Monday, January 27, 2014

BAB Classic: Three Cows Shot Me Down! Avengers #95

NOTE:  This post was originally published on 14 November 2011.

Avengers #95 (January 1972)
"Something Inhuman This Way Comes!"
Roy Thomas-Neal Adams/Tom Palmer (cover by J. Buscema/Palmer)

Doug: If you notice, I made special mention of today's cover, as rendered by Big John Buscema and Tom Palmer. I thought that was a significant detail, given JB's stint as penciller in the middle chapter of last week's installment.

Karen: I couldn't help but think that some of those Inhumans Big John had attacking the Avengers would have fit in well in a Thor comic -they look like trolls and such!

Doug: I've read so many times that it's those creepy, creature-types that Buscema truly loved to doodle. He really poured his love into the weird characters and monsters.

Doug: This plot started getting a whole lot thicker at the end of our last issue. If you'll recall, Triton emerged from the New York City sewers as the Avengers were engaged in mortal combat against the Mandroids -- human controlled machines built by Tony Stark but under the authority of resident megalomaniac H. Warren Craddock. We actually backtrack as this issue begins, seeing Triton emerge from the sea and begin to make his way across Manhattan. Of course some of the hot-headed locals just can't take a scaly green humanoid in purple trunks, so they grab meat hooks, or icepicks, or some other sort of the object the TSA doesn't smile upon and take after our hero. Hey, did you know Triton knew how to drive? No way -- too weird for me. Anyway, a cop wings him in the left shoulder and it's then that our amphibious Inhuman took to the sewers.

Karen: I've always liked Triton. Part of the reason for that has to be his design -I love non-human characters. But over the years he was also imbued with intelligence and nobility, which we see demonstrated here. But yeah -driving the van seemed a stretch!

Doug: Emerging right in front of Avengers mansion, Triton witnesses the end of the scrap, as Iron Man removed the pods from his hips and emptied their energy into the Mandroids. Kaput. We get a look-see at Craddock in his control room, again in contact with a reluctant Col. Nick Fury. Fury's none-too-happy about helping Craddock and his alien commission. Rick Jones helps Triton to a bench, where the wounded Inhuman explains that it was the FF he'd come to for help, but as time is of the essence, the Avengers will have to do. Triton explains that Maximus the Mad is in control of the Hidden Land, while Black Bolt is somewhere in San Francisco, amnesiac. Cap and Thor move immediately to set plans to head to California; the Vision protests loudly. Iron Man takes issue, and the Vision explains that finding their lost teammates, as well as Captain Marvel, is of the utmost importance given the pending Kree/Skrull War. Of all people, Clint makes peace and offers a simple solution -- split the team.

Karen: Although it was an awfully quick end to that fight, the shot of Shellhead holding his power pods high, zapping the Mandroids, was a delight. He always had the right tool for the job. It's funny to see him still having to hide his secret identity too -everyone always wondered how he knew so much, how he seemed nearly as adept with machines and electronics as his employer. Makes you think that maybe the Avengers were not the brightest guys! I did enjoy the way Roy tied this story in to the Inhumans story he was doing in Amazing Adventures, although when this came out, I didn't have those comics. Still, he gives us enough information here to get the gist of it. One nitpick: Goliath says he recognized Triton from an appearance at the U.N., but a page later, Triton tells us that Black Bolt was exploring human cities in order to figure out how to "apprise the human race of our existence." The Vision's reaction to Triton's news gives us a brief glimpse of the fire that would come to the surface in the next issue. Seeing him and Iron Man close to blows was a big surprise.

Doug: The whole secret identity thing among heroes was always rather contrived. What? Tony Stark didn't want Dr. Don Blake to be in-the-know? He'd rather just flop dead of a heart attack? I'm speaking of course of the time prior to them actually sharing those secrets. Matt Murdock and Peter Parker eventually knew, right? Anyway... I'm thinking Iron Man would have been thrashed by the Vision, much like Thor kicked his butt in issue #130.

Doug: So Cap, Rick, and Goliath accompany Triton to the Left Coast, while Vizh, Iron Man, and Thor set about making plans to head into space -- using the power of Thor's hammer. We cut right away to San Fran, where Black Bolt and his young charge (as Karen just said, you'll have to check out Amazing Adventures #'s 5-8 to get the backstory -- like everything else full of Bronze love, these issues are on our to-do list!) are being menaced by some toughs. Cap and the boys arrive just in time, and after a brief dust-up Triton's appearance brings Black Bolt's memory back. But just as suddenly, Black Bolt gestures that they must return to the Hidden Land immediately. So, away we go (again)!

Karen: When Cap asks the Vision to select the teams because of his logical computer mind, and the Vision takes the two most powerful Avengers, I almost had to laugh. Sure, Thor and Iron Man are the best suited for a space excursion. But as the android recognizes, there's a degree of selfishness in that act.

Doug: He's more human than he ever gives himself credit for. Roy Thomas then gives us a partial origin story for Black Bolt and Maximus, specifically detailing the time when Maximus made a deal with the Kree. Black Bolt heard of it, and rushed in to interrupt. Maximus punched his brother (earlier in the story, they'd been reported as being cousins -- which is correct?) and allowed the Kree emissary to escape. With only one option to stop the Kree ship, Black Bolt unleashed a scream toward the vessel -- it worked, disabling and sending it plummeting back toward Earth. But in a cruel twist of fate, that Kree ship crashed into the royal palace -- killing their parents! And that is what drove Maximus mad.

Karen: I really like this segment artistically. It's all in blue tones, and there's a framing device of Black Bolt's head in profile. On the first page of the flashback, Black Bolt is looking up, with a sad, wistful expression. His head is in the upper-lefthand corner. On the final page of the sequence, his head is in the lower righthand corner, his head is tilted down, and his eyes are closed. I just thought this was a really innovative and powerful way of showing what could have been a very standard flashback in another artist's hands.

Doug: Alex Ross has of course made a living with monochromatic pages. This may be the first time (temporally speaking) I can recall this being used -- of course I say that, and I remember that some of Kirby's FF covers were like that. Hmmm...

Doug: Back in Manhattan, the power trio was just polishing off the last of the Mandroids, who were now being remotely-controlled. With breathing room, Thor was able to open a portal. Strangely enough, it was not toward the intergalactic war but toward the Hidden Land. Of all people, the Vision made the suggestion. Emerging at the base of the huge black dome covering the Hidden Land, the Avengers were unable to penetrate the surface. As they make several futile attempts, the ship bearing the other group arrives. With but a whisper, Black Bolt shattered the dome. But what happens? His subjects attack! But with another whisper, he breaks the spell Maximus had put over the population of the Great Refuge. It's now Maximus who is the object of their aggression. Did you think that Black Bolt used his voice more in this issue than you've ever seen him use it before?

Karen: Black Bolt's always been more of a threat than an active player but with all of his other powers most of the time it seemed like he never needed to use his voice. The panel where he brings his people out from Maximus' control was well done. I have to say, the Mandroids were never much of a threat; each time we see their defeat, everything happens off panel! I really enjoyed the way Thor was depicted in the Kree-Skrull War; he's clearly the team's Superman. He rather effortlessly opens a portal to the Inhumans' city -although even his magical hammer can't shatter the barrier. The Vision's change of heart just lets us know he's a true hero. As much as he's dying to go get Wanda, he feels he has to help the Inhumans.

Doug: To conclude, a Kree diplomat is also in the Hidden Land and scoops up Rick Jones, whisking him into a departing spaceship. Now the Avengers must count four among those in need of rescue. Maximus was beaten, returned to madness by his defeat. And what of the Kree? We get a quick look at the Supreme Intelligence, gloating over Wanda, Pietro, and Mar-Vell and stating that "the players are all in place". Our heroes, fully aware of the severity of the situation, cry toward the sky that they are indeed coming. Game on!


Edo Bosnar said...

Again, another action-packed issue. In fact, this one seems to have a little too much stuffed into it, what with all of the flashbacks and Inhumans references from Amazing Adventures. But I have to commend Roy Thomas - he really made an effort to quickly explain the various threads of the story to potential first-time readers.
And I have to agree about the art on that Black Bolt flashback sequence - Adams really shines here.

Anonymous said...

Surprised that cover is wholly Buscema. It’s unmistakably his, but the figurework, esp. Iron Man’s crumpled contortions and Maximus’s stance look more like Adam’s layouts to me.

Not sure I found Triton driving a stretch, guys. Wasn’t Attilan super-advanced? Weren’t they flying around in rocket-cars?

This may be my single favourite comic of all time for art. Layouts, storyboard, inking, colour, everything. There are so many superb panels. The opener of Triton, the body language as they argue, Clint’s big hand breaking up IM & Vizh, as you say, the use of Black Bolt’s trademark blue to suggest we are inside his world inside his reverie, I seem to remember BB breaking the dome (not pictured here) was great as well and then that final, Scarlet O’Hara fist to the sky. I also loved the way Adams did Vision’s cape swirling about him both on page 7 and in the final panel.

Karen, Edo – you both comment on the speed with which things happen and how much plot there is rammed in, but bear in mind that they had intended to go with the squarebound format and a lot more pages, so I suspect it was truncated.


Karen said...

Can you imagine how long it would take to tell the K/S War in today's decompressed style? And how many spin-off titles there would be? It would flow over into Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man...when it was finally done, a year would have passed and there'd be 44 different issues total.

I'm more than happy with Roy 'cramming' stuff in!


Dougie said...

Due to the vagaries of shipping in Scotland, this is one of only two issues of the K/S War I ever owned (97 being the first); confusingly, it's therefore the second part I read. Bought in the summer of '72, I think, from a small general store Galloway.
It's one of my favourite early- 70s issues. I love Maximus's look and his tragic past. Triton looks amazing (no pun intended). My only gripe is Iron Man's pose in the final panel: it always looked awkward and unnatural to me.

(And my captcha is "schemish"! In West Central Scotland, a "schemie" is an uncouth, possibly criminally- inclined person from a deprived urban housing estate, or "housing scheme". Very apt!)

dbutler16 said...

I've always thought Triton looked coo, too, Karen.

david_b said...

I had a lot of comments composed before, but didn't get saved for some odd reason..

To summaraze..: Just a beautiful, jam-packed issue. And when I say 'beautiful'.., I really mean Adam's at his best for this saga.. From the opening with Triton to the beautiful Vision page shown ("Have you forgotten..."), very stiring and way cool.

In fact, I dare say that most of this majestic art distracts from the story at hand; seriously, I'm spending way too much time looking at the panel to really get a bead on the story development.

Is that a dig on the story-telling..? Hard to say.

Wonderful Buscema cover, one of his best Avenger covers I suspect, but there's SO many to choose from.

Dougie..: SAME thought on that Ironman pose that I thought for years. With that hand on his knee, it always looked.., well, 'not manly'.

All in all, perhaps the best ish of the saga.

Doug said...

I hadn't really paid attention to the IM pose before. Now I see what the brouhaha is about.

Say, general comment in regard to commenters losing their posts, etc. A few days ago I actually went to the comments section of our control panel and noticed that five of the comments for which Karen and I had received email notifications were put into the spam folder. All five were legit and so were enabled/published right away. Sadly, some of them had been quarantined for quite awhile. David, whatever just happened to you is not the same thing, but it did prompt me to check again. Hopefully this will not be an ongoing problem.


david_b said...

Nope, it was probably just a busy mornin' for me.., stuff happens.

And yes, today's such an awesome column ish to comment on.

Doug, Karen, you folks have really made this such a 'rockin' forum for us all here..! Thanks much!

B Smith said...

"One nitpick: Goliath says he recognized Triton from an appearance at the U.N., but a page later, Triton tells us that Black Bolt was exploring human cities in order to figure out how to "apprise the human race of our existence."

I could be wrong, but hadn't Triton appeared at the UN on behalf of Namor in the Sub-Mariner title, when Roy was writing it (which would place it happening before the events in Avengers #95)?

Fred W. Hill said...

That opening splash with Triton was pretty magnificent, and overall more great storytelling by Roy & Neil -- really loved that scene where Clint keeps Vizh & Shellhead from coming to blows, sounding far more mature than he'd usually been portrayed up to this point. Regarding the cover, very nice work from the elder Buscema and it follows the trend of the previous 3 covers in highlighting the recently returned Big Three. Of course, I don't think I'm giving much away by noting a very angry Vision takes over the next cover!

vancouver mark said...

I'm realy enjoying your reviews of these clasic issues, but am especially hoping that you will go on to showcase the three wonderful Thomas/Smith issues that followed the Kree/Skrull war. Avengers #98 is probably my favorite single issue of the title's whole history, and the three-part story culminating in Avengers# 100 was a spectacularly satisfying adventure, with art that rivalled the best of Adams, to me at least.

Doug said...

Mark --

We'll probably take a break from the Avengers for awhile, as Karen and I do like to keep somewhat of a balance to the content on the BAB. However, if it's Barry Smith art you're after, you'll probably see us cover his work again soon but in the pages of Conan the Barbarian -- that's on the docket for December.



david_b said...

I'd say again, without even comparing this to the other chapters of this saga, that this issue is arguably the best of the lot.

Best cover (despite the framed concept), best splash, best consistant beautiful art and nice dialog/pacing.

I just plunked money down on a VF copy of Avengers 100 last week, this may have to be my 'big purchase' next month. It may be wasting money to some, but when there's a monumental comic with an awesome cover, I'll treat myself to buying at least a VF condition issue.

Again, I don't have a huge collection (quantity-wise) by most folks standards here at BAB, but what I do have is gorgeous. One thing that helped my budget a lot is, except for a handful of Stern-Buscema Avengers and Perez-drawn Teen Titans, I have little if any '80s or later comics. I just focused on Silver and '70 Bronze.

Garett said...

Striking images of Triton and the Vision here, as mentioned by others. Pretty obvious that Triton found his way into Eric Larsen's mind to create Savage Dragon. I've always liked the look of Triton.

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, I always wondered why there was something familiar about Savage Dragon...

mr. oyola said...

Triton looks great in this issue!

Just another reminder - when I go back and read old issues I am always amazed at how much they cram into one as compared to today.

I have been going through Bronze Age ASMs (the comics I grew up on) - and loving it.

david_b said...

In regards to Triton's quiet nobility, I frankly haven't followed him much (and haven't gotten the Inhumans masterworks yet..), but to me he came across best back in FF 62, being picked to save Reed Richards from the Negative Zone AND holding his own against Blastaar.

Paul said...

This is one of my favorite issues from one of my favorite arcs from my favorite title.
That splash page has always stood out to me. In fact, as good as the cover is, the splash overwhelms it in my mind.
Speaking of the cover: The way that Maximus is holding Cap's tunic brings to mind the inconsistency of what it is made of. If it is supposed to be one piece, as it appears to be here, why does it have the scale mail pattern? If it is supposed to be a half-shirt made of scale mail, then Maximus should not be able to grab it this way. Not enough to distract from a great cover, but just an observation. Maybe someone here can enlighten me if there is an in-universe explanation for Cap's tunic design.
Also, I see it gets disparaged a lot here, but I never minded the framed cover period. It puts me in the mind of collecting art.


Doc Savage said...

Maybe Cap's shirt is just a shirt with a design on it that looks like chainmail. I think I've seen Cap T-shirts like that.

Or just call it unstable molecules.

I like the "frame" covers. Prevents art from getting cut off at top, bottom, and sides.

Anonymous said...

A couple of quick points, Clint did refer to Triton as a second hand sub-mariner (sub-mareener, sub-mahriner) so Clint could be referencing Triton's appearance on behalf of Namor at the UN.

Karen, you asked about how this story would play out in modern comics. Operation Galatic Storm was spread over 21 chapters and 6/7 books, I forget. I believe it was 6, let me check........7 books.

The Prowler (stumbling through his library and tripping on his cape).

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