Monday, January 13, 2014

BAB Classic: Three Cows Shot Me Down! Avengers #91

NOTE:  This post was originally published on 17 October 2011.

Avengers 91 (August 1971)
"Take One Giant Step -- Backward!"
Roy Thomas-Sal Buscema/Buscema

Doug: If you recall the end of our previous issue, Janet had passed out in the battle against the now-possessed Goliath and Sentry-459. Fallen, she was discovered by a primal man -- her husband Yellowjacket! As we join the story this week, Ronan the Accuser gloats over various monitor screens as he rants to Captain Mar-Vell about his plan to de-evolve life on Earth.

Doug: It was Ronan's intent that ol' Caveman Hank would kill the Wasp, but instead he scoops her up and takes her away... for later. Elsewhere, the battle continues to rage as the Avengers fight for their lives against the two giants. Ronan gloats how the tower in the middle of the icecap will continue to melt the surroundings, revealing a primordial forest. But if Rick Jones has anything to say about, the big plan is going to be delayed! Rick throws a large rock at the Sentry's head, at the same instant Wanda surrounds the Sentry's noggin with a hex sphere. OK, stop it -- Sue Richards doing something like this, yes. Wanda? Lordy, but every time we review a story she's in we see her do something different. I guess that's why later they'd call her powers "chaos magic". While the Sentry is disoriented, Vizh moves on Clint. Poor ol' Goliath gets the intangible-slightly tangible system disruption from the Vision's hand. Pietro squawks about it, but marvels at the synthezoid's precision in not permanently damaging their Avenging teammate.

Karen: It was a little bold to show Caveman Hank hauling Jan off "for later." Wanda's ever-mysterious hex powers seemed to be the perfect deus ex machina for Thomas and every other writer who worked with the character. As comics fans became more insistent upon consistency and quantification of powers (look at the Marvel Universe Handbooks for an example of this), a heroine with such a poorly defined power became a real problem. We would see many attempts to define her and some would be contradictory. And once again -the Vision saves the day! This was getting ridiculous. I know Roy was proud of the character, but it's feeling a little too much like favoritism -the same thing we've accused Steve Englehart of with Mantis in prior reviews.

Doug: The Sentry is able to free himself very shortly thereafter; the Vision moves in quickly. But alas, the same trick that felled Clint Barton doesn't work on the android body of the Kree Sentry -- the backlash instead fells the Vision. Wanda goes next, zapped as she moved in to check on her friend. Quicksilver began to fall into histrionics; he found the better part of valor, however, and scooped up Rick to flee with the intent to regroup later. Ronan watches it on his monitors -- he also sees three scientists who were at the ice cap when these Kree arrived and were the first to fall under the effects of the de-evolution ray. The Sentry arrives with the unconscious Goliath, and we see Mar-Vell, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch bound. And then...

Karen: Here it comes - a scene that would change everything....

Doug: Vision and Wanda both awaken from their time in la-la land. Vision notes that Wanda, too, was captured. Wanda says that nothing matters, as long as the Vision wasn't harmed. And then -- in a scene very clumsily rendered -- Wanda's lips (more like wide-open mouth) move close to the Vision's. Vizh suddenly recoils, yelling that it cannot be, that he's an android. And Ronan busts out laughing, the very thought of an android and a mutant born of the atom together tickling his funny bone in a most sadistic way. And that's it. We move immediately to Jan and her caveman. Karen?

Karen: Well, some faint hints had been dropped here and there for a couple of years, but this scene made it very clear: these two were in love. I had asked Thomas via email a few years ago why he had let the budding romance sit unmentioned for months at a time, and he really didn't have an answer. But this was it, the tipping point. This sub-plot, the forbidden love, became a major one not only during the Kree-Skrull War but until Steve Englehart decided to have the two characters finally get together during his run immediately following Roy's.

Doug: Hank fights for Jan against the three former scientists. One has to wonder if there remains any of the former Yellowjacket within that thick skull, or if this Hank is merely acting on instinct in defense of his mate. At any rate, he pushes the attackers back. Back inside the citadel, Ronan continues to torment Mar-Vell, showing the Kree Captain how he will end life as we know it on Earth -- by de-evolving it the state of an amoeba. Mar-Vell slumps, seemingly defeated. Our next vignette is of Quicksilver and Rick Jones, who now attempt to breach the citadel. In a page from the Flash, Pietro takes a spear and tornadoes himself right through the wall of the fortress. Once inside, he becomes enough of a distraction that Rick is able to free Mar-Vell, who in turn frees the Avengers.

Karen: Don't those cavemen look a lot like Sal's Hulk? I just kept thinking of the Hulk whenever I saw them. Ronan comes across as particularly vicious, reveling in his sadism like an old silent movie villain. A bit over the top for today, but back then things were much more black and white -at least in comics. Pietro's stunt with the spear is impressive and really seems like something we'd see the Flash do. I never was clear on how fast Pietro was; of course years later they quantified his speed for the previously-mentioned Marvel handbook and I think his top running speed was listed as 175 mph, which seemed kind of low -certainly when compared to his DC counterpart, who could run at light-speed!

Doug: Rick's actions have weakened the fortress and it begins to come apart. Ronan and the Sentry move against our heroes, but suddenly an alert from afar permeates the room -- an SOS from the Kree galaxy is transmitted and received -- the Skrulls have attacked! Ronan leaves immediately. The Sentry, however, declares that he has no further programming, so must remain at his original post -- the now-crumbling citadel. The Avengers realize that this is going to end badly, and in a hurry. They hustle outside, to find that ice is reclaiming the jungle that had been supported by the citadel. Hank and Jan our there, Hank back to his normal self (as are the three scientists). Stranded, the team nonetheless manages to squeeze in a bombshell and some philosophy on the last couple of panels -- Hank quits the team (a routine we'll see over and over in the next several years), and Clint of all people vows that if enemies arise again, the Avengers will be there to confront them, with a prayer.

Karen: Although both androids, we see the difference here between the Sentry and the Vision - the Sentry is only a servant, a being in need of direction and not in charge of his own fate. The Vision is clearly more than that. Hank's abrupt declaration of resigning from the leotard set would last all of one issue -we see him again (albeit in a different costume) in issue 93. But the die is cast: a cosmic war has been declared. Did any reader really think the Avengers wouldn't become involved?

Doug: This seemed more like an ending than part three of a 9-part epic. Roy seemed to tie up some elements of the previous two issues, while dropping the "Vision loves Wanda" bomb, as well as the opening salvo of the Kree/Skrull War. So I'll be very interested as we head into the next installment. One more thing -- I thought Sal Buscema was pretty solid both this issue and last, inking his own pencils. In the comments section after we ran Avengers #89, I remarked that I thought Sam Grainger's inks were a bit heavy. There's none of that with Sal embellishing himself.

Karen: Sal did a very commendable job on these issues. It's solid work, although unfortunately it suffers some when compared to the later work of either his big brother John or Neal Adams.


Edo Bosnar said...

Just let me pile on the praise for Sal's art here - like I said before, he's a really good fit with the Avengers, esp. when he does his own inks.
I totally agree with your comments about Wanda's powers - in fact, it seems to me that her powers were always pretty ill-defined. And I think this only got worse once she and Vision married: after that it seemed like most writers just used her as some kind of prop or (generally useless) sidekick for Vision. That's why I was never really a big fan of the Vision/Scarlet Witch marriage (although I really did not like the way Byrne decided to "solve" the problem...)
And by the way, I found Quicksilver's fighting techniques in these past few issues really comical, i.e., the way he rolls himself up and hurls himself at opponents like a cannonball. Was this something unique to this period, or did he do so before, e.g. during the Kooky Quartet period?

Doug said...

As I'm looking at this post today, I see that Blogger has gone back to the slideshow function for images. I apologize for that, as it's certainly not the best way to view our pics. I don't know why they make these drastic changes without alerting the blog administrators. Hopefully it gets switched back (again).

Thanks for your patience,


Doug said...

With apologies to Blogger, they did notify blog admins. of this over the weekend, with the option to return to the old feature for image display. I've switched it back to the way Karen and I like for display of images -- hopefully everyone else likes this version for image display!

Thanks for your patience (again),


david_b said...

Not having too much to add, I see this saga as being the turning point from Silver-to-Bronze Avengers. Had I followed the Avengers back during this time, I would have felt sad for the departing Pyms, like a chapter had passed. It would be a few years before they really seemed to fit back in again, with Clint changing outfits again, the entire Vish-Wanda relationship played out, Swordsman/Mantis, Wanda's power being defined more with witchcraft, her hatred-for- humanity played out, etc.

As for Sal's art, yep, truely understated here, keeping the action pretty dynamic and all.

I agree with Edo a lot in regards to both the Vish/Wanda marriage, which nullified alot of potential growth for either during this time (funny, no one ever talks about marriage making character development for Reed and Sue dull..).

As for Quicksilver, other than his outbursts, he was reduced way too much to barely retaining any depth, even his fighting skills were quickly becoming redundant and boring, compared to his 'kooky quartet' days.

david_b said...

Oh, by the way.. Inadvertently forgot to mention this dichotomous point, but I actually find the Avengers covers during this storyline to be some of the worst in terms of layout and composition..

Not very memorable in my opinion, in comparison to the far-reaching story unfolding inside.

Ric said...

I'll chime in on Sal's virtues here! One thing I've always thought about Sal... he draws costumes well! I think he's surpassed only by George Perez in his ability to draw snappy costumes! Maybe it's because he renders them so clearly, which causes them to look so bright when colored?


Doug said...


In regard to the covers, do you think it has to do with Sal's layouts, his rendering, or the fact that we are seeing the team in a really depowered era with none of the Big Three present?


Inkstained Wretch said...

Count me as a fan of Sal too. He was not the flashiest and he seemed to deliberately avoid any kind of personal style in favor of producing art in the "Marvel style."

That sounds like a dig, I know, but there is definitely something to be said for such a selfless approach. He was all about serving the needs of the story. His work always kept the action flowing along and never bored, confused or distracted.

Frankly I prefer Sal's work to that of the more celebrated Neal Adams. Adams’s photorealism made superheroes look odd -- in real life people don’t wear costumes like that -- and his layouts could be confusing. I have a collection of the Neal Adams/Roy Thomas X-Men issues and frankly in several cases I have a hard time figuring out what is supposed to be happening on the page.

david_b said...

Inkstained, MUCH agreed on Sal (and on Neal..). I’ve expressed my Neal’s renditions on Avengers. LOVE him on JLA and Batman, etc, but it didn’t come across well in the House of Ideas.

I’ve always been a big fan on Sal’s ability on panels to dynamically show a great sense of motion and explosive action.

As for the covers.., I don’t know, I’d think it’s layouts and perhaps not as memorable as perhaps the ‘kooky quartet’ and Perez covers. Today’s ish (#91) seems to have a LOT of voice balloons (seven characters, six balloons..??). I typically love Sal’s covers, especially Cap and Falc ones come to mind. The Avengers covers during this saga seem a bit busy, rushed, perhaps underwhelming. Just my opinion. Not a big Heck fan in his later years, but I loved his early Avengers cover work.

The Groovy Agent said...

Another Sal B. fan here! I loved, and still do love, Sal's art. To me, he combines the best of Kirby, Romita, and his own brother to produce the epitome of the Marvel Style. (And I have to admit, I despised Adams' Avengers art as a kid--though I loved his earlier X-Men. I know, weird kid).

Sal had to rush a lot of jobs during the 70s(which hurt his rep), but his art on the Avengers was ALWAYS incredible. Clear, easy-to-follow, high-impact storytelling. The characters always looked like they should--none of this "putting a stamp on them" garbage. That's why Sal drew so many team and team-up books.

Sal was my first favorite Marvel artist. When the dust clears, I think he still may be!

Oh, and I'm loving your whole Kree/Skrull War series. These Avengers issues turned me from a comicbook fan to a comicbook fiend. The nearest and dearest comics to my heart, to be sure!

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

I just read the Kree-Skrull War TPB, and WOW! I loved the art on this, and the story was a lot of fun. This blog FRICKIN' ROCKS, btw- I've pumped it a few times on my own- KEEP IT GOIN'!

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

AND... I'm also a fan of Sal's art also. A working man's comic artist.

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

AND... I loved it when Wanda & the Vision almost kissed! tee hee hee :D

B Smith said...

I'd only been reading The Avengers since #85 (phew, just in time) so was more familiar with Sal B's version than anyone else's - and I was more than happy with it! In fact, this is one of my favourite SB works - he was not well served by all those rushed jobs in years to come.

Something about the colouring really boosts this issue too, as well as almost incidental touches like making the Vision's speech balloons the square-with-rounded-corners shape to quietly emphasise his other-than-humanness...I think this might have been the first issue with this effect.

Edo Bosnar said...

Wow, it's nice to see all the love for Sal on this thread! Just have to say, given Inkstained's comment about Sal adhering to the "Marvel style" - hell, to me, Sal's art always seemed to be Marvel's house style in the '70s and early '80s. He really defined the look of that era for me.

Chris said...

I agree that the cover of this issue isn't the best - probably because it features too many characters , but I love the cover for No.89. Really makes you want to read the issue to find out what the hell is going on.

Sal's art was top notch in these issues. Much more depth to it than some of his later work in the mid-70's. Shows it had it in him given the time, and even a rushed job still was better than most. Always been a favourite.

I still think that Roy's ideas were better than his execution. I often stuggle with some of his scripts. Can't put my finger on it (or I'm not educated enough to understand what it is about his style). But, I'm still enjoying the re-reading the issues long with you guys.

And I agree with B Smith. I think this was the first issue where the Viz spoke with squared speech ballons. That was how he spoke when I first read him (and they were coloured yellow too) so I always found it strange when reading older issues when he spoke in a "normal" voice.

Lookin' forward to Part 4.

dbutler16 said...

Pietro could only run 175 mph? I’ll have to pull out my old Handbooks to the Marvel Universe. For some reason, I thought it was more like 500 mph.

I always thought Ronan’s devolving ray was sort of amusing. More of a Silver Age concept, but still fun. It seemed like just a convenient excuse the way the Skrulls attacked, too. Of course, that was a lead-in to a much bigger story! I like how Ronan refers to earth as “this miserable blemish upon the map of the universe”.

I think one reason that the Vision is so much more than the Sentry is because he’s more of an artificial man, with “someone’s” brain waves, thus he is capable of independent thought, whereas the Sentry is more of just a smart robot.

Doug said...

dbutler --

It's very interesting to see the contrast in the way Roy wrote the Vision as compared to the Original Human Torch. If one did not know the backstory of the Torch, the fact that he's an android would seem to come as a big surprise.


Karen said...

So much love for Sal! I wish I could send him a link this posting so he could see it.

I think Quicksilver had used the cannonball technique back in the early days. Now don't quote me on the 175 mph stat -that's coming from memory! I'll have to dig those Marvel Universe issues out and check.

I think the addition of the 'forbidden love' between the Vision and Wanda added some spice, but like most of these situations, once it becomes a real relationship the tension is gone and it sort of peters out. I think their marriage could have been more interesting but unfortunately it weakened the Vision as a character.


Fred W. Hill said...

I get the feeling from the very few Golden Age Human Torch stories I've read, as well as Roy's Invaders' tales, that many writers forgot that he was an android! And DButler's comment on the difference between the Sentry and the Vision -- that the Vision had "someone's brain waves" -- brings up the question as to how Phineas Horton gave the Torch a human personality and feelings.

Doc Savage said...

I always thought the Vision being the original Human Torch was pretty stilly and opened too many cans o' worms. But that's a Roy Thomas obsession that frequently drives me nuts: everything must be interrelated, nothing can stand on its own. Seems like later writers took that and ran with it, as I understand Captain Marvel and Blue Beetle share a power source now, everyone with super speed is related, etc. Drives me bonkers.

Edo Bosnar said...

In line with Fred's point about Human Torch/Vision, the thing that never made sense to me back in the late '70s while reading both Avengers and Invaders was why Vision was so cold and Spock-like, while the original Torch acted like a normal, emotional human. Didn't seem like he would have needed Wonder Man's personality imprinted into his circuits. Of course, I realize all of this has since been retconned, wiped out and/or re-established about a half-dozen times, so I doubt there's any point discussing it...

As to this issue and the review, I have to say Doug's point in the last paragraph got me thinking this time around: the story indeed seems to conclude here (there's even that little "finis" caption in the last panel). However, if the reprint collection didn't include these first three issues, I'd feel ripped off. They really do function as sort of a first chapter to the saga.

david_b said...

I had to check again in the reviews/comments for both ish 90 and 91 before mentioning..:

So how come Hanks hair turned black during this 'de-evolution'..?

Perhaps not a natural blond..? How vain.

And to agree with comments here, I recall an 'aha' moment when I first read about Vish being made from the original Torch, but in retrospect it was indeed a lame attempt to keep the MU nice and intereconnected which was wholly NOT necessary.

Having the Vision constructed on his very own with only Wondy's engrams would have been sufficient. What would have been next..? The Sentry made out of parts from some old robot in an early FF or Xmen adventure..?? Enough already.

Doug said...

Personally, I never had a problem with the Vision being the Original Torch. We've discussed the sort of "flags of our fathers" aspect of DC's generational pantheon; I felt that this was a neat twist on that idea. For me, it became a problem when John Byrne undid it. At that point I didn't think it was necessary to have the Original Human Torch back in the MU.


Garett said...

Sal's art looks great here! I like the cover despite some of the previous comments. I'm not always a Sal fan, as at other times I think his work looks too plain, but here he looks at the top of his game with energy and personality and care in the drawings. For the Sal fans: What do you consider his best work?

david_b said...

Frankly, one more comment/opinion as to how this story could have been better..

Ronan's characterization. In FF #65 when he was simply 'Ronan the Accuser' he came off a bit more noble/stoic, perhaps aloof and certainly menacing.

Here he just comes across as an 'over-the-top' jerk. Love Sal's art, but I got really tired of the panels showing Ronan's gleeful smile especially mocking the attempted Vish-Wanda kiss.

It's like when you try too hard to make the villain nasty for 'the sake of being nasty', you lose what grander-scale potential he could have displayed.

Edo Bosnar said...

Well, I consider myself a Sal fan, Garett, but man, that's a tall order. Personally, I think he did some of his best work on the Defenders, mainly during Gerber's run on the title, and Rom and Hulk, especially in the early 1980s during Mantlo's run as writer. Also, I very fondly remember his work on the last half of the issues in Marvel's Tarzan. Then there's his work on Marvel Team-up and Spectacular Spider-man, too. Ah, heck, I like it all...

Fred W. Hill said...

I thought it was rather neat that the Vision turned out to be the original Torch, although even as a kid first reading that it struck me that Ultron & Phineas must have done a lot of tinkering ton the Torch's face & body because the Vision didn't really resemble the android Human Torch all that much physically, striking me as somewhat lankier with a much narrower face.
And I agree, Ronan, as depicted by Roy & Sal, was remarkably different from the character as portrayed by Stan & Jack -- of course, the Galactus depicted by Stan & John Buscema was very different than that of Stan & Jack too. Under, Kirby, Ronan came off as the high government official carrying out his duty as he saw fit, but here he delights in cruelty and comes off more of a standard, blowhard villain.
I'll also echo Edo in that Sal did some of his best work on the Defenders.

Doc Savage said...

Speaking of the Defenders, have you heard Marvel's going to put them on TV? but some lame modern line-up with Daredevil, Luke "God forbid I use my super name and costume" Cage, Iron Fist, and someone named Jessica who at first I thought was Spider-Woman but apparently isn't. I was so excited until I read it's not the REAL Defenders.

Anonymous said...

Mark me down as another fan of Our Pal Sal!

His art here is perfect for this and I couldn't imagine anyone else.

Toy Box is right - that panel with the near kiss btwn Wanda and Vision is brimming with longing and passion!

BUT. . . put me in the "I don't like Scarlet Witch" camp. Her powers were always too nebulous for me and later (post-Bronze Age) made even less sense.

As for the whole Vision = Original Human Torch thing - but doesn't he have the brain patterns of Wonder Man? Or am I getting my continuity confused?

Doc Savage said...

I never liked Scarlet Witch either, just tolerated her in tandem with Quicksilver or Vision. Her powers were so vaguely defined you never knew what she could or couldn't do, and sometimes she'd pass out from a Herculean effort that in other issues was no biggie. Plus a human woman who loves a machine is seriously mentally ill and emotionally disturbed. Curious: did logical Vision ever point this out or did he just take advantage?

Anonymous said...

> Plus a human woman who loves a machine is seriously mentally ill and emotionally disturbed.

A Machine Man/Vision gay-love affair, on the other hand, I'd pay serious money to read! (I'm not kidding)

Doug said...

I agree with the comments above about the maniacal Ronan. However, keep in mind that this book was published pretty early in Sal's career and big brother John had tutored him in the art of making everything (EVERYTHING) dynamic. If that was indeed the formula, then Sal was successful.


Doc Savage said...

As would I. How about a cross-dimensional threeway with Red Tornado?

Doug said...

Family friendly, guys. Family friendly.



Anonymous said...

I have really been enjoying this double trip down memory lane. The springboard from the first discussion as well as re-reading the run of Avengers 89-97. I've mentioned before that I was using my Essential Avengers to do my reading but I discovered over Christmas that I owned the 2 issue Kree Skrull Saga. But it only includes 93-97! I guess someone doesn't see 89-92 as part and parcel of the Kree Skrull Saga. Same with FantaCo's Chronicles. But that's not why I called. What I loved about 91 was the layers!!! The Vision and Sentry 459. Are they the same? Why are they different? Are we not to notice that 4 and 5 is 9? Quicksilver realizing that the best thing you can do with superspeed? Run run away. (Run run away.) Sorry got Slade stuck for a second. And now, the highpoint of the whole story. There's a steel bar leaning against the outer wall. I know some may say, "How convenient," but I say "Au contraire, mon frère". Of course there would be a steel bar. It's called a leftover. How many of us have ever assembled something without something left over. Why not the Kree? We thinking, long buried engine of destruction...but what we're missing is: Is was a government/military project. It was awarded to the lowest bidder. There had to be some graft, overruns extra charges. Someone was smoozing someone somewhere. And now with Captain Marvel free, Viz and the Witch ready for round two, who knows what would've happened? I smell victory.........

The Prowler (from the old Spider-Man Crawlspace).

Karen said...

If you guys think the Vision is a machine you haven't read issue 58.

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