearby Central Park  which would be kind of useful to the team wouldn't it?


Iron Man frees Hawkeye and the Beast and enters the control centre of Arsenal/Mistress alone...and Mistress is revealed to be the computerised persona of Howard Stark's wife! His mother!


Eventually it's a Captain Kirk moment that defeats the enemy as Iron Man reveals himself to Mistress as Tony Stark...her son! He convinces the computer system/A.I that the war they fight is over and the system refuse to accept/refuses to compute that Howard Stark is dead and the familar computer-blows-up saves the day scene ends the tale.


As the Avengers lick their wounds Iron Man mourns the death of his mother...all over again.


So, a personal adventure for Iron Man  which arguably should have featured in an Iron Man Annual rather than an Avengers one but some nice beats for the team members.
Most telling of all is an early exchange between Iron Man and Peter Gyrich when the briefing begins,

"I'm still surprised that you let us juggle our regular roster for this job, Gyrich!"
"How could the Security Council Refuse the lone request to be submitted, with all the proper paperwork? I'm not against change Per Se, Iron Man... Just lack of procedure!"
I prefer to think of this a 'ignoring' the regular roster than replacing it - I still don't count Wonder Man as a full Avenger member yet....!


As mentioned, I've  never been much of a fan of this Annual, dull artwork compared to the regular issues and a tad Iron Man centric story rather than an Avengers team piece - and even with the Don Newton element that I have never been aware of before - ... ,,, - I'm still don't rate this Annual very highly (!)  but there's little to moan at - it's just not as stunning as the general quality of the series at this point in it's history...
...or do you disagree?


Come Back...

"...or do you disagree?"

Oh, I agree, definitely. It has been many years since I last read this issue for that very reason. I don't even remember the las time.

I liked Avengers Annual #9 a lot. It was almost a "bottle episode" taking place entirely within the Avengers' mansion. Don Newton was not a perfect fit for traditional super-hero stories though he was great on Batman and SHAZAM!

This may have been the first time that we learned about Tony Stark's parents by name though I could be wrong. Either way this was a small seed that sprouted big time in the MCU.

They'd already said a lot about Tony's father in Iron Man. I don't remember them ever mentioning his mother though.

I wonder if that was when they came up with the Maria Stark Foundation?

I always liked Don Newtons stuff. His anatomy was right up there with Neal Adams, imo.  I know he did another Avengers story later on. A Yellow Claw fill-in IIRC. Don't know if he did anything else for Marvel.

It seems to me they came up with thew idea of the Maria Stark Foundation during Denny O'Neil's run on Iron Man to explain why Stark Enterprises could go bankrupt yet the funding for the Avengers could remain solvent.

Then Stark must have had a lot of money stashed into it as the Avengers had split into two branches at that point!

Maybe for tax reasons....

Jeff of Earth-J said:

It seems to me they came up with thew idea of the Maria Stark Foundation during Denny O'Neil's run on Iron Man to explain why Stark Enterprises could go bankrupt yet the funding for the Avengers could remain solvent.

Someone would have to check with Bob Ingersol if that makes good legal sense; for our purposes it need only make good comic book sense. Come to think of it, that could have made for a good storyline back in the day: Stark Enterprises has gone bankrupt, therefore the Avengers are out of funding. I'm the the U.S. govermant would have been happy to step in (and even happier to re-write the charter, giving them more control over the team's activities). Ah, well. Missed opportunity.

I think the foundation was separate from Stark Enterprises, though I'm sure almost all of the Avenger stuff was from Stark Enterprises and Reed Richards.  I remember reading this story and being amazed that with just WW2 tech Tony's father could build a robot that powerful and a computer that sophisticated.  Even then I was studying electronics and he was limited to tubes and relays.  I did like the issue though.

Richard Mantle said:

That's a unique and individual cover and new vignettes of each hero as per the roll call corner boxes by -- Don Newton!!
I confess that I have NEVER realised Don Newton drew this issue and cover or indeed that he ever drew ANY Marvel stuff (does anyone know any other Newton Marvel examples?)

Being old, I first was acquainted with Don Newton’s work in the fan press. According to this account, the art for this Annual was originally intended as a two-parter in the regular Avengers book. The two inkers apparently inked the two halves separately. Newton lived in Arizona and in those days it was hard to work for the majors, especially Marvel, if you weren’t in the New York City vicinity.

As the two/three Avengers do meet Arsenal and fight the rest of the team receive a briefing on the history of the project, "You mean, Arsenal was America's version of the Nazi Sleepers --" and eventually it is revealed that the creator of Arsenal was...Iron Man's father Howard Stark!

Was this the first reference to Howard Stark? I don’t remember hearing about him before recent times. If he was used back then it didn't make an impression on me.

AVENGERS #189 (11/79)
Plot – Mark Gruenwald & David Michelinie
Plot/Script - Steven Grant   Plot/Editor - Roger Stern
Penciller - John Byrne                   Inker - Dan Green
Cover Art – John Byrne & Dan Green 
  

 “Wings and Arrows!"


I'm not a great fan of these mixed advert covers but Hawkeye getting centre-stage is always welcome and I still love this classic costume for Clint.


We'll review at the end whether the questions asked on this cover are answered...


Corner Roll-Call is again not quite accurate as Ms Marvel does not feature inside at all.


Presumably with so many people 'creative kibitzing' on the plot this may feel somewhat disjointed?


We open with a wonderful splash page from artist-in-his-prime John Byrne with a detailed outside view of the Mansion that rivals one of Perez himself!
The splash links directly to the end of the Annual we've just covered and Thor, who guested in that Annual, returns to his own mag's adventures - and a 'conflict with the star-spanning Celestials'.
As he 'Woosh'-es his way through the sky he fails to notice the returning Falcon (who was off on his own solo Marvel Premiere adventure remember?) and Mjolnir's down-draft ruffles Sam's feathers.
It's kind of a fun way of reinforcing how out-of-his-class the Falcon feels among the Avengers which segues into the Assembled heroes inside as Sam enters.

(I love the collective Avengers shot here)


The Falcon gets his retina's registered and receives his own Avengers Priority Card . This helps settle the Falcon and indeed he announces, "I'm startin' to think this Avengin' gig is the best thing that ever happened to me!" before he tries valiantly to extend an olive branch to Hawkeye...
"Hey, look -- I just want you to know that I'm sorry about takin' your place!"
but Hawkeye remains bitter, "Feed it to the rubes, Falcon! I'm more of an asset to the Avengers than you'll ever be! I just hope it won't be too late when they find out... ...jerk!"
"Whoa!"
Whoa indeed, this is the closest Avengers have been to fighting each other since the Vision and Wonder Man .


YellowJacket speaks with wife Wasp on the 'phone and leaves for Las Vagas, a team-up and a Defenders appearance with her and Wonder Man also bows out- still trying to make it as an actor.


Gyrich takes the return of the Falcon well, as all the paperwork is correct but not so much the Scarlet Witch's announcement of "There are still a lot of things that I still have to sort out... on my own. So if you don't mind, I'd like to extend my leave of absence!"
"What?!"
This seems to be a final straw with Gyrich who promises to turn up there himself soon.


Rather than concentrate on the new line-up we continue to follow Hawkeye, in civvies now as he returns to his own crummy pad and reads an interesting advert.
That advert sends him, in costume, to Cross Technological Enterprises where he almost re-enacts Avengers #16, by breaking in, to get a job.


We move on two nights to find Hawkeye employed to protect the plant and finding it a breeze, half way through the issue and maybe only just getting the issue's 'main' plot started.
The plant is attacked by a new enemy for Hawkeye, who's winged shadow makes him think of his rival the Falcon at first (nice touch) before being revealed as Deathbird!


At this point Deathbird's Shi'ar lineage and X-Men history is still a mystery, she had a recent battle with Ms Marvel but little exposure otherwise, quite rightly she's a mystery to Hawkeye.
The fight is a good well matched one but so much solo Hawkeye action again makes the reader wonder why he's being thrown out of the team and the title doesn't it?
Hawkeye wins the day...and kisses the captured Deatbird (probably wouldn't be allowed to do such a thing these days!) - it's a very Hawkeye way of signing out.


With the fight over (and the reason for it never really revealed so no great story here) we return to the Mansion and our character sub-plots, to find Jocasta nervous about her return. (Not quite sure what that's about? She hasn't been featured much but she hasn't 'left' had she..?)
Perhaps characteristically her entrance is not reacted to by the team as they are in full argument with Gyrich who has now arrived as promised.
He tries, it seems to enforce the Scarlet Witch staying on the team but Iron Man argues it's her choice and Gyrich announces the end of the issue and...
"As far as I'm concerned, this is the End of the Avengers!"


Rest easy though, as the Beast chimes in with what we're probably all thinking before the 'next issue' blurb...
"Again? But that trick never works!"
"Shut up Beast!"


So, not a very memorable issue, nothing major happens but it is this kind of issue that I love, that makes the team feel organic and the characters feel real, it may be too soap-opera-ish for many but every now and then every GOOD team-title needs a 'day-in-the-life-of' issue like this and I liked it.


So, were the cover questions answered?
"Why must Thor Leave the Avengers?" - answered - he's off to fight the Celestials but could he have stayed a member while he did so?
I think so, so not a great answer.
"What strange new problems plague the Scarlet Witch and the Vision?" - not answered at all - Wanda doesn't want to rejoin yet but 'new problems' are not revealed no.
"When will the government stop harassing our heroes? - kind of answered - NEXT ISSUE!
"Where does destiny take Captain America and the Falcon?" - not answered - not even a relevant question!
"Who is the surprise super-villain HAWKEYE battles Alone?" - yes - answered - the only true storyline in the book.
Strange cover then, was it trying to be more interesting than they felt the inside actually was?


Classic issues are back next time!


Come back...

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