Wednesday, January 22, 2014

BAB Classic: Three Cows Shot Me Down! Avengers #94

NOTE:  This post was originally published on 7 November 2011.

Avengers #94 (December 1971)
"More Than Inhuman!"
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Neal Adams -parts 1 and 3; John Buscema -part 2
Inker: Tom Palmer

Karen: This issue, we get Adams art at the beginning and end of our story, and a nice chunk of John Buscema in-between! It's a bit incongruous, but I'm just grateful it was Buscema stepping in and not Don Heck!

Doug: Talk about a Hall-of-Fame list of creators on this one! I didn't find it distracting at all, and in fact really enjoyed the look of the entire book. And I couldn't agree more that we were spared the Dashing One!

Karen: When last we left our heroes, they were at one of the lowest low points in their history. Two of their number had been kidnapped by the alien Skrulls, and they'd failed to stop the abduction of the Kree Captain Marvel as well. Now back at Avengers' Mansion, they sedate the three Skrulls who had imitated the FF, and then contact the real Reed Richards and Ben Grimm to see if they have any answers. Richards says he'll look into it, and our team is then left to wonder about where the Vision might be.

Doug: Roy's Skrull dialogue is just excellent throughout this book. What a hoot! Are you ever offended at the way heroes address each other? I just always think it's sort of rude, for example, to hear Iron Man address Mr. Fantastic as "Richards". I know as kids we called our friends by their last names, and coaches often address their players in the same manner... I go back to what I'd said earlier when discussing Ben Grimm and a "super-hero fraternity". And hey, is this the first time in the epic that the Avengers (or us) are reminded that there were actually four Skrulls back in FF #2, but the incident with the Vision the previous issue involved only three cows?

Karen: Our point of view switches to our Avenging Android, who has chased after the escaping Skrull ship. He slips inside intangibly just as the Super-Skrull flies over gleaming Attilan, city of the Inhumans. Hmm, that ship was going mighty fast! We also get a quick mention here by the Vision of Thor's recent encounter with the Inhumans; this refers to Amazing Adventures #8. As he is about to pull the switch that will release a devastating attack on the city, the Vision stops him. But the wily skrull uses one of his least-thought-of powers, that of invisibility -and sneaks over and throws the switch. Adams outdoes himself with a full page shot of what seems like a blast greater than a hundred nuclear bombs -it's just spectacular. However, the city is not destroyed -miraculously, a dome of dark energy has protected it. The Super-Skrull is furious, but decides that his three captives are prize enough and plans to return to the Skrull homeworld. The Vision realizes he cannot match the Super-Skrull in a fight; his only option is to return to the Avengers and share his information. But he pauses when he sees Wanda, apparently comatose, strapped to a table. Despite his reticence, he exits the ship and heads for help.

Doug: This story just has so many ins and outs. Recall that after we'd covered the
first three issues that it felt like there had been a nice bow wrapped around that part. And then at the conclusion of last week's ish (#93), we got a sort-of Star Wars ending, with the team assembled yet very downcast. Again, another wrap up. But what I'm beginning to really sense here, as we're 2/3 of the way through this, is that this is like one giant onion -- layer inside layer, etc. The addition of the Super-Skrull, and soon the Mandroids, and even later the Inhumans, are turning this into a huge tour of the Marvel Universe. We've often discussed team-up stories on this blog, but this may be the best example of a single tale showing the breadth of the Marvel Universe and unifying it that we've yet reviewed. The "Kree/Skrull War" really is a graphic novel told in several distinct chapters.
Doug: The Vision's pause at Wanda's stasis tube was touching, as was his monologue as he flew away.

Karen: That brings in one of the other angles to this saga, the love story. Boy, did this have everything or what? Not only was Roy pulling together threads from the past
, like the Skrulls from the FF, or the Inhumans' history with the Kree, he was setting up stories like the Vision-Scarlet Witch romance, which would dominate the Avengers title for years to come.
Karen: Part two of our story, entitled, "1971: A Space Odyssey," is drawn by Buscema. Immediately, beyond the stylistic differences, there are differences in the depictions of the Super-Skrull's ship's exterior and interior. Especially noti
ceable is the fact that a page before, Wanda and Pietro were shown strapped to tables; now they are imprisoned inside transparent, upright tubes straight out of "This Island Earth"! From this I would suppose that Buscema hadn't seen Adams' work and so was working from descriptions Roy gave him, hence the two different interpretations.

Doug: Adams to me equals long
and lithe. John Buscema equals bulk and power. The posture of the Super-Skrull on Buscema's first page falls right in line with any depiction of a super-powered megalomaniac from the pencil of Big John -- wide stance, broad shoulders, hands clasped behind the back, menacing visage... Tom Palmer should get a huge round of applause for softening the differences between these two artistic giants. I remarked in an earlier review on his use of zipatone; he is masterful here in the scenes depicting our captive Avengers (and Mar-Vell) in their stasis tubes -- he really achieves the effect that their bodies are behind glass.

Karen: The Super-Skrull utilizes a space-time warp to enter the fifth quadrant (uh, wait a second -doesn't quadrant imply four?) of the Andromeda Galaxy, home to the Skrulls. He's hoping that bringing Marvel and the two mutants to his emperor will end his exile. However, as he approaches the capital city of his homeworld, he is fired upon. It seems that the Emperor does not trust the Super-Skrull. The battle rages until the Emperor imprisons the Super-Skrull in a force sphere, where the smoke from his own flames knock him out. Anelle, the Emperor's daughter, is a peaceful girl who is most un-skrull like. She pleads for mercy for the three captives, which just infuriates her father even more.
Doug: If you are in the fifth quadrant, then you really are big and bad... I loved the scene where the Super-Skrull takes it to the common Skrull soldiers. I just think the Super-Skrull provides some cool visuals. I, too, was a bit surprised when revisiting this story that Anelle was not drawn like Lyja the Skrull -- she was the one who was impersonating Alicia when Johnny Storm married her in Fantastic Four #300 (of course, we didn't know it at the time!). This was a typical father/daughter conflict, as we've seen in numerous films, etc.
Karen: Yes, Anelle is remarkably human-looking; no craggy chin or giant ears -maybe Big John just couldn't draw an unattractive woman?!

Karen: In order to get Marvel to build the omni-wave device, the Em
peror subjects Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to a very odd punishment: they are stuck inside another energy sphere alongside a big, nasty monster. Pietro pops around like a pinball, ineffective as usual. Wanda manages to bring down a rock formation on top of the beast and stop it. But it is then that the siblings notice some strange little humanoids that look like they are made out of cotton candy. They seems harmless enough. But when the monster regains consciousness, any contact it makes with the little people causes them to multiply. Soon, Wanda and Pietro are about to be smothered by cotton candy people! Honestly, this was pretty silly. It also reminded me of the classic Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles," where Capt. Kirk is nearly buried in the soft, furry, and rapidly multiplying creatures.

Doug: Many have commen
ted in the past that Quicksilver's marriage to Crystal allowed Roy to get rid of two characters that no one knew what to do with. I am really sensing in this arc how useless Pietro is, as compared even to the Flash or Kid Flash. His personality had made him intolerable, and his powers seem more often to delay rather than solve problems. I thought the little fuzzy guys reminded me of "Gremlins"!

Karen: Seeing his friends' peril, Mar-Vell reluctantly agrees to build the omni-wave, ensuring the Skrulls' victory over his people.

Karen: As we turn to part three, Neal Adams returns to the art chores. His first page is another full pager, this time with the distorted figure of H. Warren Craddock pointing an accusing finger at the reader. That one really got me as a kid! Turning the page we discover that Craddock is interrogating those three technicians that the Kree altered way back in issue #89, using his alien detecting device. The three men now realize that the Avengers were right to ask for their silence. Craddock scoffs when he hears the heroes mentioned. He seems confident he can handle them. Back at the mansion, the Vision has returned and tells his comrades about what happened on the Skrull ship. Suddenly,Craddock's amplified voice can be heard from outside, demanding the Avengers come out. When they do, they see not only tanks waiting for them, but three men in large, highly armored suits: the Mandroids. Okay, not Roy's best name there! These Mandroids were of course designed by Tony Stark, so they're nothing to sneeze at. The two sides begin to go at it, when who should we see emerge from a manhole but Triton, the amphibious Inhuman!

Doug: Adams' splash to this section is brilliantly rendered, showing as much ingenuity here as he did power in the explosion splash you'd mentioned earlier. Craddock is a grade-A kook, isn't he? And really -- do people just have instant access to Avengers Mansion? I know it sits in the middle of Manhattan, but this is the second time demonstrators have been virtually on its doorstep. And let's not forget Clint's big announcement that he's trashing the last of the growth serum; although we see him go after the
Mandroids as a giant, I'm guessing change is afoot soon! And Triton... truly the "kitchen sink" in this storyline has arrived!

Karen: Another action-packed chapter in our story. Thomas does a great job of juggling the various components of h
is story. The pacing seems excellent, and credit both writer and artists for that. Although the change in artists mid-way and back again is a bit jarring, both men are so talented that it's not really a problem, just somewhat odd. Palmer once again adds real depth and weight to the art with use of effects like zipatone. All in all, a very engaging read.


david_b said...

I found this issue even more fun and startling that ish 93, like the Craddock page starting Part 3.. It was pure Neal Adams at his very best.

(Really, who else could have drawn that perspective so effectively..??)

Great art from both Adams and Buscema throughout, although for continuity sake I always found it weird changing artists in the middle of an issue. Agreed kudos to Tom Palmer for achieving some level of consistency.

I've seen Ironman employ them a few other times, but seeing him use his rollerskates always seemed a bit 'underwhelming'. As was the 'Mandroids' idea.. Seriously, were they really a threat to Thor..?

The Skrulls truly emerge as wonderful villains here and practically scene-steal from our heroes throughout the entire book. The Thomas dialog is very tight and spot on.

Loved seeing the Inhumans brought in, and seeing Triton at the end.. Done very dramatically, bringing some additional weight to this universe-changing story. I agree with Karen's comment last week: The Avengers did finally reach the top ranks with this saga.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Did Roy Thomas ever explain why he had Clint Barton drop the Goliath identity and return to being Hawkeye? I frankly liked him a lot better as Goliath.

Archer characters always struck me as odd things in the superhero world. A guy who can grow 50 feet tall on the other hand ...

Goliath added power to the team and was much better suited to Barton's personality than Hank Pym's. He was also a visually interesting character -- check out the first issues where he took on the identity, which were drawn by Gene Colan. He uses some inventive perspectives to capture the scale of the fights going on.

I didn't much care for his costume -- why do so many strongman-type characters have costumes that are essentially bondage gear? Still, he was a key part of one of the Avengers' best eras. So we was he changed back?

Does anybody know?

david_b said...

In addition, I'd REALLY like to know who was behind that gawd-awful archer suit Clint first went to with the headband.


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, the reason there's only three cows/Skrulls is because in FF#2 the fourth Skrull left with the mothership (I think because he went to report to their commander or something - don't remember, it's been a while since I read that issue), so only three Skrulls were left on behind on Earth.
Otherwise, this is indeed a fantastic issue. I'm still astounded at how much story is packed into each of these issues, but especially once Adams took over the art chores. I completely understand why these were such a hit with young comic fans at the time and why the whole Kree/Skrull war story was so fondly remembered later. By the way, as far as the Buscema interlude is concerned, it's actually pretty seamless in my opinion. I think if I had first read this as a little kid, I probably wouldn't have even noticed the difference...

Doug said...

I need to check out FF #2 tonight, also to refresh my memory. I've not read the K/S War in some time, and I've not been reading ahead during our reviews. However, for some reason I'm thinking the fourth Skrull is part of a big reveal in the climax of the story. Could be wrong -- time does cloud the memory.

Hawk's new archer suit = worst superhero costume EVER?


Inkstained Wretch said...

No matter what the era, headbands have never worked ...

Doug said...

Maybe we'll run a Face-Off! in the future that discusses the nature of harnesses, headbands, and my all-time object of loathing, the bomber jacket!



dbutler16 said...

I’m reading the 1987 Silver Surfer series, and came across the fifth quadrant thing with the Skrulls, and thought the same thing!

Are you denigrating the Flash’s power? He’s actually one of the most powerful JLA members. Of course, he’s far more powerful than Quicksilver, who most writers don’t seem to be able to use very well, anyway.

Doug said...

dbutler --

I don't know that I'm denigrating the Flash's power, and your point is well-taken. I understand all that Flash is capable of; Pietro is nowhere close to being in his or Kid Flash's league in terms of variety of powers -- ergo in terms of usefulness.

But as an aside, I'd rank Flash as #6 of 7 if you want my opinion on the merits of the so-called "original seven".


Ram said...

Totally agree with Clint's costume. In my opinion he had one of the coolest as Hawkeye and the worst designed as Goliath..also really not functional. Its weird that his mask extends to only the upper part of his chest...
Also think that speed translates into a lot of power, Quicksilver in theory should be really really powerful...

Fred W. Hill said...

While reading Doug's comment about this storyline being a "tour of the Marvel Universe" it struck me that this roughly coincided with the 10th anniversary of FF #1 and before it was over Roy managed to squeeze in a brief hurrah for some old Timely heroes as well. I don't know if that was part of Roy's intent or if anyone made note of it when this came out, now roughly 40 years ago, but it certainly made for some of the best comics of 1971.

J.A. Morris said...

I know I've said it here before, I don't think there's ever been a comic book artist that's topped Adams. Still the best.

Anonymous said...

David B – I agree about the skates. I think Stan invented them as a way of recharging his armour back when Stark used to have a heart attack every time the fridge light went off.

Karen – you really like the fact that it references so much classic sci-fi, but you don’t like what is a very obvious reference to the tribbles? I rather liked it. But I agree....with a million years of torture devices at his disposal, cuddly marsupials are a strange weapon of choice.

Doug – you’re kidding about not remembering what happened to the 4th Skrull, right? Regarding clothing, I’d like to flag up Wonder Man as a particular offender. I loved his original costume which got trashed practically straight after he woke up. Then Wanda put him in some monstrosity which looked like a broken traffic light and he gave up and just brought something from home for the next 15 years.

Ref. Hawkeye, it was a good idea to have him come back in a different costume. I also like the idea that he fell back to earth near a carnival (came home in every sense), but you’re right about that replacement costume – he looked like a gay waiter in a theme restaurant.

Ref. Fred’s comments – I think everything in here was intentional. A complete tour of the Marvel Universe & history, 50’s sci-fi, old Timely heroes, oops, Captain Marvel has been cancelled? Well, we’ll make that the start point. What’s that? The Inhumans have been dropped mid-story? Well, that’s OK; they were created by the Kree, so they basically have a backstage pass to this party, what’s that you say, Neal? You want to do homage to the Fantastic Voyage? Sure why not?
This really should not have worked, and yet it just draws layer after layer of strength from its diversity.

And, to Karen’s point about them having relentlessly had the crap kicked out only gets worse.


Karen said...

Iron Man's skates; so silly -does he still Have them? I'd love to see Robert Downey Jr. use them in the Avengers or next Iron Man movie!

There are a lot of Big Ideas in this story, including the whole alien genesis for mankind or at least the interference with our evolution, which was a big part of 2001. Also, the idea of the Inhumans as being bred to fight for the Kree thousands of years later was seemingly left untouched until the recent Annihilation/War of Kings series.

The less said about Hawkeye's skirt, the better.


Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, just to belatedly respond to your point about drawing Princess Annelle as essentially human-looking because he "couldn't draw an unattractive woman." Well, I agree with the latter assertion to the point that I think even if Buscema had drawn her with a craggy chin and big ears she still would have been beautiful...

Anonymous said...

Okay, so some of our (my) questions are getting answered!!! Why take the mutants? 'Cause the Skrulls can use them to find the Inhumans. That answers that plot point. As mutant represents the next step in human evolution, the Inhumans were jumped several more rungs up the ladder by the star-spanning Kree. More Marvel tie-ins. (Quick question - why wasn't Goliath on the cover? Would he have thrown the scale of the scene off? Hard for even the Mandroids to tower of a giant?) And a complete misdirect on the cover! You've been sentenced to death! Well not really we're just here to make sure you comply with a subpoena to appear at a hearing.....

And I do have to touch on the skates. When Iron Man was zipping around like Patrick Swayze in Grandview USA, couldn't the rest of the Avengers have just pushed the laughing Mandroids over? Wasn't this a Quicksilver maneuver, just a tad slower? I mean, at least Quicksilver hit the monster in a dozen strategic locations even if it was to no avail. Last two points:

1) Ant and boot, ant and boot!!! The Super Skrull used the ant and boot analogy!!! Was this the first time in Marvel-dom it was used? Is this the genesis of the phrase? Do I get a No-Prize? A fruit basket?

2) Princess Annelle doesn't look like the other Skrulls because she's not a Skrull. In fact, she's not a true princess of the realm, not of the royal family by blood. Her world is but one of many worlds that have fallen to the Skrulls and as such, she is one in a long line of daughters given as a boon, a bounty, a pledge of loyalty if you will. That is why she cannot rule but her husband can. Her people are relatives to and share a common ancestor to the Skrulls but lack........ah, who am I kidding? I was just whistling in the dark there.....

The Prowler (making it up as I go along since 2013, December 2013).

Anonymous said...

It always takes me aback when comics mention the year in which they are published. Not only like in the title of part 2, referencing the year of my birth - 1971 - but when the characters themselves mention the year, b/c it is at odds with the "illusion of change" thing - that is to say - time is a weird entity in mainstream serialized superhero comics.

It's like in a recent Captain Marvel (the former Ms. Marvel) story I recently wrote about - she travels in time to 1943 and then to 1961, but when she travels to the moment she got her powers they don't mention the year (which should be 1973), because that would mean that Carol Danvers is now in her 60s(!), which she clearly isn't.

To make a long story short, to mention the year when these comics had only been around for 10 years (at most) is probably not a big deal - who knew how character aging would be handled in the years to come - but to mention it now (which it still is occasionally) not only reinforces that the character ages are wrong, but seems short-sighted given that the characters are not likely to age (if anything they are made younger sometimes).

I guess the idea is that there is a rotating audience for comics, but the demographics show that is not the case - and if it were, then it would make more sense to do total reboots, which they usually don't do (but occasionally try and fail b/c there isn't a ready-made whole-cloth new audience waiting for that to happen).

Anyway, love the issue. The art switch within an issue is a pet peeve of mine - but at least is across different chapters within the issue. I don't mind when art styles/artists are changed mid-story to demonstrate a flashback - but otherwise, it can be very distracting.

Murray said...

O, the long decades of debate surrounding Princess Annelle of the smooth and human appearance. To me, it was never an issue. Skrulls are famous-infamous for...shapeshifting!

Here we have a rebellious young lass, defying her father and all the customs of her society. (making her a first-year college student, in human terms) How better to get her daddy's blood pressure up than subtly change to resemble the species he hates?

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