Monday, December 20, 2010

Avengers: The Serpent Crown Affair, part 5

Avengers #147 (May 1976)
"Crisis on Other-Earth!"
Steve Englehart-George Perez/Vince Colletta

Doug: Words cannot express the disappointment I felt on Christmas morning, 1975, when under the tree I spied the latest issue of The Avengers. It was #145, and I couldn't wait to crack it open and find out what happened when the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme landed on the Squadron's Earth. There had been quite a bit of build-up for this showdown, and I couldn't take it anymore. And then I saw it. Right there. Don Heck art. Nope -- not George Perez. Don Heck. Tony Isabella words. Not Steve Englehart. Sort of took the luster off of my copy of Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, I'll be honest; and off the nifty transistor radio with the earpiece. But by late winter, I'd put my crabbiness away and was ready for this mag we're discussing today. Marvel even poked fun at itself at the top of the splash page, stating that they were now returning us to our regularly scheduled monthly Squadron Supreme saga.

Karen: I shared your frustration. Not one, but TWO months of fill-ins, right in the middle of an incredible super-team showdown! That was sheer hell.

Doug: As promised, we start with a bang. Both teams, jettisoned from the Brand Corporation by the machinations of Hugh Jones, arrive on the Squadron's world.
With mutual dislike having already festered, it's game on! pretty quickly. Dr. Spectrum launches the first salvo, although Iron Man absorbs the blast for his teammates. But it's Patsy Walker who does the major butt-kicking in this scene as she leaps at Hyperion, knocking him back. The Avengers move quickly and for once act as a team -- how many times have we discussed recently these guys, the FF, and the X-Men operating as individuals? This was refreshing to see.

Karen: This was what we had been waiting for! As the Vision says, it's a chance to see "which team is truly the most powerful" -and with the Squadron ably standing in for the Justice League, readers were getting a fight many had wished for. We had Hyperion standing in for Superman, Dr. Spectrum as Green Lantern's counterpart, Lady Lark and the Golden Archer in place of Black Canary and Green Arrow, and of course, the laughably-named Whizzer as the poor man's Flash. Later we'd see Englehart's takes on Aquaman, the Atom, and Hawkman. Conspicuously absent was Nighthawk, the Squadron's Batman clone. I wonder if there was some concern over confusing the fans,
since the "regular" Earth's Nighthawk was appearing in The Defenders at the time? Of course, Marvel kept mucking things up themselves by putting "Squadron Sinister" on the covers of these issues!

Karen: The irony of it all is that in a short period of time, Englehart would leave Marvel and go over to DC, where he would 'Marvelize' the Justice League!

Doug: But even as things appear to be going swimmingly, army helicopters show up. Cap picks one out as the presidential chopper.
It lands, and who should step out? No, not Gerald Ford, but Nelson Rockefeller! Yep, things on the Squadron's world are just a bit off. And on his dome? The Serpent Crown. Now, contrary to some detraction we've heard during this run of posts, Steve Englehart does, through Captain America and later the Scarlet Witch, tell us a bit of history on the Serpent Crown and just what the crazy thing does to its bearer/wearer. And as Mr. Rockefeller is obviously off his, er, rocker, he needs to be separated from that crown. The Vision does the honors, removing that crazy chapeau. Tossing it to Wanda, the Avengers are able to flee.

Karen: Even today seeing that funky serpent crown atop the head of Nelson Rockefeller is both amusing and creepy. The Vision once again steps up and gets the team rolling. Man I miss him!

Doug: What follows is a bit odd, as the Avengers commence to wandering the streets of Cosmopolis. Above, Iron Man and the Vision are keeping vigil.
On the streets, Cap, the Beast, Hellcat and Wanda follow. Wanda was given charge of the crown, and as she's carried it, she has garnered some information from it (through empathy, I guess). But suddenly she collapses and only the Vision sees it. Swooping down, he is instead greeted with hostility from his wife. Englehart does a typically-great job of characterization in two scenes in this book between Wanda and her husband. Wanda breaks away here, and the Vision follows as non-threateningly as he can.

Karen: Wanda's explanation of the Crown's power,
that all the heads of the major corporations have fallen under the influence of the Crown, is so reflective of the loss of trust people had placed in authority symbols after Vietnam and Watergate. Eisenhower had warned of the dangers of "the military-industrial complex" - the Squadron's world was living in it, full-on.

Karen: I agree with you completely about the scene between the Crown-possessed Wanda and the Vision. Her line, "God forgive me for ever cheapening myself with you!" still made me wince. Nice work by Engelhart.

Doug: As Wanda tries to pull away, she rounds a corner -- straight into the arms of Hyperion, Lady Lark, and the Golden Archer.
What follows is a display of the Vision as a one-man wrecking crew! I would dare say that it's in this sequence that young George Perez "arrived". The camera angles, the panel lay-outs, and the individualizing of his facial interpretations of the various characters are all evident (and Vinnie Colletta's pretty good, too -- love the way he textured the Beast, and Lady Lark's costume). And what an action sequence this is! The Vision uses his entire arsenal of abilities and single-handedly defeats the Squadron's trio. Oh, at the end with an assist from his lovely bride, newly freed (but not without extreme effort) from the Crown, which had sought to take over her psyche.

Karen: The last five pages of this issue were an outstanding showcase for both the young Perez and the Vision.
We get such amazing action here, as you said. I also enjoyed the exchange between Hyperion and the Vision, as Hyperion wraps a lamp post around Vizh, stating, "I used this technique against my arch-foe Burbank the first time I came to Cosmopolis, creature! I've always thought it one of my best." The Vision dryly responds, "How wonderful" as he phases through the post!

Karen: But the very best thing about this story is the ending, with Wanda and Vision coming together, convinced that their love will allow them to overcome any obstacle. Call me a softy, but that one really hit me hard. Perez did some beautiful work on their faces, and I'll even throw old Vinnie a compliment, as his delicate lines here worked perfectly. A very strong issue all the way around.


Steven R. Stahl said...

This was my favorite issue of the storyline. The focus on Wanda and Vizh, was great, of course, but so was the parody of the JLA. The issue still reads wonderfully well, 34 years later, because of that unforced humor -- one can easily imagine Hyperion being an overconfident oaf -- and because of the political references, which are as relevant today as they were when the issue was published.

The artwork, as noted, worked very well. It's hard to imagine anyone else at the time doing the sequence in which the Vision flies over the Lois Lane and Lana Lang stand-ins (?).

Reading your review brings back all the pleasure I felt as I read that issue. It made my comics-reading month.


Fred W. Hill said...

Tbat two month wait to get to this issue was horrid, but Englehart & Perez really delivered the goods with this issue. And those highlights you pointed out, Karen, were excellent. The Vision's response to Hyperion's boasting was hilarious, perhaps made even more so as the Vision wasn't particularly famed as a great quipster of the superhero set. But, as with Spock in the old Star Trek, the Vision's droll sense of humor came through every so often to great effect. And remembering the way Vizh and Wanda were makes it aggravating to know how later writers essentially ruined them, first as a couple, then as characters.

J.A. Morris said...

Last week I mentioned how much I loved the scene where Vision makes mincemeat of Hyperion. Vision was such a badass back then.

The last page is another reason I mourn the end of their marriage.

Steven R. Stahl said...

One more thing worthy of comment is the number of ideas that appeared in Englehart's stories. The Vision shunting away so much mass that he practically becomes invisible makes a lot of sense as a tactic, but no one thought of it, to my knowledge, before Steve E., nor did anyone use the ability again until Englehart's VISION & SCARLET WITCH #1. The maxiseries was filled with ideas, especially in the area of magic(k).

As frustrating as the absence of Wanda and Vizh might be (how well he's handled in DEAD AVENGERS remains to be seen), he and Wanda are just fictional characters, only as realistic as the writer of a story makes them. The classic couple could return any time if a Marvel editor paid for a story about them.


Related Posts with Thumbnails