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 noticeable 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 Emperor 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 commented 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 his 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.