Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Avengers 166 - Uru & Diamond!

Avengers 166 (December 1977)
"Day of the Godslayer!"
writer: Jim Shooter
pencils: John Byrne
inks: Pablo Marcos

Karen: OK folks, are you ready for the thrilling conclusion of this superb Avengers story?

Doug: I know I am! And how about that cover? Perez is of course the gold standard for the Avengers in the Bronze Age, but how 'bout Ernie Chan's (Chua's) inks on this cover? While I sometimes thought he overpowered John Buscema on the Conans on which they collaborated, his inks here provide some real depth to the illustration. Not to mention the fact that we've watched Nefaria just bulldoze the team -- but apparently not here, as two of the heavy-hitters are now on the scene!

Karen: We start right in the middle of the action, as Thor appears out of nowhere to take on the super-powered Count Nefaria! At first it would appear that the Thunder God has the situation in hand, but as Nefaria begins to realize that he's taken Thor's best and is still standing, he gains confidence. He then repeats himself, and drops a building on Thor! This doesn't stop Goldilocks and the two continue to go at it. Shooter and Byrne do a good job in showing Thor in all his glory and power - which makes Nefaria seem even more impressive.

Doug: I liked this splash page's flip-flop perspective to the ending panel from #165. Whereas before we got to see the Thunder God's anger, here we see the look of "Oh, crap..." on Nefaria's face. Thor's soliloquy about the Avengers being mere mortals, I am Thor!, yada yada yada, reminded me of the exchange he and Moondragon had had some issues previously -- when she was telling him that he was too good for the Avengers; in effect, attempting to compare herself to Thor, as she certainly felt that she was too good for the Avengers. Thor is letting Nefaria know in no uncertain terms that the varsity has arrived!
Karen: As the battle rages, Pym finds a way to revive the Vision, who attacks Nefaria and discovers his powers of intangibility do not work against him. I liked that panel of the Vision on the ground, about half-phased through the sidewalk!

Doug: One of the best lines ever: Beast - "Careful, Vish! He's dangerous!" Vision - "As am I"
Doug: I, too, liked that panel. Pretty wild that Nefaria could punch the Vision while he was intangible.
Karen: Professor Sturdy, the German scientist who helped Nefaria become a super-man, arrives on the scene and tells Nefaria that he is aging at an accelerated rate, and will die in two days time. This drives Nefaria over the edge, and he jumps off in a rage. Meanwhile, the Avengers try to re-group. One of my favorite scenes in this whole storyline occurs here, as an injured Captain America hands his invincible shield to Wonder Man, telling him to take it for protection against Nefaria's laser vision. A clearly stunned Wondy says, "It's an honor I don't feel I deserve! I - I don't know what to say, Cap...I....Thanks!"

Doug: To a degree, Perez would repeat that scene in the Avengers/JLA crossover, with Superman the beneficiary.
Karen: As Nefaria continues to rampage, jumping and blasting buildings, the Vision realizes that he cannot fly and so, if his momentum is halted, he has to fall. He brings the Count down and the other Avengers move in to take him on. This time, they act as a team, much more successfully. Still, although they stagger Nefaria, they don't bring him down. There's a terrific shot here of Thor punching the heck out of Nefaria!

Doug: You know, with all the junk that's being passed off as "The Avengers" these days, it's refreshing to read a story with a truly classic line-up. Thor, Iron Man, Cap, Vision, Wanda, Wonder Man, Beast, Black Panther, YJ, and the Wasp -- ten of the all-time greats. It would be interesting to see if the real Superman, and not a juiced-up Nefaria, could have held out so long against this sort of firepower.

Karen: The Vision comes up with his own personal solution: he increases his mass and density to their most extreme and drops like a bomb on Nefaria! This finally put the Count down for the count, so to speak.

Doug: This era was a high-point for the Vision in terms of storylines, characterization, and general facetime in the magazine. The scene you allude to is a real showcase for his "density as hard as a diamond" power. This big save, coming only months after his quite aggressive battle against Wonder Man in Avengers #158, cemented the Vision as a superstar among superstars.
Karen: On the final page, as Cap and Iron Man bicker over how the team has been performing, we find out that Sturdy's comments to Nefaria were a ruse: his rapid aging was a temporary side-effect; in reality, his super-energized cells had made him immortal!

Karen: I read this when it first hit the stands and I loved it then. It hasn't lost a thing in 33 years! It's a rousing battle with lots of great characterization, and great art. I highly recommend getting these books.

Doug: It's a very neatly-packaged story. There are the small subplots of Gyrich (who we don't know yet) and the old man on the steamer coming to America to meet his "children" -- who look an awful lot like Wanda and Pietro. But other than that, this is just good ol' fashioned superheroing, in the Mighty Marvel Manner!!


Edo Bosnar said...

Great commentary on a great story arc. Just one little gripe: I kind of like Marcos' inks over Byrne's pencils in these issues. In fact, the art here serves as a great exhibition of Byrne's almost unsurpassed skill in rendering dynamic superhero stories during that period.

Doug said...

Edo --

If you've read these stories, did you get the impression that Byrne more or less did lay-outs for #166 and Marco finished? I thought there was less of Byrne showing and more of Marcos.

I just don't care for the way Marcos does faces, and as I said earlier, books he inks seem (to me) to have a muddy appearance.

Now I am not saying that Byrne is always great (no matter who inks him). Lately I've not been satisfied with his work, from X-Men: Hidden Years on. Too scratchy, rushed...



Karen said...

Marcos was part of that influx of latin/filipino artists in the 70s who favored heavy brushwork. I think it works on certain types of art - I always liked it with Buscema on Conan - but not all. The art in this story is so strong it's not too big of a deal to me, but I can't help but wonder how this would have looked if say Terry Austin or Bob Layton had inked it.

Horace said...

Doug and Karen,

Thanks for blogging about Avengers #164-166.

In hindsight, 1977 was an amazing year for this title. We had "The Trial" and "Bride of Ultron" in issues #160-162. Then, after a fill-in, we had the aforementioned "Nefaria" saga. Last but not least, the summer gave us Avengers Annual #7.

These stories were killer when they were new to the spinner racks. And, they hold up very well today and continue to resonate. Classic stuff.

- Horace Austin

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