Monday, May 19, 2008

Celestial Madonna: Giant-Size Avengers 3

Giant-Size Avengers 3 Mantis
Giant-Size Avengers 33 (1974)
Doug: I’d said in an earlier communiqué that I thought Dave Cockrum’s art was really strong in Giant-Size Avengers #2. I’d like to back off that just a bit after reading GS #3, and particularly concerning the splash page. Even as a first-time reader right before Christmas 1974, the way the Vision was depicted seemed a little odd. His legs look skinny and his face is oddly-shaped. But overall, the issue’s art is good, with dynamic poses and well-choreographed battles.

Karen: Doug, I agree, but I put the blame more on the inker, Joe Giella. When you compare this issue to GS Avengers 2, it’s like night and day. I can only see glimpses of Cockrum’s style here – the inks just render it very plain.

Sharon: This splash page always reminds me of Antony and Cleopatra —“I am dying, Egypt, dying!”

Doug: For all the hackles she’s raised, Mantis is trying hard to be liked at the beginning of this installment. I found it touching that she responded in the manner she did to Vizh’s call for Wanda. Her battle with Midnight was exciting, and for me not only showcased her martial arts skills but also her strength. And on page four, wasn’t that a butt cheek visible?? I know you girls just hate her skirt!!

Sharon: I don’t hate the skirt at all; my earlier point was that it just seemed kind of daring for 1973-4 and I was surprised the artists could get this kind of outfit past the Code. (But as I’d mentioned, the Code was kind of passé at this point.) I like her visuals- - the green and yellow are a great combo (like the Vision?), and the design of her costume showcases her strength, grace, and flexibility.

Karen: I wonder where Mantis would rank in the Marvel U as a martial artist? Over at DC, they have this sort of discussion all the time, and it’s pretty obvious now where everyone with fighting skills stands (they’ve really beefed up Black Canary for an example). But I hardly hear any fan talk about Marvel fighters. Hmmm, I sense potential side-bar material here!

Doug: The camaraderie felt by the Frankenstein monster toward the Vision was touching as well. Quite a dichotomy to the way Boris Karloff murdered that little girl in the original motion picture!

Karen: Aw, come on Doug, he didn’t mean to kill her! They just ran out of flowers. (Actually, I prefer the Young Frankenstein version.)

Doug: Yeah, it was very touching the way he waited for the last bubble to come up before he sauntered off… :P

Zemo’s evolution from mind-slave to uppity Seig Heil-er! was good, and added humor to the story. Interactions with Hawkeye in particular were fun, and again showed Clint’s allegiance to Cap.

The scene when Thor comes upon the dead Iron Man really showed the depths of their friendship, and of Thor’s loyalty to the mortals he’d chosen to surround himself with. His rage was real, and not just played up for melodrama. I’ve missed Thor in the Avengers these past many years. Of course, I’ve missed the Avengers, period, but that’s for another time I guess.

Karen: A good scene; I always like seeing the Thunder God get worked up. Maybe the best time was during the Busiek era, when he thought Captain America had been taken over by the Presence – that was a Thor to be reckoned with!

Doug: The NYPD’s communicator was just cutting-edge technology from Stark Electronics in 1974!!

The scene with Libra was interesting, given that I know how this will turn out in #133. The scene with Wanda barking at Jarvis was so out-of-character. Wanda was really written as a hard-to-like character by Englehart!

Sharon: Sure, but as we’ve noted before, she’s lacking guidance by Pietro and the Vision at this point—she’s on her own for the first time.

Karen: Libra –oh god, what a horrible outfit. The robe and hood was preferable to this skivvies and t-shirt monstrosity.

Sharon: I didn’t mind his pared down costume here; he looks athletic. Though since he’s sporting bare legs (at least, as colored in the tpb) his boots look too much like knee socks…

Doug: Just a note – the coloring in my tpb is really off for this issue, as Wonder Man’s goggles and the Torch’s costume are both orange instead of red. Pretty poor quality control.

Thor’s assault on Kang is furious and unyielding. Wonder Man’s retaliation is equally brutal; the half-splash of Thor and Wonder Man going toe-to-toe is good.

Hawkeye’s screen time in the control room just shows why he was a winner at life and the Swordsman had been a consummate loser. Possessing basically the same skills (or skill level), Hawkeye goes about his business with confidence and a take-charge manner. The Swordsman would have been filled with so much self-doubt.

Karen: Hawkeye has that ‘never give up’ spirit that I think endears him to so many of us. I like to think he got a lot of that from being around Cap. It’s fun to compare his more mature personality on display here with the abrasive a-hole that we saw in his early Avengers days.

Doug: The Torch’s revelation, coming a few years after Neal Adams had spilled the beans when Ant-Man journeyed inside the Vision, was still a surprised to many, I’m sure. What do you think? Do you like this version of the story, or Byrne’s revision?

Karen: When I originally read this, I had never heard of the idea that the Vision had been the Torch, although I was aware of the scene in Avengers 93. I still like this origin for Vizh – and you know I despise what Byrne did. The character never recovered from Byrne’s destruction of him. After that, he was never held in the same regard by the writers (and maybe the fans as well).

Sharon: I don’t think many readers at the time knew of Adams’ idea (that the Vision and original Human Torch were one and the same); Marvel tried to keep this idea under wraps. The only slip up occurred (as we’ve discussed previously (over at the Avengers Assembled forums) when future Marvel staff member Duffy Vohland (then an intern) submitted a “gag” letter that was published in Avengers #115. In the letter Vohland mentions the Neal Adams Gallery interview in which Neal told of his idea that the Vision was really the original Human Torch. This letter was not supposed to be published but it somehow slipped through. But this was the only mention in print (that I know of) of Adams’ Vision-Torch idea- -Marvel really wanted to keep this idea secret.

Now, I always wondered why this concept was pursued so wholeheartedly. I buy the Wonder Man connection, which led to many effective and poignant stories. The relationship to Simon (and by extension, to the Grim Reaper) should have been enough. But why also insist that a new creation (Vision) is really an older hero? This connection always seemed tacked on and forced to me. I understand it was said to be part of Immortus’ plan (retroactively), but why would Marvel editorial think this was a good idea in the first place? Wasn’t the Vision captivating enough on his own—did he really need to be associated to an older android hero?

Doug: It’s interesting that Wonder Man was plucked from the timestream before he’d reformed, which was just before his death. He is simply vicious in his attacks, especially on the wounded Vision. Question about the Vision’s face after this particular battle – it’s bruised and swollen and there is some fluid at the corner of his mouth. Why do you suppose this is? I have read that his body was basically a synthetic human form. But, I don’t recall ever seeing him eat or drink – after all, being solar-powered, what would be the point? So, if he didn’t eat or drink, I would assume that he never had to expel waste of any sort. (I know we got into some of the other points of his physiology in one of the Vision threads on the AA! boards…) Since bruises are caused by pooled blood, and welts by trauma to soft tissue and blood rushing to the area, why would his face look like this? I would guess that there was some fluid coursing through his body, but to me it would seem more like anti-freeze, lubricants, etc. Hmmm…

Karen: It’s always been my assumption that as a synthetic man, Vizh has organs, tissues and fluids that mimic a biological human. So while it is unusual for us to see him banged up this way, I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. I did find it interesting that we are never shown the Vision’s badly injured arm – “suspended by a thread” – but again, that’s one of the differences between that era and today.

Sharon: Didn’t the Vision’s arm also become badly injured or destroyed in the first Vision-Scarlet Witch series? And only Inhuman science could restore his arm?

Karen: I don’t really get how Immortus was able to revert Zemo to protoplasm. Reverting him to a fetus, or a cluster of cells, OK, that makes sense because he would be regressing him down his own timeline. But protoplasm would suggest to me he is regressing him evolutionarily. Then again, maybe I am just thinking about this a little too much.

Doug: OK, I said above that Englehart (Thomas’ dialogue in this issue) was trying to make Mantis more sympathetic, and then she just cold-heartedly gives an “Oh, well!” to the Vision of all people after being asked about Iron Man. Go figure.

Karen: Yes, Mantis seemed very aloof at the end. The only thing I can think of was that she was purposely trying to not show emotion – although again, I don’t know why she was written that way.

Sharon: She’d never seemed that close to Iron Man, so I found this in character. I think the scene was meant to show that the Vision (who rebukes her here) and Mantis aren’t always in synch.

Doug: Did it seem to you like Immortus’ revelation that he was an alternative form of Kang was just tossed in at the end?

Karen: I was just waiting for Jarvis to announce that he, too, was Kang.
Seriously though, where the hell does Immortus fit in on the Kang Express? After Kang, I believe, but then why is he so wishy-washy all the time? It might almost be a case of Englehart being too clever for his won good.

Doug: And, hasn’t Nathaniel Richards been linked to Kang, if not another facet of him altogether?
The story ends well, and does a nice job of wrapping up this portion of the Celestial Madonna arc. Cockrum’s art on the last few pages is some of the best of the issue.
That Kang will not be around for the rest of the ride is unfortunate; but his return only nine months later led to another very good story (and another great Thor/Kang tussle!!).

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