So this last week, my copy of Marvel Masterworks #186 shows up. This reprints the Avengers #112-119 and the appropriate Defenders issues to complete "the Avengers/Defenders War".
SPOILERS: SPOILERS GALORE BELOW:
Now, I've been looking forward to this, because back in the day, I had abandoned the Avengers about a year before this tale started...and so, I have not been familiar with the story...except in passing as I've heard about it, and seen an occasional issue or two in the back issue box.
So, it was with great interest that i was reading the introductory pages by Steve Englehart, as he explains his approach to this milestone in the late silver age.(Please don't quibble, but go with it for now).
He indicates that he has already made comments about this epic in various places, including in the Defenders volume of the Marvel Masterworks series. (As I never was into the Defenders in the first place, I have skipped that volume, and have no desire to pick it up.) But, I'd be very interested to see a scan or read a photocopy to see what other statement or info he shared elsewhere. And I know that the epic has been reprinted in several formats now, in TPB, and in at least two Masterworks volumes, as well as in Essential collections.
But could somebody please tell me what is so damn good about this tale?
As I read it, it's something that came about because he COULD do it, writing both titles, and recognizing that they were both team books. In concept, it seems similar to the Grandmaster's game in Avengers #69-71....and also the Contest of Champions mini series... as each pair of heroes is questing after a fraction of the goal, device, or trophy to be assembled at the end.
Now in this case, I shudder to see both Preston John and the Evil Eye come back from silver age limbo where they had rested in peace ever since Jack Kirby used them successfully in a one-shot story back in FF# 54. I saw no need at all to resurrect them, especial to imply that there were now six identical smaller eyes (or should I call them horns of plenty) running about.
As for the concept that a pair of heroes would square off in each new issue...well, that's all well and good, but I found both the swordsman and Mantis to be far too new to care about. And a combination partnership between Dormammu and Loki...well, that's just nuts to begin with.
I do know of and recall the Halloween Tom Egan/Rutland parade tradition of superhero costume adventures over the years...ever since the Lady Liberators made their first and only appearance in Rutland. But I'm not sure that I care about the fact that they help to resolve this adventure either.
No, Englehart says this new volume of mine is more the story of Mantis, how she came, evolved and developed into something more than he had intended: a home-wrecker And frankly, though i know where she's headed, I don't see the tremendous build-up or significance in these first issues to make me care about her.
Mr. Englehart says she was his attempt to inject sex into a group of male superheroes, and maybe she is and did create dissension .. but he also says he sent up a trial balloon in the Beast half dozen solo adventures over in Amazing Adventures when Patsy Walker was pictured in a baby doll nightgown. And the comics code didn't object. So, since I detest THAT story arc as well, could anyone help a bro out and post a scan of what he's talking about in the art department near the end of that run for the Beast? (I know the Beast will eventually be folded into the Avengers, but for now, he's just a Jeckle and Hyde/werewolf rip-off who's adventures I still don't care about.) But I'd love to see the artwork or panel or two that was designed to push the Code's buttons.
It would have to end at #128 (The Wanda vs Necrodamus bout). It would make little sense to
a) include it with the Celestial Madonna arc or
b) split up the Celestial Madonna chapters in two volumes.
Would this be the first time the Celestial Madonna epic was out as a hardcover?
I'm seeing a 2002 trade paperback listed in the GCD but there's NO description of contents. So, I don't know how thick it is, or if pages were omited, or additional bridging material was added.
I know when the Trial of Galactus trade was printed, there was an additional page of text printed to set up the explanation of the final issue, which fell in the Assistant Editor's month...and had John Byrne appear to relate the tale. It was a clever way to serve two masters, and also give a reason why nobody could remember the grand and glorious reason WHY...(he forgot faster than he could draw and write it down, before it faded away). So, I'm wondering if there might have been some shaping material in that Celestial Madonna TPB to allow for some pages to be omited or to explain why somethings were going on.
Who knows? I don't have it.
As an 11 year old kid who'd essentially only begun seriously collecting comics only about a year before in the summer of 1973, I thoroughly enjoyed the Avengers/Defenders clash and I'd already been getting both titles anyhow. I only missed one issue, Defenders # 10 and surprisingly it included Captain America's & Namor's first meeting since their very brief clash near the conclusion of Avengers # 4, which began with Namor tossing a big hunk of ice that just happened to contain Steve Rogers into the ocean. Apparently neither Lee nor Roy Thomas ever brought the Golden Agers together again during the Silver Age, not counting the Avengers tale in which a few of their members go back in time to fight the World War II era Namor, Cap and the Human Torch. Anyhow, while the Avengers/Defenders clash isn't exactly a masterpiece in either art or writing, it was still fun. And I also enjoyed Mantis' & Swordsman's tenure on the team, adding some dramatic tension to the stories. Of course, it couldn't last, but I enjoyed those stories, even if I considered the whole "Celestial Madonna" a bit ridiculous.
I still think the catalyst for the conflict - the misunderdstanding over the Black Knight by both teams was done very well and holds up as one of the best of it's ilk.
I really CAN see why both teams thought the worst of the other at that time.
Beats the whole AvsX hands down!
I think that the Avengers/Defenders battle was the first time a lot of them either met or fought. Past few years the heroes of the mu have fought each other so often they haven't really needed supervillains except for practice.
Captain America and Namor fought in Avengers#117. I know because that was the only part of the storyline I missed and couldn't find for years. Defenders#10 was Thor vs. Hulk, and it was a tie.
I thought it was great but it probably matters how old you were when you read something like this.
Thor was the only Avenger that had ever met the Silver Surfer before, to the others he was a mystery.