NOTE: This post was originally published on 17 October 2011.
Avengers 91 (August 1971)
"Take One Giant Step -- Backward!"
Roy Thomas-Sal Buscema/Buscema
Doug: If you recall the end of our previous issue, Janet had passed out in the battle against the now-possessed Goliath and Sentry-459. Fallen, she was discovered by a primal man -- her husband Yellowjacket! As we join the story this week, Ronan the Accuser gloats over various monitor screens as he rants to Captain Mar-Vell about his plan to de-evolve life on Earth.
Doug: It was Ronan's intent that ol' Caveman Hank would kill the Wasp, but instead he scoops her up and takes her away... for later. Elsewhere, the battle continues to rage as the Avengers fight for their lives against the two giants. Ronan gloats how the tower in the middle of the icecap will continue to melt the surroundings, revealing a primordial forest. But if Rick Jones has anything to say about, the big plan is going to be delayed! Rick throws a large rock at the Sentry's head, at the same instant Wanda surrounds the Sentry's noggin with a hex sphere. OK, stop it -- Sue Richards doing something like this, yes. Wanda? Lordy, but every time we review a story she's in we see her do something different. I guess that's why later they'd call her powers "chaos magic". While the Sentry is disoriented, Vizh moves on Clint. Poor ol' Goliath gets the intangible-slightly tangible system disruption from the Vision's hand. Pietro squawks about it, but marvels at the synthezoid's precision in not permanently damaging their Avenging teammate.
Karen: It was a little bold to show Caveman Hank hauling Jan off "for later." Wanda's ever-mysterious hex powers seemed to be the perfect deus ex machina for Thomas and every other writer who worked with the character. As comics fans became more insistent upon consistency and quantification of powers (look at the Marvel Universe Handbooks for an example of this), a heroine with such a poorly defined power became a real problem. We would see many attempts to define her and some would be contradictory. And once again -the Vision saves the day! This was getting ridiculous. I know Roy was proud of the character, but it's feeling a little too much like favoritism -the same thing we've accused Steve Englehart of with Mantis in prior reviews.
Doug: The Sentry is able to free himself very shortly thereafter; the Vision moves in quickly. But alas, the same trick that felled Clint Barton doesn't work on the android body of the Kree Sentry -- the backlash instead fells the Vision. Wanda goes next, zapped as she moved in to check on her friend. Quicksilver began to fall into histrionics; he found the better part of valor, however, and scooped up Rick to flee with the intent to regroup later. Ronan watches it on his monitors -- he also sees three scientists who were at the ice cap when these Kree arrived and were the first to fall under the effects of the de-evolution ray. The Sentry arrives with the unconscious Goliath, and we see Mar-Vell, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch bound. And then...
Karen: Here it comes - a scene that would change everything....
Doug: Vision and Wanda both awaken from their time in la-la land. Vision notes that Wanda, too, was captured. Wanda says that nothing matters, as long as the Vision wasn't harmed. And then -- in a scene very clumsily rendered -- Wanda's lips (more like wide-open mouth) move close to the Vision's. Vizh suddenly recoils, yelling that it cannot be, that he's an android. And Ronan busts out laughing, the very thought of an android and a mutant born of the atom together tickling his funny bone in a most sadistic way. And that's it. We move immediately to Jan and her caveman. Karen?
Karen: Well, some faint hints had been dropped here and there for a couple of years, but this scene made it very clear: these two were in love. I had asked Thomas via email a few years ago why he had let the budding romance sit unmentioned for months at a time, and he really didn't have an answer. But this was it, the tipping point. This sub-plot, the forbidden love, became a major one not only during the Kree-Skrull War but until Steve Englehart decided to have the two characters finally get together during his run immediately following Roy's.
Doug: Hank fights for Jan against the three former scientists. One has to wonder if there remains any of the former Yellowjacket within that thick skull, or if this Hank is merely acting on instinct in defense of his mate. At any rate, he pushes the attackers back. Back inside the citadel, Ronan continues to torment Mar-Vell, showing the Kree Captain how he will end life as we know it on Earth -- by de-evolving it the state of an amoeba. Mar-Vell slumps, seemingly defeated. Our next vignette is of Quicksilver and Rick Jones, who now attempt to breach the citadel. In a page from the Flash, Pietro takes a spear and tornadoes himself right through the wall of the fortress. Once inside, he becomes enough of a distraction that Rick is able to free Mar-Vell, who in turn frees the Avengers.
Karen: Don't those cavemen look a lot like Sal's Hulk? I just kept thinking of the Hulk whenever I saw them. Ronan comes across as particularly vicious, reveling in his sadism like an old silent movie villain. A bit over the top for today, but back then things were much more black and white -at least in comics. Pietro's stunt with the spear is impressive and really seems like something we'd see the Flash do. I never was clear on how fast Pietro was; of course years later they quantified his speed for the previously-mentioned Marvel handbook and I think his top running speed was listed as 175 mph, which seemed kind of low -certainly when compared to his DC counterpart, who could run at light-speed!
Doug: Rick's actions have weakened the fortress and it begins to come apart. Ronan and the Sentry move against our heroes, but suddenly an alert from afar permeates the room -- an SOS from the Kree galaxy is transmitted and received -- the Skrulls have attacked! Ronan leaves immediately. The Sentry, however, declares that he has no further programming, so must remain at his original post -- the now-crumbling citadel. The Avengers realize that this is going to end badly, and in a hurry. They hustle outside, to find that ice is reclaiming the jungle that had been supported by the citadel. Hank and Jan our there, Hank back to his normal self (as are the three scientists). Stranded, the team nonetheless manages to squeeze in a bombshell and some philosophy on the last couple of panels -- Hank quits the team (a routine we'll see over and over in the next several years), and Clint of all people vows that if enemies arise again, the Avengers will be there to confront them, with a prayer.
Karen: Although both androids, we see the difference here between the Sentry and the Vision - the Sentry is only a servant, a being in need of direction and not in charge of his own fate. The Vision is clearly more than that. Hank's abrupt declaration of resigning from the leotard set would last all of one issue -we see him again (albeit in a different costume) in issue 93. But the die is cast: a cosmic war has been declared. Did any reader really think the Avengers wouldn't become involved?
Doug: This seemed more like an ending than part three of a 9-part epic. Roy seemed to tie up some elements of the previous two issues, while dropping the "Vision loves Wanda" bomb, as well as the opening salvo of the Kree/Skrull War. So I'll be very interested as we head into the next installment. One more thing -- I thought Sal Buscema was pretty solid both this issue and last, inking his own pencils. In the comments section after we ran Avengers #89, I remarked that I thought Sam Grainger's inks were a bit heavy. There's none of that with Sal embellishing himself.
Karen: Sal did a very commendable job on these issues. It's solid work, although unfortunately it suffers some when compared to the later work of either his big brother John or Neal Adams.