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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Fred W. Hill said:

At least I don't think Tony Stark would have laid down rules prohibiting an unmarried couple from sharing a room in his mansion! But it was never actually shown or stated that they shared a room.

I think by having her stay in the mansion the writer was implying she was in the same room as the Swordsman. Under the Code at the time they couldn't have shown that or said it explicitly.

Hi Richard, 

I'm using that same Tpk so he's that colour to me also.

My originals were black and white reprints in Marvel UK anthology mags - like Essentials - I think they were trying to explain the effect sunlight would have while also emphasising he drank blood!

Glad to have anyone reading (and contributing) to this thread but glad you can read the issues alongside too. 

Thanks

Richard Willis said:

Speaking of colorists, the vampire demon (who slaugters several Egyptian soldiers to save Swordsman the trouble) in the captions is referred to as pale but in my trade paperback he is bright red. Was he pale in the originals?

Regarding whether or not Mantis and Swordsman shared a room, I agree with Fred's assessment: first they were, then they weren't. I also agree with Richard Willis, that the implication was there, but the CCA would not have allowed it. There's no question in my mind that that is the state of affairs (no pun intended) that Englhart wished to convey. He once pointed out (in an interview or MMW introduction) that when Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter were shown taking a vacation together that they were certainly sharing a cabana and sleeping together at that time.

For no apparent reason the preceding issues never got sent to my not-so-local comic shop, Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed, fact fans (don't judge them too harshly - it was the '70s), so I came back to the Avengers with this issue and…. it was fantastic!

Wonky Vision power-blast hand aside, the cover was immediately striking, and the previously jarring Buscema/Staton internal art wasn't as bad as I'd remembered, but the story itself was great. I'd (possibly rather luckily) missed the issues with whiney pathetic Swordsman so seeing him shine here wasn't that much of a leap. And Kang was probably my favourite Avengers villain since the Grandmaster/Squadron Sinister/Invaders arc, so I was doubly pleased.

It does have it's faults, though. Kang's Macrobots taking out the Avengers over the space of half-a-dozen pages felt a bit off, like let's get the story to this point by making the heroes be a bit rubbish. And random ancient Egyptian winged vampire beastie added to create some conflict in the second half of the issue? 

But anyway, I was hooked and would definitely be back, haunting the racks and waiting for the next issue. Which would ultimately prove to be massively frustrating.

m

ps. to Richard Willis above, yes, you should of course read along from your Celestial Madonna TPB - that's what I'm doing and it's a blast (I'm one step ahead as I did A129 and GSA2 in one sitting yesterday)

Speaking of A129 and GSA2, as I indicated earlier, Steve Englehart thinks of them as a single story and discusses them together. I just finished transcribing his comments, and since there’s nothing spoilery for GSA2, I will post his comments here at this time.

STEVE ENGLEHART ON Avenger #129 and Giant-Size Avengers #2:

Avenger #129 and Giant-Size Avengers #2—This is all one story. It was always conceived as one story. And when, as will happen, I get asked the question, ‘What is your all-time favorite story?’, I always say, ‘I don’t have one favorite, but Avenger #129/Giant-Size Avengers #2 is tight up there.

“As we established, I started my run on this title trying to meet impossible standards: ones set by someone else. Then I introduced the Swordsman and his blank-slate girlfriend, and decided to do the Avenger/Defenders Clash on a meta level, and all of a sudden I was doing my own thing. Right at this point, I was writing Avengers, and Captain America, and Captain Marvel, and Dr. Strange, and I had just dropped Master of Kung Fu. So I was in a good place, writing-wise, when Marvel said, ‘You’ll be writing Giant-Size Avengers starting with #2’ (The man whose standards I regarded highly, longtime Avenger writer and then Editor in Chief Roy Thomas, had written GS #1.) Now, adding 29 pages of work every three months, was more of a treat than a burden. The only problem was, Avengers continuity was pretty tight right now, because I’d been making it tighter for a few months, around the quadrangle of Vision and Wanda and Mantis and Swordsman. And all of the GS books were standalone stories, outside the regular books’ ongoing storylines and continuity.

“But… what if I kept the same continuity?

“(And now a word from the time tunnel: Avengers was only 129 issues old here. It had a continuity stretching back to #1, unbroken and unexprected to be broken. These were expected to be the guys. Have your take on them, but these were the guys, right from Stan and Jack, through Ropy and Big John. Some things took place outside of a fixed continuity, but the continuity was part of these guys’ reality. It was a part that I’d always known and always liked about Marvel Comics, so I honored it in my times as a Marvel writer.)

“I kept the story continuity going right through GS Avengers and on to the regular book. What that meant in real life was, I was plotting a 47-page story that would have to justify that choice. This is the result.

“(It had been 48 pages when I promo’s it in #128, but 47 when I wrote it a month later. Bean counters, I guess.)

“We ended last issue with the abrupt appearance of Kang the Conqueror, unseen for nearly sixty issues, and we begin #129 when he tells them the star over Avengers Mansion means one of the Avengers women is “the Celestial Madonna.” He’s come from the future to become the Madonna’s mate, which will assure his supremacy through all of time. Kang kidnaps the women, then kidnaps the men… except for the Swardsman, for whom he has no real use.

“Then a lot of stuff happens over a lot of pages, and whatever I wrote about it was transferred to the actual pages by the letterer. In my case, that was usually Tom Orzechowski. The way Orz saw the words determined the communiation etween the writer and the reader on an almost unconscious level, and he and I were on the same wavelength; we saw comics the same way. We roomed together in Marin and Moraga, so I knew him to be a scribe, in love with the letterforms. I am, too, so I was very happy to have him be the one to put these stries in front of your eyes.

“Finally, I note again the policy of the time that called for one page of art to be printed as two, as you may notice from time to time. I wonder now if that wasn’t tied to the launching of a half dozen GS titles, with accounting cutting expenses to cushion the launch.”

Thankyou as always Jeff.

Interestingly I was quite surprised that the big event of GS#2 (which I will cover very shortly!) came so early in the 'Celestial Madonna' storyline. In my head the events of #129 and GS#2 take longer and are more than a prologue to the Mantis story.

It does seem like Englehart suddenly can't wait to get rid of Swordsman. Like he didn't want him to be part of the Celestial Madonna storyline. Or was he in a hurry to bring in his corpse and make us wonder why he wasn't resting in his grave?

It occurs to me that after Baron Zemo was killed off in Avengers #15 up through ,#129,  the Avengers didn't really have a particular foe who showed up over and over again in the title the way Dr. Doom did in the FF, Magneto in the X-Men, or even as often as Dr. Octopus or the Green Goblin did in Spider-Man.  Kang had shown up in 4 different stories -- two done-in-ones, a two-parter and a three-parter, and Ultron had likewise shown up in 4 different stories, all but the last during Roy Thomas' run and as with Kang in this story there had been about a 5 year gap between appearances.  But now Kang would become the top Avengers baddie for the remainder of Englehart's run just as Ultron would later become the big bad early in Shooter's run, although Michael/Korvac would take up the biggest chunk of his initial run on the Avengers.  Anyhow, when I think of Avengers top villains, Kang & Ultron remain the top two on my list.  Due to his personal connection with both Hank Pym and the Vision, Ultron edges out Kang for the top spot, but they're both usually compelling adversaries whenever they appear (well, aside from when Kang sic'ed a Spider-Bot against the Avengers -- that came off as silly).

Recalling the whole storyline, seems more like Englehart was bringing the Swordsman personal saga to the bitter end that had been building up over the past several months and already had planned out a surprise role for his corpse.  Didn't feel so much like being in a hurry to me as that after starting out with perhaps only vague ideas as to what direction he would take the characters, now he had a firm plan and was putting it into action.  
 
Ron M. said:

It does seem like Englehart suddenly can't wait to get rid of Swordsman. Like he didn't want him to be part of the Celestial Madonna storyline. Or was he in a hurry to bring in his corpse and make us wonder why he wasn't resting in his grave?

Giant Size Avengers #2   (11/74)

Writer - Steve Englehart      Art - Dave Cockrum

Cover art - Ron Wilson + Frank Giacoia & John Romita

   "A Blast From the Past!"

There is just so much to enjoy on this cover, from the cosmic skyline to the 'Death of An Avenger!" blurb, from the rare cover appearance for the Swordsman to the cunning mis-direction of having Iron man looking vulnerable and thus likely to be the member in line for that promised death! (Surely no readers in the day believed he could possibly be likely to die - could he? - Or was that a double-bluff making the reader believe the 'death' claim was going to be all hype..?)

I really like this cover - it remains unusual even to this day.

Inside and we open with that title - perfect! the reference to the 'Past' being linked not only to Kang and Rama-Tut, the time-travellers, but also the returning Avengers Hawkeye who gets one of his best ever splash pages! inspired. (always good to see his 'The Marksman' sub-title too!)

After dispatching some 'bandit-jewel-thieves' Hawkeye hears of the Avengers defeat and races to the Mansion.

(We get a continuity link to Captain America #179 which is where Hawkeye disguised as the 'Golden Arrow' or whoever, tried to sort out Cap's identity problems - supposedly happening just before this issue - a forced link too far probably?)

(We are also reminded that Hawkeye left the Avengers in #109 - but it has not felt that he has been gone that long as he was around in his Defenders membership role for a while since that!)

Noticing the star above the mansion Hawkeye finds the recovering (but still clearly in shock) Jarvis who brings him up to date and adds a painfully damning indictment of the plight of the Swordsman...

"He left him behind -- told him he wasn't worth bothering with. It -- really broke him, sir! The Swordsman -- hasn't had an easy time of it since he rejoined the Avengers!"

"Ms Mantis left him...and his actions always seem to go wrong, somehow!  He's distraught, sir -- seems to be in a fog all the time--"While that is said however, a seemingly revitalised Swordsman powers in, accompanied by the mysterious Rama-Tut - Swordy has become a version/his version of Cap with the, "Hawkeye! I might have known you'd lend us a hand in our hour of need!" This is a wonderful, vital Swordsman, icing on the cake being his declaration, "Now, we are -- Avengers!" - with the iconic logo in the speech bubble! Love it!

Mind you, Hawkeye keeps it real with his..."Yeah, two of 'em...the weakest two next to the Wasp!"

We then see Kang loading his Avengers-fuelled Manbots, planning World War III, as the ladies look on. At the UN the Vision-bot attacks as our heroes teleport in.

"How do you propose we fight this?"

"I haven't got the faintest idea!" -- Priceless!

We realise that Swordsman is gambling on Rama-Tut saving the day - and we learn more of his time-tossed history and how Kang became Rama-tut a second time, this time being more 'compassionate'.

Rama-Tut does explain that the Manbot is fuelled by the Vision, which allows Hawkeye to use his knowledge of the Vision's solar power and leads to their victory.

"We did it! We won! We beat Kang!" leads to Kang's classic panel..."*[expletives deleted]" --( no, honestly!)

As the battleground moves on to Peking City and a fight against the Iron Man-bot we learn how Kang, as Rama-Tut, put himself in suspended animation in the pyramid until the Swordsman's arrival (in Avengers #129) released him in 'our' time.

Mantis and the Scarlet Witch bitch  over the menfolk as it falls to the Vision, using a variance on his 'arm-in-chest' against Iron Man with a clever use of his cloak, to defeat the second Man-bot.

The clever Avengers don't stop there either, Iron Man gets zapped by the Thor-bot, deliberately, to get a charge from it.

With that Knag and his captives are revealed and freed.

Wanda is angry!   "United? You and Me? NEVER!" and it is teamwork topped with a powerful hex from Wanda that frees Thor.

"Good Lord Wanda, if that's what one night with Miss Harkness taught you, I'd hate to see you in a week!"

The action doesn't slow up, Rama Tut is revealed to be Kang to everyone and in a psychedelic double page spread "the past collides with the future to spill into the present!"...and the Celestial Madonna is revealed to be......Mantis!

(I love that double pager for so many reasons but the 'death look' for Swordsman is haunting!)

Kang and Rama-Tut argue over paradoxes and in retaliation for his seeming defeat, Kang prepares to kill Mantis - to deny anyone else having the power to influence her incredibly-powerful son-to-be.

Rama-Tut knew it was going to happen but could not stop it, "Why did I delay? Why did I pray for a miracle?" as a bolt is fired....and the Swordsman steps in...and is cut down!

The two time-travellers disappear in climax as that cover promise does come true..."I'm...a failure...I'm just...one of those people...who doesn't...count."

Not a dry eye in the house...then..or now...(sniff)

Forget the drama of Thunderbird's death in the X-Men (which always seems to be billed as the first super-hero death that actually felt real) - this is stunning!

"Every Avenger Counts Swordsman. Every one."   "Sleep well Avenger. Rest In Peace."

No last minute reprieve, no clever time-travel wrinkle, not even a 'only Dr Donald Blake could save him...and he just happens to be here...!' This is it for the most recent Avenger.

It is also (now/one of) the longest standing death in Comics - other than dubious 'undead' appearances and an 'almost' resurrection in 'Chaos Avengers' (what a wasted opportunity that series was!) - the Swordsman remains dead.

I absolutely love this issue (you may have noticed!) and I always have but re-reading it now I realise it may be my favourite ever!

Wonderful use of the second-stringer Avengers and yet the big guns still appear. (and it is actually quite refreshing to see the team function as a quality unit without being commanded by Cap for once.)

The art is beautiful throughout - is that because Dave Cockrum did both pencilwork and inks (is this the only time he does?) - that splash of Hawkeye - the full-page versus the manbot with it's unusual views of the team - the interesting appearance of the Vision without his cape and the wonderful depiction of the Swordsman throughout - not to mention that Sterako-like double page spread!!

Even the colouring is wonderful here, the differences in the purples of the Swordsman and Hawkeye is a joy to see.

What's not to love here?

So much to discuss....I've gone on a tad here....anyone any comments they want to add...?

Come back...

 

 

MMW shows an unpublished version of the GSA #2 cover, very similar to the published version, but it also includes Dr. Doom in a trio of figures overlooking the scene. Just as well because he is not truly a link in the Rama Tut-Kang-(Red Centurion)-Rama Tut (again)-Immortus chain. As it turned out (I’m sure we all know, but “SPOILERS” if not), Dr. Doom was not the ancestor with the time machine, but it was, if fact, Nathanial Richards. (Reed Richards’ father.) I’ve always appreciated the Kang/Rama Tut/Immortus triumvirate.

There was a time, I think, when a little bitty skull shown reflected in a doomed character’s eye was a sign of the true death. (Jim Starlin used that motif as well.) Some of the characters who have exhibited that eye have since come back (not Swordsman, though), but they were as dead as comics characters get for a good long while.

That version of the cover was shown in an issue of Foom Magazine, with a note that Dr. Doom does NOT appear in the comic.

After years of hinting Kang was related to Doom, having him turn out to be related to Reed sounds like a weird joke somebody managed to push through and get published. And who's to say in the next thousand years that some descendent of Reed's doesn't marry some descendent of Doom's?

What's not to love here? One of my by then favorite Avengers just got killed. The fact he never came back shows how things have changed. If he'd died in the last couple of decades he'd be back with his own series by now. Otherwise this was a great story, right up until Kang fires. Rama Tut knows he'll shoot because he did when he was Kang, but he's hoping somehow past self has changed now?

Exactly what qualities were decided needed to make Mantis a Madonna? The only thing heroic I remember her doing was decided the Black Panther needed help and going with him (not that it made a bit of difference of course.)

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