Avengers #117 (November 1973)
Writer: Steve Englehart
Artist: Bob Brown
Inker: Mike Esposito
Karen: Welcome back for part 2 of our look at that 70s classic, the Avengers-Defenders War. We’re going to jump right into the action with our first match-up: the newly reformed Swordsman versus the newly created Valkyrie!
Karen: The actual fight between these two heroes is pretty good; it’s the background story that suffers. The two combatants arrive at a castle in the jungles of Bolivia(!), which once belonged to a Nazi (!!), and is now owned by a mysterious American(!!!). Yes, it’s that convoluted, and gets more so, when the American turns on the Swordsman to protect his treasure! Yes, the guy had an honest-to-goodness treasure chest! Obviously, there was something missing. Englehart later explained in the letter column of Avengers #122 that the mysterious American was one of the Watergate plotters who had been convicted (and apparently fled to Bolivia –just like Butch and Sundance I guess), but at the time of publication no one involved with Watergate had been convicted of anything. So they decided to leave that out. But even so, it makes little sense.
Doug: “Butch and Sundance” – that’s hilarious! And the guy met the same fate as those two loveable outlaws as well! But hey, I also thought it was an odd setting – really over the top. I suppose we could assume that the treasure had come from the SS coffers – it’s not a stretch to say that all of the plunder they expropriated from their Jewish and non-Jewish victims was divvied up after the war. Portable wealth on the way out…
Karen: In any case, our two sword-wielding warriors make a good go of it. Val is much more powerful than Swordsman, but he proves to be a more skilled –and cunning – fighter. Their fight reminded me of an Errol Flynn film, what with that swinging from the curtains! In the end, though, Valkyrie winds up with the Evil Eye.
Doug: Wonderful scene. At this point did the Swordsman still have all of the rays and gadgets that the Mandarin had once installed in his blade? I also thought that Valkyrie’s strength would have really crushed the Swordsman earlier than she was actually able to put him down.
Karen: Hmm, that’s a good question about Swordsman’s trick blade. Didn’t he use it to shoot rays during the Celestial Madonna story line? I’ll have to look it up. I would agree, if Valkyrie could really lift 45 tons (isn’t that what the old Marvel Universe Handbooks used to say?), then I doubt Swordsman could take a hit from her. But hey, the fight was fun, so I’ll let that go.
Karen: Our second battle though is the highlight of this issue -and maybe of the whole war! It’s two old comrades in arms, this time on different sides of the battlefield: Captain America versus the Sub-Mariner!
Karen: This fight was a pleasure to read. I think Englehart had each character’s personality down perfectly. This is one of the best-written versions of Namor I’ve ever seen. Cap is out-matched here, even with his new super-strength, but we all know that Cap has a way of winning. Namor is just as arrogant as ever, but still has respect for Cap – as he flies into the air, dangling Cap by the ankle, he says, “I should drop you on your cowled cranium like the minor annoyance you are, with no further delay, yet as the only other superhuman remaining from the second World War, you deserve better!” If that doesn’t sound like the Sub-Mariner –noble yet cranky! – I don’t know what does.
Doug: I agree with you – Englehart had everyone’s voice down pat. I think it just shows a great deal of respect on behalf of the scribe to all who had come before. While the Marvel Universe was only a little over a decade old at this point, there is still the power of history behind these characters.
Karen: While these two are going at it in Japan, who should show up but Japan’s favorite son, Sunfire! At one point he takes off with the Eye, but Namor makes quick work of him. Finally, the two former allies realize that all the pieces of this puzzle don’t quite fit. They decide to regroup and try to figure out what’s going on.
Doug: You know, my first impression of Sunfire’s appearance was that it was a marketing ploy to get him in the public eye ahead of Giant-Size X-Men #1. However, after a brief consult with the Comic Book Database (http://www.comicbookdb.com/character_chron.php?ID=1748), I see that I am way off base. I had no idea Sunfire was so heavily used during the Bronze Age! G-S X-Men was actually the character’s 11th appearance! And five of those came after our tale at hand.
Karen: I thought the art on the second part, with Cap and Namor, looked different and distinctly better than the first half, despite the fact that only Brown and Esposito are credited.
Doug: Yeah, I also kept trying to figure out who else might have given an uncredited assist. It certainly looks different from what Brown/Esposito had turned in for the previous issue. For one think, the characters here have a bit more depth to them – not as lithe as Brown can tend to be (which would explain why I thought his work on DD was pretty solid).
Karen: This issue was like a thrill-ride: it just kept moving, getting faster and crazier as it went along! But characterization was not sacrificed. That takes talent.
Doug: Youngsters dominating the industry today – take heed!!
Karen: In part 3: the conclusion – with the clash of the titans! No, I’m not talking about the Harryhausen movie –it’s the Mighty Thor versus the Incredible Hulk!