Avengers #125 (July 1974)
"The Power of Babel!"
Writer: Steve Englehart
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Dave Cockrum
Doug: It's funny you should say that it's your least favorite, because I've been given some thought to this very cover, marketing-wise lately. As has been said, I've been using the The Avengers vs. Thanos tpb for my reading/scanning. Whoever put that together approved the cover of MTIO Annual #2 (coming to this very blog in July, kids) as the front cover, and put the image above on the back cover. Duh... I might also have chosen the cover to Captain Marvel #31, although Thanos isn't on it. But this one, if they were looking for some visual recognition in the general public, features Thanos, Thor, and Captain America. I just don't get why they didn't use this for the front. Oh well, water under the bridge... And I think the GCD lists all creators of a given cover, so I would imagine you are correct in assuming that Crespi did the lettering.
Karen: Our story begins with the wrap up of the Avengers' recent entanglement with Zodiac and Libra, and the efforts to discover Mantis' true origin. As Libra is escorted away by police, Captain America comes racing up on his motorcycle. Cap had been absent from the action with the Zodiac, as he was busy dealing with the Secret Empire in his own title (as Iron Man mentions). Shellhead congratulates Cap for vindicating himself of the charges against him, but Cap is not in a celebratory mood. Oddly enough, the Vision is the first to notice this! As Mantis heads off to the hospital to see the Swordsman, the rest go back into Avengers' Mansion, where Cap tells Iron Man and the Black Panther that he needs to talk. Iron Man says sure and then insensitively begins to sing Mantis' praises! A buzzer goes off and the trio sees that there's someone at the door, and she has an official Avengers entry pass - in fact, it belongs to Rick Jones, Cap's former partner, and now the partner of Captain Marvel. Cap reaches the girl just as she collapses and mutters about a trap being set for Rick. Her last words before she loses consciousness are "Thanos...Thanos..." which leaves Cap puzzled.
Doug: Buscema or Cockrum -- who do you see more? To me, at times, it's both. And the results of the amalgamation are really nice. I enjoyed the two Giant-Size issues that Dave Cockrum would pencil in the "Celestial Madonna" arc. As this predates his X-Men work, I'd say it was a nice way to cut his teeth on the Marvel side of things.
Doug: I loved the line-up in this issue -- Iron Man, Thor, Cap, Black Panther, Vision and the Scarlet Witch, and Mantis and the Swordsman. This was really a fun era for the team. I really need to get myself into Englehart's early issues and refresh on the first appearances of Mantis and the Swordsman as a couple. It's been way too long since I read those. You mentioned Iron Man and the Vision above. Doesn't Englehart have their characterization down perfectly? Tony Stark is so self-absorbed, he's unable to give Cap the shoulder he needs; yet the Vision, ever-perceptive and ever-analytical, was the one who noticed that Cap was not himself. Both vignettes are really short, but it's those nuggets that made Steve Englehart such a great pilot for these characters.
Karen: The battle rages on in space, and we see some of Thanos' ships crashing to Earth. Wait a minute -- weren't they fighting out near the sun? That's a long ways away from Earth! OK, OK, I'll let it go as artistic license. The Panther discovers an area of space that is completely pitch black -- there are no stars or anything else visible through it. He correctly surmises that there is some sort of force field hiding something there. He can't blast through it either. He calls the quinjet and quickly the team decides they have to investigate. The Vision takes the lead, and snaps at a brooding Swordsman to get his head into the game. The Swordsman then begins accusing the synthozoid of coveting his girlfriend, Mantis. The Vision coolly says he won't even dignify that with a response, but then Mantis has to jump in and ask if the Vision has praised her to the Swordsman, and this makes Wanda look like she's about to have a heart attack. All this soap opera in the middle of a cosmic saga!
Karen: He had a solid story arc.Eventually the four of them exit the ship (I bet Cap was happy to stay behind and pilot the quinjet) to investigate the black force field. They must have borrowed the Legion's trans-suits, because it looks like they are essentially in their costues and wearing fishbowl helmets. The Vision does mention 'plasti-garb' though. In any case, Wanda's hex power manages to weaken the force field enough for the foursome to enter. Once through, they see what it concealed -- a massive starship, dwarfing anything they had seen before! The Vision opens an airlock and they move inside, where they are
Doug: Just to show our readers that Karen and I are generally on the same wavelength, here is a line that I've cut from a paragraph above, immediately after I'd written about Thor in space with no protection: "I thought there was a nod to the Legion's transuits a bit later when the Vision remarked to his team about their plastigarb covering." Since I did the same thing a couple of weeks ago, forcing Karen to slightly amend a comment, I'll just paste that here! You see, whenever she frames the post, I just go paragraph by paragraph, adding in my two cents. I guess I should read ahead!
Doug: The Swordsman really cut loose -- I'm sure he was getting rid of some aggression directed at another person in the room, huh? I really liked the idea of the big ship serving as some sort of translation hub, but you nailed it when you likened the execution of the premise to the Batman show!
Doug: One could write off the scene with Thanos lurking in the shadows, if Jim Starlin ignored it in the "next issue". But since Englehart will replace Mike Friedrich as the wordsmith on Captain Marvel, the entire episode is referenced again. Agreed, it's just sort of strange. One again has to wonder why a villain in possession of the Cosmic Cube wouldn't just off all of his enemies with but a thought. It would be a short story, that's why. And a parting comment from me on the art team -- many Marvelites love to hate Mantis, but I thought she never looked better than in this very issue. That Buscema-Cockrum combination really nailed it in regard to her, especially facially.
Karen: While I loved the art on this issue, I thought the story was just middling. As a part of the Avengers series at the time, it offered up some more of the love quadrangle that was such a big deal, and there were a few nice action bits. But overall it was relatively tame compared to issues either before or after it. It had little impact on the overall Thanos-Cosmic Cube saga. But I would have loved to see more Buscema-Cockrum art, or even just Dave Cockrum on the Avengers!