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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The Marvel Superheroes is #9 in the Marvel Novel Series and is edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. It contains four short stories about Daredevil, the X-Men, the Hulk and the Avengers. Shooter's writing style drifts between blue and purple for this story, and seems to have been inspired by reading too many Penthouse Forum columns. Here's a sample...

"Janet Van Dyne Pym sat bolt upright in bed... She sighed, forcing her taut muscles to relax... Leaning back slowly, wearily, she again settled into her satin-covered pillow. Almost immediately waves of sleep eroded the tension of a moment before, and oblivious peace enveloped her... She threw the satin sheet aside and scrambled out of bed... She started toward the door, then stopped abruptly, remembering that she was naked. She reached for the chiffon robe lying across her vanity chair, then jerked her hand back, thinking better of wearing a flimsy negligee...

"Janet Pym's soft fair skin looked wan and bloodless. Her slender but strong, supple limbs appeared fragile and brittle. Warm sensuality fled her enticingly rounded breasts and stirringly curved hips. Her body seemed cold and untouchable, an erotic sculpture in ice, a figure of eerie beauty, standing alone in a surreal chamber of bleak luxury and harsh comfort."

All right, Jim. Settle down. What about the Scarlet Witch?

"[T]he Scarlet Witch walked into the room. As usual, when the Witch entered his presence, the man inside the gold-and-crimson armor suppressed a sigh of admiration--and lust. The face of Iron Man betrayed nothing, however... Iron Man [was] careful not to let his gaze dwell too long on her handsome body. She was tall, almost five feet ten, and devastatingly voluptuous; the kind of woman whose every movement evokes male fascination--a symphony of sensual curves. She wore what resembled a one-piece strappless bathing suit, wine red and formfitting, over a lavender red body stocking. Low-heeled boots, long gloves, and a full, flowing cape, all wine red, completed her attire. Her long, wavy auburn tresses spilled down over her shoulders, framing her face. Nobility showed in the high arch of her brows, her long lashes and her delicately sculptured nose. Her lips were dark and full. There was a softness in her features that bespoke compassion, and yet, somehow, disturbingly, the potential for coldness, even cruelty, was evident in her sea-green eyes...

I think Jim needs to take a cold shower. I've got to quote one more passage.

"Something clicked in Iron Man's brain. Something violent, something deadly, possessed him. His muscles tensed, stiffened, as if to spring."

It's difficult to imagine someone who feels that way toward women would have a hand in Avengers #200, isn't it?

Avengers #202 (12/80)
Writer - David Michelinie Plot - Jim Shooter
Penciller - George Perez Inker - Mike Esposito
Editor - Jim Salicrup
Cover Art – Dave Cockrum
  “This Evil Undying"
A Dave Cockrum cover! Possibly his last Avengers cover(?)
"Ultron Undying!" and while it is kind of okay - nice to see Wasp getting a big slice of the cover - it's not one of his best.

The opening splash page is the Wasp making an entry by smashing a Mansion window and we are hit with the first and major problem with this issue - the art is awful!!
Yes this is George Perez and yes it was his last work on the Avengers for sooo long ... but... it looks like a colouring book!

Clearly Perez only ever produced rough pencils for this book and Esposito has inked them but there is virtually no detail or texture let alone of the standard we expect from Perez!

Is there a story here? Nevermind the substance of the writing - what happened to the art? Why is it so basic? It really distracts from the story.... which....

Iron man picks up the worn out Wasp who explains how she was attacked (last issue) by a robot and how she shrank to escape (I knew it) and then flew long distance to the Mansion, exhausted by arrival and therefore crashing in as she did. Continuity maintained.

Now expecting a new attack the Avengers drop into defensive mode as... Jarvis arrives with the tea-trolley.

Iron Man explains his fears over the return of Ultron and we see that Jan has changed out of her new costume she donned last issue (why? How?) and is in civvies. Hawkeye blames Ultron on Hank Pym which upsets everyone (and is a bit out of charcater for Clint isn't it?)

We get a recap of who/what Ultron is (as if we've never heard of him) and Iron man explains the significance of the two Resins from last issue - if combined they can (for a short time) actually remould adamantium. (Anyone spotting the ending already?)
This is all fine but if feels very soulless - is it just because of the flat art?

The Scarlet Witch becomes she-who-must-be-protected as her powers are the most able to defeat Ultron and so he must be after defeating her mustn't he? (?)
One piece of continuity is referenced in that Jocasta is not able to use her circuitry to locate Ultron as she did recently the Beast, as it is of course, "malfunctioning, as if something were jamming it from afar!"
"That sounds like Ultron all right."

Hawkeye apologises to Jan ( which kind of is in character) and the Vision volunteers to look after his wife. (!)
The happy couple's recent happiness (billed as being the once-and-for-all settling down of their relationship) reverts to hostility as the Vision yet again doesn't emote well and Wanda gets angry, "Blast it Vision! Can't you see that I'm looking for a little tenderness? A little compassion?"
This may be a throwback to their relationship when Shooter first came up with this story - it remains a shame as we had waited a very very long time for them to stop doing this.
What is interesting/worrying is that Shooter/(Michelinie?) then has them indulge in make-up-sex - with this line decribing it...
"The Scarlet Witch resists, but her struggles ease as her tension drains, the teasing is over."
Would that get through editorial now? Does that thinking resonate especially between #200 and Annual #10 or am I overthinking..?

Elsehwere Captain America works out against four threats in training with the Wasp applauding him.
"I didn't realise I was that easy to sneak upon Wasp. Thanks for pointing it out -- I'll work on it."
The Wasp annouinces she's going home and leaving the team to watch over the Scarlet Witch as Hawkeye moans they're not doing much Avengering.
"Wait a minute, Wasp! We may need you!"
"I doubt it Cap. let's face it -- I'm the lightweight of the group."
Anyone else starting to see a David/Goliath theme here, may explain more why the wasp got main billing on the cover. (Still been done before/familiar though isn't it?)

What is also odd here is that Jan has again changed costumes, just to go home.
Was this book pieced together at different times, was the in-civvies scene drawn without reference to any actual costumes?
The story proper settles in as we eavesdrop on Iron Man recording a tape (yes -a cassette tape) for Thor who he expects may have to fight him later - in a pick up to the cliff-hanger of last issue.
If Tony was this sure of everything why not tell someone who's actually there? Why not isolate himself? It doesn't ring true or convincing, it's pushing character out of the way for a story.

So Ultron somehow left a hypnotic suggestion in Tony's mind last time around and got him to reconstruct the bad-guy. - This will come back time and again and along with Immortus/Kang etc doing the same (around 'the Crossing' period) Tony's state of mind is just as erratic as Hank Pym's ever was!?
Iron Man gives a printout of the tape to Jarvis having posted one to Thor (what post-code/zip-code does he put on the envelope for Asgard then?

Iron man asks Jocasta to plug herself into a trap and tricks the Vision to look beneath ground level for Ultron so he can attack the Scarlet Witch.
Iron Man is a traitor!
As we watched him tell us his own fears that he might - seeing Iron man become a traitor loses an awful lot of it's drama doesn't it?

Iron man even manages to destroy Jarvis's letter-to-Thor while he sleeps. (a laser beam through a window..? Really?)
Iron man delivers the Witch to Ultron.

Gradually the Avengers realise what has occurred as Thor arrives and Jarvis passes on a copy of the destroyed letter that he had the foresight to make. (He was switched on enough to make this copy but not to stop himself from napping..?)
With the letter read and the secrets out, the Avengers arrive at Ultron's lair after a last bid by Iron Man to turn on his 'master'.

Much to Ultron's surprise (but not ours) the Wasp was hiding in wanda's glove and she reveals herself and attacks. this enables Iron man to recharge and join the fight - on the right side and the Avengers arrive like the calvary.
Thor fights valiantly but it takes acrobatics from Hawkeey to kick Ultron into the vats of the two mixed Resins that hardens around him changing him into a block of unmoving unmovable evil. "The threat of the evil undying is over. For now."

So that's it - all build-up, a short fight and thanks to the little-people Wasp and Hawkeye Ultron is defeated and the Avengers are triumphant again!

As mentioned in detail above (thankyouJeff.!) we all now know this was an adaptation of a prose novel by up-and-coming and now Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter and it certainly does feel like it was 'written' by a different hand than Michelinie who (I presume) dialogued our heroes but hardly any of them sound like he has had them for several issues.
The art is painfully basic and as this (IMHO) is the last good Avengers issue for a very long time this phase of the title ends with a wimper.

I have often said and thought that the 'first volume' of the Avengers - their 'Golden' phase - ends here.
Everything that follows is not-quite so classic.
When they were being published I felt it took until about when Captain Marvel II arrives for the title to start improving but with hindsight and with the passage of years between I have gained a reluctant appreciation for the intentions of those issues from Tigra's arrival...but... I remember thinking the next few issues are amongst the worst the title ever went through!!
Am I right?
We'll see...

Next Issue "Whatever happened to Wonder Man and the Beast? Find out on... The Night of the Crawlers!"

Come Back...

This is, IMHO, the weakest of the Bronze Age Ultron vs Avengers battles and suffers from being an adaptation of a short story and not a novel. They have to jettison in-continuity characters who weren't in the prose version as Jim Shooter wanted to use the Avengers' big names. Was Yellowjacket not in Shooter's tale? Given his history with Ultron, that makes little sense.

And if Iron Man wanted to contact Thor, why not call Doctor Blake? Or warn the others? Or take off his armor? Ultron thinks he's controlling Stark, not Iron Man so he couldn't have been ordered not to!

Also nothing is said about Ultron's history with the Pyms, the Vision or Jocasta.

Absolutely Philip. It serves Ultron poorly and very little feels right at all even without one of Perez's weakest performances.

Philip Portelli said:

This is, IMHO, the weakest of the Bronze Age Ultron vs Avengers battles and suffers from being an adaptation of a short story and not a novel. They have to jettison in-continuity characters who weren't in the prose version as Jim Shooter wanted to use the Avengers' big names. Was Yellowjacket not in Shooter's tale? Given his history with Ultron, that makes little sense.

And if Iron Man wanted to contact Thor, why not call Doctor Blake? Or warn the others? Or take off his armor? Ultron thinks he's controlling Stark, not Iron Man so he couldn't have been ordered not to!

Also nothing is said about Ultron's history with the Pyms, the Vision or Jocasta.

Avengers #203 (01/81)
Writer - David Michelinie Plot - Jim Shooter
Penciller - Carmine Infantino Inker - Dan Green
Editor - Jim Salicrup
Cover Art – Carmine Infantino & John Romita & Dan Green
“Night of the Crawlers"
A good cover featuring the Beast and Wonder Man by the inside team (along with some touch-ups presumably, by John Romita) I do like the fact that the Crawlers look the same and I love the use of his own logo for the Beast - I just wish Wonder Man had have had his own personal logo too.

We open the issue with the Avengers (with Thor having already gone) returning to their mansion in their Quinjet after last issue's battle with Ultron. We discover no lasting harm to Jocasta after Iron Man's treachery and are reminded that the Beast and Wonder Man are missing...

So we begin the story proper, a few hours ago our heroes become lost in a strange fog and are attacked by some street thugs who misidentify the Beast - "Look! It's a crawler!"
Misunderstanding laid aside the locals explain crawlers are monsters that steal things, "...like food, an' blankets...an' children!"

The two Avengers are asked by a young girl to help find her missing brother who seems to have been taken by these crawlers.
The children's mother appears and physically abuses the girl. "Nice lady."
So, naturally the two Avengers venture into the sewers where the Crawlers attack them only for the missing boy to appear and call the crawlers off.
He explains their origin - in an attempt to create life that doesn't need air to breath therefore help colonise outer-space scientists poured experimental chemicals down the drain into the sewers - actually creating the crawlers.
They lived in the sewers, venturing up for supplies. One met up with the young boy and they kind of bonded in friendship and via telepathy.

The gang searching for the boy find the crawlers and a fight breaks out during which the boy runs up to the city with our heroes. He returns home to his mother who physically assaults him too and sends the Avengers away!
"This isn't exactly what you'd call a happy ending."

The girl alerts the Avengers that the boy had ran off again (good for him!) and they follow at the same time as the gang are planning on blowing the crawlers up!
"-- Avengers Assemble!"
The gang attack and eventually a hole is blown in the sewer sending the water, the crawlers and the young lad out to sea or even death.

The mother says she's glad the boy is gone and the Beast almost hits her. (Only almost!) The girl leaves things that her brother, missing presumed dead, is the lucky one and the fog swirls around leaving our two heros wondering if these events actually happened...even when they report events to a Policeman he confirms, "No disturbances at all have been called in from that area."

Jarvis informs Hawkeye and the Wasp that the Beast and Wonder Man have returned to the Mansion and they rush to detail the battle against Ultron only to find the two friends, exhausted and asleep.

So it's a strange little done-in-one story with interesting art to say the least but with little ongoing character development, despite still being written by Michelinie.

It doesn't seem right that the mother does not get her comeuppance to me...(?)

Was this another story influenced from elsewhere - like the Ultron story came from Jim Shooter - adapted by Michelinie rather than fully created by him?

Art wise, Infantino has his fans and his detractors, famous for his Flash and similar for DC he has had some success with Masrvel (I adored his Spider-Woman!) but this seems rushed or not quite his best (was this late in his career?)
The young girl is shown looking quite tall and older than the child she is portrayed at and the fog builds and the angles get wierder so that the entire issue reads like a dream/nightmare with mysterious lighting effects that are either Infantino being lazy and only providing basic vague pencils or a deliberate attempt at building a musterious atmosphere. You decide.

The loss of George Perez is deeply felt and will be for a long time yet!

Next "Would ya believe... The Yellow Claw!"

Come Back...

Art wise, Infantino has his fans and his detractors, famous for his Flash and similar for DC he has had some success with Masrvel (I adored his Spider-Woman!) but this seems rushed or not quite his best (was this late in his career?) 

Wikipedia tells me that he was promoted to Publisher of DC Comics for almost five years in the 70s. After this, he became a freelance artist working for Marvel and DC. This Avengers issue is during his freelance period. In 1990 he took over the Batman newspaper strip until it was cancelled. He officially retired during the 90s, so he was working for at least a decade after this Avengers issue.

Here’s something about Avengers #202 I transcribed I transcribed before my vacation.

DAVID MICHELINIE (continued from discussion of precious issue):

“That should be enough for any story, but there’s still—

“—part two in issue #202. The previous issue was mostly set-up, but this is where we get fully into Jim’s story—and in a way that brought me full circle: My first Avengers stories were collaborations with Jim, my scripts over his plots. And now, as I was getting close to the end of my Avengers run, I was once again writing from his work. There was a lot of story here, and George Perez, master of the tiny panel, condensed it perfectly. I had to use heavier copy than I’m used to (this was once case where I wished I was paid by the word!), but all in all I think we created a successful adaptation.”

And that’s the end of MMW Avengers. the volume ends with a solo Wonder Man story from Marvel Premiere #55 and a solo Vision story from Tales to Astonish (second series) #12. I have already pulled issues #203-210 out of the box, but I haven’t read them yet.

Thoughts on #203: This discussion is now well into what I call “the Avengers red-headed step-children era.” Despite having been written (or at least scripted) by David Michelinie, it has all the feel of a fill in. [Keep in mind your thoughts about Carmine Infantino, because I’ll be revisiting that soon in my “Monsters on the Prowl” discussion—Plug-happy Jeff.] I haven’t read the story since the first time I read it, and probably will not again. Perhaps it will look better on higher quality glossy paper stock…?

The letters page is filled with letters about issue #200, mostly positive. One letter writer (a teenager, I assume) complained about Marvel doing away with both Phoenix and Ms. Marvel. He lamented no longer having beautiful women to look at and threatened to “go back to reading Playboy.”

That does kind of sum it up quite well.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Thoughts on #203: This discussion is now well into what I call “the Avengers red-headed step-children era.” 

Avengers #204 (02/81)
Writer - David Michelinie Plot - Jim Shooter & Bob Budiansky
Penciller - Don Newton Inker - Dan Green
Editor - Jim Salicrup
Cover Art – Bob Budiansky & Joe Rubinstein
   “Claws Across the Water"
Ah the old 'Giant-Villain' symbolic cover. It's kind of okay but after the recent actual-giant-robot Red Ronin covers it's easy to think this is another actual giant especially as Yellow Claw is just not that well known or remembered is he?
I do like the art well enough though, Cap and the Beast are particularly fine - who missed the fact that Jocasta is actually on this cover eh?

Noticable is that there is no Vision on the cover yet he is on the Roll Call and of course, Jocasta doesn't rate a Roll Call appearance.

The issue opens with a suitably menacing prologue of (unknown?) sweet/innocent female Shu Han sending a distress signal before the big bad enters and catches her at it. She fobs him off as he demands her 'answer' and eventually gives her another three days to think about it...

At Avengers Mansion the team discusses Hawkeye's departure (again) back to his day job - I never understand why every writer that writes Hawkeye out acknowledges how popular he is and how much of a vital Avenger he makes before leaving him on the substitutes bench.

As Jarvis delivers the post Cap tries to call a regular meeting that has been long delayed by events. (This is the meeting he's going to formally nominate Jocasta's membership that he promised long ago - remember?)
Of course, events intervene again as Cap reads "Life and Death" on a letter, "Not exactly subtle, but as an attention-getter-- it certainly worked!"

The letter contains info from a radio-ham who picked up Shu Han's distress and passed it on (no explanation why he they didn't radio the Avengers (?) - how long did that letter take to arrive...?)

The villain is named and as Jocasta for one has never heard of him (and 90% of the audience..?) Cap dumps background. A biological genius, well over 100 years old also a Tyrant and his old enemy. (Kind of a cross between the Mandarin and Fu Manchu with the resources of Baron Strucker's Hydra)

Oh, and Shu Han (who I keep writing/pronouncing as 'Sha-Shan' from Spider-Man!) is reported to be both a Nobel Prize winner in Physics and a Gold Medalist in Olympics track racing (take the 1974 & 1968 references with Marvel-Salt). Apparently this makes her a dangerous asset that the Claw should not be allowed to exploit! (What a fast running egghead..?)

The Vision warns it could be a trap (Duh!) but Cap calls it - "Avengers Assemble!" and off the heroes rush... leaving Jarvis to enjoy his own cake. (And Jocasta still doesn't get that invite!)

As the team makes it's way to his island the Yellow Claw anticipates - thanks to a 'formula' - he will soon have everything he wants!
The Claw's base is typically Bond-villainesque. The Wasp breaks into an air vent for access and the Vision phases easily enough through.
Gotta love the Wasp's grasp of the situation, "Bingo! I'll bet that's the Golden Fingernail himself!"

The Wasp gets noticed and YC realises the base is no longer airtight (why was it in the first place?)
The rest of the Avengers land and approach via a beach only to be attacked by a huge jellyfish. They battle out-of-their-element and eventually escape the augmented opponent as inside, the Vision confronts the baddie.
The Vision zaps the Claw with an energy blast from his forehead-jewel but the Claw has a defence field and the Vision is stunned by the back-blast.
(Um... Does the Vision send blasts from his jewel? I think he's done eye-beams sometimes (hasn't he?) and I know he takes in energy through the jewel but this just looks all wrong... is this a mistake??)

The Claw intends on dissecting the android...
Wisely, the Wasp keeps hidden acknowledging she needs to pass what she's seen on to her teammates.
Wandering through the island jungle the team is attacked by razor sharp boomerang-like projectiles and with his usual acrobatic aplomb Cap takes out the launcher.

Surprise! A huge and angry, Yellow Claw bears down on the team - straight out of the cover!

(And I/you/we thought that cover was just symbolic! Shame on me/you/us!)

It falls to Jocasta (hero-of-the-hour again!) to point out - "Wait! It's a trick! The giant casts no Shadow!" and indeed this was a distraction while metal birds with shooting rockets attack!
The Avengers all battle and defeat these individually and are gradually getting closer to the base. When they arrive... "Hey! There's no doorknob!"

Wonder Man and Iron Man punch their way in - "Get ready for another attack, Avengers!" (This is like a platform game!)

Rather than more fighting though, YC reveals he has the captured Vision helpless in a machine ready to be dissected!

The team are shown through to the Yellow Claw in person and reunited with the Wasp. Cap explains their quest for Shu Han who the Claw explains is not his captive... but his bride-to-be! (Of course she is!)
(After the Ms. Marvel debacle you MIGHT think the Avengers will just accept this and leave....?)
"That makes no difference Claw! You can't just go around kidnapping brides!" protests Wonder Man and Shu Han relates that and agreement was made when she was a child - "... I was bought!" and although she had done great things in her life the Claw caught up with her. Unable to keep prolonging his life much more the Claw desires and heir and was ready to consumate that old deal.

Now that Shu Han had made such a fuss he feels she has acted without honour and actually says...

"Go! For I've no desire to take an unwilling bride!"  (Everyone is seeing the parallels with Ms Marvel yes? - is that Jim Shooter's part of the plotting again?)

The Claw parades several other women, willing brides if he wishes and thus declares the Avengers business is concluded. The Vision is returned and the Avengers do indeed leave the island.

Left behind we learn the Claw's intention is to father many children, once they are grown have them fight each other until only one survives and (somehow?) those children -- "-- shall be the LAST children on Earth!"
That may not hold up to scrutiny much but what maniacal plans for world domination actually do?
That's it. Is the story over... or is there another chapter..?

A word here about the art - I had always classed this issue as sub-par as the art seemed so disappointing after the Perez era but... it's Don Newton.!
I love Don Newton's Batman work and had never made this connection. So I find myself re-evaluating the art here.
The opening team shot in the Mansion is as good as many and the almost full-page line-up reacting to the flying perils as dynamic as any. The art then is NOT the source of my downer on this issue, it just doesn't feel good! It feels old fashioned and a bit obvious.
The story is nothing new, the characters are not progressed at all and indeed Hawkeye leaving is probably all that history needs to remember about this issue.
But it is Don Newton. (!)

"Next Issue The Yellow Claw Strikes!"

Come Back...

But would the Yellow Claw meet the Yellowjacket?  I think by this point in the Marvel Age, Yellow Claw had appeared in 4 storylines -- in SHIELD/Strange Tales in 1967, even if that version turned out to be Dr. Doom (which really made no sense at all; why did Steranko feel compelled to go with that surprise ending?);  Captain America & the Falcon in 1974; Iron Man in 1975 and Nova around 1978 (at least those are his appearances to my immediate recollection). All were multi-issue tales so although YC was hardly of the level of Kang, Ultron or certainly Dr. Doom as a major baddie, he was less obscure than say the Space Phantom.  That said, while I did read this story when it came out, I hardly remember it at all but I do remember those earlier CA&TF & Iron Man stories much more distinctly.

"That makes no difference Claw! You can't just go around kidnapping brides!" protests Wonder Man and Shu Han relates that and agreement was made when she was a child - "... I was bought!" 



Now that Shu Han had made such a fuss he feels she has acted without honour and actually says...

"Go! For I've no desire to take an unwilling bride!" 


So the “answer” Claw demanded would have been “no?”

I don’t think she thought she had that option. Most likely, Claw just said this to get rid of the Avengers.

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