Monday, March 8, 2010

Avengers 165 - When Superman Comes a'Calling

Avengers 165 (November 1977)
"Hammer of Vengeance!"
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Pablo Marcos

Karen: Here in the second part of our three-part story, the Avengers are face-to-face with a tremendously powerful Count Nefaria, who has decided to kill them apparently just to prove he can. He pretty much toys with them, finally dropping a building on top of them! They are rescued by Iron Man, regroup and attack again, but have little success. When all looks lost though, who should appear but - the God of Thunder!

Doug: And as Captain America and others will point out in our next issue, Thor's popping in like he's the cavalry is getting stale. Not that the Avengers mind having their bacon saved, but where is the Thunder God in the more mundane tasks? The day-to-day crises?

Karen: Yes, it would be a little while before the reason for that was revealed.

Doug: I felt the opening sequence was really strong in terms of Byrne's storytelling. It's obvious that he "gets" the Avengers, their powers, and the interplay between their abilities and Nefaria's newfound powers works. In effect, each of the Avengers strikes solo, giving Byrne a chance to show us just what Nefaria can do.

Doug: I also thought it was nice to toss in the line from the Beast about Nefaria's role in the demise of Thunderbird back in X-Men #95; as we've just finished an examination of continuity here on the BAB blog, this is an example of the tangled web that was the Marvel Universe in days gone by.

Karen: Yes, a perfectly appropriate reference for the Beast to make. This issue is another fine example of how a story that is basically one long fight after another can incorporate plenty of characterization. We see the rift growing between Captain America and Iron Man - Cap thinks the Golden Avenger is taking his job as leader too lightly; we see Wonder Man battling against his own fears; and, the much-despised Henry Gyrich makes his first appearance.

Doug: And when discussing characterization, let's not forget Jarvis. He has a nice moment in the scene right after Nefaria knocks Wonder Man back into the mansion. And Gyrich was such a scum!

Karen: Nefaria really is very Superman-like here - except for not being able to fly, although he can "leap tall buildings in a single bound"!! Nefaria's heat vision looks devastating.

Doug: Yep -- again, to the first few pages: super strength, heat vision, super speed, invulnerability, super reflexes... The bad version of Kal-el, if you ask me. I thought it was cool, yet curious, in the scene you mentioned earlier where Nefaria dumps a building on our heroes. In the panels just prior, he attempts to mangle Cap's shield and can't even dent it. In my mind, I had a tough time juxtaposing that idea with the fact that he could lift a building weighing hundreds of tons. And about that building... defies logic that Nefaria could pick it up clean. You don't think there'd be pipes, etc. all over, an exposed foundation? I'm no architect, but I'm just saying...

Karen: Yes, ripping the building out of the ground seems over the top, and unrealistic -even for a comic! Funny too because a few years later Byrne re-visits this scene in Fantastic Four, this time using Gladiator, and implies that he does it through a form of telekinesis. But there's no implication of that there.

Karen: We get some foreshadowing that the Vision, who lies comatose in a stasis cylinder, will come into play before the story's over.

Doug: Karen, we long ago discussed the Vision's humanity or lack thereof. A scene like this just solidifies my point of view back then that he's more machine than man. But I don't want to dredge up old arguments!

Karen:Oh boy, let's not go through that again! To me, it was no different than seeing a person comatose on a hospital bed, attached to machines keeping them alive. But Vizh will get his turn next time. Even the Whizzer gets a good scene, reminding Nefaria that he is only mortal, and his reign will come to an end in 20 years or so.

Doug: I really appreciated Bob Frank's wilfulness to jump in and help. I thought this was a nice time in Avengers history when he'd come back. I was a little sad when the "true origin" of Wanda and Pietro played out a short time after this.

Karen: I know; on some level I liked the idea of Wanda and Pietro being the second generation of super-heroes, children of the World War II vets. Byrne's art really gets across the raw power of being thrown around, although I do agree with you Doug, that Pablo Marcos is not the best inker for him.

Doug: John Byrne is an artist who excels at both the lithe figures and those muscle-bound power guys. His pencils really have some depth in these issues. A stellar job!

Karen: The last page with Thor surrounded by Kirby Krackle, throwing his hammer straight at Nefaria, is a knock-out!


Anonymous said...

I missed about a year's worth of Avengers around this time for some reason, and picked up these issues some time later. Call me finicky, but one thing that annoyed me about these stories was one particular feature - the chubbification of Jarvis! He'd always been shown to be a fairly svelte chap previously - someone somewhere might have thought it made him too Alfredlike, but you can see in the panel you've provided that his face started filling out, and by #200 he was definitely packing the extra pounds. It just wasn't cricket!

B Smith

PS have to admit I never really warmed to Shooter's scripting, either - I was raised on a diet of Thomas and Englehart, after which Shooter seemed contrived.

Doug said...

Thanks for the comments!

I'll be looking at an issue of Superboy soon. It's in the era after Ma and Pa Kent took the "youth serum", so their issues were even greater than packing on a few pounds. I guess DC wanted them to be the "Swingers of Smallville" or something...


MaGnUs said...

Nefaria couldn't make it, so he asked General Zod to stand in for him.

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