Saturday, December 3, 2011

Out of Nowhere! 1980's Avengers by Marvel Comics Group


Is this, like, Part 20? Part 21? LOL


JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: 1980S Avengers by Marvel Comics Group
2:37 am, on the last morning (for now, at least) I have to give to this series about the great Roger Stern-written comic books. Let’s see. Time to flip open a couple of comic books again! (I actually prefer to write from whatever inspired me enough to remember, and keep reading them separate from writing so I don't just end up with a plot summary, which is achingly boring to do.)


I need to stop a moment and mention how I like the head shots with no back ground that Buscema/Palmer use once or twice an issue. They’re really consummate story tellers, and they serve the story selflessly with competency. The faces are busy telling the story and giving you a sense of the tone of voice; you know where everything occurs; there’s a certain classically-minded aesthetic. These pro illustrators never lose the enthusiasm of Roger’s story, so filled with incidence that nonetheless carries characterization. Perhaps they seem conventional or work-horse in their approach, but they convey an iconic sense of reality I find timeless.
Having used the hospital in a creative, highly-improvised battle to save Hercules from doom at the hands of Absorbing Man (a terrific improvisation villain, with at least some crude sense of tactics) and his mean-spirited woman, Titania (who gets her bratty behind handed to her by Mama Wasp in a wizard way I won’t spoil for you---read it!), the leader and last Avenger standing, the Wasp, is fighting mad and glad to take along her one ally, Ant Man, in the effort to save the Avengers and the world from the Masters of Evil. Even working with someone dressed exactly like her ex-husband in more innocent days shows her gut courage; she’s really no-nonsense with the chips down.


As Captain America says in the middle of Zemo’s terroristic taping of his threatening rant, she will assemble a whole new team of Avengers if necessary to bring Baron Zemo down! (For the record: he’s distracted the West Coast Avengers in Indonesia, halfway ‘round the globe; the Fantastic Four are out of town, which is to say WAY way out of town; and in these times, who knows how to reach the X-Men? Doesn’t the rare person who believes they even exist probably think they’re dead or something, anyway, in the anti-mutant Marvel U?)

The darkest, most awful scene in the comics---alongside the dreaded humbling of Hercules---begins with the destruction of things from Cap’s foot locker. Zemo shreds a picture of Cap and Bucky, his deceased partner; “he died fighting my father---is it not so?” He gloats over that death. He expects other people to give in to bitterness; that is what he wants to teach Cap. Hyde takes out what is, apparently, the original Captain America shield, and crushes it like a white Coca-Cola save-the-wildlife holiday can.
“I’ll remember this, Zemo.”
“Will nothing break his spirit?” the ersatz Baron thinks to himself. It’s a moment of swelling pride. Then, they start to damage what he really cares about: his defenseless friends. Black Knight awakens to the beating of Jarvis by Mister Hyde, and tries to summon his Ebony Blade, counting on its enchantments. The sword, along with Cap’s shield, are held in stasis, however, examined by the Fixer. Naturally, they are each about their own agendas, from which Baron Zemo II steers them constantly, attempting to avert the weakness of over-confidence as he doubtlessly begins to re-assess his remaining foe, the Wasp.


He places Fixer alongside Yellowjacket, for whom he lusts. Meanwhile, she’s already demonstrated a technique that, if done slowly, makes a good tendon stretch, thumb bent down to the arm, touching the tip below the wrist---yah, imagine that done quickly by surprise, and you know how she feels about the Fixer. (It’s not a big point, but she’s one of the first costumed Hispanic characters for Marvel, and I do believe someone converts her to the light side a while---a seed planted, no doubt, by her discomfort watching Hyde and Zemo gleefully torture the city.)

Bingo! Captain Marvel, once taunted by a mysterious light in the dark force dimension, strives again towards a flash, with hope! In a playful move inter-connecting the Dark Force mystery in the Marvel U., Stern portrays the Shroud, the blind crusader (thought to be a criminal, by criminals!) whose cape billows with the blackest unknown, turns on his Shadow bit against a fleeing criminal of the organized variety in L.A. Suddenly, from his variant of the Dark Force, Captain Marvel storms out as light, surprising the crook, who's one smart crack in the head away from done. Captain Marvel's emergence from the darkness sets the theme visually as did Zemo's surveillance and encroachment in #273. (When I first read these, I just knew they made my brain light up; the techniques at work were invisible to the reality generated by these craftspeople.)


Now, Thor just suddenly appears out of nowhere, too, having finally gotten the Wasp's calls to Sigurd Jarlson. Dr. Druid---who really isn't worthy of the name in later depictions, a real lost opportunity/but/anyway---detects a disturbance: the psychic anguish of the Black Knight, already beaten, watching dear Jarvis being pulped by Hyde. Now HE appears out of nowhere, making a connection with the Dark Force, and with it, Blackout's conditioned, nearly-empty mind. He suggests Blackout turn off the Dark Force.

The power inside Avengers Mansion quickly follows. (And it's true, thematically, the "power"---the Masters of Evil---will from this moment begin to wane.)

Avengers appearing out of nowhere becomes the theme, all right, to the tune of team work in the darkness staggering the truly hateful Mister Hyde just before he can kill poor Jarvis the Butler!

Now, Captain Marvel scouts all the floors---Zemo's already telling Yellowjacket to leave Fixer to his own devices. She thinks about that: Zemo doesn't really care about any one of them! Captain America now knows the enemy's congregated on the first floor, so, in the lead, he does the unexpected, and is not where his ambushers expect, with one graceful leap. Face them, they must: Jarvis, Thor declares, is too badly injured to move through the "underground tunnel Captain Marvel has made!" So, it's through the gauntlet. Only the Wasp has any hint how much Thor hurts; his secret is Hela's curse that he not die, but that his bones be brittle and break without healing---very bad for rough housing. But it's better none know; that way, it's not betrayed in their movements, which instead reflect the confidence that comes alongside the God of Thunder (who is absolutely one of my favorite Marvel super-heroes). He takes the Wrecking Crew's powers away with his magical hammer Mjolnir, but Goliath gets the drop on him, and now Cap's witness to another brutalization!

Druid's handy, levitating up to stop Moonstone and Blackout on the roof. Captain Marvel appears---from nowhere!---and Moonstone flees at a speed dangerous to her own life! She really thinks Marvy's going to KILL her!! Zemo gets the drop on Druid, shouldering the star-spangled shield. Now, he creeps to zombie kind Blackout's side..."you will send them all away into the Dark Force---yes?" "Yes..."

NEXT: WHAT COST, VICTORY?

This Hela's Curse development ties in from contemporary developments in Walt Simonson's run on THOR, which has run parallel to Stern's AVENGERS run. In the future, Walt succeeds Stern---good work, but I had AVENGERS fatigue about this time, as I read all of this 80's run back to re-reading a bit of Shooter's writing, not to mention the Korvac Saga, during a phase in September. The feeling was not unlike reading the Defenders and realizing Steve Gerber's run is over---maybe good for the future, but kind of disheartening, depressing stuff, story-wise. And a waste of a character named Dr. Druid, with mental powers and spiritual mysteries, fall guy to some editorial fiat.

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