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 started following the Captain Marvel story with issue #27, which to my then 11 year old self was incredibly impressive art & story-wise. Up 'til then the only other comic I had featuring Captain Marvel was issue #22, which wasn't all that great (and at this point I was entirely unfamiliar with the original Captain Marvel although in short order the DC reprints came out and then there was the Saturday morning tv show. So I was completely onboard with the Thanos storyline when Avengers #126 came out and I was completely hooked on that tale and thought it was cool its diversion into the Avengers just before the big conclusion, after having started in Iron Man (not that I was aware of that at the time). I'd missed the Kree-Skrull War, having started collecting the Avengers a few months after the conclusion of that epic, but I'd already read plenty of references to it and this first Thanos War made for a glorious epic in its own right. Yeah, the Avengers became in their own issue a sort of side-show to the main event going on in CM's title, but I didn't mind then and I liked that Englehart was able to fit in the Avengers' appearances in that mag with the storylines in their own mag and even make it jive with what was going on in Captain America's title (it might've been expecting too much to also make everything fit in with what was going on in Shellhead's and the Thunder God's titles at the time).

#22 is practically a new series, coming out two years after #21 was cancelled. Someone on Amazon asked why doesn't he say Shazam anymore.

Until I read that issue, I wasn't even familiar with Rick Jones, although it wasn't long after that I got the Marvel Triple Action reprints of early Avengers featuring Rick Jones as that other Cap's partner.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t read #125 until after I read the Life of Captain Marvel mini-series, reprinting Starlin’s run. #125 was really pretty pointless; the Avengers gave a must better showing in Captain Marvel than they did in their own mag as far as this story’s concerned.

STEVE ENGLEHART ON AVENGERS #125:

“My good friend Jim Starlin approached me with the idea of tying my Avengers to his Captain Marvel. He wanted to make the climax of an epic he’d been running as big as possible and get the Assemblers involved, and I was happy to oblige. As I’ve discussed before, regarding Steve Gerber and the Daredevil crossover, each writer tells the other what his own characters have to do in the other’s issue, and then it’s left to each writer to incorporate the requirements into his own story.

“Okay, I couldn’t assume everyone reading Avengers was also reading Captain Marvel, so I recapped Jim’s entire epic in one page—no easy feat—and then began the one story that would start here and conclude in CM. Since you may not have read Jim’s epic—though you can, and should, in Marvel Masterworks: captain Marvel Vol. 3--the recap works for you, too, all these years later.

“The Swordsman and the Vision have a moment. And Mantis has a moment. And Wanda has a moment, thanks to the artistry of John Buscema. It’s now officially a quadrangle. When these four go into battle together, it’s most definitely not just four suits—it’s four people, and we know all of them, and their relationships.

“They turn off the Universal Language Equalizer. ‘Puraz, mi sobaz!’

“Hopefully you now need to spend another 25 cents on Captain Marvel.”

In case you are wondering, CM #33 is included in MMW as well, so we’ll have Englehart’s comments on that issue, too, when we get to that point.

I found this one rather underwhelming.  I think it would have benefited from not having so much crammed into one issue.  Steve Englehart packed 8 issues worth of Captain Marvel into one page, that's just too much, and what could have been smooth became quite choppy.  It's not the incoherent mess that the Zodiac three parter was, but it's just kind of there.  The cover promised a big battle with Thanos and instead we mainly get 4 Avengers taking out his forces, hardly breaking a sweat.  Thanos only shows up in the last two panels, hiding behind a chimney for some reason, bragging about the Avengers defeating his fleet being part of his master plan.  I find that kind of thing quite tiresome - "you've ruined my plans, just like I wanted, muhahhah"  Seriously?  Think of all the time and effort Thanos put into putting all that together, and it was just a diversion?  Yeah, sure.  I think it's done to convey how complex/ruthless/genius the villain is but it makes them look like a dumbass imo.

Also, if you're like me and haven't read the Captain Marvel issues, there were a few head scratching moments, especially at the end when the Avengers are talking about the Cosmic Cube.

Very nice art, though, and as much as Mantis can grate on me, I found the beginning of the Vision - Wanda - Swordsman - Mantis quadrangle intriguing.  Even though Swordy is wrong about the Vision, it's nice to see him stand up for himself and not be so whiny.

I only read the last issue of the Thanos story and I don't remember the Avengers doing anything really useful in the story,it seemed like Starfox, a character I'd never heard of before, was much more important to the story than they were. It seemed to mostly be Mar-Vell fighting a giant drawing of Thanos ending in that famous old geezer karate chop on the Cosmic Cube. Possibly this was made to get people to know Captain Marvel had been brought back. Pretty sure when I read this I'd thought his battle with the Hulk was the last issue.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #33 (07/74)

Writer/’words’ – Steve Englehart

Plot & Art – Jim Starlin Inks- Klaus Janson

Cover Art – Jim Starlin    

 “The God Himself!”

We begin with a standoff between Captain Marvel and Thanos and are given an incredible detailed and beautiful recap of events so far in this space opera involving Captain Marvel, the elders of Titan, the evil of Thanos, the pathos of Drax the Destroyer and the passing involvement of the Thing, Iron Man and now the Avengers.

…”And that’s what’s going on here!”

It is actually difficult to explain as Thanos, who is now one with the universe, watches his own physical battle with Mar-Vell and watches the Avengers quinjets space battle of the last issue we covered in this thread.

There is a direct panel to panel link with Avengers #125 – where Thanos hid on the roof and we hear that Thanos has shunted our heroes into an ‘out-of-phase’ existence on the earth.

It’s all very surreal but of course – especially as it appears Steve Englehart had more of an effect on this storyline than I had remembered, it is Mantis who alerts the ‘out-of-phase’ trap to Captain Marvel,

“Fortunately, this one has perfect control of mind and body.” – Yeah, handy that.

Mar-Vell points out “Then—the Avengers have been removed from the field! “ – Not much of a crossover chapter then eh?

Anyway, having had that setting explained for us all we finally begin the climax battle.

Drax and Mar-Vell battle Thanos as Mistress Death watches the action.

Thanos soon transforms himself into a godlike energy filling the sky – and uses a skyscraper against the heroes.

Drax battles blindly on but Mar-Vell begins to form a plan…

“Mantis I have an idea – a wild one!”

…”Thanos wants worshippers too badly! His power can’t be self –generating – so he must still be drawing it from the cube! He threw the cube aside as if valueless! What better means to divert our attention from it?”

Thanos realises Mar-Vel has cottoned on and as Starlin does his best Ditko impression

”How can you reach anything Mar-Vell –in a world gone MAD?”

Everyone remembers Mar-Vell‘s withering karate chop on the cube don’t they?

It is over.

The good guys won.

You want an explanation? Try …”Thanos’s conception of the universe had become a fact when he died, it was his conception which died with him…”

That doesn’t help..? Try… “…no one worshipped Thanos, not even Thanos himself…for he worshipped Death and for that reason, Death could not worship him.” …now, you see, I almost understood that bit ...but…

With each victory, there is loss, with each relief, there is regret. Only a few can understand…and to understand is to choose a life with no simple choices—the Life of Captain Marvel!”

(And they say Chris Claremont invented overwriting.)

So there you have it.

This is, of course, a classic.

This is a major part of Jim Starlin’s Magnus Opus with the best use of Thanos and Captain Marvel and their supporting casts ever and this issue is the dazzling culmination of all things cosmic and Starlin.

This is before Starlin got way to obsessed with Adam Warlock and Thanos, this is the first time Starlin told this story that he has told time and time and time and time again since…!

The art is beautiful and Starlin is rarely better, but the full page ‘Katoom’ of Thanos being attacked is a bit basic – I’m taking that as one of the ‘panels-blown-up-to-fill-pages’ prevalent at the time.

The crow barring into the story of Mantis is pure Englehart and an annoying detail here, wouldn’t Mondragon have worked just as well?

For an Avengers crossover, as mentioned, this hardly counts as they hardly feature and only Mantis speaks (and I still maintain at this time she still is NOT an official member!) but the loose ends of Thanos are tied up …but it is fair to say if the Avengers issue of #125 had not have linked the title in, there would have been no need for these loose ends to be tightened would there..?

It is a thrilling ride but with hindsight it’s a bit all style and no substance.

I have to mention the recent Thanos Annual #1 which directly links to the pivotal panel crossover between these two issues, the Thanos hides on the roof moment – that Annual fills in a continuity point there that…didn’t really need much filling and doesn’t really change much…IMHO.

I do not intend to cover that issue despite its continuity link as I fail to see the necessity to any narrative.

(Am I the only one who read that Annual – or the only one to think ‘so what?’ when I did?)

Our normal Avengers service is resumed with their next issue…#126…

Come back

 

That skyscraper Thanos tossed at Mar-Vell & Drax was the then recently completed World Trade Center, later destroyed not by a mad god but by mad worshippers of another god with boxcutters and a jumbo jet.  Anyhow, I enjoyed Starlin's wild ride of a story, but his next major opus, the Magus saga over in Warlock, was much better.  I haven't picked up that Thanos Annual and am not that much of a completest to feel compelled to do so.  When I stopped collecting back in the mid-80s, I also bailed out of one of the seemingly infinite Infinity Gauntlet tales.  Starlin's a very talented writer & artist, but he was repeating himself too much.  Also, blame cost-cutting for some of those page fillers -- the artists/writers at the time were required to produce an extra page for free and so many came up with creative ways to come up with that extra page without doing too much extra work, which sometimes meant expanding one panel to page size or even to two pages.  Of course, Kirby had started doing the one page panels routinely by 1967, usually to great artistic effect IMO, and Ditko had been doing it, rather more rarely, aside from the first Spider-Man Annual.  Certainly that classic one panel page in ASM #33, with Spidey throwing off tons of debris he had been showing over the previous several pages struggling to escape, very much earned taking up an entire page.  Whether Starlin's "Katoom" page earned it is certainly more debatable, but my not terribly discerning 11 year old self reading Captain Marvel #33 in 1974 certainly didn't mind.  More style than substance, sure, but IMO a very entertaining style, akin to the Star Wars flicks that were still about 3 years away from starting up.

Unfortunately the one page panels would lead to gross overuse in the 90s, sometimes with no word balloons, to make them more valuable to sell. There was one short lived company that boasted it would never have more than five panels on a page. At the time five panels on a page in any comic was rare.

Don't even remember Mantis being in this, mostly just some panels of Iron Man not actually doing anything. This was like the Avengers and Defenders vowing to team up against Dormammu, only for the Defenders to get knocked out at the start of the fight.

I read that Thanos Annual, Richard, but I looked on it a bit more favorably than you, I think… more for reasons of nostalgia than plot, I must admit, but then again, I’m a sucker for time travel stories in which the protagonist meets an earlier or or a later version of himself. As has become usual with this thread, it’s interesting to see how Steve Englehart’s MMW introductions seem to anticipate points posted earlier in the discussion. This time we pick up from, “Hopefully you now need to spend another 25 cents on Captain Marvel.”

STEVE ENGLEHART ON CAPTAIN MARVEL #33:

Very hopefully, because somewhere in there, Jim came back to me and said that he wanted to become a better writer, and his means of choice was to stop scripting his stories and just watch it being done for a while. Since that would leave Captain Marvel without a scripter, and since he and I were friends, he thought he’d like to watch me write his baby. He was going to continue to plot it, so it would be just a dialogue job. Fine. Let’s do that.

“Thus it was that I picked up right where I’d just left off, and wrote the words for Jim’s tremendous climax. I hope I did it justice, but there’s little I can discuss here because I didn’t plot it. It was Jim’s idea to make Mantis the agent of thwarting Thanos’s plot. She was definitely getting popular with all the readers.”

Thanks again Jeff - but  please Mr Englehart 'She was defiantly getting popular with ALL the readers' - really?

Would he have gotten rid of her a year from now if she was so popular? Sounds like he's remembering what he wants to remember.

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