Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ain't Nothin' Like Halloween in Rutland, Vermont! Part 2010

Avengers #83 (December 1970)
"Come On In, the Revolution's Fine!"
Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Tom Palmer

Doug: Welcome back to our second annual installment of looking at Halloween in the burg of Rutland, Vermont. You may recall that last year we inspected Avengers #119, where the Collector spoiled the festivities at Tom Fagan's annual superhero-themed costume parade. This time we trip back a few years earlier to find that other super-baddies had also spoiled some fun along the way!

Doug: I have to say right off the bat --the artistic pairing of John Buscema and Tom Palmer may be akin to Lennon and McCartney, or Hope and Crosby, or any of the other great duos of our time. Yeah, I know Buscema sometimes missed on certain facial angles, but his dynamism just added so much energy to every page -- find me a page (shoot, find me a panel!) in this book that doesn't just exude action! And Palmer -- this was the era of experimentation by inkers, and the use of zip-a-tone throughout this book just stretches the moody parts, adds depth to the night scenes, etc. These are two guys at the peak of their powers as the Bronze Age dawned.
Karen: This is just a flat-out gorgeous looking book. The big spread on pages 2 and 3 is an iconic image. One of the other things that struck me is that there are no "throw-away" panels in this book. Every single panel shows an attention to detail that has to be seen to be believed.

Doug: The above being said, I'm not certain scribe Roy Thomas was firing on all cylinders in this issue.
I'm not sure exactly where to focus my complaint, but it just felt throughout like something was a bit off. Perhaps it's because this is a done-in-one, so there were no subplots to make me think of what was to come. Maybe it was the remark that Clint Barton made, with a tree trunk in his hand, that he was going to use it as a hockey puck. Uh, right, Roy...

Karen: That particular bit of dialog is painful to be sure. But the whole issue feels so hokey. Women's liberation was definitely an important topic as the 70s dawned, but the entire story feels so dreadfully out of touch. I'm not even sure what Roy was trying to say about the women's movement here.

Doug: As we get rolling, Jan arrives home to Avengers Mansion to hear voices coming from the meeting room. Thinking she'll surprise them, scare them, whatever -- she peeks around the corner to find that it's not her teammates in the room (well, at least not all of them), but a different team of all females! Seated around the table are Medusa, the Black Widow, the Scarlet Witch -- while at the head is a strong, Viking-looking woman who calls herself the Valkyrie! The two-page splash here is not only beautiful, but contains what would become stock images for the Wasp and Valkyrie -- I believe both adorned Slurpee cups back in the mid-70's!

Karen: I remember those!

Doug: Jan grows to her normal height, and the others ask her to hear out the Valkyrie. As the woman warrior begins to tell her origin, I had the stinking suspicion that something was off here.
These are strong female characters (by this time -- certainly not as Stan Lee had written them years earlier), and they just seemed to be going along with the whole "male chauvinism" deal a bit too easily. But Valkyrie proves to be a master propagandist, and the ladies set off on whatever mission she has.

Karen: Another remark on the art: I love that horse-drawn chariot that Valkyrie drives. Man, could Buscema draw horses!

Doug: We then cut to Rutland, Vermont, where Tom Fagan and others are gathered, awaiting the start of the 11th annual Rutland Halloween parade. As fate would have it, the Avengers show up -- Vision, Goliath, Black Panther, and Quicksilver. The Panther tells of a potential kidnapping plot as the heroes' reason for journeying north.
Party guests Roy and Jeannie Thomas make a cameo, and Fagan invites the Avengers to ride on a parade float.

Karen: It's amusing to see the regular joes in costumes that hang on them, unlike our powerfully-built heroes! I also noticed a certain dark-knight detective hanging out in the crowd.

Doug: We then greet the Masters of Evil, reassembled after busting out of jail. Klaw, Whirlwind, the Melter, and the Radioactive Man have come to Vermont to steal a device that would allow access to parallel time! In the parade is Dr. T. W. Erwin, and with him is the machine that powers his precious device.
As the Masters move, they are immediately found out by our heroes and a melee ensues. However, as powerful as this group of Avengers is, they are overwhelmed somewhat easily. The Vision, in particular, is taken out of the fight quickly by being enveloped in melting tar -- he fears that to turn intangible would damage his circuitry. The most intriguing battle is Quicksilver vs. Whirlwind, and I wish we'd seen more of it!

Karen: Anyone familiar with H.P. Lovecraft would take note of the fact that Dr. Erwin is from Miskatonic University! Who knows what horrible creatures he might have let into our world with his device. That crazy Roy!

Karen: I agree that our male heroes are downed a bit quickly, all so that they can be rescued by the ladies. It's a tad too obvious.

Doug: The cavalry arrives, and wouldn't you know that girl-power wins and wins quickly. But right when we think that we're going to be treated to a little boy-girl debate, Valkyrie steps from the shadows, blasts the gents off their collective feet, and tells the prof. to take everyone to the parallel time machine.
In the fastest transition ever, the very next panel (not page, mind you) shows the assembled heroes in the professor's laboratory and Valkyrie draped all over the machine. She quickly begins to glow and then change before everyone's eyes, and emerges from all of the commotion as the Enchantress!

Doug: To wrap this up, Amora details how Odin banished she and the Executioner, and depowered them both. When the Executioner left her, she swore revenge on all males. Making her way to Earth, she disguised herself and gave her would-be allies small spells of suggestion to make them go along with her. And as she moved to work the machine, which would take her back to Asgard where she would wreak more havoc, Wanda resisted her.
Wanda's hex sphere (see, no one really knows how her power works!!) turned the Enchantress' spells upon herself, seemingly disintegrating her. And that was that. Until, of course, Clint had to shoot off his mouth about women's lib!

Karen: And of course, a few years later, Clint would tell Wanda he wanted to be the father of her "little witch-brood"! He's a charmer, all right.


joe ackerman said...

strangely, for all it's faults, this is still one of my favourite Roy Thomas/John Buscema Avengers comics, which pretty much makes it one of my favourite Avengers comics period. it's the art, obviously, which sells it to me so well. Big John's at the top of his game here, and, damn! if that man didn't know how to draw hot superheroines! love it.

Anonymous said...

It's quaint by today's standards. Hard to believe that the idea of equal rights for women would still be debatable so recently. Still, the artwork is great, and stories set in Rutland at Halloween are almost always fun. I did like the scene where the Avengers show up and Jeannie Thomas asks which one is Emma Peel.

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