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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Does seem curious that the Black Widow wasn't even made a reserve member during Roy's run, unlike the Black Knight.  I had read that when Roy brought the Black Panther into the team he toyed with just calling him the Panther due to having those other two characters with Black in their names.  Of course, that would have been a bit silly as like Natasha, T'Challa took his code name from an animal that had black as part of its common name, and it would have made no more sense than the later brief change to the Black Leopard -- it's true a black panther is a leopard but it's also true that they are far more commonly referred to as black panthers than black leopards.  As for the Black Knight, that's a name that goes back nearly a thousand years in myth and legend.

Anyhow, with Mantis around, even if not an "official" member, the period from issues 114 - 135 was the first in which two women were an active part of the team for more than a year rather than just a few months.

I’m sorry… I’ve been too busy to participate for the past week or so, and I see I have fallen a few issues behind. Here are a few pre-prepared posts of Steve Englehart’s comments on the issues under discussion.

STEVE ENGLEHART on AVENGERS #117:

“SWORDSMAN VS. VALKYRIE. Two lesser characters, but both with a touch of nobility, and swords. The Swordsman, unfortunately, was reminded that his nobility was a fragile thing.

“CAP VS. SUBBY. An even more classic battle. These two savvy vets are the ones who realize there’s something up. Old timey Timely fun.”

STEVE ENGLEHART on DEFENDERS #10:

“HULK VS. THOR. For the final battle, nobody wins. The teams are still officially equals.

“UNITED WE STAND. The teams mix for the first time ever. It warmed my heart then and it warms my heart now.”

Richard Mantle said:
It’s a simple story, Hulk and Thor duke it out. culminating in a glorious full page struggle panel between the two of them.
Who is the stronger? Well…

Interestingly, the caption says that the two of them held their final position for AN HOUR! I guess they were evenly matched.

.....and we get a glorious full page ‘chatting’ spread (reminiscent of the mingling heroes of Hank and Jan’s Wedding issue Avengers #60).

It reminded me of the first meeting of the JLA and JSA teams way back when.

Hawkeye and the Swordsman argue over Swordy being – “the spare-tyre Avenger!” which I loved at the time and Swordsman mentions here how he is actually “so bandaged up under this tunic—“.

Swordsman looked a lot healthier than one would expect from his last appearance in Avengers #117.

It is spelled out for everyone that they must be up against an alliance of Dormammu and Loki.

Know one seems to slap their head and comment about how stupid they were to take Loki's word for anything. "Loki says the sky is blue? Better double-check."

All the pieces of the Evil Eye are lined up and …”they would fit together perfectly, it appears.” but before anyone can react, a weird face-only-demon-thingy appears and “It came out of nowhere—and it’s gobbling the pieces!”

(Why couldn’t this mouth-thing just collect the pieces itself?)

Not just any mouth-thingy this is Asti the All-seeing you understand!

Not your average mouth-thingy.

DEFENDERS #10: My thoughts:

  • I liked the sheer bulk of the Hulk being so wide as opposed to tall.
  • Just the fact that he was part of this seemed to anger him.
  • Kudos to Thor for trying to reason with the Hulk but he kept saying the wrong things!
  • And the Hulk's continued frustration at NOT being able to pick up Mjolnir was a nice touch.
  • The Black Knight appears in just one panel in the background.
  • Namor speaks of the "freedom" of being a Defender though Doctor Strange often summons his allies against their will.
  • Told you the Silver Surfer didn't even know the Scarlet Witch was there!
  • Hawkeye still acting bitter after his breakup with the Avengers.
  • But, to his credit, he raises no doubt about the Swordman's reformation.
  • Though it's not stated directly, later events would imply that the Swordsman made himself worse by joining the others instead of recuperating.
  • Mantis may have been the newest character there but this version of the Valkyrie wasn't far off either.
  • Was the street really the best place to try to assemble the Evil Eye? And why bring the other pieces along instead of leaving them at Doc's Sanctum where they were safe?
  • Asti couldn't recover the pieces. He's just a head!
  • Lucky none of the heroes got monsterfied right away like the regular folks did!

hey richard, thanks for posting this thread - this is probably my all-time favourite original avengers run. but, ah, the infamous defenders issue 10. i hunted high and low and nowhere in the whole of south london could i find a copy. first time i read* this instalment was in a black & white spanish reprint the following summer, while on holiday with the family on the costa brava.

young me absolutely adored the avengers/defenders clash, and while it was disappointing missing a chapter or two, it didn't matter and read like perfect comics at the time. and of course while i can agree now that the plot itself was full of holes, the mix and match up of characters, and the pacing of the story as a whole was spot-on. 

and old me? i've been re-reading the run up to here and i think it's held up surprisingly well. the melodrama might've been dialled up to 11 at times, but englehart certainly kept his characters interesting.

looking forward to your regular poster's comments on how it became even more "mantis and the avengers" a few issues down the line.

m

(*i didn't read spanish - but sal buscema's crystal-clear art and my tiny english/spanish dictionary filled in most of the blanks)

Having Natasha turn up in the Clash as an Avenger with Hawkeye fighting her would have been interesting. It's strange that she's brought in just four issues before the Clash then booted out the next month, in the issue that introduces Mantis. Englehart started to use her then changed his mind the second he thought up Mantis?
 
Fred W. Hill said:

Does seem curious that the Black Widow wasn't even made a reserve member during Roy's run, unlike the Black Knight.  I had read that when Roy brought the Black Panther into the team he toyed with just calling him the Panther due to having those other two characters with Black in their names.  Of course, that would have been a bit silly as like Natasha, T'Challa took his code name from an animal that had black as part of its common name, and it would have made no more sense than the later brief change to the Black Leopard -- it's true a black panther is a leopard but it's also true that they are far more commonly referred to as black panthers than black leopards.  As for the Black Knight, that's a name that goes back nearly a thousand years in myth and legend.

Anyhow, with Mantis around, even if not an "official" member, the period from issues 114 - 135 was the first in which two women were an active part of the team for more than a year rather than just a few months.

AVENGERS  #118 (12/73)

Writer – Steve Englehart

Art – Bob Brown & Mike Esposito & Frank Giacoia

Cover Art – John Romita

 

“To The Death!”

Or actually, as it’s presented in a group speech bubble the actual title may be…”Be warned Dormammu: Before you can conquer the universe, the Avengers and the Defenders will fight you – To the death!”

(gotta love the use of the gramatically correct colon haven’t you.)

Anyway, beautifully action-packed cover here, at last showing the real story of Dormammu and Loki battling our two teams, teamed together.

I’ve counted, we get 5 Avengers (6 if you count the Hulk) and 4 Defenders (counting the Hulk) with the Hulk who was in both teams centre stage as a sort of bridging character.

I like it, I would have liked to have seen Hawkeye centre-stage for the same reason or at least on the cover…and yet again no Swordsman or Mantis cover appearance.

Inside and we open with that shouting mission statement splash page with all out 14 heroes together and VERY angry!

It is an incredibly powerful splash and the anger is palpable.

It’s followed by another full page illustration as the picture pulls back to show our heroes in the alien/magic/monstrous hell-dimension that earth has been transformed into around them.

This is a powerful and for it’s day, cinematic opening.

Our heroes are barely holding their own and Cap and Doc Strange almost bicker over how to face the threat on the ground and at its heart.

To assist the battle on the ground we begin a raft of guest stars making this a true Marvel crossover event.

Nick Fury and his SHIELD support team arrive.

(Nick has a bandaged head due to ‘recent issues of Captain America and the Falcon’ adding to the continuity fix which is one of those points you either love or hate!).

Our heroes are magically transported by Strange to face our villains direct – even as Fury’s girlfriend Countess Valentina Allegro De Fontaine (what ever happened to her?)  is transformed into a monster herself!

Dormammu’s dimension is wonderfully Ditko-esque which it should be and which artist Bob Brown probably loathed!

With his hands on the now-complete Evil Eye Dormammu is all-powerful and no longer fooled by Loki’s deception that has been running through this crossover and does NOT repair Loki’s sight as he promised and traps him, in a energy cage.

He doesn’t give a reason for keeping Loki around, not even the manic-arch-evil ‘to watch me win’ or anything.

He is slightly jarred by the arrival of the Watcher, who explains he’s only around to watch, which buoys the bad guy on as the Watcher only turns up for cataclysmic events – so this must be a biggy!.

Before they get to the big bad the heroes battle those Mindless Ones that turn up in these dimensions.

The rest of the raft of guest-stars appear in their individual panels, detailing the struggles everyone else in the Marvel Universe is having while our featured heroes fight on.

These days each of these single panels would be a spin-off-mini-series of their own.

(one thing I note is the Fantastic Four panel shows Medusa (at that time in continuity she had replaced the Invisible woman in the team)  clearly sitting in a kind of ‘invisible-shield’ – I feel smug every time I see this thinking – they drew Sue originally and had to change her to medusa but forgot the representation of Sue’s powers.

Smug or sad? You decide.)

So we finally get to 14 heroes against Dormanmmu and his Evil Eye.only for Englehart to stumble at the final hurdle of writing a true even-handed crossover – as this chapter takes place in an Avengers issue he knocks all the Defenders unconscious!!

This leaves a dramatic Avengers Assemble panel but only the Avengers battle on.

It just feels wrong here.

We then get the Dormammu drops half the Avengers in quicksand threat that the Vision cannot get out of – that’s a mystery for another day- don’t forget!

It should be noted that the Swordsman’s sword’s power gets them out of this problem. Nice to see. Yay Swordy!

Thor and Iron Man are mystically transformed into their human parts and only the Scarlet Witch remains.

This is an incredibly powerful phase for Wanda, she is shown as determined, powerful and independent – "the sole survivor of the strongest group ever gathered”

Englehart was not ready to give Mantis the spotlight here then? I’m glad, this is a good beat for Wanda.

Loki escapes his cage by using a little used ability of transforming shape and as they both attack Dormammu it’s all very dramatic and mystical but the scarlet Witch drains Dormammu’s essence into the Evil Eye itself and then it gets fired at Loki who gets his sight back…and goes insane!

Wow.

Really powerful climax here.

Back on Earth and everything is transforming back to normal and the Watcher declares our heroes the victors.

He asks the Vision why he panicked but gets no answer and Doc Strange reminds everyone that the Defenders still have to sort out the Black knight. (Why only the Defenders, wouldn’t the Avengers want in on that task too?)

So there we go, fade to close.

Bob Brown’s art works very well, the anger at the beginning, the determination of the Scarlet Witch but I do think he draws a very scrawny looking Thor.

I would have liked to have seen both teams in this final battle alongside each other but it remains a classic battle and a classic issue.

The crossover is not quite finished though, we have to see the next Defenders issue to get the full story, so…

Come back…

I'd guess Englehart got rid of the Defenders before the battle even started for space reasons. This should have either been a giant sized comic or continued into Defenders#11. Since this whole thing started with the Defenders it's kind of a rip off to not have them do anything when we get to the final battle. And since the Black Knight was an Avenger, they should have come along next time to try to bring him back. This whole thing started because they thought Doc did something to Dane, but now that they know he didn't they don't even want to find out if he's freed or not.

Wanda claims Dormammu can't separate her from her power because she was born with it, a ridiculous claim, since Thor was born with his powers and Dormammu easily took them away by using Odin's spell on the hammer. We can presume with the Evil Eye that Dormammu is Odin level in power so she's just talking through her hat (or whatever the heck that thing she wears on her head is.) It's interesting that just ten issues from now we're going to see Wanda barely able to hex a picture on a wall to fly over and hit Necrodamus upside the head. It takes so long getting to Dormammu there's not really that much of a battle.

I believe at some point it was established the Countess had been an enemy spy the whole time she was working with Nick. Marvel has really fallen in love with the sleeper agent waiting years to betray their buddies idea. Like at different times SHIELD has been completely taken over by LMDs, Skrulls, and HYDRA turning out to have always been behind the group even before Nick joined.

STEVE ENGLEHART on AVENGERS #118:

"The heroes beat the villains in a whole-issue battle. And when I say “the heroes,” I mean as many as I could cram in there. Something this large had to be the center of the whole Marvel Universe."

This is months before the Avengers fight him, but one of the panels shows Thanos on Titan fighting the monsters. We also see Dracula, although he's drawn very odd looking. Today some of those monsters would have stayed monsters and gotten their own limited series.

This addresses the oft-heard complaint "if this is so earthshaking why aren't the other heroes involved?"

Jeff of Earth-J said:

STEVE ENGLEHART on AVENGERS #118:

"The heroes beat the villains in a whole-issue battle. And when I say “the heroes,” I mean as many as I could cram in there. Something this large had to be the center of the whole Marvel Universe."

Unfortunately that complaint eventually led to much too frequent company wide crossovers.

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