Saturday, June 30, 2012

Doug's Favorites: Avengers #28

Avengers #28 (May 1966)
"Among Us Walks... A Goliath!"
Stan Lee-Don Heck/Frankie Ray

Doug: Today we'll begin an irregular series of comic book reviews featuring personal favorites of Karen and I.  I'm leading off with a book that I'm sure those of you who have been around here for any length of time at all could have predicted would be on my very-short list of all-time favorites.  Karen will be along in about a week or so with her first offering and then who knows?  We've even discussed working in one of our partner reviews on a book that happens to be on both of our lists -- Silver Surfer #4!  So buckle in -- I imagine this series will take us all over the Silver and Bronze Ages (and maybe even past?).

Doug:  As I said, I've written about this book on numerous occasions.  I still for the life of me cannot remember if I first came to it in its original form or in a Marvel Triple Action reprint -- it seems to me that I would almost have to have had the original somehow, as the MTA version was published after I think I first read this.  At any rate, the cover alone stands as one of the best of the Kooky Quartet era.  Attributed to Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia (with lettering by Slammin' Sammy Rosen), it just exudes heroism and not just a bit "hey, don't mess with us".  The interiors are of course by Don Heck, and I've gone on record several times saying I really do like Heck's art from this period.  It's really familiar for me, as I had a couple of original 12c issues and the MTA's were reprinting in this period as well.  Additionally, Giant-Size Avengers #5, reprinting Avengers King Size Special #1 was on the grocery shelf.  So really, I grew up with Heck alongside the current pencillers, Bob Brown, Sal Buscema, and even Dave Cockrum.  It was a great time to be a budding Avengers fan!

Doug: Another thing that I found different but better from the comics then-presently on sale was the coloring of Captain America's uniform.  The lighter blue with the little feather lines (my interpretation -- chain mail was a foreign concept to me) on the chest worked for me, and to be honest I always thought the navy blue seen in Cap's Bronze Age series looked off.  Of course I warmed to the darker version, but I still have a soft spot for these old issues of the Avengers with that color scheme as a focal point.  Lastly, before I get to the synopsis, Steve Rogers' true mark of heroism may not be that he defeated the Nazis and helped the Allies win the War -- it may be that he didn't kill Hawkeye!  Man, ol' Hawk is tough to take in this time!  I'll periodically sit down and read a little run of the Avengers, and whenever I do the in-fighting and petty bickering is way over the top.  But it is the hallmark of Stan Lee's Marvel Universe, and it's fully infiltrated his scripts on this book.  OK, on to the story itself, and I'll continue a smattering here and there of why this single book is one of my all-time faves.

Doug:  We begin with the Kooky Quartet in the monitor room of Avengers Mansion. Pietro has picked up a distress call from a "Dr. Henry Pym" wanting the Avengers help in finding the Wasp.  The newbies all wonder who this guy is, what's his connection, etc.  But Cap keeps a cool head and takes the mic from Quicksilver.  Turns out Pym is really Giant-Man!  He's on a "scientific research ship" out at sea.  Now we've had our discussions before of comic book scientists, most recently Ray Palmer as a physicist pronouncing death on the Batman, but I for one am curious why a biochemist is out at sea on a ship that looks like it landed from outer space!  Anyway, Pym's really down in the dumps (Heck does a great job depicting a real hangdog look, slumping shoulders, etc.).  He feels that there's nothing more to lose; while he regretted letting go of his secret ID, he feels worse about losing Jan.  Back at the Mansion, Cap orders Hawkeye to go pick up the good doctor.  Of course, Hawk can't just go...

Doug:  We cut away to find Jan secured in a small vial, the prisoner of a creepy crusty-looking baddie named the Collector!  This was his first appearance, and he's since gone down as one of the Avengers recurring foes (though never too deadly), with a major role in "The Korvac Saga".  I've always wondered -- are his eyes just really deep set and dark, or does he wear a mask?  Thoughts?  He tells us right away what his schtick is -- he's amassed a collection of cool stuff from across time.  His goal -- to collect a team of super-heroes!  Hold on, because I know that sounds like a Silver Age DC, but it works here.  The Collector has already obtained a super-villain -- the Beetle!  Wow!  I wonder how hard that takedown was?  I guess ol' prune-puss beat Scourge to the draw...  We find out later that not only has the Beetle been collected, but he's under the influence of some obedience serum and can't make a break for it.

Doug:  Back to the Avengers, Hawkeye returns with Pym.  He wants to get going right away, but the team insists that he prove himself.  We learn that he and the Wasp resigned back in ish #16 due to Pym's fears that the constant size-changing was harming his body.  But, he says, he'll give it a try so there are no doubts.  Suddenly Wanda, in typical Stan Lee girl-fashion, tells that she's sewn Pym a new costume, in the event he ever returned!  Wow -- I wonder how she'll deck out the God of Thunder?  But for my money, Wanda (does anyone know who really designed the Goliath costume?  Was it Don Heck?) did a great job.  I love the color scheme and it maintains some of the lines that exude growth -- dressed for success, I say!  Pym has warned that the only height he can achieve is 25 feet; and he must stay there for 15 minutes (don't know why...).  After a false start, he suddenly explodes upward in the alley.  Hawkeye and Quicksilver become believers and the team quickly boards a quinjet.

Doug:  Prior to leaving, the Collector had somehow taken over the frequency at Avengers Mansion, told them that he had the Wasp and even where to find him!  So as the quinjet streaks away, Hank Pym begins to take inventory of his new teammates.  I think this aspect of the story was endearing to me, as my recollection was that I was also new to this team.  Hank's opinions of Hawkeye and Cap seemed to mirror my own.  Landing, Quicksilver of course speeds ahead and finds a castle.  Awesome!  What kid wouldn't like a story with a giant, a castle, and Captain America?  The Collector allows our heroes to enter, and right into a trap.  It's a pretty basic trap -- Cap sniffs it out immediately and of course the team is knocked out in a flash.  We next see them all suspended from the ceiling by their wrists with the Collector gloating over them.  But as soon as the Wasp's name comes up, Pym loses it and shoots up and out of his bounds.  Heck does a great job over the next several pages of really drawing Hank to scale.  I'm not sure he always nails it at 25-feet, but back in the day I certainly got the idea.

Doug:  Hank, now called Goliath, and the team face several travails -- a catapult, the Beetle, a couple of giants grown from Jack's beanstalk, and a gong (that's right....).  But in the end Earth's Mightiest Heroes win out.  I think Stan and Don do a really nifty job of showing that this version of the Avengers can be taken down by lesser foes, and their strength is in their teamwork and in their unity.  I will say, however, that "Maneuver Nine" forced me to suspend a little disbelief (but not the cape of levitation).  Once the team is in control of the situation, the Collector plays his last card.  If anyone steps forth, he'll crush the vial around his neck -- which contains the Wasp!  Quicksilver solves that problem, though, and the Collector orders the Beetle to stand by his side as he grabs a funky-looking vase and does the big fade-out.  Wanda launches a hex at the vial, releasing Jan (what a great power!  Need something blown up?  Falling from the ceiling?  A vial the size of a pencil eraser opened?  Wanda's your girl!), who grows to full size.  Right away Wanda notices that she isn't wearing a mask.  Hank encourages her to reveal her ID, too.  She does, and then tells Hank to shrink down and give her a smooch.  But -- remember that 15-minute limit?  Yep, exceeded that.  Hank begins to get all woozy and passes out -- at 10-feet!  Oh, the tension!  Certainly, to be continued!

Doug:  If you've not read my Hank Pym essay, intended for publication in Assembled! 3, you should check it out.  I detail my love affair with the Goliath character and on into Hank's switch to Yellowjacket.  I won't go on with any of that here.  But to close, I want to reiterate why I think this book is so cool -- teamwork, characters that aren't too powerful, an anything-goes villain, a damsel in distress, cool threads, and a cliffhanger ending that left a young boy wondering where he could find the next installment!  This is honestly a story I never tire of... and that's the true mark of any favorite book.


humanbelly said...

No question about it. Don Heck certainly earned his spot in the ranks of revered Avengers artists during this early era of the book. I think folks that aren't familiar with this deeper history tend to react with a "Don Heck?? Really???" response, and an eyebrow raised in disbelief. But his more realistic (than Kirby's) drawing style does a lot, I think, to help gloss over much of Stan's habitual improvisational script loopiness (god love 'im).

(Yes, Wanda taking the immense time to sew a just-in-case new costume for a long-departed & presumed missing member was a true howler the first time I read it-!)

The whole issue is a perfect example of that early, rough-around-the-edges, fast-paced, gritty, real & ragged Marvel Universe that we loved so very much (even if we came to it after the fact, by just a year or two-!).

Yeah, consistent scale for Goliath and other giants is always a problem. A very good panel that captures the 25' size is the one you show with him finally shooting up in the alley.


david_b said...

Yes, when you gather around a table and talk about genuine classics, this one may not be among anyone's 'top 10' (besides Doug's..), but it's what I call 'solid stories'. Well crafted, nice build, sturdy characters/dialog, nothing to fancy. just good story-telling.

A loyal 'kooky quartet' fan, I really liked how Heck drew everyone back then. I dare say this was Heck at his finest. I too loved how Cap was drawn with the lighter color, which the Mego figure seemed to emulate more than the current Cap series with Falcon..

Both Heck's drawing of Cap here, and against Power Man and Swordsman just a few issues before are most memorable and among my favorite depictions ever, on-par with the finest from Kirby and the Buscema brothers, which says a lot in my book.

The kooky quartet was a marvelous Stan Lee idea which I wished would have stayed around longer, and perhaps came back more often in the Bronze era with later heroes, but this was the best of times for our heroic team.

Edo Bosnar said...

Nice write-up, Doug. Your enthusiasm for a much-loved book really comes out here.
It also reminds me: someday, someway, somehow, I have to find a way to finally read that stretch of Avengers from about issue 5 and almost the entirety of the Kooky Quartet period. I started reading the reprints in MTA toward the end of Heck's run, as I only remember reading a few issues drawn by him from that period. And yes, Heck was really at the top of his game here - I've said it many times before, but he's a rather unfairly maligned comic-book artist.

Doug said...

Thanks very much, everyone, for your comments. Karen and I will of course continue not only the partner reviews and solo reviews, but we hope to bring in a little more passion to this new "favorites" feature. I believe she is going to lead-off her half of the debut with a fun Spidey story from Marvel Tales.

I think this will serve to enhance the blog a bit, as we'll dip into the Silver Age from time-to-time. Let's face it -- whether we read that material as reprints in the Bronze Age or perhaps actually had the material in its original form, it is seminal and I think for the majority of us an important piece of our comics-loving pie.

Bracketology polls will go up late tonight (my time), with the comments open in tomorrow's post.


dbutler16 said...

I, too, like the lighter blue on Cap’s uniform, and I also thought they were feathers for a very long time. Hey, he’s got wings on his head, so why not feathers?

I love the way Hawkeye gave Cap such a hard time, but then Cap earned his respect over time, to the point where Hawkeye was just about Cap’s biggest booster. That goes to show Cap’s leadership skills.

I’d always just thought the Collector’s deep set eyes were his real face. I’ve always liked the Collector, though my first experience with him is actually from the Korvac Saga.

I, too, love the blue & yellow color scheme. Actually, I think this costume might be what I most associate with Hank Pym, between an early Giant Size Avengers I had bought (one of my very first back issue purchases – what a thrill!) and a Treasury Size Avengers I had around that time.

I love the dramatic ending here, with Hank collapsing, stuck at 10 feet. I’m also in agreement with Doug on characters not being too powerful, in general, is more interesting, especially in a team book. Not to say that I want Thor kicked out of the Avengers, but you know what I mean.

humanbelly said...

I've always thought of that strange eye-style as "Cosmic Eyes", y'know? My buddy & I wondered about them for years, too. Silver Surfer has them, Mephisto has them, the Stranger usually has them-- what the heck is the idea behind their convention? They're clearly a rather cool shorthand for showing a powerful character to be much, much more than merely human. Where does the iris go? How do they see? What would those bold black outlines actually look like on a real person??


Rip Jagger said...

This costume for Goliath might well be my favorite all-time superhero look ever. The blue and yellow are uncommon enough to stand out and the whole look of the costume is sleek and modern. The goggles are outstanding.

Rip Off

Fred W. Hill said...

This was certainly a fun issue -- not only the return of Hank & Jan, but the revelation of their previously secret identities to the rest of the team! And it appears Cap didn't recognize either when they were out of costume, although I couldn't help thinking wouldn't Cap have recognized the voice (after all, Giant-Man wasn't always giant-sized when he & Cap were teammates in the past). Just another of those peculiarities of old comics.
This issue also marks the end of the Kookie Quartet era as Goliath and the Wasp rejoin the team and along with Hawkeye become the new lasting core of the team (even while Hank became Yellowjacket and Hawkeye took up the Goliath role) until Hank & Jan left with issue 74.

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