Monday, July 5, 2010

George Perez July: Avengers Annual #6

Avengers Annual #6 (1976)
"No Final Victory!"
Gerry Conway-George Perez/Mike Esposito/John Tartag/Duffy Vohland

Doug: Welcome to July's four-week look at the art of George Perez, as on display in several of Marvel's summer treats -- the Annuals! As we've been saying on the sidebar, over the next three weeks you'll see our take on Avengers Annual #8, Fantastic Four Annual #14, and X-Men Annual #3. So strap in -- here we go!

Doug: This Annual picks up right where Avengers #153 left off. In that issue, the Whizzer had attacked the Avengers (again -- see our review of
Giant-Size Avengers #1; this was becoming a broken record to an extent) and Wanda had run up against the Living Laser, who found himself in possession of the Serpent Crown. This 2-parter served as an epilogue to the "Serpent Crown Affair" arc that ran from Avengers #141-144 and #147-149. It also set up the excellent Beast/Wonder Man era that would take off from here on.

Doug: Three things jump out at me right from the first few pages. 1) This is only about a year into Perez's first run on the book, and already he's starting to show a penchant for really individualizing the faces of each character. 2) Conway writes the Wasp just like everybody else. Thankfully she got some depth of character in the '80's. 3) Wow -- Cap and Iron Man are buddies... actually cooperating! What a concept!

Karen: Perez is already a solid artist here, way back in 1976. It's amazing to think how much better he actually got! I just wish the cover had been a Perez one and not Kirby.

Doug: The first several pages of this story recap the events of G-S #1, as well as Avengers #153. There's also some backstory on the Whizzer for the interim time period. We find that after the defeat of Nuklo, Bob Frank was first in the hospital and then became destitute, eventually turning to alcohol abuse. Cleaning himself up, he set out to find out what had happened to Nuklo. Finding the US military less-than-cooperative, Frank took the information he wanted and was shocked to see that the government was apparently studying his son in an effort to use him to their advantage. Frank sped off in a fury to obtain the services of his daughter, the Scarlet Witch, and her husband the Vision.

Doug: In the meantime, the Beast sets out to find the zuvembie Wonder Man. However, upon encountering the recently-revived (see our review of Avengers #152) hero, he finds that Wondy's got some mental wherewithal and an improved vocabulary. They battle, and Hank finds out just what the big deal was all those years ago when Wondy had fought Thor to a standstill. But, Hank's pretty smooth and eventually uses his own strength and mutant agility to dispose of ol' Simon Williams.

Karen: I'd forgotten how the Beast and Wonder Man came together initially. They were such an odd couple, but they perfectly complemented each other. I'm not really buying this idea that Beast could knock Wondy into a wall and knock him out though.

Doug: Then we interlude again, this time with Iron Man and Captain America, who are tracking the Serpent Crown. They end up at a military installation in California and this story begins to all come together. As fate would have it, the installation is run by a rogue general who is in league with the Living Laser. And wouldn't you know? This is the same place where Nuklo is being held! Cap and IM are engaged by some soldiers who are quickly shown the folly of their ways, but then LL strikes and it ain't looking good.

Doug: Perez's art is just outstanding in this issue. To think he'd only been on the title since #141 (and that excludes #'s 145, 146, half of 150 and 152-3), really a grand total of 8 1/2 issues! His camera angles are varied, face and form are outstanding, and he moves the story along well -- words aren't really required to know what's happening. His later genius was already evident back in the summer of 1976.

Karen: His flair for the dramatic was always present in his work. 'Camera angles' is an apt description, as I've always felt his books have the feel of a big budget action film. He knows how to arrange figures in panels, how to utilize angles and depth....the man is simply one of the best.

Karen: I also really enjoyed his way of depicting Nuklo's energy effects, although I wonder if colorist Petra Goldberg deserves the credit for that.

Doug: As you might imagine, the cavalry arrives, a melee ensues, and Nuklo is released. The Living Laser and his military henchmen soon learn that they've messed where they shouldn'ta been messin' and ol' Nuklo goes nuts. Wonder Man's along for the ride, his mind now clear. He finds that his strength and stamina is no match for this radioactive powerhouse, who just happens to be about ready to blow. All of a sudden, a streak enters the picture, homing in on the monster. With a tremendous impact, we see that Bob Frank had launched himself forward with all his speed and rammed into his son. In effect, he'd caused Nuklo to implode rather than explode, thus saving the day.

Karen: I guess we'd have to read the next issue of Avengers to find out how Wonder Man came to his senses. Geez, that really does bother me that it's not shown here!

Doug: At 27 pages of story, this is truly a giant-size tale. It is, however, not one of the "extra"-type of stories that Annuals would contain a few years later. No, this one fits directly in between Avengers 153 and 154; in fact, the "next issue" box at the conclusion of the story advertises the Atlantis multi-parter that would cross over with Super-Villain Team-Up. We should note, too, that this book does have two stories, and the back-up is not a reprint but a new tale of the Vision in battle against Whirlwind. That story's by Scott Edelman and Herb Trimpe. Trimpe was better suited to the Hulk, methinks...

Karen: You thinks right!


Anonymous said...

Agree with everything you said about Perez's art, but you missed the key joy for me, which is the incredible detail... in the backgrounds...buildings have actual architecture, sidewalks have texture and level, and when someone is thrown headfirst into a bank of machinery, it is often recognisably those bits of machinery that are littering the floor in all the panels afterwards. Faces, as you say, are unique and specific, but they also have specific nuances...each character's smile is different to the others, some frown, some glare, etc. There's a real visual continuity to his work.

johnlindwall said...

I loved this issue as a kid, and reading this review brings back those happy times. I have always loved Perez' art and still do.

I'll take a small exception to the comment regarding the choice of cover artist -- you can't beat the King.

Matthew Bradley said...

Even as a 13-year-old, I was well aware that this new hombre Perez, whose work I saw here and over in THE FANTASTIC FOUR, was something truly special. What an amazing showcase for his talent: one of my favorite runs on my long-term favorite book, written by one of my favorite Bronze Age scribes. And I loved when the annuals tied in to the monthly continuity, so this was just like Heaven in four colors for me. Plus the Wonder Man/Beast "odd couple" was a big favorite of mine. Oh, my stars and garters, those were the days!

A small nit to pick, however: I believe "The Serpent Crown Affair" was the formal title of the later MTIO multi-issue arc, and should be reserved for those stories...

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