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.