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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I’ve been offline for a while. Seems I now have two issues of comments to transcribe. (And note, Richard, that Englehart does address the question you raised about the title of #123.)

STEVE ENGLEHART ON AVENGERS #122:

“Among those 12 Zodiac members, there’s one named Libra. Just part of the crowd thus far. But all of a sudden he steps out of character. Why?

“The Vision, who leapt off a skyscraper last ish, can’t leap into a swimming pool here. Why? (The answer to that on won’t come until the next Masterworks.)”

STEVE ENGLEHART ON AVENGERS #123:

“This one was very carefully titled ‘An Origin for Mantis.’ Not the origin, as we’ll come to know.

“Page 4—Don Heck, even when inki8ng another artist, drew the most beautiful Scarlet Witch ever.

“Page 7—Roy, as editor in chief, had problems with Mantis beating Thor and the other Avengers, so panels 1 and 4 have added balloons saying they’re going easy on her. I couldn’t argue, because she hadn’t told me everything about herself yet, but in the back of my mind I ,must have known she’d turn out to be something uch bigger than she first appearec. This was definitely a case where she knew she could beat a thunder god, and I did not.

“Wanda continues her general grumpiness—a bit off-putting to those around her.

“The Swordsman decides he has to prove his love for Mantis. And because he’s gotten ahead of himself, strength-wise, he blows it.

“Which leads to the Priests of Pama…”

Years later, after everything I've seen about Mantis, I still don't believe she could beat a thunder god. (Or that the Black Widow is the superhuman fighting machine the movies keep saying she is.) And she wouldn't have known it even if she could, since she doesn't even know who she is yet.

Why exactly is Wanda in such a bad mood? First I remember her acting like this was #118 at the end of the fight with Dormammu. Is she annoyed she got put out of commission so easily in #116? I could see if she's angry all the time because Mantis is making a play for Vision, but that doesn't seem to be the problem. Is she mad Vision won't ask her out? Did she suddenly remember she used to be mistrusted for being a mutant? (She did set somebody's house on fire. That would make me want her out of my neighborhood too.)

Wanda had gotten mad at the world essentially from issue #113, when her mutual love for the Vision became public knowledge and led to some unkind responses, including the Human Bombs trying to kill Vizh, and then there was her own brother turning against her for loving an android.  Basically, she was undergoing a lot of emotional turmoil and really only came out of it after she & Vizh were married (and Mantis took off for the stars).  As to whether even with special training by Kree priests could enable her to take out Thor, well I'll consider it unlikely but then this is all fantasy and presumably even gods have physiological weak spots that if struck with sufficient force might at least stun them.  The bigger question is would that work on the Hulk?  By this era his strength had been amped to ridiculous levels such that he could survive a drop from eight miles high and while he & Thor were of essentially equal strength maybe he didn't have any physiological weak spots.  Hmm, could Karnak have found any of the Hulk's weaknesses with his special skill?

I think he did once, although I believe it just stunned him for a few seconds. I know he tried it on the Thing. It drove him to his knees but otherwise seemed to freak Ben out that it hurt than actually cause any injury.

When Hulk fought the Rhino around that time in space, Rhino said maybe the Hulk could breath the thin layer of air around the capsule they were in but he needed oxygen. Then again a couple of years later Thor was holding his breath in space for half an hour without damaging his lungs. Someone, I think it was Peter David, said people asked him how the Hulk could still be alive for him to write his comic when they saw him die falling out of a helicopter. His response was the Hulk could fall from orbit, get up, dust himself off, and walk away. Really lousy way to get rid of the tv Hulk. Pretty sure it killed him, though, because he was changing back to Banner as he was falling. So Hulk not go splat, Puny Banner go splat! Stupid Banner!

AVENGERS  #124 (06/74)

Writer – Steve Englehart

Art – John Buscema & Dave Cockrum

Cover Art – John Romita & Frank Giacoia 

 “Beware the Star-Stalker!”

I am becoming suspicious of these cover credits…this is a John Romita cover but whoever laid it out tried really hard to cover the faces of the heroes and if you look closely at the face of the Vision you can see why.

The Star Stalker himself looks quite Gil Kane or at least Ron Wilson drawn to me…an okay cover but easily forgotten I fear.

Inside and the return to quality art that boosts this issue and the title as a whole is announced proudly… “Steve Englehart author proudly reunites with two of comics’ finest artists—John Buscema and Dave Cockrum”.

And much as when he has inked for this title before, this looks more Cockrum than anyone and is sharp and bright and dramatic as a result.

Some of the best art ever on the Avengers?

Storywise we open where we ended with the team having discovered Monsieur Khruul injured in the temple and a dragon like monster looming over our heroes.

Had we not known what went before we get a wonderful two-page recap (seeing Zodiac drawn with this art team makes me yearn for what could have been!)

The Avengers search the temple and find nothing but Mantis knows of a ‘secret doorway”…

I love the fact that the Black Panther picks up on this , “You now admit you know this temple?” and dislike Mantis even more when she snaps back at him, “Is this one on trial, Panther?”

- I always shout “Yes” at the page at this point, still do, and can’t help it. She has a lot to explain.

Behind that secret doorway is discovered the Star-Stalker and a battle ensues during which, naturally enough, the monster relays his origin…

The Star Stalker had previously destroyed a peaceful planet after transforming via a cocoon into an energy vampire.

He was mysteriously defeated and banished into space while the peace loving offshoot of the Kree Empire  seeded the universe including becoming the Priests of Pama of the temple the Avengers are now stood in..

I’ve never really got that fired up by these ‘Priests of Pama’ – nowadays I guess this would link to Kun Lun eh?

Gloating that the Avengers will never discover the secret of defeating him the Star Stalker prepares his cocoon, dooming the earth…

Mantis tries to remember her true origin in case that might help…but cannot.

So the Black Panther calls up Cornelius Van Lunt (Taurus) in prison to request a loan of Zodiac’s ‘star-blaster’ weapon…

“I guess…I won’t be needing it anyway.”

Meanwhile the Swordsman explains how low he feels to the Scarlet Witch,

“As a villain, I was always someone’s flunky! As an Avenger, I’ve been wounded—captured--!”

…too true really, shame…especially as he looks really good rendered by these artists.

The Star-blaster arrives, the Star-Stalker emerges from his cocoon and the Avengers attack.

Iron Man and Thor are picked up and smashed together by this newly grown and powerful Stalker and yet again all the team fail to win the day, leaving only mantis to struggle on.

“This one sees it now: The SECRET!”

Mantis had determined that as the Stalker did not know of Galactus and because it hid in the temple – it didn’t like sunlight and so the Vision’s solar energy could overload it.

“Somehow, the Kree must have discovered that too – but then, you’ve remembered that now.”

“No! This one has not remembered any such thing! It was all deduction!”

So we close with no real answers and the realisation that the previous ‘origin for Mantis’ is obviously not the whole story…

“This one is not what even she thinks she is—and that makes her very, very afraid!”

I still think the pacing is all over the place and the story meandering wildly that I am not convinced there is a direction for the plot at all but I am much more prepared to forgive anything as the art is beautiful.

Particularly good are the renditions of the Black Panther, Thor and especially the Vision.

All this return to quality and next issue we are promised a 125th celebration!

Come Back.

I really liked the cover to A123 (to me Libra looks like his Speedos are too tight. Seriously, trunks and bare legs for Robin were just about acceptable in the Seventies – on a grown man, not so good) but it was another non-distributed issue and out of my price range back in the day.

The story actually ticks along rather nicely, but no, Mantis shouldn't have been able to get the better of the Avengers quite so easily - even if they were off-balance and trying not to hurt her, just being grabbed by Thor or Ironman should've put an end to the fight, but I guess that would mean missing out on Libra's completely nonsensical pin-you-down-by-raising-my-left-arm move.

About those "Priests of Pama": does anyone know if Captain Mar-Vell was exclaiming "Great Pama!" before this point, or did that come once Englehart started writing his book? It'd be cute (or annoying, depending on your mileage) if the "Pama" thing was adding to established continuity, rather than starting here fully formed.

The best news here though is that, after the last panel tease, we'll get the full debut of the unforgettable Star Stalker next issue.

m


It seems I posted about the next issue just before your comments on #123 -- so.....what did you think of the Star Stalker issue?
matt fiveash said:

I really liked the cover to A123 (to me Libra looks like his Speedos are too tight. Seriously, trunks and bare legs for Robin were just about acceptable in the Seventies – on a grown man, not so good) but it was another non-distributed issue and out of my price range back in the day.

The story actually ticks along rather nicely, but no, Mantis shouldn't have been able to get the better of the Avengers quite so easily - even if they were off-balance and trying not to hurt her, just being grabbed by Thor or Ironman should've put an end to the fight, but I guess that would mean missing out on Libra's completely nonsensical pin-you-down-by-raising-my-left-arm move.

About those "Priests of Pama": does anyone know if Captain Mar-Vell was exclaiming "Great Pama!" before this point, or did that come once Englehart started writing his book? It'd be cute (or annoying, depending on your mileage) if the "Pama" thing was adding to established continuity, rather than starting here fully formed.

The best news here though is that, after the last panel tease, we'll get the full debut of the unforgettable Star Stalker next issue.

m

Since this was the first issue I'd seen since #118, I really appreciated that recap, although it made me want to find what I'd missed. Still haven't seen #119.

With mutants being phased out, you'd think they'd be pushing those priests of Pama like crazy. Have the Inhumans ever referenced this Pama?

I remember a few issues later the letters page was full of comments on how the Vision could kill the Star-Stalker but Van Lunt's star-blaster didn't phase him and what exactly was the difference between star energy and solar energy.

Since our sun is in fact a star, there shouldn't be any difference whatsoever between "star energy" and "solar energy".  And I'd bet that if someone asked Englehart about it at the time, he couldn't have come up with a good answer either, but, hey, it fit the need of the story he wanted to tell even if it didn't make any real sense.  Maybe it's just a matter that solar power was more intense, coming from a much closer source than all those other, far more distant stars that provided star power. Oh, and while Bob Brown was at least an average artist, it was sooooo nice to have a really superb artist back on the mag, however briefly.  It wasn't until George Perez started his run over a year later that the Avengers would have another run with a really stellar artist, even if occasionally interrupted by fill-ins from lesser lights and not always accompanied by an inker that really did him justice.  To be honest, tho', even Perez paired with Colletta looked far better to me than Brown, Heck, Tuska or even our pal Sal Buscema, much as I loved him on the Defenders and Captain America & the Falcon.

I don't have access to #123, so I appreciated the recap of it in this issue.  I really like the art here; I assume Big John did breakdowns because this looks like pure Dave Cockrum to me.  But I have to say, the title has been in a funk since the Avengers/Defenders war ended.  Englehart really wants to tell the story of Mantis but is making it long and drawn out, and the book suffers for it.  The plots make little sense, Thor and Iron Man look like chumps all the time, and the villains have been lame.  I also find Englehart's recollections of Mantis as annoying as her speech patterns - "She knew she could beat a thunder god, and I did not." - come on, really?

She could beat a thunder god but didn't stand a change against one spell from a wizard who was going out of his way not to hurt her. Maybe she should have fought Valkyrie and Swordsman should have teamed up with T'Challa. What was with that dumb rule that Val couldn't fight women?

It doesn't help that both next issue and #127 are crossovers with other titles, putting the story he keeps trying to push on the back burner.

Did the Avenger/Defenders Clash burn Englehart out, and he's still struggling to recover? Maybe he was doing too many titles. I know I kept trying to like his Dr. Strange but every surprise he threw out just made me want somebody else to take over the title.

I think the Valkyrie's inability to fight women had to do with her origins as a pre-fab feminist icon (she was created to lead the Lady Liberators, after all), with the in-story reason probably being that when the Enchantress decided to start imposing the Valkyrie identity on other people (rather than wear it herself), she put that limitation into the mix so that she'd never have to deal with her own creation fighting her.  At least it was less kinky than Wonder Woman's "kryptonite" of losing her powers if bound by a man.

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