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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Hmm, looking at those wristbands on Aquarius, it looks like they were intended to have some sort of function -- maybe they could have shot out blasts of high pressure water, although it doesn't look like the "water-bearing" member of the Zodiac is actually bearing any water nor do I recall him ever displaying any actual power.  I didn't get that issue of the Ghost Rider he appeared in -- I recall seeing it and browsing through it at the soda & candy store I usually got my comics from at the time, but I didn't have enough cash on me to make that one of my selections for that particular day and so left it on the rack.  And, no, I have no recall as to what I actually did purchase that day.  In those days, if had, say $2.00, the Avengers, Defenders, Spider-Man and FF were among those on my must buy list if I happened to see them.  Ghost Rider was among those I'd pick up if it looked interesting enough and I had enough change left after selecting my must buys.  Usually I had at least enough change to get my must buy regulars, but occasionally there'd be one I really wanted, such as when I saw Giant-Size Avengers #2 on the rack, but I didn't have enough money to get that and whatever else I wanted.


Of course being a fan Roy probably watched the cartoon and might have gotten the idea for #100 from that scene.
Fred W. Hill said:

It's also likely the idea was planted by the Swordsman showing up in Avengers #100, after having been depicted as a remorseless villain every other appearance since #20, yet he shows up to help out as part of the full complement of everyone who's ever been an Avenger, aside from the then still presumed deceased Wonderman.  Was that just Roy Thomas being a completist or did he have ideas of the Swordsman really reforming which he passed on to Englehart when he took over?

The only powers he had were the ones Slifer the demon gave him, turning into the other signs. He was supposed to get a year but Slifer took his soul as soon as he'd become each member of Zodiac once, saying that was a year, a zodiacal year. Didn't make sense because he'd been sent by Satan to get Johnny Blaze, and if he'd let Aquarius run through the signs again he might have won. When he turned into Scorpio he got the Zodiac Key and used it to knock out Ghost Rider and Stuntmaster. The mistake was waiting for them to wake up so they could gloat.

Perhaps there was no room in #72 for Aquarius to use those wristbands for whatever they were meant for (as much as I hate modern stories that run on and on and on for far too long, many of these old comics could have been improved with another chapter, like #82 opening with the Avengers already captured and as far as I remember only using Aries, and everybody that was ever an Avenger fighting Pluto and Ares definitely needed another issue or two), and Englehart didn't know they were supposed to do anything. Since Van Lunt and Zodiac kept showing up back then I wonder if we would have seen more of them if the Kree/Skrull War hadn't happened. After that Roy seemed kind of burned out. 
 
Fred W. Hill said:

Hmm, looking at those wristbands on Aquarius, it looks like they were intended to have some sort of function -- maybe they could have shot out blasts of high pressure water, although it doesn't look like the "water-bearing" member of the Zodiac is actually bearing any water nor do I recall him ever displaying any actual power.  I didn't get that issue of the Ghost Rider he appeared in -- I recall seeing it and browsing through it at the soda & candy store I usually got my comics from at the time, but I didn't have enough cash on me to make that one of my selections for that particular day and so left it on the rack.  And, no, I have no recall as to what I actually did purchase that day.  In those days, if had, say $2.00, the Avengers, Defenders, Spider-Man and FF were among those on my must buy list if I happened to see them.  Ghost Rider was among those I'd pick up if it looked interesting enough and I had enough change left after selecting my must buys.  Usually I had at least enough change to get my must buy regulars, but occasionally there'd be one I really wanted, such as when I saw Giant-Size Avengers #2 on the rack, but I didn't have enough money to get that and whatever else I wanted.

This was one I didn't read until many, many years later, in those trusty Avengers Essentials volumes I'm reliving as these posts go along.

When London got it's first dedicated comic shops (as opposed to local book and comic exchanges) about half-a-year or so later I remember seeing that back issue and always thought the cover looked pretty good, but given it was a) imported and relatively expensive and b) a continuation of the first part of a story I didn't think much of, I gave it a miss.

Agree with Richard that the plot was a bit all over the place, but I did enjoy the Vision's resourceful save of Mantis from falling*, especially as Englehart makes a point of correcting in the text his earlier misunderstanding of Vision's flying powers when he had him swoop in and snatch Wanda away from the encroaching lava in A116.

And it's clearly such an important point that it's on this issue's "bonus" single-page-turned-into-a-spread (for those of us playing along at home).

m

(*although unlike Richard I'm not yet in the camp that thinks he should've just let her fall)

Of course if he didn't swoop in and snatch her away then the lava should have gotten her.

Sure, the lave save was a pitch-perfect dramatic point - Vision puts the girl before the prize as he rescues Wanda and lets the Surfer get away with the Evil Eye, but as noted here, "He could not fly while carrying This One*, since he must be lighter than air to rise." So while it's a great visual (pushing his hand down the side of the building), and coincidentally gives the Avengers something to fix instead of beating the Zodiac and ending the story right there, it also read to me at least as a correction of the earlier floats-off-with-the-girl-in-his arms error.

m

(*but yeah, that's already getting annoying)

Or it's implying Mantis weighs a lot more than Wanda.

I think Mantis would have been less annoying if she'd ripped off the Hulk and referred to herself as Mantis.

AVENGERS  #122 (04/74)

Writer – Steve Englehart

Art – Bob Brown & Mike Esposito

Cover Art – Gil Kane & John Romita over Bob Brown & Mike Esposito

 

“Trapped In Outer Space!”

It is an odd cover, you either like or hate the ‘out of the printed page burst our heroes’ covers and there’s not a lot to make this one stand out except it’s Gil Kane who I will never hear ill of and so I kinda like it.

(I remember the JLA doing a few of these on top of each other around George Perez’s days don’t you – they did it better I feel .)

What it doesn’t do is address the inside action and so it remains a quite forgettable cover.

Inside and the Avengers and most of the Zodiac are feeling the pains of the G-forces as they rocket into space in their space-barn.

It is an effective splash actually, Thor looks constipated but who knows what effect is felt by an Asgardian god in a space-barn..?

There is a two page cut-away of the barn in space that is either reminiscent of all those building cutaways we’ve seen in the past (I remember a Baxter building in one of the FF Treasuries…) 0r – it’s a cheap way of filling a couple of pages.

Ok, debate time…

Thor throws his hammer out but when it returns the barn has moved on in its orbit and so the hammer drifts helplessly off in space causing Thor to revert back to Don Blake after the regulation 60 seconds.

That’s a bit silly the old moved in orbit thing isn’t it? Mjolnir ‘returns’ doesn’t it, wherever Thor is…?

Anyway, it adds panic and conflict in the barn as both sides battle each other until it falls to the highly emotional Vision to call for order and peace.

Back on Earth, Taurus berates what’s left of his Zodiac for not warning him of Aries planned coup and we get a ‘”I do not choose sides’ from the trying-desperately-to-be-enigmatic Libra.

Libra does actually take sides though as he enlists the aid of the good-twin of Gemini to steal Taurus’s starship…

Back in the barn, the Scarlet Witch assists Iron Man to escape the force field and retrieve Thor’s hammer (No gravity – no need to be worthy!) and while outside Iron Man pushes the barn into reentry only for Libra in the Star ship to appear and using another force field guide  the barn to earth safely .

I don’t profess to understand the science here, or the purpose, I fear Englehart created a cliffhanger for last issue that he hadn’t quite worked out an ending to before this issue.

It just feels amateurish and pointless really, what was it all for and where did Zodiac get these resources – a barn space ship? Why?

Back at Avengers Mansion the injured Swordsman moons over recovering Mantis who wakes and races off …”She’s gone—to him!” laments the Swordsman as he collapses again.

Swordy really does hit rock bottom here, it’s all for the big rebuild we know now, but that’s quite a way off and he hasn’t really grown in our hearts much yet that this scene feels like more whining…

The Avengers and the space half of Zodiac return and a battle ensues…again…until Taurus is knocked into his swimming pool.

Instead of doing the decent thing and diving in to save him the Vision curiously freezes “I can’t swim! Save Me!”

“I—I cannot!”

Mantis appears and saves the big bad leaving the Vision to ponder his origins…

We know don’t we? Or do we…?

On top of that last minute wrinkle is the reason that Libra freed the Avengers…and the biggest revelation of the issue…”You see, I thought Mantis  had been with you……and I am her father!”.

Fancy that, more plot concentrating on Mantis!

Next issue we’re promised an Origin for mantis….oh goody…just what we’ve always wanted…!

It’s just not a very coherent storyline, there is no real motivation for anyone and as a reader I find little to care about in any of the dramatic beats performed with such false-gusto by the characters.

Come back…

The GCD's page on the issue says it formerly credited the cover pencils to Kane, but Rich Buckler has said on facebook he pencilled it and John Romita "worked over" it in the inking. That sounds right to me, because I don't think either Kane or Romita would've given Thor and Iron Man that much of a Kirbyish look by themselves.

Perhaps Mjolnir couldn't find Thor when it returned, because of the force field?

I missed this issue when it came out and so went from the blast off into space at the end of #121 to the "I am Mantis' father" on the first page of #123, with the cover that completely contradicted the interiors.  Must have been some communication problems in this period as this cover has such a generic image that could have been used on nearly any issue -- well, at least all the Avengers on the cover were actually in the story!  And the bit with Mjolnir not returning to Thor seemed like the sort of contrivance used in many early Thor tales in Journey into Mystery.  I agree that under the magic spell, Mjolnir should have returned to Thor wherever he was, but there were many Lee/Kirby classics in which they came up with some sort of contrivance that really didn't seem to fit how the magic should have worked to keep Thor and Mjolnir apart just long enough for Donald Blake to show up at the worst moment, so Englehart's keeping up the tradition.  Not a classic and I would have enjoyed it a lot more as an 11 year old than the 20-something I was when I finally got it, but still some goofy fun.

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