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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Kirby had left by then, but Thor#185 ends with him having to decide whether to wait for his hammer to return right where this four armed creep is coming for him, or run and lose the hammer.

 I did double take this one actually, the Iron Man figure clearly doesn't look like a Gil Kane illustration, but the Vision's face could well have been one of his.

The fact that Romita over inked the team made me believe his influence was overwhelming Kane's.

I'm happy to accept the Buckler claim especially as the Thor looks more like one of his...

Makes me much happier to say - as it had nothing to do with Kane - that it's a dull forgetable cover.

Thanks Luke.
 
Luke Blanchard said:

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.

Four artists to do a cover, and it's not a very interesting one. Who missed a deadline?

Richard Mantle said:

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

It's supposed to, but as Fred pointed out, even Lee and Kirby contradicted themselves in this regard.  What the hammer (and Don Blake's cane, for that matter) could do was very inconsistent in the early Thor stories before Stan and Jack began their run together in Journey Into Mystery 97.  In JIM 102, Thor states:

Perhaps not -- but I can dodge it long enough --! -- long enough to catch my enchanted hammer -- which must always return to me, even if you had covered it with the majestic Alps themselves!

That seems pretty definitive to me, and imo anything that contradicts it is an error.  However, I must point out that only a few issues later, Lee and Kirby have the Cobra yoink Mjolnir out of Thor's hand with an "atomic powered hydraulic hoist" and use the machine to deposit the hammer within a storage compartment at the end of JIM 105.  To me, that's completely at odds with what Jack and Stan have Thor say above.

Shorter answer: what Englehart does here with Mjolnir is a complete Writer's Fiat, but there's a long tradition of it.

Richard Mantle said:

 I did double take this one actually, the Iron Man figure clearly doesn't look like a Gil Kane illustration, but the Vision's face could well have been one of his.

The fact that Romita over inked the team made me believe his influence was overwhelming Kane's.

I'm happy to accept the Buckler claim especially as the Thor looks more like one of his...

Makes me much happier to say - as it had nothing to do with Kane - that it's a dull forgetable cover.

Thanks Luke.
 

It might've been over someone else's design, as that was very common in the 70s/80s, but I don't know who was doing designs for Marvel at that point. Dave Cockrum did them from the mid-70s to 1979 but I don't know exactly when he started.

i hadn't noticed before, but the background images for this cover are from internal pages (splash and 2nd to last definitely) of A120, the first part of the Zodiac trilogy by Brown and Heck, so in that context it's actually quite clever. still pretty dull though.

as for the whole mjolnir doesn't return conceit - it's dumb as hell, but allows for some early-issue "action". the avengers and zodiac have been shot into space and there's no logical reason for them to fight until we get back to earth and the baddies (inevitably) turn on our heroes towards the end of the story. rushing in to find out thor's secret provides our requisite early fight scene.

i may be misremembering, but thought at the time there was an edict that said our heroes had to be engaged in some sort of action in the first half of the book - over recent issues englehart's had the avengers fight doctor strange's sanctum defences, a force field round the black knight's castle and their own rooftop defences, all within the first few pages and so fulfilling the brief.

i didn't get this issue at the time, and having read subsequent stories in the run was aware of the mantis/vision reveals set up at the end, but this one rolls along quite quickly and inoffensively. it's just nothing to write home about.

m



Jeff of Earth-J said:

The loosening of the CCA you guys discussed over the weekend is what I cite as the beginning of the Bronze Age. (I don’t hang it on a particular issue, though, as people are wont to do.)

“Englehart’s transition is not jarring at all, picking up on already running subplots and keeping the character’s voices much the same, except maybe for Wanda who really is kicking ass these days.”

Interesting you should say that, in light of what Steve Englehart himself had to say about his Avengers debut.

STEVE ENGLEHART ON #105:

“Roy had wrapped his storylines up, and I would have to start a new one (trying, as I’ve said, to maintain his momentum). Now, he told me once that he liked to work out the plot and then figure in the character bits., but I was the exact opposite, preferring to see where the characters might go and then putting that into the plot. I had also been told by someone along the way that the Scarlet Witch was supposed to be a weaker character than the other Avengers—that she should do her hex and then drop back, exhausted. But as I looked at this group I so admired, I thought, ‘How can you be an Avenger and not pull your weight?’ So my very first thought was to put Wanda front and center, to add to the team’s already impressive power.

“It was a change—but I didn’t want readers to sense a change from the new writer—because I was a reader and I didn’t want to sense a change from the new writer. If that sounds convoluted, or even impossible, it was, but that’s how it went. So I got right up in your face, to distract you from what was actually going on. And thus it was that I began my run with Wanda telling you to ‘Get out!’ It showed her character, all right, and if Roy hadn’t left such a reservoir of good will, I might have signed my death warrant right there.

“As it turned out, the bulk of my time on Avengers was driven by Wanda and her main squeeze, the Vision. There are logical reasons; primarily, these two didn’t have their own books so I gave them more freedom of movement. But there are also the vagaries of chance: Wanda’s story is what I chose to start with, and many things just followed from that. I did that a lot, over my time in comics: start, and let the story tell me what happened next. I had no idea where I was going with her, but I knew there was somewhere to go.

“So that was the character stuff. Plotwise, I wanted to start an epic, but after the epics which preceded me, I decided to go with very non-cosmic, down-to-earth villains—and what was more down-to-earth than Ka-Zar’s hidden land at the bottom of the earth? The bad guys down there hardly matched the Sentinels, or even the Avengers, really, but they offered a lot of action and a chance to work the character of Wanda’s squeeze at the end.”


Been reading these much slower than I should. Anyway, just reached the end of Engleharts first mini-epic, with the Reaper and the Space Phantom and that weird interspliced Captain America vs Hydra story. Perhaps it was canned because someone noticed it was just a series of punch-ups?

Anyway, I think it's great that Englehart kicked thinkgs off with Wanda showing her mettle. Notice that the Avenger she is specifically bawling out is Hawkeye, and lo and behold, at the end of the storyline, it is again Hawkeye who feels the cutting edge of her tongue and her dismissive approbrium. I wonder if Englehart felt as disgusted as I did with Hawkeye's atrocious treatment of his team-mate and attempt to use her seemingly meek and submissive personality as an excuse to force himself on her. Englehart is putting his more progressive approach front and centre, and commenting on certain underlying attitudes with his creative choices in how this first epic was book-ended. Good for him. I'm going to enjoy these... :-)


Wanda's grievances against Hawkeye discussed here: http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/avengers-and-there-came-...

Perhaps there was supposed to be more to it but they tossed or left unfinished everything except the punch-ups to fit it into the issue.

AVENGERS  #123 (05/74)

Writer – Steve Englehart

Art – Bob Brown & Don Heck

Cover Art – Ron Wilson & John Romita 

 “Vengeance In Vietnam –Or- An Origin For Mantis!”

It is an okay cover, Mantis taking centre-stage in defence of Libra – but I do take exception to Thor’s statement of ‘the newest Avenger is also – a traitor!” – Mantis IS NOT an Avenger at this point.

Oh, and Libra looks really constipated.

We do pick up straight after the close of the last issue which I always appreciate, especially if the artists change and Don Heck’s influence on the artwork is clear here.

Mantis takes exception to Libra claiming to be her father, “This one has no father!” – and the Vision reminds everyone of his android status – “Every person …who was born…has a father Mantis.”

Mantis rips off Libra’s eye mask/bandage thingy in an attempt to reveal he is not as blind as he makes out only to see …"where my eyes used to be”

We get a flashback to Libra as a German soldier working as a mercenary for the French in Vietnam, where he met and married a local girl Lua.

Lua’s brother disapproved and as king of the Saigon underworld he turned on them.

He was known as Monsieur Khruul.

Wanda reminds us we’ve heard that name lately, indeed that was the man who employed the Swordsman in his own flashback seen recently…it’s all coming together isn’t it.

In hiding Libra and wife had a daughter only for Khruul to catch up and destroy their village and….kill Lua.

Libra escaped with daughter until he reached a hidden temple where he was cared for and his daughter was trained to perfection in martial arts and kept away from him.

Eventually he forgot her, moved away and joined Zodiac. (well, what else would he do?)

Mantis does not take this well – actually ridiculously overreacts I would have to say and for no apparent reason fights with her Avengers buddies again showing how surprisingly powerful and adept at fighting she is (yawn.)

It falls to Libra to actually manage to restrain her.

She calls for “my man, the Swordsman” only for everyone to realise Swordy has left the building.

Swordsman has actually took a quinjet and is flying off to find Khruul he now knows was responsible for killing mantis’s mother etc, in search of vengeance .

A strange kind of recap scene follows where we are reminded on minutiae we probably didn’t need to remember – The team’s second quinjet is miles away, Captain America is facing a fake murder charge in his own series (Secret Empire epic!), Iron Man has a history in Vietnam (origin)…oh and the Black Panther’s ship only seats one.

Next Swordsman attacks Khruul in his villa and fights his powerful heavies…and loses.

Again, Swordsman just can’t catch a break can he?

When the Avengers catch up with him he is a pitiful sight…”I—I broke—“and we learn he has given away the location of the hidden temple that raised Mantis (although we don’t find out how he would have ever known this information?) – the temple housing the now named ‘Priests of Pama”

The Avengers again play catch up but get to the temple too late, all the priests are dead

In the depths of the temple Monsieur Khruul is found dying on an alter whispering …”Beware the Star-Stalker…” and we see a huge dragon like creature looming down on our heroes!

Okay, so we get ‘An Origin ‘for Mantis – not ‘the’ Origin but…did Englehart feel this wasn’t mysterious enough an origin…?

I still maintain we weren’t really interested what her background was and she still doesn’t feel a part of this team or of the Avengers. Swordsman has been relegated to pathetic washed up hero – so soon after being built up into a fine Avenger.

I just don’t ‘like’ Mantis.

She’s angry and self centered and hogging the spotlight. 

The writing feels like Englehart is ticking off ingredients, the explanation of the status quo seems indulgent and anally-retentive – did it matter where the second quinjet was?

The ending feels like Englehart believed he had to end on a cliff hanger...but where is this story going..?

Come back…

I don't have access to this comic. Does it actually refer to Libra as a German mercenary? Most likely he was a member of the French Foreign Legion, which fought alongside regular troops from various French Colonial countries. It was pointed out by the writer of Marvel's The 'Nam that a lot of former German soldiers joined the Foreign Legion. He seemed to imply that the German soldiers behaved badly, which is not a given. Getting a paycheck from an actual military organization isn't the same as being a freelance soldier of fortune.

In 1975, as Mantis' father, Libra would have been between 40 or 50 and if closer to the latter could have been a WWII veteran (if, say, 18 to 20 years old in 1945) and then joined the FFL to fight in Vietnam for the French before they abandoned their efforts to retake their former colony in 1954.  Anyhow, nice cover but completely at odds with the contents inside.  Oops!  And poor Swordsy, he's overly desperate to prove himself but keeps screwing up.  Englehart could treat a character like Swordsman a lot more harshly than he could any other Avenger; it would be left to E-I-C Shooter to treat founding member Hank Pym even more harshly, albeit leaving Pym alive to keep getting abuse.  That example must have made Englehart feel comfortable taking Quicksilver on another hero goes bad routine.

Swordsman doesn't even make the cover. Kruul must have done a lot more than disapproved of his sister's marriage, killing her then immediately going after the people that took in his brother-in-law and niece all those years later. And the Star-Stalker was waiting all these centuries and attacks the minute the priests are dead?

Mantis kind of looks like Elvira on the cover.

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