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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There's a story about that. That story was penciled by Ross Andru and inked by Bill Everett. Apparently, Andru's layouts were very rough, often with multiple positions of limbs for the inker to choose. Everett hated inking Ross's pencils, so, by way of protest, he decided to simply trace rather than embellish. When Stan Lee saw the results he was furious, but by that time it was too late to fix, the pages were due at the printer. Issue #2 had a different inker, but if you look at #3 (also by Andru and Everett), you'll see what Everett-over-Andru art looks like when Everett's really trying.

I saw the ads for that 1st Defenders story, but never read the story itself until I got the reprint in one of the Treasury editions.  Great cover by Neil Adams but sub-par art inside.

AVENGERS #137 (07/75)

Writer – Steve Englehart    

Penciller – George Tuska     Inker – Vince Colletta

Cover Art – John Romita

   “We Do Seek Out New Avengers!!”

From the cover you would be forgiven for thinking this issue centres on the arrival of the Beast to the team – which it does but returning members YellowJacket and Wasp along with similarly newly inducted MoonDragon whould deserve equal billing – which they certainly do not get!

There is no mystery here as to who’s joining up – but then last issue’s reprint kind of gave that game away eh?

The Beast is still shown shaggy and hairy, more monsterlike than he later settles down to be and the original very-grey is becoming much more blue.

 

We open with an actual fast-forward as a couple sit down to watch TV to be confronted by a literally in-your-face Thor declaring this issues (quite awkwardly worded even for Marvel-Agardian-speak) title –

 “We Do Seek Out New AVENGERS!!” (Note the use of the mag’s logo font and two – oh yes two exclamation marks!!)

 

After that we back up and begin proper as our Avengers return from the monumental events of the last Giant-Sized issue, still discussing the marriages therin.

Agatha Harkness leaves after delivering a strange judgement on the Scarlet Witch,

“your Wanda will never be a great witch, much less a sorceress – but she will be very good!”

 

A footnote of note – the star that began the Celestial Madonna epic is still in place and we are directed to the Trial of the Watcher in Captain Marvel’s title to learn it’s true/full secret. I’m sure I’ve read that storyline but cannot for the life of me remember the significance of the star… Anybody?

 

And so the remaining Avengers who haven’t died (Swordsman) ascended (Mantis) or gone off on honeymoon (Vision and Scarlet Witch) discuss their depleted ranks.

Iron Man utters words he will eventually regret, “I hereby propose MoonDragon as the newest Avenger Assembled!”

MoonDragon’s reaction is actually far from the ego-centric style we see in her later – she actually just points out that while the Avengers see a lot of what they liked of Mantis in her – they are very different. She accepts membership anyway.

As Hawkeye remarks, “Nuts!”

Does this strike anyone else of writer Englehart just not wanting to let go, he never appeared to know what he wanted to do with Moondragon when Mantis was in the frame and I do not feel like he had any great plan for her now.

It is interesting to see a ‘mind-power’ Avenger, the X-Men have been overpopulated with them throughout their history but the Avengers not so much but Moondragon makes for a curious member that only seems to come into her own when she moves at odds with the team.

 

The Black Panther, Quicksilver, Captain America, the Black Widow and Hercules all turn down returning to the fold for reasons of their own but the wasp jumps at the chance – and speaks for YellowJacket in accepting membership again.

It’s complicated but YJ now stays full-sized and despite his current activities in Defenders issues that haven’t finished being published yet to the contrary(!)

 

Old heroes returning is not deemed enough so as the team begin a public membership drive in Yankee Stadium (this is where the opening TV ad fits) Hawkeye storms off alone to drop through time and call on ex-Avenger the Black Knight.

This sidelines Hawkeye for a while, would two wise-cracking heroes on the team at the same time have diminished the Beast’s debut?

 

It seems strange to me that after such a wide-ranging appeal…only one prospective candidate turns up…disguised as Edward G Robinson.

Ugh. How can any writer think that kind of character appearance is a good one? It’s not Englehart’s fault that it dates this awfully but even the idea that a latex mask can be foolproof and realistic and so on is annoying isn’t it?

It’s an embarrassing opening best glossed over to where the Beast reveals himself.

“Wait a minute! Aren’t you an X-Man?”

Curious how X-Men/mutants had been all but eclipsed at this point in Marvel publication while they are similarly sidelined again now!

The Beast recaps his history and his more recent solo series whilst talking more like Ben Grimm than the studious scientist he used to be.

 

Suddenly and for no apparent reason the heroes are attacked by a hidden enemy who they determine to be ‘the Stranger’ who throws little mines at them and so on.

 

This almost appears to be try-out panels forced into a storyline.

Hank and Jan discuss how Hank doesn’t shrink or fly any more and even Moondragon has problems against the onslaught.

It is left to the Beast to show his remarkable athletic prowess and save the day.

 

The Stranger effectively runs away leaving the Avengers with a badly injured Wasp and surely the question on their lips – ‘what was that all about then?”

 

So, for a new status-quo  establishing issue this is a bit of a mess, badly paced and with no real motivation for events.

 

I love the Beast as an Avenger but if I was reading this when first published I am not sure I would be welcoming this new direction…would you?

 

Come Back…

the original very-grey is becoming much more blue.

He changed colour in Amazing Adventures #15. The Supermegamonkey website notes that the dialogue there refers to his fur having become "black" and interprets the blue as originally intended as highlighting.

I’m sure I’ve read that storyline but cannot for the life of me remember the significance of the star… Anybody?

I've also read the story and didn't have a clue, but fortunately the Supermegamonkey page on Captain Marvel #37-#39 has the panel. In his confession at #39's end the Watcher says "I aided my heroes, and marked their important events, as with the Madonna-star. It made me feel a hero, and I enjoyed that." I think that's all there was about it!


Thankyou Luke,


 Luke Blanchard said:

I’m sure I’ve read that storyline but cannot for the life of me remember the significance of the star… Anybody?

I've also read the story and didn't have a clue, but fortunately the Supermegamonkey page on Captain Marvel #37-#39 has the panel. In his confession at #39's end the Watcher says "I aided my heroes, and marked their important events, as with the Madonna-star. It made me feel a hero, and I enjoyed that." I think that's all there was about it!

So the star that led Kang to where Mantis was turns out to have been put there by someone playing hero and had nothing to do with the "Celestial Madonna"? "I aided my heroes". Sending a maniac that will immediately kill one of "his" heroes is an odd way of aiding them (unless of course the Watcher strongly disliked the Swordsman being on the team and hoped he'd get killed.) Pretty clear it was intended to be a repeat of the Star of Bethlehem, but someone forced a change, just like Isabella's "friend" was completely changed over in Ghost Rider. Jim Shooter?

The explanation for Yellowjacket not changing size was the chemicals that trapped him and Jan at ant size was still in Hank's blood stream. Always wondered why it was still affecting him but not her, especially since they turned her but not him into a monster.

Never did get why it turns out the Stranger isn't really the Stranger. Over in Captain America, Cap fights an alternate version of the character (with purple skin). Had Stan Lee ordered no one could use the real Stranger for some reason? Or did Englehart like the idea of the character but not the actual character?

I always thought that the reason for the Stranger bait & switch was some sort of misguided effort to reintroduce the Toad as a stand alone villain, instead of the henchman he was. I guess most of the writers who handled him after Lee & Thomas just didn't get the point that he was created to be just a sniveling toadie (hence his name), since from this point on, his existence became one of endless new gadgets, new directions, new powers, and visual make-overs, none of which left a particularly useful or interesting character in its wake. I would have just attached him to Dr. Doom, as their costumes would look good together, Doom's ego is always ready to be stroked, and Castle Von Doom really needs someone like the Toad skulking about its battlements.

It was actually Roy Thomas who started the Toad on the road to be something other than Magneto's lowly toadie, in the X-Men/Avengers crossover that ended with the Toad stomping on Magneto's fingers to keep him from boarding a specially made non-metallic air-plane, kicking him away to yet another apparent death while escaping with Pietro & Wanda, whom the Toad had the unrequited hots for.  Previously, in that multi-issue epic, the Toad had seemed his usual sniveling self, but it turned out he was seething with rage at Magneto's mistreatment of him.  As far as I know, that storyline, from circa 1967, was the last in which the Toad was seen to suck up to Magneto or anyone else.  So even if it didn't quite make for a great story, Englehart was continuing a trend Thomas had started with that earlier story (which was edited by Stan himself). 

Also, in the Bronze Age there were a lot of doppleganger Silver Age villains brought back -- in Spider-Man, we had Green Goblins II & III, along with Vulture III and Mysterio II, while over in Daredevil there was Mr. Fear II, and I'm sure there were several other baddies of whom the original was supposedly deceased and so someone else filled in.  Of course, this story takes a bit of a different tack, but it should be remembered that the Toad was involved in the very first story to feature the Stranger, in X-Men #10 I believe, so again this was Englehart playing into Silver Age Marvel lore, and admittedly the Stranger has a far more menacing appearance that the Toad.

It was X-Men#11.

There were also Ox II and still later Ox III, who I think is still around. Ox III is supposed to be Ox I's brother.

And the original Ani-Men (Ape Man, Bird Man, Cat Man, and Frog Man) were brought back just to get killed off, then replaced with a new group (Ape Man II, etc.)

While it's a parody, the Toadie was seen helping build the Frankenstein Monster in Not Brand Echh in 1970.

Yes, the Toad & Magneto had a falling out previously, and Mag's future developments probably wouldn't have worked if he'd still had a live-in boot-licker.  I just think it would have been more likely for Toad to either attach himself to another powerful villain or just retire into seclusion than make so many unsuccessful attempts to become an independent villain.  Actually, it would have been fun if he'd gone on to be the criminal counterpart of Rick Jones, and take turns as every villain's sidekick!  While I still think he'd have been a natural for Dr. Doom, he'd also have been fun kissing up to the Supreme Hydra, and the Hellfire Club desperately needed someone like him to be the Sub to all those Doms.

In this particular instance, I think that Englehart may have intended to use the Toad's long-standing crush on Wanda to make him a further complication in the Vision/Scarlet Witch romance, especially once Mantis was gone.  That said, a more attractive villain lusting after Wanda would have provided more dramatic tension.

Bear with me, as I no longer have a reprint to look at.

Richard Mantle said:

Old heroes returning is not deemed enough so as the team begin a public membership drive in Yankee Stadium

Did they really think they needed a STADIUM to fit all of the Avengers candidates? Marvel had and still has a lot of super characters, but really?

“Wait a minute! Aren’t you an X-Man?”

Did they really make the connection to the old Hank McCoy with his looking nothing like he used to do?

Curious how X-Men/mutants had been all but eclipsed at this point in Marvel publication while they are similarly sidelined again now!

Amazingly, back then the X-Men book (single book) had sales that were not justifying its existence, resulting in the availability of Beast, Angel and Iceman for other titles. Today they have other reasons.

The Beast recaps his history and his more recent solo series whilst talking more like Ben Grimm than the studious scientist he used to be.

Were they trying to say that his intellect was affected by his sprouting hair all over? Sounds more like writing a character incorrectly. How much “wise-cracking” did they have him doing? That doesn’t seem to fit either.

Luke Blanchard said:
He changed colour in Amazing Adventures #15. The Supermegamonkey website notes that the dialogue there refers to his fur having become "black" and interprets the blue as originally intended as highlighting.

This reminds me of how Batman’s original blue highlights were, for a long time, misinterpreted as a blue and gray costume.

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