Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 8 – In the Beginning Was…The World Within
Guest contributor Gene Selassie is back with his latest retrospective of Marvel‘s The Avengers. Steve Englehart takes the helm of the series as issues #105 to #114 are covered here!
First things first, I wanted to give a shout out to the audience. As we reconvene for the next leg of this journey, reading every issue of The Avengers from the beginning, I wanted to say thank you for coming along on this zany ride. During these issues, we see how a new writer at the helm fares. We also bear witness to the return of several villains that have close ties to members of the team. Moreover, we see affairs of the heart push a few Avengers to the limit. Finally, the icons on the roster have to juggle their responsibilities to the team with the goings-on of their own books, more than ever before. Hop aboard the Quinjet as we take flight.
Iconic scribe Steve Englehart takes the helm of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with issue #105. The transition in writing duties from Roy Thomas to Steve Englehart appeared seamless. I’m used to the modern era, where every new writer has to put their “stamp” on the franchise. These issues featured Englehart continuing plot threads from prior issues, such as Scarlet Witch’s relentless search for her missing brother, Quicksilver. Unfortunately, the demeaning writing of women continues. In issue #105, while battling Beast-Brood of the Savage Land, Lady Sif (one of several Asgardians staying at the mansion due to events in Thor’s comic) became overwhelmed and needed rescuing. FFS, CAN WE HAVE ONE DAMN ADVENTURE WITHOUT THE OVERUSED CLICHÉS WHEN IT COMES TO WOMEN??? SHE’S A DAMN ASGARDIAN! Issue #113 opens with the aftermath of an adventure from Astonishing Tales #18, where the Statue of Liberty was severely damaged. We now see the Avengers repairing said damage. Wanda is almost crushed by falling debris, but Vision saves her. I am completely over Wanda “Damsel in Distress” Maximoff. Though he tended to use more bombastic narration and had the characters use more slang then they ever have previously, Englehart was the perfect person to carry the torch after Roy Thomas.
Villains that have personal scores to settle popped up quite a bit during this series of issues.
- Issues #106-108 feature the return of the Grim Reaper, who has aligned himself with the Space Phantom (not seen since issue 2). While the Phantom wishes to kill the Avengers, Reaper reveals the truth in that Wonder Man’s body isn’t able to be revived. Eric’s real plan was to offer him Captain America’s body for Vision’s mind to be transferred to. With the Space Phantom obviously having no intention of honoring their deal, Reaper sides with the Avengers to help take him down.
- Issues #110-111 feature the team heading to the long-hidden X-mansion to assist the X-Men, who were besieged by an unknown assailant. Wanda quickly deduces that the attacker is Magneto. The Master of Magnetism arrives and takes mental control over the X-Men AND Avengers due to his learning to control the iron content in blood flow to the brain. I loved the X-Men costumes of this era, especially Cyclops’, Marvel Girl’s and Angel’s. Magneto’s plan was to attack a conference for the Atomic Energy Commission and force them to increase atomic output to springboard a rise in mutations. Thor, Black Panther, and Vision are forced to call in backup…backup in the form of Black Widow and Daredevil.
- In the issues leading up to #114, we saw Mantis and a silhouetted associate planning on meeting and joining the Avengers. In this issue, it’s revealed that her paramour is the Swordsman, who has turned over a new leaf and wished to join the team to make amends. It was so annoying how Mantis only referred to Swordsman as “my man”. Can ONE WOMAN in this series not be defined by her significant other?
Though some of these villains are favorites of mine, I am thrilled that they only appear every once in a blue moon. Modern over use of these characters have made me care less and less about them with each passing year.
Wanda and Vision FINALLY made their feelings known to each other at the end of issue #108, though some were not happy about this.
- The opening page to issue #110 shows Thor interrupting a sparring session. He gathers the team in the communications room as they’ve finally received contact from Quicksilver. He explained what happened after the attack on the Sentinel base in issue 104. Lockjaw of the Inhumans teleported himself and Crystal of the royal family to Pietro, completely by accident. They took him to the Great Refuge and nursed him back to health. Along the way, they fell in love. Pietro announces that he and Crystal are getting married. Wow, that was fast, even for Quicksilver. Yet when Scarlet Witch tells him that she and Vision have declared their love for each other, Pietro flips out, telling her it is wrong to be involved with a robot. Man, for someone who constantly snaps at their teammates for not understanding the struggles of being a mutant, Quicksilver sure comes across like a hypocrite during this era.
- Hawkeye, who unsuccessfully made several passes at Wanda in prior issues, handled the news like an angry teenager and decided to leave the team. He heads out to San Francisco to see the Black Widow…even though she’s currently dating Daredevil. With her not being home, Clint decides to hang out in one of the trees out front until she gets there. Good grief, Clint wouldn’t take no for an answer back in the day. At the end of issue #111, Cap offers membership to both Daredevil and Black Widow. DD declines on behalf of both of them, which ticks off Natasha. Though she was right to be upset at Matt Murdock making that decision for her, she then got mad when Matt peacefully departed. Both she and Clint have issues they need to work out before they get into any more relationships.
- In issue #113, Wanda and Vision’s relationship goes public. A group of hate mongers are sickened by the thought of a mutant and an android together and try to kill Vision, via suicide bombing, to prevent “androids taking over”.
This was quite the rough opening weeks for one of the defining couples of this franchise. Yet, their love would endure for quite some time.
Many of the resident Avengers have a multitude of duties. The ones that have their own books (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Rick Jones/Captain Marvel, and Black Panther) are beyond swamped during this run, nearly to the point of neglecting their duties elsewhere, or even neglecting their secret identities.
- In issue #110, Black Panther has been urged to return to Wakanda to take the throne once again with no more extended leaves of absence. Before he can make a decision on his future with the team, a bunch of Black protestors show up at the mansion and demand that T’Challa return to Africa. These protestors break down the front doors of the mansion and try to take Panther by force. They are led by a reporter, who we thought was slain a few pages earlier. Panther falls under his mental thrall, apparently like the protestors were. When the other Avengers step in to confront him, the reporter transforms into the Lion God, the centuries-old rival of the Panther God. He sought to siphon off all of T’Challa’s knowledge about the Panther God, but the Avengers, primarily Thor, were able to subdue the deity long enough to free the Panther. T’Challa decides that it’s not just Wakanda that needs him, so he decides to stay with the Avengers.
- During the Space Phantom/Grim Reaper ordeal, Captain America was flooded with memories that he had no recollection of. These memories were of him and Rick Jones storming a HYDRA base in Cap’s own book. The memories were wiped from Cap’s and Rick’s minds as this was part of the Space Phantom’s overarching plan. During this era, it seemed like Captain America was in five places at once, given all of his adventures outside of the Avengers book.
- In issue #113, after Vision is critically wounded by one of the suicide bombers, T’Challa, Tony Stark and Doctor Don Blake have to work to repair him. Tony has to excuse himself so he can “go find Iron Man”. The armored Avenger gives Steve and Wanda an assist. Another of the terrorists attempt to detonate. Iron Man flies him high into the skies right before the explosion. Suddenly, Stark returns to assist the scientists, letting us know he’s alright. He tells Doctor Blake to “go roust out Thor” and pretty much hints that he knows Blake is Thor. Thor was pretty good about keeping his alter ego hidden, so if Tony knew, who knows how many other heroes knew at this point?
One of the reasons that I’ve always gravitated to the Avengers is that, for the longest time, it was the central hub of the Marvel Universe goings on. Be that as it may, despite enjoying seeing the big guns on the team, it seemed that many really needed to take a leave of absence to handle their other responsibilities.
When next we meet, we will recount the second event story and first official “crossover” in Avengers lore, The Avengers/Defenders War. With heavy-hitters like Doctor Strange, Namor, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer filling the Defenders ranks, how will Earth’s mightiest heroes stand up to such power? Until next time, Avengers Assemble!