Sunday, May 18, 2008

Celestial Madonna: Avengers 132

Avengers 132 Steve Englehart
Avengers #132 (1974)
Doug: It was interesting that the splash page for this issue wasn’t a story page – one might have thought that to be a more modern innovation…

Karen: I liked this symbolic page. Sal B’s artwork looked great, with a properly menacing Kang hanging over our Assemblers.

Sharon: Occasionally Silver Age Marvel splash pages were symbolic, such as Avengers Annual #1 (1967). But you’re right that Marvel didn’t do this frequently. Silver Age DC was the king of symbolic splashes (especially in the Superman family of books), though this probably started to decrease around 1968 or so.

Doug: So how do you feel about that? Do you feel like a splash page of that nature is a bonus feature, like a pin-up, or do you feel like you’ve been cheated out of a story page? In today’s comics, I feel like I’ve been cheated (but that goes beyond splash pages…).

I thought it was significant that these two issues were plotted by Steve Englehart, but scripted by Roy Thomas. Some of the little annoyances of Englehart’s that have raised our ire both in the previous four issues of this epic, as well as in the Captain America yarn “Secret Empire” seem to be lacking here. It makes me wonder if some of the in-house references (Crom! and the appearance of Nomad for no apparent reason) were Englehart’s or editorial. Curious…

Karen: It’s really easy to tell that this is Roy’s dialogue. It has all the typical ‘Royisms’ that we’ve seen for years!

Sharon: Roy gives Mantis some uncharacteristic “dialogue” when she thinks: “Again this talk of me of the Celestial Madonna…a phrase I can scarcely comprehend.” Ummm, Roy, those lines scarcely sound like her! What happened to her penchant for referring to herself as “this one?”

Doug: Did anyone else find it odd that Thor chose to transform himself to Dr. Don Blake, rather than creating the time/space vortex with Mjolnir and attempting to teleport out of the labyrinth? In addition, given that Blake is a medical doctor, he probably would not also possess a “PhD”.

Karen: Well, I guess he felt he had exhausted all his godly weapons! But the Ph.D part was odd.

Sharon: The Ph.D reference stuck out like a sore thumb.

Doug: I have found Thor to be somewhat depowered throughout this story, or at the worst just not thinking. For example, although he has always been written as brash, in issue #130 he ran headlong into a ray assault from the Titanium Man. It would seem to me that given Mjolnir’s ability to absorb and/or repel energy, a different strategy might have been employed. He also remarks at the strength of the Frankenstein monster, and of Wonder Man. It’s always been my understanding that if the Hulk is not the strongest hero in the Marvel Universe, then it’s Thor. But, as has often been said about writing Superman – you have to do something to bring him down in order to make him interesting. Perhaps this is what Moondragon meant when she tried to talk Thor into leaving the team in the #140s.

Karen: It’s funny, but I have the opposite reaction. This is an era of Avengers where I feel like Thor’s power is duly respected. His encounter with the Frankenstein Monster shows him easily tossing the creature away. He acknowledges the creature’s strength, but I took it that he meant in comparison to a mortal man, not himself. Later on, the team fights Orka, and they are all defeated, until Thor shows up and beats him single-handedly. Moondragon’s urging him to leave the team because he was ‘slumming’ was not appreciated by this young reader however!

Doug: Points well taken. Issue #149’s battle which you reference is a memorable one, as is the previous story’s Kang battle. I just thought at times through this story that Thor was perhaps portrayed more along the lines of Hercules – physical first, brains last.

The scene where the Vision in engaged by Kang, Wonder Man, the Torch, the Ghost, and Zemo was well done. I always like when Vizh shows the breadth of his prowess, as he certainly does here. Characterization is also on display, as the Vision shows his calculating logic in choosing to put off the battle until odds are more in his favor. Although he talked a little trash to Kang, he realized that he and his teammates, being separated, were fodder for Kang’s minions singularly.

Karen: This was still back in the day when the Vision was considered one of the most powerful Avengers, and maybe the most dynamic and interesting member of the team. I love seeing him at the height of his power.

Doug: RE: Mantis’ antennae. No explanation, other than to liken them to the funny curls on the front of Pietro’s coif.

Karen: That must have taken a ton of hairspray!

Sharon: Yeah, I’d asked about her antennae earlier. Maybe Hank Pym had visited Vietnam at some point? ;)

Doug: RE: Wonder Man. Given that he would make a return only about 18 months later, that persists with some minor interruptions to the present, do you suppose he was used here as sort of a try-out? I couldn’t find anything in the letters pages in subsequent issues that suggested a very positive fan response. Englehart did address his use of the Human Torch, as it raised a potential conflict with Roy Thomas’ Invaders series. But no mention anywhere of Wonder Man.

Karen: I’ve always wondered about how and why Wonder Man was brought back. I know that a few people have said it was primarily to mess with the Vision’s head, but as you said, WM has stuck around and become a mainstay. His depiction here is definitely not favorable!

Sharon: Wonder Man became a recurring factor in the Vision’s story starting with #102. After #102 Simon was trotted out again and again as a complication. It was a smart move to finally resurrect him for good circa #152. (And actually the notion of the Grim Reaper as the Vision's "brother" was introduced even earlier, in #79.)

Doug: Of course, you’re right, Sharon. I had forgotten the #102 story. Memorable cover, no less!!

Midnight’s costume is too similar to the Black Panther’s and might be considered the opposite to the original Ghost Rider’s.

Karen: You know Doug, as a kid, this confused me – was this character the Black Panther? I didn’t collect Master of Kung Fu so I had no idea who this was.
As an aside, the reference to Shang Chi as a ‘half-breed’ reminds me that these were very different times!

Doug: Not unlike my uncomfortable feelings toward the Asian caricature-drawings in #130.

Sharon: When I flipped through this story the other day (prior to reading it) I thought “Hmmm, why is T’Challa fighting Mantis?” He even has that little cape T’Challa sported in FF #52!

Doug: I would like to know just how large the labyrinth was, as it sure seemed like it was easy to bump into people. And the gang of Kang sure found Iron Man and Hawkeye easily!

Zemo must have been armed to the teeth. In #132, Hawkeye explodes one of Zemo’s paste guns with an arrow. In GS #3, Hawk wrecks a palm device and then Zemo pulls another pistol!

I felt the last two battles, between Iron Man and the Torch and the Vision and the Ghost were extremely well done! Iron Man’s helplessness was so obvious, and the reader could really empathize with the growing heat as the metal turned red. In the second and final tussle of the book we saw the Vision helpless as rarely before. The words and pictures really heightened the tension. While I didn’t truly believe that either hero was dead, their situations definitely didn’t look too positive!

Karen: The scene where the Torch is holding Iron Man and getting hotter and hotter is so vivid – when I re-read this issue I remembered how shocked I was as a kid and I honestly feared that IM might die! He also seemed so brave to me, to take on that whole group of baddies, telling Hawkeye to save himself and find the other Avengers. To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that Roy would have Clint agree to do it – it doesn’t seem in character to me.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...