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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Ms Marvel's smile is a breath of fresh air!

I should have mentioned the inks - I totally agree, Rubinstein adds a crisp line. Wonderful stuff.

Detective 445 said:

One of my favorite scenes from this era. And I love Rubinstein's inks over Perez.

I read #194-195 yesterday. #194 is a good jumping on point, featuring as it does a few personnel changes (the Falcon out, wonder Man in). The snowball scene in the courtyard is an all-time classic: “Go-gotta go change muh pants!”

Avengers #195 (05/80)
Writer - David Michelinie Editor - Jim Salicrup
Penciller - George Perez Inker - Jack Abel & Dan Green
Cover Art – George Perez & Dan Green
  “Assault On A Mind Cage!"

More dialogue on a cover!

"Ants Attack! --Or else the Wasp will become a Mindless Slave!" - does it seem a little odd that Ant-Man gets to say the worried-about-Wasp dialogue when it's YellowJacket who's married to her?
Wonderful cover, reminds me of a cross between the ants vs Scarlet Witch of #171 cover and the Wasp's predicament inside the Bride of Ultron issues.
"Assault on a Mind Cage! Featuring Ant-Man, Yellowjacket and the Wasp together for the 1st time!" - is a lovely cover blurb but I wish someone had designed unique logos for each of the heroes (like the individual JLA members used to have when their chapters began in JLA issues) but I can't complain at this cover - it is beautiful and with a correct members on the cover roll call too.

Inside and we open with a wonderful splash page of the Avengers, moved on from last issue, having now arrived outside the mysterious 'institute' are preparing to attack.... and they've brought interested parties/friends with them.

Yellowjacket actually has the opening line, setting up the scene , "Are you sure the Wasp is in there Captain America?"
There's a few things to note here, - it's still snowing (I like continuity like that) Rubinstein's inks have given way to 'Abel & Green' without too much change but there is a little loss of crispness I think, Jocasta has been taken along on this mission - why is not explained but perhaps it makes more sense than any previous time when she's just not been included for no particular reason - although she still doesn't rate as a full-member and thus doesn't get a spot on the Cover Roll-Call.

The addition of YJ allows a seemless recap of last issue's mystery ending in missing-Wasp.

There is a truely incredible panel featuring Beat, YJ and Cap, flanked by panel borders blurred by snow that segues into the flashback which is pure genius on every level.

Iron Man explains to YellowJacket, despite the team's unease about this institute - "that's not enough for a search warrant which is why we've recruited you. Besides being Jan's husband, you're the only one who can get into that hospital unseen." which leads to the arrival of our last main player, "We hate sending you in alone, but-- "
"Don't worry, Iron Man, Yellowjacket's not going Anywhere by his lonesome! We insects have to stick together, y'know!"
It falls to the Beast to voice what we're all thinking -- "Ant-Man and Yellowjacket in the same place? At the same time?! That's freaky."

It is a nice intro to the team, for this new Ant-Man who we are then informed (for those that don't know) that Marvel Premiere #48 holds his origin and we who do know would remember Scott Lang's first appearance in these pages, in civvies in Avengers #181 (yes?).
(What is weird is I find I cannot read Scot's Ant-Man dialogue any more and NOT hear Paul Rudd's from the cinematic universe's voice and tone!)

The story proper begins then as Yellowjacket explains that the institute is actually a training academy for henchmen, "This is where they turn out goons that Super-Villains seem to have an endless supply of!"
This plugs a massive hole in Marvel mythos and is a fascinating detail for Michelinie to address - although I remembered this as being more of a realisation/revelation as the issue went on, Hank is fully aware of the front as we begin, which is something the Avengers must have discovered between issues.

Once inside Ant-Man is alerted by an ant that the Wasp has been found and they race off. Two things here grated a little - Scot names his ants (we've met both Emma and Steed so far) which is something Hank did in his own ant-man phases I believe and it's a bit repetitive by now and Yellowjacket is startled by an ant (Steed) approaching and has to have Scott tell him the ant's message - surely Hank would have maintained his cybernetic helmet ant-communication abilities he famously retained/regained circa #45 when he started amalgamating his Goliath and Ant-Man abilities to this new helmet in this Yellowjacket costume? Otherwise what are those antenna-like ear-pieces he wears? I think both Ant-Man and Yellowjacket should have been able to talk to and understand the ants.

Our heroes discover the Wasp being kept asleep and Hank blames himself, "Maybe I should have rejoined the Avengers when they asked me. Maybe this wouldn't have happened." which Scott neatly counters with , "yeah, and maybe there'd be two bodies down there now instead of one!"

Experienced Hank can't work out what to do but novice Scott does, he sends swarms of ants to attack the guards and Yellowjacket zaps some while Ant-Man grows to full-size to punch their lights out.

Yay for the little guys!
Yellowjacket wakes the Wasp Sleeping Beauty-style and she relays a flashback as to how she followed the limo from last issue to the institute only to be gassed to sleep.
I loved the, "It was so cold... I was almost as blue as my boots..." line.

Be fore they can escape the three heroes are confronted by a mystery man who, as the Wasp gasps "B-But it can't be! Not you?!" and we turn the page breathlessly expecting some powerfrul super-villain we've probably met before in full splash-page glory... we see... a little old man in a suit, albeit flanked by gun-toting goons.
"Oh but it is I -- Dr Pernell Solomon phd..."
(Thankfully) the wasp explains her incredulity with "B-but you... you look like Selbe! Only maybe thirty years older!" which explains and deepens the mystery. The threat of the 'janglers' is enough for our heroes to surrender even though Scott wanted to fight on, "Let me go, Yellowjacket! That jerk's gonna be a lot less arrogant after I fly up his nose and..." See what I mean? Pure Paul Rudd!

We pause to go outside and catch up with the rest of the Avengers, waiting in the snow.
Wonder Man and Ms. Marvel have a telling scene together, Simon laments that he wished he had crashed on into the institute, "after all, we are-- " and is interrupted by Carol on her high horse... "'men' are you still on that kick?" and she proceeds to lay into Simon for his old fashioned attitudes etc until he corrects her with... "What I was going to say was that perhaps we should have gone after the Wasp because we're... her friends."
It's a wonderful exchange, as is the panel where Jocasta decides Carol will need more sugar in her coffee as a result. Michelinie has been doing great work with Ms Marvel (and Wonder Man actually) with small scenes like this and last issue's 'g-g-gotta go change muh pants" that makes this a (short but) glorious phase for Ms Marvel.

Back inside the Institute we learn that Dr Solomon has quick-grown a clone of himself ('selbe' is german for 'same' - who knew?) to have a healthy heart available to replace his own useless one. (Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut) Selbe escaped and sought the Avengers and his limited life-experience explained his communication problems and the scene where he wasn't sure if the taxi driver would have heard of Avengers Mansion from last issue.

The Wasp expresses her moral outrage as Yellowjacket begins to vibrate his wings, not to attempt to fly away but to charge his disrupter blasts with which he triggers a battle.
"Jangle them!"
Yellowjacket does explain that he can pick-up Ant-Man's commands to the ants (but presumably not command them himself?) but it still seems to me that a distinction between the two heroes abilities is more a force writing decision than a logical character one.
Wasp nicely gets her own hack with her punch to Solomon and her "I may look like a sweet youngthing but this 'lady' -- is a champ!"

Faced with more goons our heroes shrink and bring the ceiling down to aid their escape.

Outside and the watching Avengers observe a strange ship approach... 'The Master has arrived!'
Back inside and Wasp-size Jan whistles in a cell-guard's ear knocking him out and complains, "I don't think I'll ever get all that wax off my boots!"

They open the cell and discover the still scared Selbe but before she can get him out we meet the bossman who has already overpowered Ant-Man and Yellowjacket and who in an impressive full-page cliff-hanger introduces himself as... "my moniker's the Taskmaster,"

It is an impressive look, and impressive entrance and an impressive cliff-hanger.
This entire issue is just a joy! I know I've gone on abit but there is so much here to love and to remember!
Wonderful art, well written (mostly) characters and great pacing.
The 'clone' idea is pushed to get a link to the Selbe of last issue and it's the goon-academy and the Taskmaster that are the enduring concepts of this adventure - that and the inspired casting of the Wasp Ant-Man and Yellowjacket together for the first time!

Yellowjacket almost suffers a little but it can be put down to overreaction at Jan bdeing captured... or a symptom of things to come!

(Is this virtually the last-gasp of the greatest period of Avengers history? Discuss.)

"Next Issue: The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster!"

(Michelinie is excelling with his issue titles isn't he?!)

Come Back...

I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment of Jack Abel’s inks. Abel is possibly the most underrated inker of the Silver/Bronze Age. I never find his inks to fail to add “crispness” (and that is the exact term I would use) to any pencils his work enhances.

I love that “after all, we are…” scene.

Taskmaster is a great villain.

“Is this virtually the last-gasp of the greatest period of Avengers history? Discuss.”

It is definitely the last gasp of this particular period of Avengers history, but I might quibble that the Busiek/Perez run (among perhaps one or two others) would give it a run for “greatest.”

 Don't get me wrong Jeff, I'm really splitting hairs here, IMHO Rubinstein just added an edge but Mr Able and Mr Green were still up to the task, indeed they were...most...um... able.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment of Jack Abel’s inks. Abel is possibly the most underrated inker of the Silver/Bronze Age. I never find his inks to fail to add “crispness” (and that is the exact term I would use) to any pencils his work enhances.

You know (shifting gears here), I have never seen a flying ant. A quick Google search confirms that such things do exist, but for whatever reason I have never seen one.

And this doesn’t have anything to do with Avengers but, back in the ‘90s I was briefly involved with a science fiction RPG called “Alternity.” My character started out as Lost in Space’s Dr. Smith, but eventually morphed into “Dr. Doom.” At one point, I faked his death and returned him in a mask and called him “Selbe.” I just found out that the GM has revived the game with a (mostly) new set of players, and is using my character as an NPC.

Here is an explanation of flying ants from the website www.thespruce.com. It fits with my understanding.

"Why Do Some Ants Have Wings and Others Don't?

Carpenter ants and termites (which aren't really ants) that have wings and fly are reproductive males or queens. These are the only members of an ant colony that can reproduce. Ants and termites swarm to mate, then the males die, having fulfilled their life's purpose. The queens drop their wings to seek a nesting site. So if you see something like looks like an ant with wings, it's likely that it is getting ready to add to its population!"

It kind of messes up the Ant-Man stories, as no flying ants would be available very long and they would be preoccupied with mating and starting new colonies.

Too bad they couldn't fit Bill Foster aka Black Goliath into this story! 

These issues definitely signal the end of my favorite Avengers run/era.  Although I do love the Busiek/Perez/Davis era and the brief Neal Adams run as well.

As for Abel; I think he's a solid "house-style" inker in the mold of Joe Sinnott, but I don't really like him over Perez.  He makes his art look a little too Silver-agey, IMO.   If I had to guess, I would say Green did the first half of this issue and Abel did the second.

Avengers #196 (06/80)
Writer - David Michelinie Editor - Jim Salicrup
Penciller - George Perez Inker - Jack Abel
Cover Art – George Perez & Josef Rubinstein

  “The Terrible Toll of the Taskmaster" (I'm loving these titles at the moment!)

That is a beautiful character study of a cover! "Anything the Avengers can do, I can do BETTER!" is a high claim for our new villain whereas the 'Introducing the Treacherous Taskmaster!" banner sounds good but... 'treacherous' always smacks me as needing some sort of double-cross or treason/traitor-ous action and here we don't get that - maybe 'the threatening Taskmaster' would fit better. (Words matter, sorry.)

Best thing about the cover is obviously Perez and for once he concentrates just on the character, no multi-faceted background this time (although he does even embellish the spotlight you'll notice!) this time with Rubinstein inking who does a fine job. What I think deserves a mention is the colouring/colourist - the shade of yellow/gold used here is unusual and therefore gives the Taskmaster a more unique feel that his composite-Avengers uniform doesn't. Genius!.
Composite-Avengers was done to death by the Super-Adaptoid really so lets hope there's something new here.
Oh - anyone else notice - on the cover the cowl is white like the skull-face-mask, inside the cowl is gold like the cape.! (Go on, admit it, you never noticed did you? )
Oh, before we finish, I like the green background (to accentuate the gold presumably) and with the yellow logo and the free-floating corner Roll-call this is a masterclass in cover composition.

So, inside and we pick the action up after the captured heroes awaken, Ant-Man, Wasp and Yellowjacket, un-masked and stretched out with shackled hands and feet that the splash page dialogue informs us via new-comer Taskmaster that would not prevent them from shrinking away --

"they do make sure your hands and feet don't go with ya!"
From this we learn he's a nasty piece of work and quite matter-of-fact with it but with a 'common man' voice rather than elevated pomposity. (Can't imagine an English actor playing this villain - for once!)

The splash page also shows Selbe and Dr Solomon flanking the heroes thus giving a full recap in one panel where you may have expected the Taskmaster himself to have hogged the splash to himself - but then, the cover did that.
In the Taskmaster's um... task...(sorry) "to set up a series o' these acadamies.../... trainin' an' distributin' hired help to the Super-villain trade." is an inspired piece of writing plugging a fascinating point of background continuity in the Marvel Universe. I salute the idea Mr Michelinie!

Taskmaster then shows off his abilities which amaze everyone - shield-slinging like Captain America, billy club technique like Daredevil, gymnastics like Spider-Man and then archery like Hawkeye.
As Wasp says, "Th-that was incredible! But how--?"
The secret is... "I was born with what the shrinks call "photographic reflexes"" - basically if he watches it he can do it.
I'm sorry, I like the character and the look but I hate this 'power'. I can accept that if he watches a hero do a back flip he might be able to do a back flip but unless he watches the dismount too how does he not then fall on his face? If he watches a judo-kick he can repeat it but how can that mean he can throw someone judo-style also? Unless he watches hours and hours how does he get the inbuilt instincts the heroes/sportsmen etc have built up over the years? -- I know, radioactive spiders, lava people etc etc but I have a problem with....but it grates.

This flashback/origin sequence set between the big close-ups of Taskmaster as he speaks is pure Perez and works wonderfully.
We finally get the bridge between this academy idea of the institute and Dr Solomon's clone tinkering explained as Solomon overstepping his mark by using 'my science staff' for his own heart-growing sideline.
Taskmaster gives Solomon 'a chance. Beat me, an' ya live." with an ominous panel proclaiming

"I don't recall givin' ya a choice, Solomon."
In a suprising and inspired twist, it isn't the villain that kills Solomon here, it's that damaged dying heart that finally gives out on him and it is a powerful scene/death.
Michelinie is on fire here!
"I can't die like this! It's...it's so......common...!

Taskmaster then makes to promote Selbe to Solomon's admin post.
Outside and we return to the waiting Avengers in the snow and that 'Interlude' feeling. Iron Man sums up the current state-of-play of the team with, "Now it seems we've hit the right combination --" and while lost in thought barely notices as aswarm of ants flood into the eye-holes of his face plate!
Quickly (thankfully) as they do not actually attack him, he works out - "It's got to be a signal from Ant-Man or Yellowjacket!" which launches Cap into calvary-mode, "Avengers Assemble!"

Also quickly, (the pacing is great this issue) and with pure-Perez glory, we get a 'we're here' panel with the Avengers broken through the Institute wall.
Love this panel - the rosta of the Avengers that might have been and never quite was (other than here) - without Wasp but with Jocasta.
Again wonderful art - this time as discussed inked by Abel is very good isn't it?

The Wasp explains it was Ant-man who called the ant-help. (Does this again intimate that YJ does not have this ability anymore? That would surprise me, and Iron man it seems.)

The Avengers learn it is not just henchmen they are up against, "Their weaponry appears to possess a high degree of sophistication."

"No fooling."
"The battle erupts!"
Even Selbe helps out and frees the captives, rewarded by a kiss from Jan. "Selbe, you're a doll! Thanks! " "Th-thank you!"

- interesting point of continuity - Hank advises Scott to quickly put his helmet on to preserve his secret identity, "My daughter'd kill me if everyone else found out my secret identity before she did!" - sweet.

I love Captain America obviously a little bored of it all... "-- Taskmaster! Pack it in!" - why wasn't that enough to make the villain say 'it's a fair cop guv' and submit??

Also refreshing (so many unique points in this story) is that Taskmaster considers he might be able to beat the Avengers but... decides to run instead!.
The reader may expect this to be the usual 'bad-guy-gets-away-to-fight-another-day' ending but no, on this occasion, the fleeing villain is confronted by... "huh? A metal woman?!"
"The name's Jocasta, friend."
Confident he can beat her, Taskmaster faces Jocasta's force field and force-eye-beams. He puts it down to not knowing who she is that he has no idea how to defend himself.

Faced with all the Avengers and allies, he still manages to escape behind the flash of a magnesium flare. Once the heroes see again - Taskmaster has fled in his ship we saw last issue. (The 'mystery' of how fast and well made this ship is - therefore who made it for him.. is left hanging.)

We close the issue with an epilogue championing Jocasta after her moment of glory, "Lady, we've had a tendency to overlook you in the past, but I think I speak for the whole group when I say -- that's about to change."
The Vision adds, "As one who has discovered the benefits of companionship in a similar manner, Jocasta... Welcome."
"'Welcome'...? You know, I think I like that word. Yes......I think I like it very much."
Was that Jocasta's finest moment? Did Michelinie have plans for her he never got around to completing? Was she supposed to be a tragic unused unloved character from here on in?

With the Scarlet Witch off 'finding' herself there was an opportunity here for a mechanised-couple in Vision and Jocasta which may have been interesting in it's own manner... there really was some directions Jocasta could have been taken wasn't there?

Thus ends a glorious three-parter with clever twists, well recognised and rounded characters, guest-stars and new villains with incredible artwork by Perez at his height.
What's not to love?
Does the quality keep up...?
What do you think?

"Next Issue "Question: what's big and red and fights fire-breathing dinosaurs? Answer: (naah, that'd be telling!) Find out next issue, in a tale called... Prelude of the War-Devil!

Come Back...

Regarding “photographic reflexes”… there was a character on the TV show Heroes who displayed basically the same ability.

I have learned a lot of vocabulary from comic books over the years, and I can often remember specific words from specific issues. In this case, it is the French phrase cherchez la femme. I gained an appreciation for comic strips early on, long before I could read, and one of my favorites was Walt Kelly’s Pogo. Kelly’s sea-faring turtle was Churchy LaFemme, and honestly, I had no idea that name was a play on words. I hadn’t even thought about it for years… until I saw it explained in Avengers #196 and the lightbulb went off.

“Does the quality keep up...?”

I assume that is a rhetorical question…?

IIRC, Perez gave an interview where he admitted that he reworked his own Taskmaster design when he created Deathstroke for DC.

Btw, Taskmaster is kind of a dumb name isn't it?  I mean, I get it that he can "master" any task but still...

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