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Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 4: Behold…the Vision (Issues 57-71)

The Avengers #57

Guest contributor Gene Selassie is back with his latest retrospective of Marvel‘s The Avengers. He started at the beginning and he’s back discussing issues #57 to #71!

‘Tis that time once again. I continue to expound on my re-reading of every issue of The Avengers from the beginning. In these issues, we see drastic character shifts, bringing out deeper turmoil within several members of the team, new and old. Additionally, we step into the world of hard sci-fi, the occult, and the cosmic. Moreover, the presence of the big three and the other Avengers, weave in and out of the book depending on what’s going on elsewhere in the Marvel universe. Finally, several hands guided the look of the visuals in noteworthy ways during these issues. Let’s explore this leg of the journey.

Throughout these issues, we see that the Avengers are incredibly flawed individuals, who have to fight inner demons almost regularly.

  • Issue 57 marks the first appearance of the synthezoid Vision, who startles Jan in her apartment. Hank arrives back at the scene with Vision unconscious. He’s brought to Avengers mansion where he then attacks the team and states that he has to kill them. I’ve always loved Vision’s power set. His solar energy blasts and ability to change his density, from ghost-like intangibility to diamond hardness, is one of the more unique power sets within Marvel. Vision randomly stops attacking and states that he can’t remember why he went after them in the first place. It was all a ruse for Ultron to lure the team to his base for him to kill them all. Vision’s poignant line of “I have human thoughts…human memories! Why, Ultron-5? Who…or what…am I?” leads me to believe that the Wonder Man brain engrams concept was intended from inception and not an idea that came along much later. Hank Pym seems to have no memory of the robotic menace. He starts putting together the pieces of why he can’t remember his own android project that he was working on a few short months earlier. Hank uses a device to jog his memory. The flashbacks show his hair being red instead of blonde, possibly a coloring error. He remembers that he created a crude robotic life form. Its first words take this from sci-fi nearly into horror territory; “No need to plug me in, Daddy. I’m alive…just like you.” It then attacked Hank and, using a post-hypnotic suggestion, made Hank forget the entire thing.
  • Issue 59 heralds the debut of Yellowjacket; a very arrogant costumed hero, who can fly and fire electric stingers. He busts up a group of thieves and rubs the police the wrong way when they round up the thieves. Later in the story, to prove to the Avengers how badass he is, he sneaks into the mansion undetected and ties up Jarvis, right under their noses. He overhears them talk about Hank being late. He then says “I know he won’t show because I polished him off”. This makes Jan faint. The sooner that Jan is written by Roger Stern, the better. Yellowjacket tells the story of how he snuck into Hank’s lab and they fought (even though today, we know that Yellowjacket was another costumed identity of Hank’s). This happening so soon after Ultron tinkering with Hank’s memories, it’s hard to say the incidents are not related. Jan is…wait for it…abducted by Yellowjacket and they flee. At his hideout, Yellowjacket pretty much forces himself on Jan until something in him flips and he stops. Once the Avengers find them, Jan stops the team from attacking him. She lets them know that she intends to marry him. Jan really is an awful human being for keeping the Avengers in the dark about who Yellowjacket truly was until after the wedding. She lied about Hank AND took advantage of someone who was clearly having a mental breakdown. It served them right that the Circus of Crime attacked during the wedding.
  • Issue 62 is the official transitioning of the title to “The Mighty Avengers”. It also sees the team brought to the innermost sanctum of Wakanda for the first time by the Black Panther. Nonetheless, they stumble into an attempted coup by temporary chieftain and apparent friend of T’Challa’s, turned rival, M’Baku: the Man-Ape. I’ve never been fond of a Black character dressed up in a literal monkey suit. Thank goodness the Black Panther movie redeemed that character in my eyes. M’Baku used a weird elixir to render the team unconscious. I don’t know how that would even have worked on Vision. Panther is challenged by M’Baku for the throne and by ancient tribal law, T’Challa must answer the challenge. The fight was intense. Every time T’Challa gained the upper hand, M’Baku would combine his raw inhuman strength with dirty heel tactics that would make Ric Flair blush. The Avengers awaken from their slumber (Hawkeye sans pants thanks to a coloring error. Or was it?) and intercept them. In the end, M’Baku was crushed by his own death trap that he laid out for the Panther.
  • In issue 63, Nick Fury asks the Avengers to assist Black Widow, who was on an undercover assignment in the Caribbean but has gone dark. Hawkeye is becoming quite grating with the constant picking fights for no reason and non-stop “I wonder where Natasha is” pondering. Panther, who is the chairperson this month, feels with the incident earlier where Hawkeye’s bowstring snapped at the worst possible time, plus him being so distracted by Natasha’s welfare, that he may be a liability in the field so he’s asked to stay behind. Widow sends a message to Hawkeye that she’s really trapped somewhere in New York. Clint decides to abscond with Hank’s new and improved Pym Particle formula and an experimental new costume. He becomes the new Goliath. I had to chuckle at Hawkeye testing experimental drugs while he delivers the line “And this serum of his will never replace the Coke break.” On a more serious note, Clint never showed any self-esteem issues prior to Roy Thomas’ run. On the contrary, going back through Thomas’ issues, it was seeded ever so subtly throughout. Widow was abducted by one of Hank’s more annoying foes, the mad scientist known as Egghead (working in concert with the Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker). Egghead is the one who sent the false message from Fury, sending the Avengers off on a wild goose chase. When Hawkeye arrives, they are greeted by the newest creation of the three geniuses, a gargantuan android monster. Of course, in the creature’s hand is a captive Black Widow, screaming for help. It’s 1969 and this is still occurring. #FacePalm. The frustration of Natasha vacillating between dark character with a past that will cross lines that the Avengers won’t to get the job done and helpless damsel in distress is wearing thin. Hawkeye’s brawn kept the creature at bay long enough for his skill (and tactics learned from Captain America and from Hank) to prove enough to outwit and defeat the creature.

While these dramatic elements played out on the small stage, the larger canvas used as backdrop shifted in fascinating ways.

The Mighty Avengers #66
  • Issue 61 features a guest appearance by the Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange. This was 1969 and during this period Stephen wore a mask, which I found peculiar. He and Black Knight were on an adventure in Dr. Strange issue 178, battling the Sons of Satannish. One of the villains attempted to blast Strange, but Dane jumped in front of the blast, putting him into a coma. Strange was forced to perform surgery on Dane, shaky hands at all. Luckily, it was a success. The team split up to stop the menace of the curse of fire and ice. T’Challa and Vision took off in an early model Quinjet, the first one to appear in the book. The curse actually turned out to be the frost Giant, Ymir, rampaging through the outskirts of Wakanda and the fire demon, Surtur, destroying Antarctica. While the Avengers kept their epic foes from causing too much collateral damage, Strange was finally able to concoct a spell, displacing them and forcing the two entities to strike each other, then they simply vanished.
  • Issue 66 is the first time we see adamantium in a Marvel comic book. The Avengers, including the returned Thor and Iron Man, are brought in by SHIELD to help test its durability. Iron Man’s secret identity is still unbeknownst to the team. Vision fell victim to a subroutine that was planted in his brain, a subroutine with orders to recreate Ultron. He steals the adamantium, then attacks his teammates. He creates Ultron-6, who is damn near invincible. Thor was quite the tactician and leader. He was great at this in solo or team settings back then. This runs contradictory to modern times, where Thor is nearly unmatched as a tactician and warrior in solo settings, but in team books he seems to get slammed around by the newest villain du jour, just to show how dangerous they are. Hank devises a plan, requiring some borrowed vibranium from the Black Panther, who was on leave to help repel an invasion in Wakanda. It also required going to the U.N., disguised as MacClain to bait their enemy. Ultron used a device tried to read “MacClain’s” mind, to learn the secrets of adamantium. However, Hank also had himself hypnotized to only have one phrase repeated in his mind, “Thou shalt not kill”. A convoluted plan, but one that worked and short-circuited Ultron. Nevertheless, a failsafe kicked in, activating a nuclear device within Ultron. The vibranium Hank asked for was formed into a dome to contain Ultron and the blast.
  • Issue 69 shows the team going to visit Tony Stark, who’s in a coma at the hospital due to the events of Iron Man issue 19. Thor and Captain America also return to check on him. Underneath Tony’s bed, Jan finds what she believes to be a doll. She tosses it in the trash, but the impact causes it to grow. This is Kang’s automaton known as the Growing Man, who grows larger and more powerful with each impact delivered to it. Once they figure out who it is, Thor stops the team from further attacking it. He knows what it is due to their confrontation back in Thor issue 140. Once again, Thor shows that he’s nearly Captain America’s equal from a strategic standpoint. Growing Man abducts the comatose Stark and flees with him. Tony and the other Avengers (even Black Panther who was in distant Wakanda) were whisked away to the future. Kang brought them there because his love, Princess Ravonna, was also comatose and on the brink of death. He bargained for a way to save her life with the newly debuting Grandmaster, one of the powerful cosmic Elders of the Universe. He offered Kang a deal, a game of sorts, where if the conqueror were victorious, Ravonna’s life would be spared. If he lost, Earth would be erased from existence. Kang brought the Avengers to help him against the Grandmaster. The Avengers agree to help, so Kang returns Stark back to his time and to the hospital. The number of times that Kang has fought with the Avengers, as much as against them, I don’t see how anyone could give any other opponent the top Avengers villain slot but Kang. Issues 70-71 show that Kang used the Avengers as his “chess pieces” in this game. The Grandmaster created duplicates of a super hero team from an alternate Earth and dubbed them the Squadron Sinister. They would predate the heroes they were based on by about a year or two. Iron Man returns to aid his fellow Avengers, somehow fully healed. During the battle, I kept hearing the character voices in my head, Phil Lamarr as Doctor Spectrum, Tim Daly as Hyperion, Kevin Conroy as Nighthawk, and Michael Rosenbaum as the Whizzer. It was my hope that, had there ever been a season three of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, that the Squadron Supreme would’ve been voiced by the animated Justice League cast. Cap’s battle with the cunning Nighthawk was interesting, as was Iron Man’s outsmarting of Doctor Spectrum. I eagerly awaited the smackdown that Thor versus Hyperion would provide, until the weird ending. Once again, Mjolnir has a new power every issue. This time, Thor had his hammer spin around Hyperion at lightning speed and Mjolnir reversed the atomic process that birthed Hyperion and gave him his powers. Goliath and Whizzer’s fight was in London, where the Black Knight took notice and interfered, causing both combatants to be whisked away to the future, leaving Black Knight befuddled and without his Ebony Sword that Goliath swiped from him to stop him from interfering.
  • In issue 71, Black Knight uses a mystic cauldron to speak to his ancestor, the first Black Knight, who relays the info about Kang and the Grandmaster. Somehow when he concentrates, Dane is pulled across time and space to reunite with his missing blade. WTF? While the first Avengers squad fought the analogues for the top heroes of the Distinguished Competition, Yellowjacket, Black Panther and Vision were taken back in time to World War II where they faced the Allied heroes of WWII, The Invaders (The android Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and a younger Captain America). I wasn’t aware that the concept of The Invaders was a retcon until now. The only importance of Jan in all of this was to be rescued by Black Knight…Ugggh. The team outsmarted the Invaders. Yet Grandmaster said the first battle was a stalemate, even though the Avengers won 3 of the 4 battles? I didn’t get that. Dane freed the rest of the team and they all converged on Kang, willing to call a truce if Kang just sends them back to their time. Kang double crosses them and asks for the power over life and death to kill the Avengers AND resurrect Ravonna. Grandmaster tells him that wasn’t the deal. It’s either power of life to revive Ravonna, or the power of death to eliminate the Avengers. From Kang’s own mouth, “Then Ravonna must wait…wait until my own genius can resurrect her. For I choose the power of DEATH TO THE AVENGERS!” What. A. Dick. When Kang attacks them with awesome cosmic power, Black Knight remains unaffected because he’s not an Avenger. He strikes Kang, as he does all opponents, with the flat of his blade…which gets very tiresome. I understand these are kids books, but for Pete’s sake. I now see why he was given his energy sword in the 90s. Grandmaster returns the Avengers to their own time. The team all agrees unanimously that the Black Knight should be added to their ranks. He agrees to join, but on a reserve basis, as he’s needed in London.

This is not a team of soulless automatons, not even the Vision. Many of them have lives and responsibilities outside of the Avengers. I appreciate the big three of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor not being in the book all the time, as it seemed there was more care put into making sure events in the books lined up back then. Nowadays, it doesn’t seem like that’s done and post-2012 Avengers film, some permutation of the big three must be in the book at all times. It is very refreshing to take a look back at this era.

There were only a few instances of artistic adjustments this go round. Issues 66-67 feature pencils from the iconic Barry Windsor-Smith. While he was obviously channeling Kirby here, his layouts and unique design choices made him stand out like very few artists of the time did. Page 13 of issue 66 had the most inventive splash page and interspersed panels I’ve seen since starting this re-read. Conversely, issue 68 featured the great Sal Buscema on art duties. The acting and facial expressions were as detailed and emotive as his older brother, John’s, if not, more so.

When next we meet, we shall discuss old rivals that return, new relationships that develop and dramatic seeds planted earlier that bloom in the final stretch before the first major event story for Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Kree-Skrull War. Until next time, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: An Avengers Retrospective Part 2: Four Against…(Issues #17-35)

The Avengers #17

Guest contributor Eugene Selassie is back with the second part of his retrospective of Marvel‘s The Avengers. He started at the beginning covering the first sixteen issues. He’s back discussing issues #17 to #35!

We continue my biweekly recap of my deep dive, reading every single issue of The Avengers from the beginning. In the second half of the Stan Lee era of the book, we see more of a focus on the personalities and the private concerns of each Avenger. We also notice a shift in the power levels of the villains they face to complement the more grounded roster. The political thriller vibe of some of the arcs, predating The Ultimates by about 35 years, was welcome…but the racial caricatures were not. Several allies and Avengers mainstays debuted around this time. Finally, these issues really hit home how much a different inker can completely change an art style.

The first few issues of the “kooky quartet” era established the dynamics of the team rather quickly:

  • Captain America was now unquestionably the one in charge. Steve Rogers exuded even more confidence in action than in previous Avengers stories, if that’s even possible. Complex team strategy and tactics are now on full display with this roster, which was a treat. On the contrary, Cap’s constant brooding while alone at the mansion sometimes felt a bit off-putting. So did the fact that he took on a mission that could’ve caused an international incident, just to look good for SHIELD recruitment (issue 18). When Steve quit the team at the end of issue 22, it could have led to the end of the Avengers, if not for Kang’s subsequent attack, which brought the team back together. Cap was a bit of a dick at times. It felt justified when he was dishing it back out to Hawkeye. Conversely, demanding that Hank Pym prove he’s the real Giant-Man, even though Hank explained that there have been health concerns and the strain of changing size could kill him, went a bit overboard. Equally perplexing was insulting Hank to snap him out of his funk, but from what I’m discovering, that was a common storytelling device at Marvel during the Silver age.
  • Hawkeye was the wild card of the bunch. The action man archer trying to repent from Tales of Suspense #57 up through Avengers #16 is gone and the cocky Clint Barton that we all know and love is present. I laughed heartily because Clint’s luggage wasn’t even unpacked yet before he started mouthing off to Cap. Around issue 25 is where we start to see Clint at least being self-aware that he’s a jerk and gives Cap too much crap…yet he does nothing to actually correct this. He and Cap bickered like an old married couple.
  • While the Scarlet Witch was written not as ineffectively as Jan was in these early issues, Wanda Maximoff is still treated the way all women were written in that era. She pined for Steve 50% of the time. Also, her being a brunette back then really threw me for a loop. Her powers were not as dangerously unpredictable as they would later be written as.
  • Quicksilver’s personality is the furthest from modern renditions. Pietro Maximoff is not quite a pompous ass yet. The one trait that does carry over to modern times is him being overprotective of his sister, Wanda. His personality, for the most part, is just him shouting “don’t talk to my sister that way!”. One minor facet that I never knew existed was both Maximoffs having a fondness for show business. Pietro, especially, took a liking to daredevils and high wire acts in the circus. In battle, he was quite effective, although he used the “tie people up in cloaks/curtains/blankets shtick as his offense…a lot.

While the team still took on “foes that no single hero could withstand” in several of these stories, there was a noticeable pulling back of the power levels of foes to coincide with the lesser powered roster.

  • The Swordsman appears in issues 19-20. This is where we get our first glimpses into Hawkeye’s past as Swordsman’s protégé and Clint getting pulled into a life of crime due to his mentor’s actions
  • Power Man (Erik Josten) in issues 21-22 makes three times (along with Wonder Man and Swordsman) in less than two years that the “villain pretending to be a hero” shtick was used against the Avengers.
  • The Keeper of the Flame (issue #31) was a change of pace in that we hadn’t seen any sort of cult leader in the book as of yet. Their eternal flame was powered by cobalt. Cobalt is treated like plutonium in this issue in that they treated it like it could destroy the entire planet. The Avengers figured both sides of this ancient conflict over ownership of the flame pose equal danger to the globe, so they snuffed out the flame. This felt like the “ending of Rocky IV” level of tone-deaf in the slightest and “violating the Prime Directive” at the worst.
  • In issue 32, the hate group, known as the Sons of the Serpent, shows up and viciously attacks a random Latinx bystander. One would think that the concept would feel dated…the last few years have proven that, sadly, they’re still relevant.
The Swordsman The Avengers #19

This period also is the starting point for several familiar faces in the annals of Avengers history, to make their appearance. It was good to see Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne again (issues 26-28). Hank now refers to himself as Goliath. A fun fact I never knew is that Wanda designed and created his blue and yellow Goliath costume. Jan seemed much less flighty, but within the span of six issues she was captured and imprisoned three times, then is knocked out cold after falling out of a tree, ugggh. Hank’s size-changing has caused health concerns and at one point, he gets stuck at ten feet tall, with no way to shrink or grow without fatal results. To assist him in research towards a cure, Tony Stark refers him to one of the most brilliant bio-chemists on the planet, Bill Foster, who would one day become Goliath. Foster was attacked just down the block from Pym’s house by the Serpents in issue 32. Pym went into a full-on rage and canceled all experiments so he could make sure the Avengers made the Serpents a top priority. Not saying there’s anything wrong with Pym, more so than any of the other Avengers, taking umbrage with racially motivated hate crimes and wanting to plant his foot up the asses of those responsible, but I was surprised how “woke” he was. To get more intel on the Serpents, Steve reached out to Nick Fury. Having not read anything with the O.G. Fury in almost a decade I realized how much I missed him. This also marked his first appearance in an Avengers comic. Of course a barber shop is a front for a SHIELD base. This felt oddly on point for a 60s spy organization. Unbeknownst to the Serpents, one of their recruitment meetings has been infiltrated by the Black Widow. It would seem that her road to redemption began here. What also began here was an unsavory pattern.

Issue 18 saw the team go toe-to-toe with the mammoth cyborg dictator known as the Commissar…a bad East Asian stereotype. Issues 32 and 33 revealed that the mastermind behind the Sons of the Serpent was actually a Communist General…who was a bad East Asian stereotype. Issues 34 and 35 revealed that Living Laser had hired himself out to those looking to stage a coup in the fake Latin American country of Costa Verde. Guess what, they were bad Mexican stereotypes. I had to facepalm at a lot of this. I’m hoping that there’s not too much more casual racism masked as patriotism in these early years because that will severely hamper my reading experience.

One thing that stood out more than anything was the different inkers that worked with artist Don Heck. In all of my years of reading comics, I’ve never seen an art style change so drastically with the changing of an inker on a book, until now. The legendary Wally Wood brought a level of intricate detail to the layouts yet unseen during Heck’s run. Shifting to John Romita inks was fun as he was a master of highlighting the character’s acting and emotion. Frankie Ray’s inks were not as detailed as Wally Wood’s but still got the point of Heck’s pencils across, which were probably in their purest form here. The style then drastically shifted when Frank Giacoia did the inks, giving the book an almost “romance comic” vibe. All of these craftsmen were highly talented. I just never knew an inker alone could change the look of a comic to this degree.

I’m very excited to get to the next leg of this journey, the Roy Thomas era of the book. It’s here where new members of the team begin coming in fast and furiously. Hope you’ll return for the coming of Hercules, Black Panther and several others. Until next time, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

Messages from Midgard #12- Analog Iron Man

With only a single issue left in the War of the Realms core series, the tie-in writers have fallen into the unenviable trap of wrapping up their story, connecting it to the event’s inevitable conclusion, and maybe leaving a loose thread or two when their comic returns to its normally scheduled programming.

Six comics came out this week, and one was heads and shoulders over the pack: War of the Realms Journey into Mystery #5. The McElroys, Andre Araujo, and Chris O’Halloran have finished crafting an ensemble cast that I want to read an ongoing series about, made Ares sympathetic, Laussa more than a MacGuffin, connect all the seemingly random plot threads of the series, and made me laugh out loud a couple times. No other book came close to this, but with snark, grit, and one hell of a Wasp cameo, Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli made up for last month’s disappointment and delivered a nifty science vs magic clash in Tony Stark, Iron Man #13. I enjoyed it and wish Simone had more time on the book.

War of the Realms: War Scrolls #3

War of the Realms’ anthology tie-in War Scrolls wraps up with its third issue. There is the conclusion to Jason Aaron, Andrea Sorrentino, and Matthew Wilson’s Daredevil serial as well as a Dr. Doom story from Christopher Cantwell, Cian Tormey, and Dan Brown and a She-Hulk one from Charlie Jane Anders, Simone D’Armini, and Federico Blee. Daredevil, God without Fear continues to be an accomplishment in panel layouts, fight scenes, and theodicies. This three part story is a turning point in Sorrentino’s career as an artist as he transitions from flowing tapestry layouts to strict grids that work like slow-mo while Daredevil fights Malekith with Bifrost shruikens. Aaron’s narration continues to show the perils of omniscience, and even if Daredevil can’t defeat Malekith, he can inspire his blind children hostage to escape and cut God a break along the way.

Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell tells the story of the Dark Elf invasion of Latveria from ordinary citizens’ POVs. Dr. Doom has a godlike status in this country, and even when he makes silly mistakes like wasting his troops on a Saving Private Ryan-esque rescue mission, they look to him to save them. The switching point of views can be disorienting, but Cian Tormey gives the story a documentary feel and builds to one badass crescendo where Doom is part-Superman, part-God of the Old Testament, and still authoritarian. It’s a tasting menu that really needs to be expanded to a full feast of the regular lives of Latverians.

War Scrolls #3 wraps up with a story of She-Hulk and Freyja fighting dragons and talking about relationships. Charlie Jane Anders’ writing sometimes feels like she’s making her characters have her interests like making Blade a Beyonce fan and Punisher a Joni Mitchell aficionado, but she nails the conversations between Jennifer and Freyja. She-Hulk talks about how she is dating Thor and not sure how serious it is, and Freyja understands how much She-Hulk cares for her son and that they are both insecure about their “worthiness” and status as heroes. The cherry on top of this pretty good story is D’Armini’s artwork that makes She-Hulk incredibly muscular and monstrous. For the most part, War Scrolls has been full of thought provoking character studies and memorable visuals, and issue three is no exception earning an Overall Verdict of Buy.

War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #5

Journey into Mystery #5 wraps up this god demon baby starring road trip saga into a neat little bow and uses continuity to enhance and deepen character development and humor instead of as a crutch. The McElroys seamlessly transition from podcasting to mainstream comics while Andre Araujo and Chris O’Halloran enhance their jokes and punch up the action scenes beginning with Wonder Man sweeping to save Laussa. They keep their character portrayals internally consistent like having Wonder Man continue to be a pacifist and having Sebastian Druid being uncertain about his powers, but reminding readers he had a relationship with Ares’ son back in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors.

This kibble of continuity isn’t just a piece of cute, fanboy trivia, but sets up Ares’ road for redemption. He isn’t a bad guy and doesn’t have a quarrel with this book’s cast; he just like to fight and wants to be reunited with son in the afterlife. Journey into Mystery #5 isn’t just a slugfest between the team and Ares, but is filled with twists and turns about Laussa that aren’t 100% deus ex machinas. The comic does have a pleasing plot, but its real magic are in the small moments like any time Miles Morales and Thori interact, or Laussa’s expressions with the world around him. And for this mastery of both the macro and micro aspects of comics, Journey into Mystery #5, and by extension, the whole miniseries earn an Overall Verdict of Buy.

War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3

Unless it’s for a storytelling purpose, having two or more artists on a comic usually means it was rushed to meet its deadline, and that seems to be the case with Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3. Gone are Nico Leon’s slick cartooning and well-choreographed set pieces of the previous two issues, and writer Sean Ryan giving each League member a distinct personality beyond fantasy race action figure. This issue is mostly a slugfest against Malekith’s lieutenant, Kurse and peppered with awkward poses, constipated facial expressions, and basically, generic visuals from Leon and Marco Failla.

The angel Fernande goes a bit ballistic in the middle of the fight, and Spider-Man finds a shared connection because they have both lost loved ones. But this was already covered in the previous issue so it feels a lot like padding in Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3. The main plot point of this issue (and a cool connection to War Scrolls #3) is that Kurse was once League member, Waziria, and for the first time in all of War of the Realms (Except the Cul Borson story in Thor.), the Dark Elves aren’t treated like evil cannon fodder. In the end, this comic was about saving people instead of punching evil, and that’s a good sentiment from Ryan and Leon. However, it ends on this week’s “standard” heroes pose together and jump into the final battle panel and earns an Overall Verdict of Pass because of art issues and the difficulty of writing a large cast.

Captain Marvel #7

Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3 wasn’t the worst “War of the Realms” comic this week. That honor goes to Captain Marvel #7, which wraps up the unbearably banal if well-colored by Tamra Bonvillain body swap story featuring Carol Danvers and Dr. Strange. This issue does have a few positives like Kelly Thompson’s gift for quick banter and cutting one-liners like Strange roasting Carol for only knowing magic from various pop culture things. However, it’s pretty shallow, Strange and Carol’s ineptitude with each other’s powers are quickly resolved, and afterwards, they and an underutilized Black Widow go separate ways.

One slight positive about Captain Marvel #7 is Annapaola Martello’s art. She’s equally good at drawing fun facial expressions/hints of flirting and things that go boom/pew pew. Even if the story is thin, it’s pure joy to see Dr. Strange in Carol’s body go Binary and kick undead ass and then steal a little moment at the end. And about the ending, it seems random and tacked on even if it’s our first glimpse of a post-War of the Realms world. Carol is hanging out in her apartment like everything is normal, and the last story had no effect on her. Honestly, this is for the better as Thompson no longer has to shoehorn a quick tie-in and can tell her full story. My Overall Verdict for Captain Marvel #7 is Pass, and it’s worth skipping for regular readers of her title and those just following “War of the Realms”.

Deadpool #14

If there’s any comic that Deadpool #14 shares DNA with, it’s Simon Bisley’s Lobo books of the 1990s with their combination of serious, detailed fantasy art and silly dialogue and situations. In this comic, Skottie Young and Nic Klein chronicle Deadpool’s defense of Australia from Ulik (Which is apparently a very common name for trolls.) and his minions with the help of a knock-off Captain Britain and Daredevil and then an assist from some real superheroes. Young continues to have fun breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at his own writing like ending the issue with a deus ex machina and commenting on the legality of including a figure that’s all but named Tasmanian Devil.

Nic Klein draws and colors his own work in Deadpool #14 and turns in some gorgeous splash pages of Deadpool, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and various Z-list Australian heroes beating the shit out of trolls. He can also do funny too like his depiction of the solution to Australia’s troll problem, which is feeding them and putting them to work at New Zealand’s copyright-friendly version of a Lord of the Rings set tour. The panel of trolls chasing tourists with selfie sticks around a “bobbit” hole is like something out of Mad magazine and a wonderful Deadpool-esque way to wrap up the plot. For its humor, skilled art, and ultraviolence, Deadpool #14 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy. (And, apparently, the next issue is the final one of the series.)

Tony Stark, Iron Man #13

Free of continuing subplot from previous issues (Except for the important Tony Stark relapsing in a VR environment one.), Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli are free to tell the story of the battle between Iron Man and the wyrm Sadurang, who wants to rob the New York Stock Exchange. They make fantastic parallels between traders and hoarding dragons, and starting off a conversation between Sadurang and a now homeless broker about how riches cloud one’s morals sets the tone for the issue. And what happens is a back to basics Iron Man story where Tony must destroy or deactivate all his magic infected armor and get back to the analog days to defeat this greedy dragon.

Edgar Delgado’s powerful colors match Villanelli’s art, which can be loose and scratchy when Tony is getting his ass kicked and trying to quip his way out of a bad situation or tighter and tougher when he’s in the Mark I armor doing his best St. George impression. Also, Simone brings in the very winsome Wasp as a guest star in this issue, and she brings Tony hope and her stings and fast flying gives him enough time to rally his counterattack. Then, they get to share a sweet moment after the fight is over, but Tony doesn’t tell her about the relapse and is interrupted by Malekith’s initial invasion of New York. This two steps forward, one step forward approach to Tony’s journey works for Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli and coupled with a satire of capitalism via knight/dragon metaphors, Tony Stark, Iron Man #13 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.

Even though it’s sad to see Captain Marvel’s portrayal stumble in yet another event, and some writers love doing the “heroes join the final battle” ending to their tie-ins, this wasn’t a bad “War of the Realms” week. Skottie Young and Nic Klein turned their Deadpool two-parter into an exercise in maximum absurdity and pulled off the first funny Lord of the Rings reference of the event while Gail Simone added Iron Man to characters she excels at writing. But the real highlight was Journey into Mystery, which is a redemptive road comedy starring a great mix of heroes, tons of quick jokes, and a coherent plot that zigged where others zag. I’m definitely looking forward to Clint McElroy’s upcoming work on Marvel Team-Up.

Panel of the Week

Mark I armor, Ben Day dots, snarky Gail Simone dialogue. I’m geeking out, y’all. (From Tony Stark, Iron Man #13; Art by Paolo Villanelli and Edgar Delgado)

Entertainment Earth Spotlight: Marvel Gallery Iron Man by Bob Layton Statue

Iron Man joins the Marvel Gallery collection! This stunning statue features Tony Stark wearing his classic red and gold suit blasting into the sky as envisioned by artist Bob Layton. Made from PVC and sculpted by Mat Brouillard, this Marvel Gallery Iron Man by Bob Layton Statue stands approximately 11-inches tall and comes packaged in a full-color window box.

Pre-order it now, the statue is out July 2017.




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Nerd Block’s January Theme is Stark Industries

Nerd Block this January is going all Iron Man this January with the Nerd Block Classic Block with a theme of “Stark Industries.” The box will include a limited t-shirt, a wearable, and more.

You can order yours now!




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Entertainment Earth Spotlight: Stark Industries License Plate Frame

Proudly display your love for technology and Tony Stark wherever you go with the newly in-stock red Stark Industries License Plate Frame from Bif Bang Pow!. Measuring 12 1/4-inches wide x 6 1/4-inches tall, this standard-size license plate frame can be quickly and easily added to your car or truck. Order yours today!




This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark, and Jarvis is My Co-Pilot License Plate Frames

Entertainment Earth has revealed three new license plate frames from Bif Bang Pow! that are perfect for fans of Marvel. One features S.H.I.E.L.D., another Stark Industries, and the third lets people know Jarvis is your co-pilot.

The three plates retail for $11.99 and will be out this September.

Jarvis is My Co-Pilot License Plate Frame S.H.I.E.L.D. License Plate Frame Stark Industries License Plate Frame




This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

The Avengers Revealed for Knight Model’s Marvel Universe Miniature Game

Today the Avengers have been revealed for Knight Model‘s upcoming tabletop game Marvel Universe Miniature Game. This comes the day after the Guardians of the Galaxy were revealed, and the X-Men preceded that. The game will be released with three starter sets, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men, and Avengers, that will each included four metal miniatures, character cards, and a mini rulebook.

The Avengers are made up of Steve Rogers as Captain America, Tony Stark as Iron Man, Thor, and Natasha Romanova aka Black Widow. We don’t know who will be in the blister that will be released along with the starter set.

Each character’s description sounds like they embody their comic counterparts. Captain America is a leader who provides boosts to his teammates. His Vibranium Shield acts to help boost his defense and can be used offensively attacking multiple enemies as it bounces off of them in the air. Iron Man is all about the suit which allows him to fly with speed, his built in offensive repulsor blasts, missiles, and the Unibeam. Thor fills the role of the flying tank in his strength, and Mjolnir. He can also bring down lightning and like Cap, use his hammer as a shield. Finally Black Widow is about the stealth and close combat. It sounds like she has an infiltrate ability and uses close combat, firearms, and her Widow’s Bite to take on her opponents.

So, now that all three starter sets have been revealed, which will you be getting? I can’t decide, so I guess it’s all of them for me!

Avengers Marvel Universe Miniature Game

(via Tales of a Tabletop Skirmisher)

Review: 1872 #1

1872For the most part Secret Wars has been a retrospective look back at some of the biggest crossovers which ever occurred in the Marvel universe.  While it has focused on a lot of these kinds of stories it has also branched out a bit from time to time.  Some of the minor focuses have been to recast heroes or to shine a light on some villains, most of whom have been working in some kind of confine of the Secret Wars world.  In the case of 1872 though we get something completely different from what we have seen thus far in this series.  Secret Wars was itself designed as a simple enough way to clean up the Marvel Universe, touching base with some of the bigger stories which have maybe gone off the plot of the main universe, while also addressing the various multiverse dimensions which are populated by a different list of heroes.

If this was the inspiration for Secret Wars then it was rewritten and thrown away, as the context of this series is exactly that of an alternate timeline that has never seen before.  In other words, it is expanding the multiverse, not contracting it.  Here Steve Rogers is cast as Wyatt Earp and Tony Stark is cast as Doc Holliday, as they battle a corrupt mayor (Fisk) and governor (Roxxon).  The issue at hand is the water supply for a small valley, which while it is fueling the work in a mine, it is also depriving people of their access to water.  Steve stands as the representative of the law, one which he knows is broken in certain ways, but which has lines which he seems reluctant to cross, else he erode his own sense of morality.  Standing beside him is Tony, a sidekick for banter but dangerous enough by himself it would seem.  Banner is also here, though his role is still a little vague.

The result of this strange mix is actually one of the smarter ideas to come out of Marvel for this whole crossover.  There was after all a time when western comics ruled the day in the medium, and this is a bit of an homage to those days, taking not just a crossover, but instead an entire genre and mixing it into the whole of Secret Wars.  The result is fun and is as good of a Western that modern comic readers will probably ever get to see, with the same grit that made the genre so beloved for so long without the anachronisms that are thrown in with the modern versions.

Story: Gerry Duggan  Art: Nik Virella
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

How Old are Comic Book Characters?

How Old Do I Look? is an interesting website where you can upload an image and it’ll guess your age and gender based on that. While it’s fun putting people you know in, it also works in some drawings. So, I decided to put in some comic characters to see what the site says.

As you can see, it’s a bit all over the place, hell it thinks I’m in my mid-50s.

Almost American
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