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 think it wasn't until about 10 years after it was published that I finally got a copy of this issue, along with Giant-Size Avengers 3 & 4, but this was by far the best.  Like the death of Captain Mar-Vell, this is one that needs to be left alone!  Although the Swordsman was hardly the only villain to reform and become an Avenger, he was unique in having been a villain far longer than any of the others (well, at least up through circa 1985 or whenever I stopped collecting the title).  He had been a nasty bugger but then he genuinely tried to become a good guy, a hero, even as he wound up seriously wounded and even tortured, and finally dying, feeling he had been a failure.  And finally, Mantis actually seems to have a heart after all.  Classic tale and I think Englehart did a brilliant build-up to this moment over the previous year and a half, since the introduction of Mantis and the "mysterious man in the shadows" back in Avengers #112. Mantis became really unlikeable and Swordsman was nearly falling apart before pulling himself together for his finest hour as an Avenger before being cut down.

Richard Mantle said:

We then see Kang loading his Avengers-fuelled Manbots, planning World War III, as the ladies look on.

Wanda thinks she must be the madonna since Mantis is unworthy. Almost sounds like she wants it. Mantis thinks THE SAME THING AS WANDA, combined with oh boy then she can have the Vision. Never mind about WWIII and that the Vision is being used as a power battery by a madman.

....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.

In the course of these remembrances, Rama-Tut brings out that his purpose is to save Kang (himself) from being killed by the Swordsman! At the end of the tale it sounds like he wanted to save Swordsman from Kang.

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

As you said, an excellent story. Even Mantis gets to act human, regretting her poor choices.

The whole Celestial Madonna saga, and this issue in particular, is one of the two high points of Englehart's run, the other being the Avengers-Defenders War.  Dave Cockrum was at the top of his game on this issue and it's too bad he didn't do more issues.

Too bad that Cockrum wasn't available to even do GS-Avengers #4, which IMO is a contender for worst drawn Avengers story ever.  It would be nearly a year until the Avengers had more consistently great art, when George Perez took on the job. 

" Avenger Lives Matter " !



Richard Willis said:

Richard Mantle said:

We then see Kang loading his Avengers-fuelled Manbots, planning World War III, as the ladies look on.

Wanda thinks she must be the madonna since Mantis is unworthy. Almost sounds like she wants it. Mantis thinks THE SAME THING AS WANDA, combined with oh boy then she can have the Vision. Never mind about WWIII and that the Vision is being used as a power battery by a madman.

....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.

In the course of these remembrances, Rama-Tut brings out that his purpose is to save Kang (himself) from being killed by the Swordsman! At the end of the tale it sounds like he wanted to save Swordsman from Kang.

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

As you said, an excellent story. Even Mantis gets to act human, regretting her poor choices.

Giant Size Avengers#4 was drawn by Don Heck. I'm sure we could find Avengers stories drawn much worse if we looked for them. I remember a 90s issue where everyone looked ugly, including Crystal, and I'd never seen an ugly drawing of Crystal before. We're in the time period where printing was horrible, making artwork look fuzzy and unfinished. Suddenly Marvel comics were looking like they were being printed by Charlton.

After I finished reading the new E-Man tpb this weekend I was still in the mood to read some Joe Staton, so I decided to read “The Celestial Madonna” story right along with you, Richard. Steve Englehart may consider Avengers #129 & GSA #2 a single story, but AFAIAC, the arc barrels right on through to GSA #4. (I stopped on GSA #3, myself, but I plan to keep going.) Another current project of mine is MMW Subby. The next issue in queue is #14, but before I read that I read FF Annual #4. I’ll be quite eager to discuss Avengers #134 when you get to that point.

I think Giant-Size Defenders #4 was also drawn by Heck and that was a lot better art-wise.  Maybe GS-A #4 was a rush job, or maybe the difference in inkers made a big difference.  I haven't collected any Avengers stories since sometime in the mid-80s, long before Crystal joined the team.  Based on some of the excerpts on-line I've seen of a lot of Marvel Comics art in the '90s, I'd believe you about there being far worse art than Heck's in that time.  Altogether, although I have 1000's of Marvel comics from the '70s and early '80s, I probably have less than 100 issues or even TBP collections of issues of anything Marvel published from the late '90s to the present, although I have a lot more stuff from DC/Vertigo from the same period.
 
Ron M. said:

Giant Size Avengers#4 was drawn by Don Heck. I'm sure we could find Avengers stories drawn much worse if we looked for them. I remember a 90s issue where everyone looked ugly, including Crystal, and I'd never seen an ugly drawing of Crystal before. We're in the time period where printing was horrible, making artwork look fuzzy and unfinished. Suddenly Marvel comics were looking like they were being printed by Charlton.

I doubt I have much more than a dozen issues from the late 90s on. Got a lot from Archie during that time.

AVENGERS #130  (12/74)

Writer – Steve Englehart      Penciller – Sal Buscema   Inker – Joe Staton

Cover Art – Gil Kane & Dave Cockrum

    “The Reality Problem!”

Okay, it’s a common design seen many times before and since and it’s not bringing much original to the table –AND the crimson Dynamo and Radioactive Man should probably been swapped over as there is too much of a green fest going on in the bottom left corner BUT – this is Gil Kane AND Dave Cockrum on the Avengers !!

It is beautiful! I love it! Kane and Cockrum!! Wow!

Inside and just in case anyone thought there may be a reset-button moment in this regular title issue after the dramatic events of the Giant-Size Special #2 in which the Swordsman died—we open at his funeral!

‘The Swordsman was a loser to the last moment of his life…’

The main story begins the day before, ‘forty-eight hours after the Swordsman’s death…’

Continuity references are made to Captain America #179 and #176 explaining his new Nomad identity and by association the reason for his absence from the Avengers.  Hawkeye also accepts that he appears to have rejoined the team.

Mantis enters and announces she is to leave (I and surely many other readers cheered at that!?) to take the Swordsman’s body to Vietnam for interment.

Thor speaks for the team when he tells her ‘Nay!”  and commits the Avengers to travel with her, although the Scarlet Witch remains to continue her witchcraft lessons and the Vision says he is too useless to go with them until Iron Man convinces him otherwise. Wanda really wanted him to stay but as usual doesn’t voice her feelings.

Meanwhile in ‘the land of the green latrine’ (not a rival comicbook character! – gotta laugh?) we meet a diamond thief in a razor-sharp blade suit – the Slasher- who steals some gems. (His first appearance - not called ‘Buzzsaw’ and next called Razorblade!)

Our heroes arrive at the abandoned temple of the Priests of Pama where Mantis remembered growing up,

“Why here, Mantis?”

“This is the place this one wishes her man to pass eternity.”

She certainly will not have the possibility her memories are sorting themselves out.

…and so we catch up to our splash page as our Avengers say their goodbyes and Mantis reverently asks, “…as a God, Thor…would you speak for him?” – nice touch that.

Burial over the peace is broken by a wife-beater screaming for help as he is chased down by three known enemies-of-the-west the Titanium Man, The Crimson Dynamo and the Radioactive Man.

The wrinkle here is the fact that the guy beat his wife and the ‘bad-guys’ are only teaching him a lesson as kind of law-enforcement for the Vietnam sector.

We learn these three have combined as ‘the Titanic Three’ after various defeats by Avengers  before gaining a new purpose,

 – “Here, we are no longer criminals! It is you who merit that designation! You are undesirable aliens—and we order you to depart!”

Iron Man takes that under consideration….”Depart my eye!”

Livid due to his own battles against the armoured easterners Iron man will not be calmed down by the statesmanlike Thor and an old fashioned hero-fight breaks out!

Thor does, naturally (?) win out and the Avengers withdraw.

Mantis’s memories are not reliable – she recognises a dwelling she couldn’t have lived in and the Avengers fail to contact Captain Marvel due to events in his own magazine (?) thinking their apparent Kree connection may help.

Hawkeye helps the lapsed/new reader, triggering a recap page with his question, “Just what is the story on this chick?”

As Mantis wanders in search of inspiration we catch back up with the Slasher who throws in with the Titanic Three.

(see, putting a number in your name is never a good idea is it – a bit like ‘Blake’s 7’ – wasn’t there like about 10 of them and no Blake most of the time..?...)

The bad-four battle the Avengers – curiously the Slasher appears to overpower Mantis – who had proven virtually unbeatable against everyone else she’s fought up to this point. (Was the idea that now that she was so confused her game was off or something?)

Out of view of the Avengers, a hooded figure overpowers the Crimson Dynamo – who might that be..?

The Vision gets a good spotlight, regaining some stature as he defeats the Slasher, proving he had duped the Titanic Three, “So! We have been duped!” – see told you.

The issue closes with a comment on the futility of war and the effect on innocent persons.

It’s a soft ending to a bitty issue, there’s not a great deal of story progression here, the Swordsman is laid to rest and we get – again – Mantis’s mystery so far – repeated but the idea of where this story may be going is just not noticeable at all.

The hooded one is revealed eventually, but not for a few issues – in fact the next few issues fly off at a tangent with more time-travelling confusion further delaying the linear explanation of Mantis’s origin.

Art in this issue is in the hands of Sal Buscema and Joe Station, Dave Cockrum having gone from this title now and it is a great shame. While not particularly bad the art is just uninspired and functional and remains like that for some time now – take for instance, the full page spread of Thor vs Iron Man, - it’s just not that dynamic is it?

Thank god for Hawkeye staying around but this begins to become a dull period for the Avengers as a team as Englehart plays up his favourites and everyone else fades to support characters only.

We do get some fascinating ‘unliving’ guests next though…

Come back…

STEVE ENGLEHART ON AVENGERS #130:

“Anyway, we had the GS books, and we came right out of GSA #2’s storyline, sticking the landing here in the abandoned temple of the Priests of Pama. Hawkeye at least has the decency to have the Vision explain Mantis’s story in a concise fashion. And the you get a moral (always true, always forgotten)."

 Thankyou as always Jeff...

...but,,,,,

what do YOU think of this issue  amd the series in general at this point?
 
Jeff of Earth-J said:

STEVE ENGLEHART ON AVENGERS #130:

“Anyway, we had the GS books, and we came right out of GSA #2’s storyline, sticking the landing here in the abandoned temple of the Priests of Pama. Hawkeye at least has the decency to have the Vision explain Mantis’s story in a concise fashion. And the you get a moral (always true, always forgotten)."

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