Wednesday, January 8, 2014

BAB Classic: Three Cows Shot Me Down! Avengers #90

NOTE:  This post was originally published on 10 October 2011.

Avengers #90 (July 1971)
"Judgment Day"
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Sal Buscema

Karen: Welcome to part two of our overview of the legendary Kree-Skrull War. Last time, the Avengers had barely managed to save the life of an irradiated Captain Marvel, when a towering robot, a Kree Sentry, came bursting in. And that's right where this issue picks up. The Sentry tells the Avengers to just walk away, but of course they don't. Both Wanda and Pietro are quickly put down, and once again it's the Vision that winds up taking on their enemy. As they grapple, the Sentry comments on how, as androids, they are both far above humankind. But a second later they go crashing through the floor, as the Vision increases his mass. Unfortunately, the Sentry recovers first and disappears with Mar-Vell, making a cryptic statement about something called Plan Atavus.
Doug: Even though the Sentry moves through the team relatively easily, I guess I didn't get any feeling that this was a hopeless situation. Now, mind you, I didn't really have any suggestions for our Avenging friends. This is a pretty de-powered version of the team. I enjoyed the scene with the Vision taking the Sentry one-on-one. As you stated last week, this seemed to be a period when the Vision was the superstar of the team, and often found himself in the spotlight.

Karen: The Ave
ngers naturally want to pursue, but are stopped by Cape Security Chief Carol Danvers -that's right, Ms. Marvel, but way before her own super-hero career began. She debriefs them and lets them go. Not knowing where they might find the Sentry and Mar-Vell, they ask Rick Jones for any information he has on the Kree. There's a nice two page flashback sequence, which goes all the way back to the Inhumans back-up stories from Thor, showing how the Kree caused the Inhumans to advance as a race. Then we see the Sentry's first encounter with the FF, as well as Captain Marvel's early missions, and his progression from Kree warrior to rebel.
Doug: This was all well and good, and I mean that sincerely. What Roy gave us, and Steve Englehart later, was a slow, logical reveal of Marvel backstory. Think about it -- at this point the Marvel Universe was only a decade old, and by the time Englehart added a layer or two to the Kree history in his "Celestial Madonna" epic it wasn't much older. This was a great example of peeling that onion -- not retconning. There weren't any zany changes, but details that fleshed out the past of these imperialists. By the way, I'd forgotten the guest appearance from Carol Danvers -- that was a nice surprise!

Karen: The three Avengers and Rick return to the mansion, only to find a message from Goliath (Clint Barton, not Hank Pym) awaiting them.It seems that he got an SOS from Janet Pym, aka the Wasp, and is on his way to Alaska to help her. W
ith that tiny tidbit of info, our heroes turn right back around -knocking down poor Jarvis! - and jump back on the quinjet.

Doug: Jarvis is like Alfred -- even just a little is always a treat! A
nd hey -- there are two characters who are generally written spot-on. Most writers don't take any liberties with those two.
Karen: We move on to see Goliath landing next to an icebreaker in the frigid north. Jan is distraught. She tells Clint that Hank has disappeared. She and her hubby were investigating a government outpost that had suddenly gone into radio silence. They found a bizarre circle of jungle in the middle of the ice. In the center was a strange tower, with rays projecting out of it. A dragonfly appeared -a foot-long dragonfly! Using Hank's mastery over insects, they rode the critter towards the tower. Suddenly Hank had some sort of epiphany about what the tower was doing -and strapped Jan on the dragonfly and sent her back! After hearing this, Clint takes off, on his own, to find Hank. Our misogynistic Avenger says, "I can't work with women around -not since Natasha and me broke up." Oh brother! As he says this there's an image of Natasha floating above him. Next panel, she's replaced with Wanda- and Clint looks at the image and says, "Now the Widow's face has faded- and it's Wanda I'm seein'!" Now this just struck me as really odd! Typically these floating heads are recognized as representing thoughts, but here we have a character acting as if he can actually see them! Such an odd choice for Roy Thomas to make.

Doug: Do you kn
ow what leapt out at me in this series of panels? When you say that Hank strapped Jan to the dragonfly and sent her away, did you notice that he popped her one right before tying her down?!? I couldn't believe it! It's been several years since I've read this story, but I would have thought that given my recent series of posts on my Hank Pym essay that I would have recalled this scene. Nope -- didn't. But there it is, right on the bottom of page 13. To the best of my knowledge, that panel has never been referenced in relation to its much-better known counterpart from over a decade later. And I'd agree with you about Clint's "seeing" the objects of his consternation -- yeah, it's a literary device I suppose, but you'd think that Roy as a former English teacher would have amended the page when it first came back to him.
Karen: Wow, I didn't catch that! You're right, Hank gives Jan a mean back-hand! Different times, I guess. Clint lands and enters the jungle, where he's immediately attacked by some vicious creature. As he punches it out, a ray of light strikes him from behind and he falls. We see that the Sentry and Ronan, the Kree Accuser, are responsible. The Sentry detects the approach of the other Avengers and the two take off to prepare for the coming confrontation.

Karen: When the Avengers, plus Rick and Jan, arrive, they are met by the Sentry -and Goliath! who has been mentally controlled. A fight ensues, while in the tower bey
ond, Ronan holds Mar-Vell prisoner. Ronan states that his goal is the destruction of mankind; he is going to devolve all life on the planet (that's Plan Atavus). His reason for this is that mankind is too dangerous; humans have a tremendous potential, which could threaten the Kree Empire.

Doug: Wonder when we'll get around to seeing that potential that the human race has? We've sure done a great job of messing things around here by 2
Karen: As the heroes battle, the Wasp is knocked out. We see a bestial figure looming in the shadows nearby. Suddenly he is revealed as an ogrish Henry Pym!

Doug: "Ogre" is a great way to put it. Hank's one ugly brute, he is...

Karen: This issue was solid, but still felt very much like what it was: a set-up for what's to come. Still, an entertaining read.

Doug: That we are two issues into something that jus
t feels bigger has built up a ton of suspense. As I said above, this certainly isn't the most powerful Avengers team, and to be honest it lacks for leadership with no Cap, Iron Man, or even T'Challa. While the Vision somewhat fills that role, the dynamic of having Pietro also on the team leaves a bit of tension always bubbling beneath the surface. Here's to looking forward to the next issue!


Dougie said...

The point about leadership is very interesting. A logical android might make a good tactician but his authority is going to be undermined by a jealous, bigoted mutant sibling.
It's that very friction that distinguishes the Avengers- Earth's Mightiest Heroes -from the JLA, The World's Greatest Super-Heroes.

The JLA was, until the admission of Red Tornado, a clubby organisation of professional crime fighters; the Avengers were Cap's (or Iron Man's) band of ex-criminals, outsiders and assorted hangers-on who would take sabbaticals on a whim and who were inclined to squabble amongst themselves.

This distinction seemed to be obscured from the Detroit League Era onward - when the "New DC" was trying to be as much like Shooter's Marvel as possible. It's also why the Bendis New Avengers make sense to me but Robinson's Justice League didn't: Starman Mikaal and Congorilla should have been among Batman's Outsiders, if anywhere.

Edo Bosnar said...

Well, you've made me pick up my Kree-Skrull War tpb and begin re-reading it...
That "mean back-hand" of Hank's is probably what struck (pun intended?) me most about this issue. I have to say, I'm no fan of the whole Hank Pym as wife-beater thing, and I hated Shooter's story that started that meme, but this is too much! I mean, not only did he give her a nasty b****-slap, he hit her hard enough to knock her out cold! Different times or not, what was Roy thinking? And yes, I found Clint's visions of various women rather bizarre as well.
Otherwise, I have to say I really like Sal's art here. I think he's actually a nice fit with the Avengers, and it's too bad he was pretty much only a filler artist on the title.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I always liked Clint Barton better as Goliath than as Hawkeye. Not completely sure why. I'm not a big fan of costumes that look like bondage shop specials, for one thing.

Still, growing to giant-size is an interesting power both visually and story-wise. It grants serious, but not unlimited, power. And it seemed to work with Barton's personality. Better than Pym's anyway.

Just a thought.

david_b said...

All wonderful comments on Clint, Vish, and Quicksilver. As much as JLA writers tried to interject\mimic the same tension of androids and emotions with Ollie and Tornado, it just didn't work.., or was a paper-thin copy of Trek's Spock-McCoy spats, call it what you will. At least Marvel was original enough to add some mutant depth, and android drama.

Fred W. Hill said...

Y'know, I hadn't really thought about it before reading your comments regarding Clint's tenure as Goliath, but I agree that his personality seemed to go the best with the giant-sized superheroics. Maybe because he seemed to have the most fun with it, much more than Henry Pym or Bill Foster. I wonder if there was a specific reason Roy had him give up his Goliath role to become Hawkeye again.

As for Henry Pym's backslapping Jan, I read this story a few years after Shooter's infamous wife-beating tale yet I don't recall Thomas' earlier instance registering with me at all, which is frankly rather disturbing. It seems ever clearer that Shooter was amplifying trends that Thomas had already touched on, and perhaps even Lee -- maybe all that pill-popping and size-changing not only affected Pym's physical health but also his mental health. Or maybe this was just the first indication in this particular story that Hank was being transformed into a monster -- I ought to get the mag out of the box to read again. As it is, the story is just exploding with so many interrelated threads, I also wonder how far in advance Roy had this planned out.

david_b said...

Fred, great thoughts on Shooter's inspiration and Clint's stint as Goliath. I couldn't comment much over the last 10 days because I was on my blackberry with the Mrs on vacation..

First, Clint as Goliath: Wonderful ideas about him serving as a 'better Goliath'.. My take is that giants are, when not battling some super-sized creature, are visually lumbering around when still as a giant, which brings to mind a sense of 'oafness'. That idea is more in conducive with Clint's more easy-going persona than the supersmart scientist Pym.

As for the earlier back-slap of Hank, both the story context and motive of the slap in that story was easier to digest than the later depressing Shooter story.

Edo Bosnar said...

Hmmm, didn't comment on it the first time, but I have to agree with the consensus about Clint making a much better giant dude than Hank. Definitely fits the personality better.
And David, to respond to your observation over two years later: yes, the context and motive are certainly different, but I still recall how much that scene shocked me when I read this issue the first time a few years back. And a whack like that definitely would have left quite a bruise in real life...

Doc Savage said...

Interesting all the grief Pym fans give Shooter over a slap but Thomas can have Pym knock his wife out and no one seems to notice. Not being a Pym fan or detractor, I think his character has been depicted as mentally inbalanced since very early on so I don't see what all the fuss is about. Dude got married in the midst of a multiple-personality breakdown!

Is the Vision around anymore? Did Byrne ruin him for all time? He was such a huge player in the Bronze Age, it seems a waste of a unique character if he's still out of action.

david_b said...

Here's a snapshot of an ULTRA-COOL vision cover from last year..:

Obviously, I bought it for the cover alone..

Anonymous said...

I'm with Matt C. on this (could it be a first?! ;)) . . .

It could be a result of my introduction to the Avengers being right before Hank's breakdown and divorce and arrest and trial, etc. . . but even when I later looked back at earlier issues Hank seemed so dismissive of his wife and just generally rough around the edges with her (or worse - thinks like this sock to head!) that it totally made sense to me that later writers would want to develop the pattern.

I think there is something to be said about how violence as a solution to conflict bleeding into other forms of relations in the superhero comic genre - when even "best friend" heroes get into a punch-up every now and then is it so crazy that a sometimes unbalanced dude who messes with his own biochemistry might snap at his wife in a physical way?

I really don't think you can write this off as "the times" (I hate that excuse for most forms of vile behavior). Violence against women may have been more acceptable back then, but most men still didn't do it. To me, it feels like a part of his character - but again, I came late to the party.

I like Hawkeye as an arrow guy too much to like him as Goliath, but I do like Scott Lang as Ant-Man

Anonymous said...

A couple of quick questions 1) will the final be all essay? 2) when do we have to have our thesis statement?

I am using my Marvel's Essentials Avengers Vol 4 for the reading work. I bought the Kree-Skull vols 1 and 2 back during college and when I dug those out to read, they only collect 93-97! I was like what? And she was like what? And we were like What!?!

From the opening chapter of issue 89 (all of that action in one issue) this almost feels like a step back. Thomas' use of Marvel history to set the stage for where we are now gives his yarn a crossover feel without the crossovers. (I did my Marvel catching up through Marvel Tales, Marvel Triple Action, Marvel's Greatest Comics Marvel Double Feature etc etc etc and so on). Ronan's references to previous encounters seemed organic and fit to move the story forward. And the way Thomas began to weave the characters together. Meanwhile on their honeymoon...... Jan and Hank did this. Clint's back at HQ so we know the Hulk situation is over. Karen's comment "the Avengers plus Rick and Jan" stands out in my mind. I know that Hank and Jan are on a leave of absence but I still think of them as Avengers. Oh CRAP!!! Train of thought just left the station.

Oh yeah. The slap. How many issues previously were the happy couple professing their love as they headed into danger? What do you mean...pages, panels? How quickly the relationship turns for super hero couples when danger's around. Let's shrink down fly a couple of miles and take a look around. Whoooo, something wicked this way comes, let me get you to safety (out of the way) so I can handle it. Was this policy (Comics Code)? Was this cultural (no women in combat)? Our was it Thomas' personal viewpoint (dames make you weak in the knees)? On a very base level, does Hank not trust Jan's ability as a co-fighter in a scrap? Isn't this post the whole Attuma affair? If I remember correctly, she was sent to fly the whole way back?

Thomas now sets the stage for the Avenging Trio + Jan to take on the Sentry and Goliath. These first to issues give me the feeling that Thomas was sitting around thinking - it's time for another multi-part story. I've done Ultron, Arkon, Scorpio, check check and check. What's the fewest number of Avengers I can use and how far can I go with them. Immediate threat, Capt Marvel could destroy the world. Bigger threat, Ronan wants to devolve the world. Each chapter seems to be getting bigger and bigger. And Plan Atavus!?! Ronan wants to reverse our evolutionary climb to an ancestral level to deal with out potential? What is this? A game of Trouble? Chinese Checkers? (You do know what potential means? It means you suck right now but there's a chance you'll stop.?

I keep wanting to read ahead but I'm forcing myself to only read on reading day (Uh oh........what day is it? HUMP DAY!!!) Imagine if you had to wait 30 days to Make Mine Marvel!!! (I so love exclamation marks).

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

Anonymous said...

The word "out" (or oot for our Canadian readers) should be read as "our".

The Prowler (F.T.O.S-M.C)

Fred W. Hill said...

More thoughts -- looking over the Avengers' Silver to early Bronze Ages history, it's notable that neither Stan nor Roy ever kept two women in the mag at the same time for very long. No big deal that Jan left in the same issue in which Wanda joined, but it wasn't long after Jan came back that Wanda, along with Pietro, was mostly written out for a long stretch, and when they finally came back as regular members, Jan & Hank went back into hiatus, aside from a few brief appearances, as in this and the next issue and Hank's famous journey into the Vision in issue 93 and then in 100, but then everyone showed up in that one except the still deceased Wonderman! Seems it wasn't until Englehart introduced Mantis that the Avengers regularly had two women on the team for extended periods of time, pretty much for the remainder of the Bronze Age and beyond, even if Mantis and Hellcat weren't "official" members during their stay.

Doc Savage said...

Oh no That One mentioned This One...ugh! My least favorite Avenger of all time! (All time being 1963 to 1987?88? whenever I quit Marvel!)

It is interesting what you noted...pretty much every team was that way back then...JLA had very few issues with both WW and that godawful Black Canary...X-Men and FF only ever had one woman until the mid-'70s X-Men as far as I recall and FF until the '80s. Defenders only had 2 women well into the series when that godawful Hellcat showed up. I wonder if it was just because there weren't a lot of heroines to choose from.

Doug said...

While Marvel may not have had a lot of female team members, they had several female cast members.

In the Avengers the Black Widow was featured during the same years Wanda was active.

In the FF, Sue was of course the mainstay. But intermittent appearances by Alicia Masters, Medusa, and Crystal kept a little extra estrogen in the mag.

In the X-Men, Warren or Hank occasionally had girlfriends, and towards the end Lorna Dane became prominent.

So while I'd agree that actual membership might have been lacking, a female presence was not.


david_b said...

Ok, MY turn...


1) Mantis, yes, this one is a favorite of mine. She was a fighter, a whore, a mystery, a healer, a pain. Still a favorite, definitely says 'Bronze Age Avengers' to me.

2) Mulling over the point raised about this being the 'weakest lineup of Avengers, I was casually looking at the pre-Stern issues (ish 246, around that area..), and for some issues in the '80s, it was nearly all women..!! Wasp, She-Hulk, Wanda, Monica.. and either Starfox, Herc and/or Cap.

A point raised by Mr. Oyola about 'the times' and rationale for hitting the fairer sex, I do recall Sean Connery once getting some notoriety back in the '60s for commenting that yes, he'd readily slap a woman if she was 'out of control' without regret (I'm assuming he meant hysterical..).

As for female team membership, you just have to look at what both companies considered a good mix back then. Like Karen laments about Marvel, women were never utilized very well in the Silver Age, other than damsels or in non-leadership roles. That's.. just the way it was, folks.

I also agree with her that DC was much better at it..: You didn't have WW or Wonder Girl in too many tied-up victim situations, they fought right along side. Batgirl and Canary however seemed a bit more fallable.

But flip the coin for a moment..: DC also had funny mags with Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope, where women typically saved the day for the helpless, comical yet loveable buffoons.

Karen said...

Osvaldo, you are absolutely correct, my remark attributing Roy's handling of Hank and his knocking Jan out as "different times" was delivered in a quick and thoughtless manner - and perhaps so was Roy's writing! I'm sure it's the sort of thing he'd seen in cowboy films and other adventures, but it doesn't excuse it. It seems lazy -like he wanted some way to separate the two of them and that's how he did it.

But it also speaks to a larger problem, which we've addressed to some extent before, which is how the female characters in Marvel comics during this time period were generally viewed as pretty worthless. They were there to be ogled, protected, fought over, rescued, but they were never equals. God forbid Hank should reason with Jan. You know Hank would never try to knock out Cap or Hawkeye in that situation.

Of all the Marvel couples, it always seemed like Hank and Jan had perhaps the worst relationship: she was always trying to make him jealous, and he was alternately cold or screaming at her. I don't think it was too hard for Shooter to make that famous punch seem convincing -although now he's not taking credit for it.

Karen said...

David, you posted while I was still writing, but I want to give credit where it's due: I think it was Teresa who made that observation about Marvel vs. DC's treatment of their female characters.

Edo Bosnar said...

Uh, David, re: Wonder Woman not being put in "too many tied-up victim situations." Maybe not in JLA, but in her own title? To the best of my knowledge, that a was a leit-motif of the title from the Golden Age until well into the '70s.

david_b said...

Well, ok Karen, I got one reference source out of two right..

Anyways, Edo, I wasn't referring to solo titles, but the conversation was regarding comparative team membership and story-telling dynamics. It's actually interesting in the DC team world for who get's nabbed and tied up for the villains..: In the Silver Age Teen Titans stories I've read, I've seen both Speedy and Kid Flash knocked out and tied up more than Wonder Girl.

mr. oyola said...

While I don't think Reed Richards has ever hit Sue, I don't think he treats her much better than Hank did Janet. At the very least he is psychologically abusive, neglectful and despite years as part of a successful superhero adventuring/exploring team doesn't trust her ability to handle tough knowledge.

Doug said...

This conversation has turned toward the one advantage I see in reboots. Of course, when Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch decided to make Hank Pym even more deplorable in The Ultimates, well...


Karen said...

It's funny, Osvaldo, I was thinking as I wrote about Hank and Jan that I never really 'got' the Reed and Sue relationship either. He always seemed far more interested in his experiments than in her. I recall when they were split up for a time in the 70s wondering if she really might not go off with the Sub-Mariner for good -and maybe that wasn't such a bad idea!

B Smith said...

"While I don't think Reed Richards has ever hit Sue..."

Didn't John Byrne have him slap her around once or twice to shock her out of her Malice identity...?

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, re: Sue leaving Reed. May have been a good idea to dump him, and yeah, the alternative sure looks, er, dashing in those scaled green Speedo trunks, but methinks choosing a macho, controlling, (probably) insanely jealous, imperious jerk like Namor would have been a frying pan into the fire situation.

Doc Savage said...

Might be misremembering a bit but isn't it a recurring Byrne theme for a mild-mannered woman to become evil and have to get slapped out of it so she can emerge an empowered modern woman?

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