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Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective

Avengers #189

Guest contributor Gene Selassie kicks off a new feature as he re-reads the entire run of The Avengers from the beginning! Welcome to “An Avengers Retrospective“.

“The First of a Star-Studded Series of Book-Length Super-Epics featuring some of Earth’s Greatest Super Heroes” was splashed on the opening page of Avengers issue number one, which was released in September of 1963. A friend’s father owned the book and I was enamored by it when he showed us. Ten-year-old Gene was awestruck. At the time, I had only been reading Iron Man regularly. Due to the numerous Avengers guest appearances throughout the years, the door was cracked open for me to explore that team book. My first Avengers issue was purchased at the Big Top Flea Market in Tampa. The oldest issue that the vendor had for sale was issue #189, which was written by Steven Grant and Roger Stern and drawn by John Byrne. This was the issue that alluded to Falcon getting a spot on the Avengers due to Affirmative Action. Hawkeye being the one to lose his spot to Sam Wilson, well, to say that it didn’t sit well with him would be an understatement. Forthwith, Clint Barton started out on my shit list. However, staying with the book and subsequent spinoffs, I gained respect for Barton, who went on to become tied with Iron Man as my favorite Avenger.

In due time, after scouring back issue bins at comic book stores, several other Avengers became personal favorites: the star-spangled Avenger, Steve Rogers aka Captain America; the energy wielding former Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau aka Photon; scientist supreme, Hank Pym aka Ant-Man; protector of the universe, Wendell Vaughn aka Quasar; one of the first Avengers to have to balance super-heroing with being a single mother, Julia Carpenter aka Spider Woman II; another hero having to balance avenging and attending college, Miguel Santos aka Living Lightning. I could keep going all day long.

Many of my comic reading friends consider me to be the biggest Avengers fan of all time. While I’d be enamored to claim that title, I have many gaps or lapses in my run. Therefore, I decided to rectify this by doing a deep dive. Setting out to read every single issue of The Avengers may be easier in the age of Marvel Unlimited, comiXology, and Marvel Masterworks, but that doesn’t guarantee the availability of every single issue. The fun will be in tracking them down.

I will be doing a biweekly column, highlighting my progress and my findings. It is my hope that, through this journey, I can explore the peaks and valleys of the franchise and relay my unrequited love for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Flashback Friday Friday Review: The Avengers #256

avengers_vol_1_256The Olympian Apollo visits Avengers Mansion, bringing Hercules a new costume to replace his previous garb, shredded in battle. Then, at the team’s regular meeting, the Wasp is reinstated as chairman and the Black Knight officially rejoins the roster. The team is then summoned to the site of a South Atlantic shipwreck, where they learn of a monstrous extraterrestrial menace called Terminus. Following the mystery being’s trail, they rescue the staff of a wrecked Antarctic research station and deduce that their quarry has entered the hidden primeval jungle known as the Savage Land, where, at that very moment, the giant alien menaces a party of researchers and their guide, Ka-Zar.

Released in 1985, Avengers #256 was 65 cents worth of… parliamentary procedure. Kicking off a new “era” for the team the issue mainly revolves around where the team will go from here. It would seem the Vision went a bit nuts and took off with Wanda quitting the team and that means there needs to be new leadership and that winds up being… the Wasp!

There’s so much wrong in this issue, it’s actually hard to figure out where to start and it’s almost comical in a way.

But, lets start with the Wasp because so much of the issue revolves around her. Janet is depicted in full 80s jazzercise (with ass cheeks hanging out) as she flirts with what seems like every member on the team. She comes on to the Black Knight who doesn’t know she’s now divorced from Hank Pym and then later hits on Hercules… it’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. It also shows how far the industry has come from 32 years ago. Hercules doesn’t help matters actually questioning her ability because she’s a woman is the vibe I got, and goes along with her being elected team leader just because everyone else is going along with it. Again… sigh.

mu_herc3And speaking of Hercules, he gets a new costume provided by Apollo and channels He-Man in a style that’s reminiscent of the character that was popular at the time. The costume is a familiar one designed by the legendary John Buscema, but boy does it look like a certain cartoon character as you can see to the right.

So, outdated gender roles? Check. Weird costumes that make no sense? Check. A lot more dialogue than today’s comics? Check.

Still, the issue is an entertaining one that’s generally devoid of action instead setting up a mystery that eventually leads to Terminus, the villain of the next story arc. In other words, this is actually a really good jumping on point!

Written by Roger Stern with the return of Buscema and Tom Palmer on art, the issue also debuts a new logo inspired by fan Steve Bove. It’s a fun snapshot of the time for its good and the bad.

Story: Roger Stern Art: John Buscema and Tom Palmer Letter: Jim Novak Color: Christie Scheele
Story: 7.7 Art: 7.95 Overall: 7.7 Recommendation: Read