Thursday, December 1, 2011

Siege At Avengers Mansion: Stern, Buscema, Palmer, Marvel Comics Group

From the Discovery Channel's special, ^ "Marvel Super Heroes' Guide to New York City:"

according to Stan Lee, who co-created the Avengers:

There was a mansion called the Frick Museum that I used to walk past. I sort of modeled Avengers Mansion after that. Beautiful, big, so impressive building, right on Fifth Avenue.
In real life, 890 Fifth Avenue is 1 East 70th Street, the location of the Frick Collection. The Frick's building is, like Avengers Mansion, a city block-sized former family home.
The narrative technique---interweaving our observation of the Avengers as they go about their individual paths---brings us to the point of view of Baron Zemo, the main character of this story. Each time we see them, it’s information we get first hand, revealed to be under evaluation for his Masters of Evil plans. Really, he’s invaded the reader’s perspective, the comic book, and in the end, Avengers Mansion itself.

Hercules breaks an oak table performing a bar stunt, on a bet with a guy who’s actually the Wrecker in mufti. Yellowjacket (the new villainess) monitors his wired microphone, becoming privy to Hercules’ resentment of the Wasp and Namor’s leave of absence. The report goes back to Zemo’s headquarters, intercepted by Moonstone, the psychologist with concussive energy powers. Zemo rightly recognizes this as her play for leadership. He’s given her the task of defense against Captain Marvel, who we see converting to sub-atomic particles and zipping straight through the moon and out the other side near Grissom’s Crater in seconds. Having deduced this scene from “long range telemetry observations rather than direct monitoring, Zemo considers her most powerful of all, and Captain America, the greatest strategic threat, for whom he’s yet to account. His Masters of Evil leadership considerations, and his passionate vanguard of his father’s hatred and genius, round him out as a character.

The realism of his means of observation each time provides a modern touch. The fact that the Avengers, unaware, are simply carrying out their private lives increases the creepiness, and enhances our sense of their danger and our concern for their safety.

His team takes over the story’s focus; Zemo flames their hatred and inspires unity, the key ingredient to their success, as well as that of the Avengers. After he observes Moonstone’s use of psychotic Blackout (see my late summer 2010 Nova posts) as an energy defense personally answerable to her, he contrives a fight between Piledriver of the Wrecking Crew and Mister Hyde. Unbeknownst to her, Zemo sedates Hyde with a concealed needle in his palm, filling him with elephant tranquilizer while appearing to merely console him with words---all for her benefit. The story relies on a reveal after nearly every scene to build Zemo’s credibility as a threat to the Avengers.

None of them, he knows, are home when they invade, their combined power sufficient to overtake the mansion in five minutes. He personally sets up a date for Hercules, who gets Jarvis to relieve him at monitor duty. He also places a news tip about the controversial Namor’s absence, with which a reporter confronts the Wasp, just after she’s made a glamorous entrance in the hand of the Black Knight, on a charity red carpet. Our view of Paladin’s dashing entrance, and Black Knight’s disdain for his rivalry, comes directly from the Fixer’s patch-in from the television cameras to Zemo’s monitors, continuing the techno-stalker theme. His fascination with the team, and his desire to provide them their greatest challenge, aligns with the reader’s own feelings.

#274 I love how Stern depicts the Avengers as competent---if overwhelmed. Black Knight’s tipped off by the lights being off in the foyer and deflects an ambush blast from Yellowjacket, but he’s not ready for Mister Hyde to rip through the wall! Captain Marvel’s deceived by a simulation of the Wasp’s voice, and upon arrival, realizes “she wouldn’t send me into a hostage situation without details! This is a trap!” Blackout, however, covers her in his energy, sending her to another “universe.” Cap reports Whirlwind’s activities in Florida, and knows the disinterested Wasp who “answers” doesn’t seem right, so he tags along on a helicopter to visit her at her home. Wasp successfully enters and observes; unfortunately Jarvis talks her out of freeing him, for a futile attempt to save the drunken, returned Hercules from ambush. I enjoy disguised Cap’s attempt to rein him in (“C’mere, lemme show you my new van!”) and his furious battle with the strongest of the Masters of Evil. Fixer’s modifications, however, take out Cap and force the Wasp to retreat just a few feet away---then Moonstone uses Blackout to lower the boom, enveloping the mansion in impenetrable darkness.

Zemo makes much of using the Avengers against one another; he even thanks the unconscious Black Knight for being part of his distraction of Captain Marvel. He gloats to Captain America about the Wasp’s unwitting part in the dissolution (abetted by Black Mamba’s cameo as Hercules’ date; as Tanya Seely, she’s filled him “with enough drugged booze to knock out an elephant! I’m surprised he’s still even on his feet!” The unannounced cameo makes a cool “Easter Egg” for avid Marvel fans, credited without footnote with recognizing her, and if you didn’t know, it didn’t matter). Zemo announces “by the way, one of your teammates has just expired…he won’t be the last!” Shockingly, it’s the nearly-indestructible Hercules, deposited unceremoniously through an aperture in the dark force at the feet of the distraught Wasp---who can’t find his pulse!

With a teaser title like “Even a God Can Die!!” you just know you have to get #275!!!

Meanwhile, our remaining t-shirts are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.

That's an awesome picture of Jamie Lee Curtis.

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