Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What the Butler Saw: Siege at Avengers Mansion (Marvel, 1986)

Mister Hyde. Goliath. The Wrecker and the Wrecking Crew, Thunderball, Bulldozer, and Piledriver. Moonstone. Blackout. The Fixer. Yellowjacket. Tiger Shark. And more, selected to match each Avengers’ strength---and together, surpass it.
Gathered by a scientific criminal mastermind---for the purpose of destroying the Avengers, utterly, once and for all. And should they survive, then…the wrath of a god-king?

Roger Stern’s Avengers themselves have been my primary focus; we’re going to mix one more fantasy oddball, Dr. Druid, and head towards old-fashioned costumed super criminals and face the gods themselves! (Wow, what that character could’ve been in the right hands! After Stern, he pretty much makes you hate him.) The Masters of Evil are the first threat Uncle Roj wraps up with his start on the title in ’82. For that matter, two of these owe their identities to Hank Pym’s career: Goliath and Yellow Jacket. How appropriate, at the Avengers’ last stand, a former burglar, Scott Lang, has used Hank Pym’s very first superhero identity, the one first partnered with now-leader the Wasp, who has taken, since her Silver Age debut in 1963 along with all the great Marvel heroes , an arc like Captain Marvel’s: from regular person to rookie super hero to expansion of powers to leader of Earth’s Mightiest Avengers.

Our last heroic spotlight, however, is on one unsung stalwart who stays true to the team, after punishments no ordinary man should bear. The failure to protect him symbolizes the extent of Zemo’s achievement in laying siege to Avenger’s Mansion, a place not only to gather heroes in vigil, but to train, to share downtime life, to think quietly alone, and to break bread---served by the man who makes Avengers Mansion a home, their butler Edwin Jarvis.

Jarvis is the human being who really holds together any sense of normalcy, the metaphorical manservant who sets strangers at ease, who bears delicious mutton, clean linens, and humanizes the refuge of the super humans, who, after all, are just people, too, with favorite foods and activities and moods. His fastidious upkeep of Avengers Mansion provides a lot of comic relief, in relation to the largely undomestic nature of a very far-out array of sudden house guests, many of which just may need a plate of cold cuts and a reminder not to stain the carpet!

I could go on for some length about the ingenuity, planning, and tricky alliances that comprise Zemo's one-by-one elimination or capture of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. He really has an answer for all the known factors. But the hardest thing to watch is bruiser Mister Hyde first destroy Captain America's original shield and his few keepsakes in a foot locker from his early life...beat the stuffing out of the Black Knight, who is after all also just a mortal man...and then, he brutalizes, cripples, and nearly kills poor Jarvis before the eyes of his super hero captives. In the aftermath of this nearly-lethal assault, Edwin Jarvis has to make a realistic examination of the danger to himself, living in the midst of these metahuman beings and their intense rivalries carried on at the behest of truly damaged, ugly-to-the-soul criminals.

He really proves to be the common man's thread; his history is their history. He's paid a lot of attention to the human element, shared many a confidence, and his story in AVENGERS #280 is the perfect epilogue to Siege at Avengers Mansion.

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