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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Hank Pym walks, penniless, into a bar and is met by... his old enemy Egghead!
Egghead explains that he's after help from Pym and we are all reminded (but not given editorial references) of Egghead's neice Trish Starr who had when last met, lost her arm due to an explosion set by the villain.
(Without researching I think the loss of the arm happened in the Defenders and from the panel shown her introduction may have been in solo Ant-Man stuff?)

According to GCD, Trish Starr (aka Trixie) first appeared in the Ant-Man story in Marvel Feature #5. She then appeared in Giant-Size Defenders #4 and #5, Defenders #31, #36 and #41, Hulk #233, #235, #236, #240 and #243 before Avengers #217. Also according to GCD, she was injured by a bomb planted by Egghead in Giant-Size Avengers #4 . Her final, and probably most important, appearance is in Avengers #230 which you will be getting to in the near future. I'm sure I read her first several appearances (not Avengers #217) but for some reason don't remember her.

Avengers #218 (04/82)
Jim Shooter -co-plotter - J.M. DeMatteis - Scripter
Editor - Jim Salicrup layouts - Don Perlin
Finished art - 'embellishers assembled' (Jack Abel, Al Milgrom, Frank Giacoia, Marie Severin, Brett Breeding, Josef Rubenstein & Chic Stone)
Cover Art – Don Perlin & Dan Green
"No! Don't shoot!"
"Born Again (and Again and Again...)
That is an incredibly powerful cover and I'm surprised it was accepted by the Comics Code Authority - a child about to commit suicide? 

Putting the 'child' in shadow helps I guess but there is genuine shock here!

How often does Don Perlin get to do an Avengers cover and feature four of the founding members? Impressive.

I still don't like the fact that Yellowjacket's face is on the cover-corner roll-call box as he's not exactly a current member is he and indeed he's not even in this issue!

A young boy rings the Avengers doorbell and demands Jarvis summon the team. "This is a matter of Life and Death!!"
The Wasp offers to show the boy round, the boy is not impressed. "Madam-- Shut Up!!"
The boy goes off and gets in the way of the other Avengers who nearly kill each other dropping heavy machinery leading to Thor threatening to give the boy, "A sound spanking!"

"I...don't think I'd live through it!"

So far so familiar until the boy announces "I am a man cursed with eternal life!"
At this point, especially after the Marcus child/man of #200 the Avengers should have started to take this boy seriously... but they don't and that just makes the reader shout at the page!

To make his point the boy pulls a gun and as per the cover actually does shoot himself in the head!! "BLAM"
It is an incredible scene - the boy does actually die! I still find it hard to read and even harder to believe it was passed by the Comics Code Authority. It's brutal.

Of course it's not over and his 'body' fades to ashes and away altogether before reappaearing and growing back into the full form of the boy again! Alive!
(Curiously his clothes disappeared when he died but did not reappear when he was reborn)

We and the team learn that this boy has live many lives and had many names - recently being one Morgan MacNeil Hardy who Captain America had met in his own mag (#264) when he had tried to restructure the whole of reality.
The boy explains MacNeil died and was buried and he rose in his place! (He is said to have risen 'three days later' which considering it's Messiah connotations I am also surprised was passed.)

The boy explains that that resurrection cleared his memories ( his life as MacNeil apparently began in 1906 - as we learned in Spider-Woman #33) and he was suddenly aware that he's lived thousands of lives since the dawn of man!!
(Anyone seen the most reecnt Doctor Who finale may be having a deja-vu moment too??!)

Naturally the Avenegrs study the lad to determine the facts and soon explain that they believe him to be possibly the world's first mutant but almost certainly connected to the life-cycle of the planet Earth itself!

The boy remains fed-up with his existence - "Do you mean to say -- that I've got to live... Forever?!" - therein lies the peculiar twist of this story - usually the adversaries want eternal life - this little-guy has had that and just wants it all to end!
Moral dilemma.
"Who are we to provide him with a means of Suicide?"

The boy is unimpressed at the Avengers posturing and ...runs away. After meeting a comedy Laurel and Hardy cipher duo (apparently last seen in Ghost Rider #41!) he slips into Cape Canaveral space base and stows away on a rocket being launched into the sun.

In an honestly horriffic scene as the rocket races through airless and freezing space the boy dies time and time again, being resurrected only to die again in the same predicament throughout the journey!
This is really brutal!!

As the Avengers guess that the boy went to the sun we learn that even that did not kill him and he is transformed into a firey-energy-monster burning with unbareable pain! - there is no let up for this kid!
As this monster returns to Earth the Avengers oppose it and a pretty familiar battle ensues until the monster remembers and introduces itself. Hardy is back and he's a tad angry!

Somehow (bear with me it's vague!) Cap's shield (made of unique alloy remeber) gets wedged into the monster and "must be disrupting the thing's molecular structure!" enough to let Thor do his whipping-up of a dimensional vortex and send this monster out to space where it blows up...seemingly ending the threat.

Wisely, the Avengers wait around to make sure and...a young boy reappears/resurrects as before - this time with no memories!
"Everything's just fine now, just fine."
As the team debate the ethics of their actions today the issue closes with a hint that the boy....may be only faking his amnesia!

There you go - one of the strangest Avengers issues ever!

This entire story seems more like a Defenders issue, where DeMatteis produced some of his best work. Was this re-crafted to fill a production space in the Avengers title?
I still find this issue difficult to read and probably others did too as I don't believe we ever meet this boy - who Cap called 'The Forever Man' again. (?)

The artwork is a little basic , especially during the battle scenes - as if Perlin wasn't happy with his fiery-monster but couldn't find a better look and rushed through the story (?).

What was the point of Laurel and Hardy (let alone a duo we'd seen before?) - unecessary padding that didn't help the abrupt ending.
The monster reminded me of many others but chiefly ZZaxx - from Hulk #166 and I fully expected him to be defeated in the same manner as he was in that issue.
Another aspect of this issue is that DeMatteis pushes things to connect MacNeil to this boy and the continuity that goes with his past appearances only to spend most of the issue with him transformed into anonymous-monster-of-the-month. It all feels strained for little reward.

Memorable for that cover and the many child-death scenes inside I remain uncomfortable reading this issue and frankly, I'm glad we're got through it!

No mention of Yellowjacket may have indicated his story was over and with the team still down to four active members only surely we're about to get a membership shake-up..?
With no blurb teasing the contents of Next Issue.... who knows..?

Come Back...

“There you go - one of the strangest Avengers issues ever!”

Agreed. I usually skip this issue when I re-read. If it is not a Mopee, then it is at least apocryphal.

“This entire story seems more like a Defenders issue…

Exactly what I was going to say! (Avengers Annual #11, too.)

“Was this re-crafted to fill a production space in the Avengers title?”

I suspect it was an inventory story, yes.

“I don't believe we ever meet this boy - who Cap called 'The Forever Man' again. (?)”

Good riddance.

It is an incredible scene - the boy does actually die! I still find it hard to read and even harder to believe it was passed by the Comics Code Authority. It's brutal.

The Comics Code was nothing if  not inconsistent.

   Kind of sums the issue up.

Thanks Jeff.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

“I don't believe we ever meet this boy - who Cap called 'The Forever Man' again. (?)”

Good riddance.

Avengers #219 (05/82)
Writer - Jim Shooter - Editor-in-Chief Penciller - Bob Hall Editor - Jim Salicrup Inker - Dan Green/'Embellishers Assembled' Cover Art – Bob Hall & Bob Layton
"By Divine Right, Moondragon Commands!"
A very clean sharp Avengers cover - menacing Moondragon floating-head impressive starry-sky with impressive colouring and logo etc. Bob Hall and Bob Layton - a polished combination. I love the corner box only having the four active Avengers at last. Always think this box should be the individual team roster for the issue. For once this qualifies.

"...By Divine Right!"
This issue opens with Jan Van-Dyne getting a new hairdo but leaving early as she "feel compelled to shrink and fly!" embarassingly without a Wasp-size costume. Similarly compelled to leave a Casino Tony Stark manages to change to Iron Man away from others. Captain America stops chasing armed robbers and races off. Thor arrives outside Avenegrs Mansion and helps Jarvis snow-clearing but rather than chilling out with the butler - Thor also races mysteriously off.

The four members of the team then find themselves assembling at a spaceship owned by - Moondragon! "It is the ship of Moondragon!"
"New costume Wasp?"

"No, it's a handkerchief I took out of my purse before I ditched it, and -- -- oh never mind!"

They worry it's a trap but enter the ship, find it empty and as it zooms into space they view a recording from Drax the Destroyer.
This is 'original' Drax - created for the sole purpose of killing Thanos - first time around! Green but wearing a purple costume, skull-cap and cape. Drax explains when Thanos was killed (by someone else) - "I was left without reason to exist!"
He expalins he met up with his similarly human-destined-for-more daughter - Moondragon and they apparently roamed space together.

The main plot is explained - they came upon a wartorn planet that Moondragon controlled via her mind-powers to create peace. Drax warns of an evil coming and fades out (naturally) before he can explain other than the Avengers are the only one that can help!

The ship travels through space, to the planet - called Ba-Bani- and our team go planetside (the Wasp now wearing a tarpaulin(!)) to locate Drax and Moondragon.
Our heroes are told of an advancing evil army and although they argue it's not an Avengers issue and are clearly wary of being lied to but Moondragon appeals for their help to save lives and peace and they kind of agree. "I feel so confused now-- like my mind's in a fog!"

So, however they got involved, the Avengers fight believing themselves to be on the side of right and saving lives.
Ominously Drax is compelled only to watch rather than protect Captain America as he is attacked.
Eventually the uprising is quashed and Moondragon is content, "My gratitude knows no bounds, Janet!"
The team put off leaving despite foggy minds and Cap and the Wasp find that they are not welcome to look around They meet the leaders of the rebel army who explain they had been compelled to fight against our herores for no apparent reason.

Iron Man watches film of the fight and notices how Drax could have helped Cap and asks him why he didn't - Drax cannot explain.
It is becoming clear that Moondragon has been mentally manipulating... everyone!

Thor confronts Moondragon who admits that Drax had actually sent the ship at the opening of this story to the Avengers - to enlist their help in stopping Moondragon from mentally-enslaving the entire planet!! She stopped him from explaining that and made up the phoney-fight as a cover-story for the Avengers. She gradually influeneces Thor too "For my sake..."

"For... your... sake..."

The issue closes as Thor declares his love for Moondragon!

So, from being morally ambiguous at most in previous appearances, we now know that Moondragon is a completely corrupt meglamaniac these days!
It proves how much power she has - controlling an entire planet's population but it also begs the question - did she activly control the last Avenger membership shake-up as we wondered back in #211 and even as she discussed in depth the recent downfall of Hank Pym - was she behind that too??

She now has Thor under her thrawl as well as Drax - what does that mean for the Avengers?
This is such a tight two-parter that I do wonder if it and the next issue were originally planned to be the next Avengers Annual - rather than the very Defenders presentation we get there..?

The art here is fine, crisp and bright, not exactly classic fan-favourite but we've seen alot worse recently.
There is a strange emphasis on almost-nudity - the Wasp has a problem covering her modestly throughout this issue and Moondragon's costume is more and more insubstantial as we go through!.
Next Issue
We actually get three preview panels - Iron Man holding/versus Drax, Thor standing with Moondragon and the Wasp and Captain America looking stoical.                                                                                                 "The stunning conclusion of our epic tale! We firmly believe that you'll never forget the shocking ending of... War Against the Gods!"

Come Back...

Part Two of "Catching up (yet) again and giving my thoughts on ...."

Avengers 214 - Not great.  All the sublety of a brick, with rushed artwork to boot.  The beginning of the end of Tigra's stint on the book, which was really too bad.  The themes of heroes not being perfect, and not everyone is cut out to be an Avenger, is already in the midst of being explored with Hank Pym.  Did we need to see that with one of the (up to this point) very few female Avengers?

Avengers 215-216 - Richard Mantle said "This feels like an Annual story placed into two normal issues, which may explain the artist - given a stand-alone project?".  I tend to agree.  It may explain the unappealing covers, and an abrupt absence of scenes of Hank and Jan.  Hank's fall from grace went into another gear in #214, and then nada here, but will be picked back up in #217.  Also not a fan of Alan Weiss' art.  There are some good moments but overall it's kind of a mess and all over the place.  As Richard said, it veers from horrific to absurd and back again, not quite sure what kind of story it wants to be.  Plus some things played for laughs / meant to be funny fall flat again and again.  I wish this had been Tigra's trial by fire, and she came through with her self confidence restored, and was then deemed by all to be a worthy Avenger.

Avengers 217 - Really well done.  Well told story, and artwork that looks good despite being the same team as #214.  While I wish they had kept her on the team, you can see why Shooter and company didn't want Tigra to be part of this story.  This was pretty much the original team in what amounts to a family affair with the "fallen angel" dealt with internally.  Hank's fall from grace is complete, made worse with his old arch-enemy Egghead engineering it all.  Good call on Shooter's part to make Jan the team leader.  Roger Stern will really make the most of it on his epic run on the series, which starts 10 issues after this one.

Avengers 218 - Bahh.  I'm with Jeff of Earth-J, this is a Mopee in my books.  Every series has duds, this is one.  Next!

Thankyou Mr Dunbar sir, 

always interesting to see if people agree or not with any of my missives.

I've been a bit out of the loop recently - self isolation/symptomatic. Lot better now so will try to get going again soon.

Avengers 219 - Good stuff here.  Like the Avengers themselves, the reader has a feeling of foreboding and dread, that all is not right here.  It's proven true in the last few pages, to our horror and theirs.  Moondragon's self-styled declaration of being a goddess reaches a logical conclusion:  she truly believes it, and acts accordingly.  In previous appearances here and elsewhere, she was merely haughty and arrogant, now she has crossed a line that heroes just do not cross.  She's able to control an entire planet, she has Drax and now Thor in her thrall, how in the world are Iron Man, Cap, and the Wasp going to stop her?
Great cover by Hall and Layton.  If that had been the art team for the interiors, it would have looked amazing.  Considering how many inkers were used on this issue, the art was acceptable enough, considering how many times when multiple inkers were used, the end result was often a dog's breakfast.

Yesterday I bought Marvel Masterworks Avengers volume 20 reprinting the “red-headed step-children” era (#203-216 and Annual #10). I don’t plan to read it anytime soon because I read these issues so recently for this discussion, but I did read the introduction by then-series editor Jim Salicrup. In it, he frankly describes what went wrong on an issue-by-issue basis. First of all, he was a brand new editor at the time, and he was only 23 years old. Not that he’s making excuses, but he describes in detail the situation, what he did to address it, why he made that choice, and why (in most cases) it didn’t work. By the time Shooter signed on as writer, he took on the role of mentor. I’m not going to go over each issue, but there is one topic both Richard and I discussed.

“I am a fan of Gene Colan - honestly I am - but he just doesn't work here. Is he too late in his career or is it that Dan Green's inks do not serve him well?”

“Under normal circumstances I would welcome a fill-in by Gene Colan, but I wasn't real thrilled with his artwork here, either. Perhaps it will look better when it's reprinted in Marvel Masterworks.”

First of all, it does look better on slick paper, but something is still off… and it’s not for either of the reasons Richard suggested above. It is because (according to Salicrup) that Shooter was forcing Colan to work in what Shooter considered to be a more “Marvel” style rather than allowing Colan to work in his own natural style. It was Shooter’s insistence that Colan adhere to this “Marvel” style which led to Colan going to DC shortly thereafter. I absolutely buy this explanation, especially when I compare this Avengers work with what he later did at DC.

I'm bumping this up to the top in the hope Richard Mantle has his notifications set to send him an e-mail whenever folks reply to this discussion. If he just simply hasn't been online, he wouldn't see a PM; I don't know any other way to contact him. Everyone here at the Comics Cave hopes you're doing well.

Richard Mantle said:

I've been a bit out of the loop recently - self isolation/symptomatic. Lot better now so will try to get going again soon.

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