NOTE: This post was originally published on 1 November 2011.
Avengers #93 (November 1971)
"This Beachhead Earth!"
Roy Thomas-Neal Adams/Tom Palmer
Doug: Big changes are afoot in this installment, effendi! Not only do the Skrulls make their entrance, but the art takes a drastic turn with the takeover by the stylistic Neal Adams and Tom Palmer. And for those who take note of such things, this issue also marks the beginning of the "framed" cover period at Marvel.
Karen: Well, I never liked those "framed" covers -I always felt like too much art was lost. But unlike some of our BABsters, I really enjoy Neal Adams' artwork on our mighty Avengers. I think he and Tom Palmer did a fantastic job, giving this epic story a sense of grandeur it deserved.
Doug: I don't know that I necessarily like the framed covers as much as I like the fact that they represent an era in comics production, sort of like the go-go checks on DC's in the late 1960's, the "Still only 25c" call-outs on the tops of Marvels, etc. And we'll discuss Mr. Adams as we go through today's post, but count me among those in his adoration-club.
Doug: Today's book is really divided into two major parts. The introduction gives us the not-so-famous (because the line was never actually uttered) "three cows shot me down" splash page whereby the Vision stumbles into Avengers Mansion. Now if that seems somewhat confusing, given the fact that he, Quicksilver, Goliath, and the Scarlet Witch were seemingly fired by the Founders at the end of last issue, then hang in there. All will be made clear soon. As the Vision staggers, he mutters for help, then collapses. As Iron Man moves over to investigate, he reports that there is no pulse, nor breathing. Cap wonders aloud if that's normal -- after all, as an android the Vision perhaps shouldn't operate as a human would. I was struck here by the ignorance of the Founders in regard to the Vision -- but then, had they spent any real lengthy time with or around him since Avengers #57?
Karen: Very true, the Big Three at this point really didn't know the Vision all that well.
Doug: Suddenly our heroes are jolted by a voice -- one they don't seem to recognize. But upon further review, they determine that it belongs to one Dr. Henry Pym -- but on the scene as Ant-Man! His claim is that Iron Man had called a meeting of the original team. As Pym had founded the team in his Ant-Man guise, that's how he showed up. But seriously -- what did you think of that? While it's immediately obvious (as we get to the next part of the plot) what Neal Adams was going for visually, this came out of left field. By the way, Pym's entrance here will be replayed in part 1 of the "Bride of Ultron" saga much later.
Karen: Pym changed identities so often I didn't even give it any thought. Would it have made more sense for Yellowjacket to show up? Sure. We already knew his size-changing was having an effect on his health. So yeah, it might not seem to make sense but I don't feel it detracts too much from the story. Of course, it's actually essential for the plot that he be ant-sized, so even if he showed up as YJ, he'd have to shrink down anyway.
Doug: I suppose the answer could be as simple as Adams didn't want to draw Yellowjacket. Funny that only a few issues later, in the 100th anniversary edition, that there would be another call-out for the founding Avengers (along with everyone else).
Doug: The first major part of the book is Roy's and Neal's homage to the film "Fantastic Voyage", as Hank offers to enter the Vision's comatose (or dead) body to find out just what's ailing him. What follows is a 13-page romp through the various systems and component parts of the Vision. It's entertaining, although at times Roy's words are a bit over-the-top. I didn't agree completely with Adams' interpretation -- although at this time we didn't yet know that the Vision was a re-worked version of the Original Human Torch, Adams has said that was his intent (and left a few clues in this very tale). Of note is some sort of brace on the Vision's uvula... That being said, I just didn't go for some of the explanations of the way the Vision's body/systems worked. Yes, I know he was "improved" by Ultron-1, but it still seemed a bit off. The artwork here was beautiful, though -- much of that credit goes to Tom Palmer, who really enhanced Adams' pencils through the use of zipatone.
Karen: The vats of spheres that allowed Vizh to change density or mass were an interesting idea. I suppose they would flood through his entire body when he wanted to change? His insides looked more like a factory than a body. It seemed a bit contradictory at times -we know he has a heart but where was it? He has analogs to most human organs -a tongue, nasal passages, a brain -but the scene in the chest is completely different. Regardless of this, I still felt it all worked. There was a real sense of drama as Pym fought to make his way to the brain. Curious that Roy felt the need to have Pym declare his love of E.C. Comics though. Not sure where that came from, but these issues are filled to the brim with all sorts of references.
Doug: As the first chapter concludes, Ant-Man takes off just before the Vision awakens. As Vizh arises from the slab, it's a particularly powerful panel. He is dark and moody, and I believe for the first time his word balloons are fully-squared as we'd come to know them in the later 1970's. He's up, and he's not happy. He takes it right to the Founders, ridiculing them for their callous expulsion of the current team in the previous issue. Thor is the first to speak, and is incredulous at the accusation. Iron Man adds to the mystery by showing a letter from Jarvis -- his resignation. So the four begin to compare notes, and Vizh relates what happened after they were "fired".
Karen: This was good stuff, properly heavy and well-portrayed. I've been using the TPB for this review and I note that the coloring of Vision's head piece is yellow and not green. Looking at the original comic though, I see the mistake was made there first!
Doug: The erstwhile Avengers hopped in a car and headed north from the city, toward the farm where Carol Danvers had told Mar-Vell to go. Once there, the team had to hop a fence to get toward the farmhouse -- Clint took the lead and quickly separated himself from the other three heroes. Vision offered Wanda assistance, to which Pietro immediately lashed out. Shades of things to come. So the Vision lifted, and was almost immediately blasted from the sky, screaming. He fell in the midst of three cows. Wanda and Pietro hurried to his side, and as they did the cattle transformed into, of all things, the Fantastic Four! The FF attacked mercilessly, but with strange powers, as Ben stretched his arm to strike down Quicksilver! The Vision, still stunned, sunk beneath the earth's surface and lay in wait until their attackers had departed -- the baddies exited with Wanda and Pietro. When the coast was clear, the Vision had levitated his damaged body, and floated toward Avengers Mansion.
Karen: Pietro's reaction towards the Vision is thought by the android to be due to the sense of paranoia they are experiencing, but surely Thomas by this point had already figured out that the speedster would be on to his sister's feelings towards the Vision. I thought it was pretty cool the way Adams depicted the Vision's inert body floating back slowly to Avengers Mansion. What a sight that would be.
Doug: Creee-py. As we head into the concluding chapter, we find Mar-Vell imprisoned by three Skrulls, with Carol Danvers in the room, also a captive. The Skrulls spy Goliath approaching, and soon the FF is on the move toward him. Of course by now we know that the doppelgangers are Skrulls as well, and they make no effort to hide it -- their speech patterns alone give it away. Our pal Rick Jones is along with Clint, and he's the one who deduces that all ain't quite right. He's captured, and as he challenges "Mr. Fantastic", the secret is revealed. We then get a very brief recap of the conclusion of FF #2, and are told that a Skrull Hyperbeam revived the "cows". And it's about this time that the cavalry arrives -- in the form of Cap, Vizh, Iron Man, and Thor!
Karen: Isn't it great how this ties all the way back to FF #2? Roy's ingenuity with incorporating past elements into stories is among the best. The Skrulls' appearance seems almost to change from panel to panel -a mistake, or a comment on their fluid nature?
Doug: I don't know. One thing I was aware of throughout the book was the general size of the Skrulls. As I recall, Kirby had drawn them much smaller -- "little green men", if you will. Here they were large, muscular, and threatening. Maybe intergalactic war brings that out in people?
Doug: Mar-Vell works against his shackles, attempting to ignite the uni-beam on his wrist. By rubbing it against the metal encasing his arms, he's able to do just that -- he bounces it off some reflective surfaces in the room and is able to re-direct it back toward himself. Freeing himself, he then sets Carol loose. Mar-Vell then sets about the creation of an omni-wave projector in order to contact the Kree across hyperspace. He tells Carol that the omni-wave is not only a super-radio, but is potentially a powerful weapon -- one the Skrulls would love to have. So begins a series of split pages, with Mar-Vell doing his thing on the top, while we see the Avengers battle the fake FF on the bottom. I have to interject here that I really don't care for Adams' rendition of the FF, and particularly not for his version of the Thing. But as Mar-Vell is about to finish the projector, he suddenly destroys it! Carol is astounded, but then cryptically says "you know". Yep -- she was a Skrull who slipped up and called the Captain by his real name, when we're told that only the Avengers knew that. And Carol -- she is in fact the Super Skrull!
Karen: What did you think of the split pages as a story-telling device? On one hand, it was a bit annoying, yet I can't deny that it built tension. I agree with you completely regarding Adams' FF -they just don't look right. Not every artist is suited to all characters. How about the coloring when Mar-Vell is constructing the omni-wave? I thought that green really gave the art a sense of something strange going on.
Doug: I was reading from the trade paperback, as well. I was sometimes confused by Adams panel lay-outs, particularly when he moved across the top and bottom halves of a page. The coloring on this particular lay-out made it obvious. I didn't particularly care for this portion of the story -- the way it was handled, I mean. But I want to make a general comment about the coloring. I think when Neal Adams arrived on the scene, comic book pictures became "art". By that, I mean more attention to detail was paid to lay-outs, coloring, etc. Where the four-color page had once been flat, now it leapt off the page. And a clarification -- by "flat", I don't mean the effort or action was flat. No way -- Kirby, John Buscema, DC's own masters -- no. I mean there was just a new visual dynamism from Adams and his subsequent imitators.
Doug: The Super Skrull takes down Captain Marvel at about the same time the Avengers defeat the Skrulls outside. Having what he needs, the Super Skrull reveals that the farmhouse is actually a cloak for a Skrull spaceship! As it begins to launch, Clint grows to his maximum height and attempts to pull the ship down. He's almost successful, but as fate would have it, the Pym growth serum wears off and Clint falls away. Thor saves him, but it's a defeated crew of Avengers who are left on Earth -- minus their ally Captain Marvel and two of their teammates!
Karen: One of my favorite panels of all time is that big shot from below of Goliath pounding on the Skrull UFO. That has such a feel of power and excitement. The ending left you wondering how our heroes would recover -and hey, what happened to the Vision?