Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Fire on the Mountain, Lightning in the Air: Avengers 186
Avengers #186 (August 1979)
"Nights of Wundagore!"
Steven Grant & Mark Gruenwald (plot)/David Michelinie (writer)
John Byrne/Dan Green (pictures)
Karen: I gotta say: I'm a sucker for floating heads on a cover, especially all lined up like that. Don't ask me why. We're back with the middle section of our three-part review of this late 70s story featuring the Avengers' brother and sister act, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Last time you'll recall, Wanda had been kidnapped and Pietro had run up the mysterious Wundagore Mountain to find her, only to come crashing into an invisible barrier. Here, he awakes to find himself in the care of a humanoid cow, Bova, who is serving him milk soup. No, really.
Doug: Milk soup... is that like mushroom soup, without the mushrooms? Hey, before we get too far into this, I want to throw out a "thank you" to my partner for her patience with me over the past couple of days. For those of you who don't know how this works, we always reserve Mondays for our tandem reviews -- the rest of the dates are first-come, first-served as individuals, with the occasional collaboration thrown in. So Mondays are a big deal for us. Well, my son's graduation party was Sunday, and all of the preparations, cleaning, etc. as well as the day itself got the best of my blogging. So I appreciate everyone's patience during one of my "real life" interludes.
Doug: I, too, love the floating heads covers. While certainly other mags had their fair share, this motif always cried out "Avengers" to me.
Karen: Not a problem pal! Bova explains to Pietro who she is, and her story ties in with the birth of his sister and he. Bova was "evolved" from a normal cow by the High Evolutionary. She was to serve as the nursemaid to the children of the New Men the Evolutionary was creating. One night, a pregnant woman, Magda, came to Wundagore seeking sanctuary. She explained that her husband had gained great powers and had begun to talk about ruling the world. Fearful, she fled him. Bova and Magda grew close, and the cow-woman delivered Magda's twins, a boy and a girl. You guessed it, they were Wanda and Pietro. As Wanda was born, there were bright lights in the sky, and the tiny babe also seemed to glow at the same moment. But the children were healthy and Magda was pleased. However she took left them behind, leaving a note that said she feared her husband would find the children if she stayed with them.
Doug: For a somewhat cross-referencing of some of the events on Wundagore, you can check out our review of Spider-Woman #1. As to Magda and the twins, it was difficult to read the line about the husband becoming fearsome due to his acquisition of "great powers" with any sense of wonderment. I'm sure when I was a kid that went right by me. Now I think it's an ingenious little gem hidden in a throwaway line. And don't the artists (colorists included) do a remarkable job of making Magda look just like Wanda? Hmmm -- and who were we to assume Pietro looked like? Any thoughts on Bova's statement about Wanda's glowing like the sky lights? Is there a reference, a foreshadowing, that I'm not getting?
Karen: It's coming, but not til next issue. Not long after the twins were born, Robert and Madeline Frank -aka the Whizzer and Miss America - came to the village below the mountain and the High Evolutionary summoned tham. Madeline was pregnant and died giving birth to a hideous still-born child. The Evolutionary presented the twins to Robert Frank, representing them as his own children, but Frank was filled with grief over his wife's death and ran from the mountain. This really reflects poorly on the Whizzer, don't you think? Finally, the Evolutionary, certainly fed up by now, decided to play God and appeared before a Gypsy couple, telling them to take the children and raise them. The couple had lost their own son and daughter so they were more than willing. Bova wraps up her flashback by saying she stayed behind on Earth when the Evolutionary took to the stars.
Doug: Do we know what happened to Miss America after WWII? As this is a retcon, was there ever an explanation in the 1950's comics as to her fate? I agree -- Bob Frank doesn't come off as looking too good. Also, I'm going to have to check out the Nuklo stories, as the whole "still born" thing has me curious. What was the High Evolutionary's role in his growth? I'm sure I'm just forgetting something. And... what "personal reasons" would a cow have in wishing to stay on Earth? No grazing in space?
Karen: So the origin of the twins is a convoluted one. While tying together past references to their childhood, Michelinie has also sown the seeds of the idea that Magneto was their father, without actually stating such. But he was not the originator of that idea. Both Byrne and Steven Grant had come to the idea separately. Anyone who is interested in the backstory should take a look at this post from Comic Book Legends Revealed from May 2010. It'll explain it all.
Doug: The Magneto non-reveal is really all here, isn't it? In an era when comics would soon become way too confusing, this is a nice, slow evolution. I'm still not sure it makes sense overall, but it does create that legacy feeling among Marvel's characters -- so even as the relationship to Golden Age heroes the Whizzer and Miss America falls away, a new older/younger generation tale dawns. Here's my next question -- has the Jewish heritage of Wanda and/or Pietro ever been mentioned or played a role in a storyline? Oh, and one other question -- would the offspring of a mutant still be considered a mutant? It would seem to me that any mutation would be passed on simply as re-ordered DNA. There would have been no mutation in Wanda or Pietro.
Karen: The other sibling in our story, Wanda, is being held on top of Wundagore by that mystical loon, Moodred. It seems his magical powers are greater than hers. However, Wanda still has her mutant hex power, and it frees her. She and Modred begin throwing spells around, but she quickly realizes that he's stronger than her. She feigns defeat, only to give the wizard a good sock to the jaw, sending him plunging to his doom. Wanda frets that she's never killed before, but she couldn't let Modred unleash the occult force in the mountain; it could kill millions. Unfortunately for her, Modred comes back and blasts her from behind.
Doug: There are some really nice panels during this battle, and the coloring is a big-time enhancer. I like the original bondage scene, with Wanda suspended by magic while Modred floats above the Darkhold. As they really get to blasting each other, there's a really cool panel somewhat akin to depictions of Havok. Lastly, I thought there was some real force behind the blow Wanda landed on Modred's kisser!
Karen: Well, hey, she was trained by Captain America! As Quicksilver prepares to go back up the mountain, despite Bova's pleas not to, Wanda's face appears in the stormy skies above. She tells Quicksilver to flee and sends a blast of energy at he and Bova. Bova convinces him that he can't face whatever's waiting on the mountain alone. He finally concedes and runs towards the village. On the way, he finds Django Maximoff, his foster father, wandering in the forest. Suddenly the trees themselves attack them. Pietro grabs Django and races for the village, as the sky erupts in a hail of rocks, and the earth splits open before him. Pietro outruns it all and makes his way to the post office (the only place with a phone) and places a call to Avengers mansion.
Doug: I am just full of question today! In the panel where Pietro is snared by the mystical tree branches and vibrates his body in order to create enough friction to set the limbs ablaze -- have we ever seen Quicksilver use this Flash-like power before?
Karen: I seem to recall him using his speed in a variety of ways back in the Kooky Quartet days, but not so much later on. The Vision is on monitor duty and gets Pietro's call. As friendly as ever, Pietro calls him 'robot' and tells the android that Wanda has been possessed. The rest of the Avengers are having dinner as the Vision phases through the wall and tells them what's happened. Cap begins to issue orders to get to the quinjet when who should appear but the government watchdog, Henry Gyrich. Gyrich says there's no way the team is going to Bulgaria, as it's not a matter of national security and they don't need another international incident. Cap is fed up and disappears for a moment. As the Beast berates Gyrich, Jarvis appears with a telephone, a call for Gyrich. The crew-cut bureaucrat begins to yell at the person on the line until he discovers it's the President! Cap certainly has some clout. The President says the Avengers need to head out for a 'goodwill tour' of Bulgaria immediately. Gyrich is humiliated, but has another trick up his sleeve. He says the Vision will have to stay behind to continue monitor duty. Enraged, the android Avenger grabs Gyrich and hauls him off his feet, but a cooler headed Cap intervenes, telling him they don't want to lose all their privileges, and that they will bring Wanda back safe. The Vision accedes, although he is clearly furious.
Doug: Ah, yes -- back to the regular Pietro we all know and loathe! You may recall that last week I said he was actually somewhat likable; yeah, not any more. How silly is it (and we've discussed this before) that Ms. Marvel and the Falcon are eating with their masks on? There has been some nice characterization for the Vision in this series of issues. His condition always made great fodder for the writers, though.
Karen: He looks as furious here as he did back in Avengers 95, when he nearly killed a Skrull commander in his rage over Wanda's abduction. Gyrich is lucky Cap held him back -we all know what happened to that Skrull! Back in the shadow of Mount Wundagore, Quicksilver and Django hope that the Avengers will arrive in time. But their hopes are shattered when the door to the office flies open and an explosive force blasts them unconscious. On the last page, a possessed Wanda stands over their bodies, proclaiming that there is no more Wanda, only Chthon.
Doug: Pretty scary stuff! It's a great splash page, too -- as we've said, John Byrne was really at his peak around this time.
Karen: This wouldn't be the first or the only time Wanda would be possessed, but I think it did set things up for her to be possessed again and again. Why does Marvel seem to require that their powerful female characters become possessed so frequently? Her powers were redefined here, giving her a much closer tie to magic, which may not have been such a good thing eventually ("Avengers Disassembled", anyone?). Still, the art here is fabulous, with Dan Green doing a pretty good job of inking Byrne, who was in top form.
Doug: The possession angle, or the storylines where characters have to fight evil doppelgangers, does grow tired. I don't mind super-baddies whose powers somewhat mirror the hero's (Flash vs. Professor Zoom, for example, or Hulk vs. the Abomination), but the turning bad of good guys will certainly be abused in the coming decade that was the 1980's.