Monday, November 29, 2010

Avengers: The Serpent Crown Affair, part 2

Avengers #142 (December 1975)
"Go West, Young Gods!"
Steve Englehart-George Perez/Vince Colletta

Doug: If you thought our first installment contained a lot of energy, this one's even more exciting! Thinking of Peaches & Herb, last week we saw Captain America reunited with the Avengers, the Beast reunited with Patsy Walker, Iron Man and Moondragon reunited with the rest of the team, and all of the above reunited with the Squadron Sinister and Kang -- although not all at the same time! Whoo-boy! And I say this one's more exciting? Let's see...

Doug: We open right where we left off, with a show of surprise on the faces of Thor, Moondragon, and their guide across the eons, Immortus. The subject of that astonishment is revealed in the persons of five of the Wild West's heroes: the Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, the Rawhide Kid, the Ringo Kid, and the Night Rider (formerly known as the Ghost Rider -- but of course, there was a certain flame-headed motorcycle rider by that moniker in the MU in 1975!).
The Western heroes quickly divulge that these new arrivals are even nuttier than Hawkeye -- it's Thor's quickly come/quickly go thunderstorm that riles up the locals. After enticing the cowboys to take them to see Hawkeye, the entire group rides off to the town of Tombstone, Arizona.

Karen: Just a quick comment here: Moondragon looked gigantic on the back of the Rawhide Kid's horse! Intentional or not?

Doug: She did, didn't she? And her straight-backed posture only added to her haughtiness.

Doug: Once in the law office of Matt Hawk (aka Two-Gun), the Avengers are excited to see the once-lost Hawkeye. Clint reveals how he became lost in the timestream on his way to the 12th Century, and encountered Kang.
After a tussle, the two of them fell out of time travel and landed in the middle of a desert. Hawkeye, alone, set off on a trek toward any civilization he could find. Walking into Tombstone, he encountered two major threats: Kang's citadel, and some ornery locals. Losing the bad guys, Hawkeye located the office of Matt Hawk, and soon joined up with the heroes of yesterday. At the conclusion of his tale, Immortus pipes up to tell the assemblage of Kang's master plan: in order to conquer the 20th Century, he will first conquer the 19th!

Karen: Hawkeye has ditched his mask and shirt to "blend in".
This is thankfully not as horrific a look as his mini-skirt costume from a few years prior, but it's certainly not appealing. As for Kang's plan, I guess he decided to take the easy way out. It does make one wonder though; if he's the master of time, he could choose any era to exert his will. I always assumed he chose the modern one because it was most challenging. After the constant defeats though, I could see taking the path of least resistance.
Doug: Speaking of the 20th Century, Englehart and Perez give us a look in on the rest of the Avengers, captured at the end of the previous issue by the Squadron Supreme -- now in the employ of Roxxon Oil. Encased in a cage of Dr. Spectrum's making, all the Avengers can do is hurl a few challenges down to the gloating Buzz Baxter and Hugh Jones, as well as the Squadron. At the end of this little vignette, Captain America announces that he has a plan... that we'll have to wait until next week to discover!

Karen: I liked the perspective in that opening shot. Perez would perfect such things eventually. Even after all these years though, I still don't like a nose on Iron Man!
From what I understand, the Kang/Old West story was originally slated for the next Giant Size before it got canceled. I do think that it might have worked better that way. Although I enjoyed both stories, I was frustrated by jumping back and forth between them.

Doug: I wonder if the Old West story would have "worked" as a standalone? With only three Avengers (and do we count Moondragon as a team member at this time?), I think they'd have had to concoct some other backstory to get IM, Vision, and the Scarlet Witch involved to some degree. It's interesting that you bring that up, as G-S Avengers #5 was a reprint of Avengers Annual #1, and Avengers Annual #6 was originally advertised as Giant-Size Avengers #6! Could the Dreaded Deadline Doom have reared its ugly head in the midst of the production of this tale?

Doug: Back to the West, Hawkeye tells his team that Kang will probably move against a coming train, a train loaded with uranium.
While the "old-timers" don't know of it's importance, Clint assures them that Kang does. So, formulating a plan of both attack and defense, the six (Hawkeye included) cowboys mount up and take their places. There's a funny scene here where it looks like Clint is going to ban Thor and Moondragon from the mission. You can just feel the tension rise as Thor's hackles get all up. But ol' Hawk assures him that with a few minor changes, the God of Thunder will surely play an important role.

Karen: How goofy is it to see Moondragon all prim and proper in a dress and bonnet?

Doug: Just as they suspected, some bad guys ambush the train; they certainly didn't plan on being met by the most notorious lawmen of the 1800's! This part of the book is really, really fun. The young Perez shows that he's as comfortable drawing cowboys and horses as he is the longjohn crowd. There's some gunplay, some great moments (Rawhide in the coal bin is a favorite), and a chance for Hawkeye to shine.
All this takes place while Thor and Moondragon are disguised as passengers aboard the train (Thor's long blond hair and hulking body draw a sideways glance from the passenger across the aisle), the insurance policy against Kang taking the train should the cowboys fail. They don't fail, though, and once all of the baddies are rounded up, Hawkeye begins his interrogation and announces that the assault on Castle Kang is about to begin!

Karen: That last section was pretty rousing adventure. You're right, Perez handles the western action as easily as he handles the modern. It was a great fun, even though I never read any western comics growing up (although I do enjoy western movies).
The sub-plot with Two-Gun and his fascination with our Avengers was a nice idea.

Doug: I'd seen some Western reprints when I was a kid, but I guess the Dick Ayers or Larry Lieber art put me off a bit. But here -- this Perez guy could really draw and he made the Western heroes quite exciting. I think some of the same issues with Vinnie Colletta's inks are present again, but overall I can't really complain -- there are times when the inks are OK.
And, in the midst of what will become a great super-team slugfest across two worlds, Englehart manages to work in his epilogue to his epic "Celestial Madonna" story. And it works!


Fred W. Hill said...

Another great recap. This story was a lot of fun to read, both for the writing and the art. Having re-read a whole bunch of mid-70s Avengers tales recently, Perez' work was the most pleasing to look at. And Englehart's writing even seemed to improve. Yeah, it was a bit aggravating going back and forth between stories, with only tidbits advancing the Roxxon/ Squadron Supreme storyline, but I wouldn't have had them cut any of the Kang in the Old West tale!
I only ever read a few of Marvel's Western comics, but of those I did have a preference for the Two-Gun Kid, maybe because he seemed to have been written with more of a distinct personality than the others. His reflection on having met "gods" was intriguing. He became the "everyman" here, genuinely astounded by the things he had seen and attempting to digest it all, while the other cowboys appeared to take it in stride.
BTW, I wasn't too keen on Hawkeye's barechested look either, especially as it made him seem just as out of place in the 1870s as his mask & tunic, and with that blonde hair no one was going to mistake him for an American Indian. Considering how easily they found suitable clothes for Thor & Moondragon, they couldv'e also come up with a shirt for Clint to wear. I suspect he really just wanted to show off his six-pack abs to all those cowgirls!

Steven R. Stahl said...

Special moments from AVENGERS #142

Patsy, to Hyperion: "Listen, you big palooka, they'll get out of here! They will!" After Buzz Baxter's scoffing reply, "I guess you can't scare folks with words these days, huh?"

Narration: In time, the [Two-Gun] Kid realizes what he's doing. . . and all the way back to the railway, he thinks about why, and why he made that leap in the first place. Perhaps it's because, next to the Avengers. . . he feels so limited.


The Cap'n said...

Overlooked here is the great Gil Kane cover. He had already spent quite a bit of time on the old western heroes like Johnny Thunder and it's nice to see him as a part of this crossover.

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