Thursday, June 19, 2008

Celestial Madonna - Giant Size Avengers # 4 (conclusion)

Giant Size Avengers 4 Mantis Vision Scarlet Witch
Giant-Size Avengers #4 (1974) Nuptials! And plenty of 'em!

Doug: Yuck.
Lame conclusion to an otherwise fun story…
Other than that, what else can I say?? Don Heck’s art was atrocious – it is just hard for me to look at his 1970’s work and believe he was the same penciller who brought us the Kooky Quartet. The characters were flat, the motion was stiff and unnatural, and it was just overall bad.

Karen: I agree completely about the Heck art. It really does look terrible. It has a stiff, scratchy feeling to it. I recall back at the time this issue came out, there were two artists that I absolutely dreaded finding in a comic: Don Heck and Frank Robbins. I’d pick Heck as the lesser of two evils, but not by much.

Sharon: It’s obvious Heck needed help here so where was the inker? Yes, I know John Tartag/Tartaglione is no Joe Sinnott, but he was no slouch either…he was a veteran who’d inked Steranko on those X-Men issues, for goodness' sake! But here it looks like he put no effort into enhancing the pencils, which looked extremely rough. Heck’s work looks so unfinished here…especially the female faces…it looks like he just did outlines or breakdowns in some places. Some of it is so bad that I can’t believe Marvel let this go to print like this, but(obviously) deadlines had to be met.

Sad, because Heck’s work in the early-mid 60s was quite good, particularly his character faces. But by the 1970s he’d (reportedly) been having personal problems that affected his art, so as mentioned, I think it’s a shame that Marvel didn’t put a more conscientious inker or finishing artist to work here.

Doug: Englehart’s conclusion to the origin of Mantis was, to say the least, a strange resolution to what had been a very enjoyable read. The “parallel lives” of Mantis and Moondragon came at the reader out of left field. Neither was a character with enough history in the Marvel Universe such that this revelation carried any weight or made me care at all (and that’s reading it now, over 30 years after the fact, although I did try to come to the story with a sense of newness).

Karen: The story took a number of turns that didn’t seem right – particularly the whole Dormammu sub-plot. All the attention on Mantis and Moondragon was somewhat tedious. I thought it amusing that Englehart has Thor say to Iron Man, “This day, old friend, it doth seem that e’en the mighty Thor, son of Odin, shall encounter wonders undreamt of in Asgard! While he and the mighty Avengers do naught but observe!” I guess even Englehart realized he had put his stars on the back-burner.

Sharon: Yep, even more additions to the story…why not throw Dormammu into the mix?

Doug: Can you imagine, in an era when mixed-race marriages were still fodder for the Archie Bunkers of the world, publishing a comic book where two human women marry a) a plastic man and b) a tree??? And then Couple #1 talks of going off on a honeymoon to supposedly consummate their marriage, while Couple #2 talks of breeding the perfect child?? Whoa… Englehart must have been “recovering” when he wrote this stuff. It is certainly out there.

Sharon: When you mentioned a “plastic man” I thought of the old Jack Cole hero! I was kind of surprised no one ever questioned the legality of Vision and Wanda’s marriage. And unfortunately, back then it was less controversial for women to marry trees and androids, than it would have been to, say, have Wanda wed T’Challa.

I know we all joke about the tree, but what a wild element for a comic book (it’s “out there”, as you said, Doug). I mean, I’m used to such things in Greek myths, such as Daphne turning into a tree to escape Apollo’s advances. Kudos to Englehart for pushing the envelope. Yeah, maybe he flew too close to the sun ;) , but what he did here was on another level...and kind of poetic. 

Karen: While much of this story seems out there, I have to admit I enjoyed the sense of freedom that Englehart exhibits, to try something new, maybe a bit preposterous, but daring and exciting too. I may be a softy, but I enjoyed the Vision’s proposal to Wanda. Knowing what comes later for these two made it a very bittersweet moment.

Sharon: I love how Wanda refers to herself as the "first girl" Vision ever met- -ummm, what about Jan? Well, no one’s memory is perfect and perhaps Wanda was not really aware of the composition of the team before she—Wanda—rejoined the Avengers. But that’s why she’s a character in a story and not an omniscient narrator.

Doug: Kang’s reappearance was also out of left field. It didn’t seem to fit into the story and was not effective at all in light of how well he’d been handled in the first half of this story.

Karen: The Kang stuff just seemed underwhelming. It didn’t have any of the impact of his previous appearances.

Doug: So, to stop belaboring the point, this issue left me dissatisfied. Period.

Karen: The single biggest obstacle to my enjoyment of this issue was the art. But the story also seemed somewhat scattered. I would agree that it is not nearly as satisfying a read as the issues that preceded it.


Doug: I really like the Celestial Madonna arc. I love the huge Kang battles, the intrigue of the Kang/Rama-tut/Immortus schizophrenia, the Legion of the Unliving, the origin of the Vision, and the first 2/3 of the origin of Mantis. The writing in the first 90% of the story, while not perfect, is very good. And as I’ve said, the art by Sal Buscema, Joe Staton, and Dave Cockrum is for the most part quite good and very pleasing to the eye. But I think, in recommending this to a friend I would almost feel compelled to tell them something like “don’t judge the story by its ending – it’s better than that!”

Karen: It’s a 70s classic, that has to be accepted as part of the times it came from. For the most part it is quite entertaining, although things tend to bog down towards the end. But it has a level of creativity that is not often seen –then or now.

Sharon: As you’ve both said, very imaginative saga- -so many twists and turns, and an attempt to meld universal and personal truths. Not everything works but you really get a sense of Englehart’s exhilaration, his curiosity, and passion throughout this storyline. He bites off more than he can chew (in my opinion), but there’s rarely a dull moment.


Dr. Pym said...

I for one, heavily enjoyed this one. Then again, I've always dug the idea of Wanda and The Vision getting married in the first place, so I guess I'm a wee bit biased! Sure, the writing was a bit week, and Heck's art was pretty questionable (Though by the time the early 80's rolled around, the art on The Avengers got REAL ugly!) but it doesn't detract much from the story to me. Very rarely does the artwork detract from the story for me, in fact.

What's with everyone's interpretation of Mantis? I've seen her change her looks drastically so many times. Even in here she looks off. Remember when Engelhart moved her from WCA to a four part story in the Fantastic Four in 1989? Check out that ridiculous boob job!

I personally prefer the Giant Size Avengers with the death of The Swordsman, but maybe that's just me.

Karen said...

I think her cruelty towards the Swordsman was one of the major reasons I never liked Mantis. I vaguely remember her appearances in the FF and WCA. I was pretty much over my annoyance with her until Avengers: Celestial Quest came out, and she and the Vision get it on in a spaceship, with Wanda close by! Then she went back on my shit list.

Dr. Pym said...

The Vision and her did WHAT?!

The goggles... they do nothing...

Karen said...

ugh...well..during this series, the Avengers were on a spacecraft, and for whatever reason, Mantis was hitting on Vizh again. They disappear into a compartment, then later we see her laying in bed and him walking out of the room, saying something like "I feel like a man again" - and then he bumps into Wanda - who is happy for him. It was just weird.

Dr. Pym said...

... VERY glad I don't remember that!

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