Monday, August 24, 2015

Now That's a Legit Fight... A 100-Word Review

Doug: Yeah, I know. Last week I said we'd have a review of DC Comics Presents #26 for you today. And we will... tomorrow. Your hosts seem to swim in two separate pools of busy-ness, and to be honest, neither of us like it much. Karen keeps remarking to me that we need to quit our jobs and find some way to get paid to do just this -- fun stuff! Don't I wish. But you won't go away without a comics fix today, my friends. Last Thursday before turning in I was messing around on my Kindle and came across my digital copy of Avengers #158, which just happens to contain my favorite superhero tussle of all time (not to be confused with the greatest book of all time with a superhero tussle, Silver Surfer #4). The back half of the book is a separate story that leads into #159's conclusion of the introduction and first battle with Graviton. But the first half of #158 contains a battle for the ages. For The Ages... Check it out:

Avengers #158 (April 1977) (cover by Jack Kirby/John Romita, Sr./Joe Sinnott - how's that for a Hall of Fame?)
"When Avengers Clash!"
Jim Shooter-Sal Buscema/Pablo Marcos

Doug: Jim Shooter shook up the Avengers, and this issue typifies his torment of the team’s relationships. Wonder Man, only back from the dead for 6 issues, assists Wanda after the battle with the Black Knight. The Vision broods over the fallen Knight, when he hears WM say “Lean on me, Wanda.” Uh oh. Having increasing feelings of inadequacy, the Vision explodes in anger. Ferociously attacking his teammate, the Vision basically substantiates everything he feared he did not have – emotion, personality, and the ability to love. Iron Man lets them fight it out, and do they ever! One for the ages…

Now that's what the BAB calls "Gettin' Buscema-blasted!"


William said...

Oh yeah! Now we're talking. This is one of my favorites as well Doug. Just look at those awesome pages!

This is one of those books that I would use as an example of how much better comics used to be back when. Especially the art. This is the epitome of what comic book art is to me. The forced perspective and over the top action, with characters being hit and flying right at the reader with an exaggerated expression of pain on their faces, and impact lines and sound effects. It just screams "This is fun stuff here!" The clear storytelling and the bright primary colors that make the art jump off the page.

You just don't see stuff like this in comic books anymore. And that's what I miss the most.

david_b said...

This was truly a great fight..!! This ish was one of the later-Bronze issues I collected once the art on this title got back to a decent look (didn't like early Perez nor Tuska nor Heck on the title at all..).

One aspect that I suspect some won't consider is this (to me) seems a brief reprise of the 'OLD Vision' the brooding, not-quite-human enigma that first haunted the Avengers pages back in from ish 57 to the mid-60s with Barry Smith as artist. I loved it. Finally our Vish had an interesting angle for an internal squabble, and the slugfest with Simon was a perfect way to manifest it. One of the few times ol' Vish didn't seem watered down and dull during this period.

ColinBray said...

Reading these panels I'm dizzy with joy. I love this Shooter Avengers run. Why dizzy though? Well I haven't read this comic in many years and my full reread-through of the first Avengers series is constantly being delayed by the to-read-for-the-first-time long boxes. So to even get a glimpse of this comic is a joy.

In these panels alone the highlights are many - the art, Wonder Man's groovy costume, the soap operatic feel and the characterisation, and the skilful storytelling even during a fight scene.

And most interestingly, Shooter and Buscema didn't attempt anything radical, high concept or new in this comic/run. They simply worked to a very high standard, understanding perfectly how to create great stories and great comics. All in all, a high point in superhero comics history.

Horace said...

That battle between Vision and Wonder Man is badass. Some of my favorite work by Sal.

Dr. Oyola said...

I love it!

If I can put on my grumpy old man shoes and glasses for a second. . . As much as I am a fan and cheerleader for a bunch of contemporary comics, one area that they tend to fail at across the broad is the compelling superhero fight. This is, I think, the fault of both writers who have come to see the fights as perfunctory and thus an obstacle to their de-compressed talkfests and/or of artists who have not seemed to studied with the "old masters" of Silver and Bronze age comics who knew how to make a fight look great and wow you and be more than two or three panels. I miss stuff like this.

Humanbelly said...

Two-- TWO!!-- Buscema Blasts in one fight! And nary a Hulk to be found!

This is the perfect example of why I always proudly wave the Sal Buscema flag whenever someone asks Who Is Your Favorite Bronze Age Artist? Sal's visuals are particularly wondrous in that they successfully juggle being familiar, dynamic, comfortable, and exciting all at once. And as mentioned above, this fight scene is more compelling than the norm in that it really does seem to spring organically from the inner turmoil both Vizh and Wondy are going through. Terrific synthesis of story, words, and pictures.

Say, I know Pablo Marcos has a fair share of detractors, but I have to say that I've always rather liked his inks, and I think he looks darned good on Sal, here. He gives me a feeling of a muchmuchMUCH cleaned-up Vince Colletta. Like, Vinnie through a Joe Sinnott lens.

(If that makes any sense at all?)


Doug said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

I've been one of those on record in the past as saying Marcos is generally not to my liking. However, I'll base that on his inks over John Byrne in the Count Nefaria Avengers arc (reviewed here -- check our library link at the top of the main page). I also feel that he buries Perez in some other instances -- maybe I'm thinking of X-Men Annual #3 (correct me if Marcos did not ink that issue). But here, he's golden. This is a great looking story.

And points about modern comics, fights, etc. are well taken. True, true.


Edo Bosnar said...

First things first, from the corrections department: Terry Austin did the inks over Perez's excellent pencils in the best annual ever, a.k.a. X-men Annual #3.

Excellent review, Doug! Like everyone else, I love this fantastic slug-fest, and I don't think anybody could have drawn it better than Sal. And I also agree that Marcos did a fabulous job on the inks - although like HB, I'm not one of his detractors, either, so I liked his work over Byrne's pencils in the aforementioned Count Nefaria throwdown, and with Perez in, say, Fantastic Four Annual #14.

Doug said...

Edo --

Thanks for the correction, and for what is probably the suggestion I was looking for in regard to Marcos' inks over Perez.


Anonymous said...

First Avengers comic I ever read! And boy howdy, did it start of with a bang!


Doug said...

Did you notice that the Jazzy One is credited as one of the cover artists? Aside from the Vision's head/face, I am not finding his influence anywhere else on the cover.

How about you and your artist-discerning eye?


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, I think you're right. The only other place where it seems to me that Romita may (and that's a rather tentative may) have done a little additional embellishing is on Scarlet Witch's face.

Redartz said...

Not much to add here; other than to echo the positive sentiments expressed for this issue! Doug,as for your question on Mr. Romita's influence on the cover: looking closely at said cover, I'd say Wonder Man's face also shows strong hints of the Jazzy One's touch...

Doug said...

And by the way, speaking of the cover -- this version of the Vision in the corner box is my favorite. I like the solemn standing version, but this one is pretty darned cool. One of the best in the annals of all corner boxdom!

And I'd agree, Redartz, about Wonder Man's face. I can see a little Romita there as well.


Ward Hill Terry said...

This was only the second Avengers issue that I bought, and it served as a pretty good way to learn more about The Vision and Wonder Man and their connection. I want to touch on something that Colin stated. He writes that "Shooter...didn't attempt anything radical..." in this run, and I disagree. I think that Shooter's Avengers are a team that is a failure. The overall story is the Michael/Korvac story. He is going to re-shape the universe. The Collector wants to collect Avengers for his collection, and like most collectors, he wants them in mint condition. So, in all of the stories leading up to the big confrontation, The Collector has to insert Thor into the Avengers battles, otherwise they will lose. Even in this issue we can see how ineffective Iron Man is as the leader. He does nothing to stop the fight, (maybe he knew that Sal was drawing a good one!), and waits until the combatants are worn out before saying anything. The Avengers, as written by Shooter, can't win their battles without the help of outside agencies, and can't protect their own members. That is a pretty radical approach to a team book. This is a run of pretty good comics, but it shows The Avengers at a low point in their history.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to read this issue on Marvel Unlimited, it looks like a blast!

As for super-hero fight scenes, something was lost in the late-'80s. The super-characters spent a lot of time posing rather than interacting. There are lots of pictures of Wolverine jumping, claws out, about to connect with an opponent. There are less pages with 6 or more panels detailing the blow-by-blow. What's made things worse is the writer-driven comics that have sprung up in recent years. A writer will spend a long time on conversations. An artist will spend a lot of page space on low-panel pages featuring the main characters. The action gets squeezed out. Take away dialogue during fights ("it's not realistic!"), thought balloons, and subplots, and you have your average 2010s Big-2 super-hero comic. It's annoying.

-Mike Loughlin

ColinBray said...

Fair point Terrence. I would say though (based on memory, admittedly) that while Shooter had a strong thematic identity in his first Avengers run, that didn't translate to being radical in the same way that say, Miller was during his Daredevil run.

But after a re-read I may stand corrected!

To add, I focused on Sal to the exclusion of Perez in my earlier post - clearly an errror. Shooter was surrounded by stellar talent at the peak of their powers through this run.

Martinex1 said...

I too like this issue and it was the Avengers team that for the most part I grew up with. Wonder Man gets a lot of grief but I liked him in this era. The tension from this point through the next two years was pretty well handled.

Does anybody know who drew the Vision in the corner box? Was that a Sal Vision? I cannot tell. I like that Vision represented the Avengers on the cover over the more well known others.

Shooter did a great job on this title (not counting his run after 200). I think many of the character traits and themes have lasted. Plus I think he really defined Wondy and the Beast .

Anonymous said...

Great fight scene! Yeah just to echo William, 'they don't make 'em like these anymore folks'. This is Sal at his best, and Pablo Marcos really does a good job as inker here. Honestly, I'd choose Marcos any day over Vinnie Colletta.

- Mike 'Buscema Blast Bonanza' from Trinidad & Tobago.

johnlindwall said...

As others have commented, this issue is from the prime time of my Avengers reading and discovery! Sal at his best to be sure.

It has been a while since I've read this issue though - the cover blurb has me on pins and needles! So, who was left standing? "...Until only the Victor Remains"? :) WOW! That is intense. Gotta love that! Speaking of which, that reminds me that I miss cover speech balloons and text boxes! Folks above mentioned the decompressed stories and lack of fight dialogs: cover verbiage seems also to be out of style and passe. *sigh*

ColinBray said...

Fair point Terrence. I would say though (based on memory, admittedly) that while Shooter had a strong thematic identity in his first Avengers run, that didn't translate to being radical in the same way that say, Miller was during his Daredevil run.

But after a re-read I may stand corrected!

To add, I focused on Sal to the exclusion of Perez in my earlier post - clearly an errror. Shooter was surrounded by stellar talent at the peak of their powers through this run.

Jerry said...

Can I just add another hugely positive comment to this post! Like many of you (which is kind of weird that so many of us can say this) this was right in the midst of my adolescent comic fandom. Looking at Mikes Amazing World the month this fantastic issue came out (Sal Buscema's art is, to me, a fantastic representation of superhero comics art - so dynamic, clean, and action-filled! I have to admit I like other artists more, but in a way, Sal is sort of the 'face' of Marvel for so many characters in the 1970s) we also have an amazing Cockrum / Clarement showdown between Magneto and the X-Men in X-Men 104 (an amazing cover) and wacky but mesmerizing early Keith Giffen art on my favorite 70's book, the Defenders (ish 46). So much more. What a great time for comics!

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Excellent rundown! I posted a link on my Facebook page and on the FB group History of Comics 1970s.

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