Avengers Annual #8 (1978) "Spectrums of Deceit!" Roger Slifer-George Perez/Pablo Marcos/Ricardo Villamonte
Karen: It's time for our second installment of George Perez July. We're looking at Avengers Annual #8, which was published a scant two years after our previous review. I'm going to start this one off by saying that I think the inkers on this issue, Pablo Marcos and Ricardo Villamonte, do not mesh well with Perez' art. The linework often looks thin and scratchy, and there are times when Perez' style is completely lost. Honestly, getting through this book was a chore because of how badly the inkers had mangled Perez' work. Doug: Whew! If you hear me breathing hard, it's because a busy weekend almost swept me right under the Dreaded Deadline Doom! But I'm here, first and foremost to agree with my partner on the inking situation. Of course sneaking an early peek at Karen's comments was what got me to dwelling on the whole issue of just what an inker is supposed to do, which is the inaugural topic in our "The Open Forum" series. And, under the category of "great minds think alike", I had already begun my part on next week's post of FF Annual #14 and had skewered Pablo Marcos there as well.
Karen: Our story revolves around the Wasp being possessed by villain Dr. Spectrum's power prism. For some incredibly stupid reason, Hank Pym decides it would be a good idea to fix the prism and give it to Jan as a gift. Seriously, this man is one of the smartest guys in the Marvel Universe?
Karen: Of course, the prism is far from inert -it is actually sentient. When Jan finds it -that's right, she goes peeking in Hank's dresser, she can't wait to get her present, just like a child - the gem takes control of her and sends her in search of Iron Man, "the only earthling who knows my single weakness!" Spectrum/Wasp manages to capture old Shellhead and returns to Avengers mansion, to imprison him alongside Wonder Man and Quicksilver (what's he doing there?). Doug: Do you suppose this story was the impetus for the modern "innovation" of turning classic male villains into females (Ultron, Loki)? Doug: When I read through this section, and reflecting on the parallels between the Squadron Sinister/Supreme and DC's Justice League of America, I came across another parallel character -- the Emerald Empress and the Evil Eye. I felt that the sentience of the prism, as you said, really set it apart from, say, Green Lantern's power ring. Karen: Before anything much can come of this, a whole gaggle of Avengers show up. How many people were on the team at this point? First it's Cap leading Ms. Marvel, Beast, and Black Panther. Then after they get knocked around, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision pop up. The Vision, being such a dedicated reader of Avengers case histories, recalls Spectrum's weakness and zaps Spectrum/Wasp with ultraviolet lights. The attack causes her to collapse, and the Avengers summon Dr. Don Blake, who discovers that the gem has attached itself to the Wasp's palm.
Doug: Hercules and the Black Knight must have been out of town, and Mantis maybe couldn't tear herself away from her tree and the little saplings?
Doug: Did you think it was hyperbole to say that Don Blake was the finest doctor they could think of? I mean, a short time after this he would save the team at the conclusion of the Korvac Saga, but c'mon... Steve Strange was the best surgeon, Hank Pym is the best biochemist, etc. Good thing a regular shmoe like Ben Grimm became the Thing! Karen: The team decides that maybe the previous possessor of the prism might know how to remove it. They seek out Dr. Strange, as the Defenders (along with Pym) were the last to defeat the villain. Strange tells them he essentially gave Spectrum and the other members of the Squadron Sinister amnesia and let them go. He points them in the right direction, and off Earth's Mightiest go. Karen: Strange is just the first of a number of somewhat pointless guest appearances. Next we see Thundra and Hyperion in a gym, and the obligatory fight ensues. Then it's off to encounter the Whizzer -not the WWII hero but the bad guy. It's kind of amusing that the team that takes down this speedster is Cap, Hawkeye, and Wanda -sort of a Kooky Quartet, minus their own speedster. Next we're off with the Beast, who finds that the erstwhile Dr. Spectrum has now become a bigtime evangelist. The Beast brings him back to help Jan, and of course all hell breaks loose. Doug: Perez is not credited as a co-plotter anywhere for this story, but one has to wonder. The man has undoubtedly made his reputation on cramming everything but the kitchen sink into his books. I wonder if perhaps this story was created Marvel Method style, and young George had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. He would work on Thundra in the pages of the FF, and he'd done the Squadron Supreme very early in his first Avengers run.
Karen: The preacher man still covets the prism and takes it from the Wasp. The Avengers attack, and the prism reaches it's true goal: taking over Thor! It embeds itself in the hammer (how?) and controls the Asgardian. We get a nice knockdown, dragout fight between Thor and Iron Man that would have been spectacular with a better inker. The Spectrum entity is eventually vanquished when Thor drops the hammer and it reverts to his cane. All is right with the world and the Avengers celebrate Jan's birthday.
Doug: The prism's self-embedding in Mjolnir doesn't make sense, as it apparently needed a sentient host itself. I thought that Iron Man separating Thor from the hammer was an interesting way to end the battle, and further cemented Thor's position as the most powerful Avenger. Oh, and by the way -- early on, when the prism dissed on Wonder Man in stating that although powerful, he was not the one the prism coveted... That almost seemed like one of those instances when a writer couldn't really decide (or recall) what had gone down before. It's been stated many times, usually by Simon himself, how he's "gone toe-to-toe" with Thor! yadda yadda yadda. But the prism put Wondy in his place. Karen: I'm sure it's obvious that I was not impressed with this issue. The thing is, if the art had actually looked like Perez art, I'm sure I would have been more excited. But as it is, knowing what could have been, it's just a disappointing issue. Doug: My dear, if you didn't like the inks in this one, wait until next week. I felt that Ricardo Villamonte (I'm really unfamiliar with his work) must have lended a strong hand here, because I didn't think Marcos' facial expressions were as prominent as they'll be next week in the FF annual. I thought the story had its high points, though. You mentioned the fight between Iron Man and Thor at the end -- shoot, we even got a panel with IM on his roller skates! I must say, too, that I don't always care for breaking a team into parts to solve a mission. However, here the teams were good and it was fun to see the Squadron again even if they were not in costume and not together. As you mentioned, the "reunion" of the Kooky Quartet was fun. I thought Slifer had some good lines for the Beast, too. Doug: So, while not a "you gotta run out and get this!" sort of book, it did take me back to the summer of 1979, which was closing in on the last months of my initial comics-collecting phase. Looking at this book through those eyes, I did smile a few times.
Our collaborators, Martinex1 and Redartz, have opened a new blog called Back in the Bronze Age... If you have liked the sorts of topics seen here on Bronze Age Babies, then you are going to feel right at home at Back in the Bronze Age... Give them a visit!
Karen and Doug
Bronze Age Babies, Unite!
On Sunday, 4/23/17, Martinex1, Doug, and Redartz gathered for a day of fun at C2E2 in Chicago. It was great to finally meet in person after years of online cameraderie.
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons and a daughter-in-law.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
Believe it or not, the Bronze Age Babies have never spoken to each other...
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Dig Karen's Work Here? Then You Should Check Her Out in Back Issue!
BI #44 is available for digital download and in print. I've read Karen's article on reader reaction to Gerry Conway's ASM #121-122, and it's excellent. This entire magazine was fun! -- Doug
Back Issue #45
As if Karen's work on Spidey in the Bronze Age wasn't awesome enough, she's at it again with a look at the romance of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in Back Issue's "Odd Couples" issue -- from TwoMorrows!
Karen's talking the Mighty Thor in the Bronze Age!
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