Thursday, December 6, 2012

Avengers 69 to 79 (10/69 to 8/70)

Old allies return.
Squadrons and Legions gather,
evil counterpoints.

Black Knight; Dane Whitman
Black Panther; T’Challa
Captain America; Steve Rogers
Goliath; Clint Barton
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Thor; Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Yellowjacket; Henry “Hank” Pym 

                The nature of the team continues to flow in this cycle of issues. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver return after a long hiatus, and Yellowjacket and Wasp take a leave of absence to keep the core membership at five. The Big Three rotate onto the team from time to time to deal with the big threats, but they don’t stay long. They’re busy with their own series. The only new blood is the Black Knight, but he is largely absent, as he has made his home in London. A weak overture is made at the Hulk rejoining the Avengers, but at this point, he barely remembers the team and his intelligence level is even lower than when he left.
                The team keeps it more casual as well. They have been calling each other by their civilian names for a while, but this seems to become more the norm. Ever since Clint’s first name was revealed, the team uses it often, perhaps to make it clear to readers that Goliath is not Hank Pym any longer? Following this pattern, the rest of the team is now bantering as Wanda, Jan, T’Challa, and an occasional Cap and Vizh. This continues to this day, as the team is more comfortable than ever with each other’s civilian identities. To be honest, I had to restrain myself from calling them by their civilian names when I started writing this blog since that’s how I see them more than their superhero code names.
                Some of the team are definitely professional Avengers without their own personal lives. We see Black Panther take a job as a schoolteacher because he wants to give to the community in his off time as well. This brings into contrast Goliath, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch, who don’t really have outside jobs or secret identities or fields of study to worry about and hang around the Mansion even when there isn’t a crisis. I’m giving Vision a pass since he’s artificial and really has no idea what to do with himself. These characters are a bit in contrast to the typical superhero story, where a secret identity and civilian life are par for the course. There are some other exceptions. The Legion of Super-Heroes from DC Comics mostly just hang around their 30th-century clubhouse, too. Of course these Avengers characters may just be victims to the fact that they don’t have their series to flesh them out yet.
                Goliath gets back some of his surliness after being dumped by Black Widow. He snaps at Scarlet Witch and mouths off some anti-female quips here and there. He also stays at his 10-foot size almost all the time, unlike Hank Pym. Whole issues go by where he does not revert to normal size. We learn later in issue 88 that size-changing does tire him out, which may account for this choice, but we see him with a jury-rigged gigantic crossbow to practice his archery, rather than shrinking down to normal size and using his old equipment. This also could be due be an artistic choice, since including a giant in the panels just adds some dynamic flair and makes him stand out from other characters.

Avengers Vol 1 69.jpg

 Avengers 69
Let the Game Begin
October, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger 

While visiting Tony Stark in the hospital, Wasp discovers a small doll. The doll was sent there by Kang, and it reveals itself to be the Growing Man, which grows to gigantic size. The Growing Man abducts Tony Stark to the future, and the Avengers follow it through the distortion in time. They discover Kang planned this to bring the Avengers to his future empire and also that the Black Panther has already arrived there. Kang has entered into an agreement with an alien being called the Grandmaster to play a cosmic game. Kang stands to win the power of life and death, which he would use to revive his love Ravonna, and he has chosen the Avengers as his champions. If the Grandmaster wins, Earth will be destroyed and will never have existed at all. The Avengers agree to help Kang only if the injured Tony Stark is sent back to the present. For the first stage of the game, Goliath, Thor, and Captain America are sent into a construct called a tri-sphere, where they encounter an enemy team called the Squadron Sinister. 

Goliath: “Sorry to let you down…Hank! Guess I got too big for my britches…but still too small to fill your old boots!”

Yellowjacket: “It was a valiant effort, Clint! I’ve never been prouder of the man who succeeded me as Giant-Man!” 

·         Tony Stark is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack in Iron Man (1968) 18. This is even after using the Avengers’ Ultra-Rejuvenator technology in that issue to heal him.
·         One of the S.H.I.E.L.D. guards guarding Tony Stark in the hospital is also named Tony.
·         The specialist brought in to help Stark is Dr. Jose Santini. He was previously seen in Fantastic Four trying to help cure the Thing and restore him to his form as Ben Grimm. He does help revive Tony Stark successfully after this adventure. For some reason, the villain the Thinker will also use the alias Jose Santini, but he does not seem to be the same person.
·         When the Growing Man is at a small size, a guard describes its small voice as like that of “a midget with the grippe.” The grippe is simply an older term for the flu.
·         The Growing Man is also known as a “stimuloid.” It had been used by Kang once before to battle Thor.
·         Clint begins to experience some dizziness from using his growth power, showing that this is a side-effect that affects everyone using Pym particles.
·         This is the first appearance of the Grandmaster.
·         This is the first appearance of the Squadron Sinister and its members Nighthawk, Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, and Whizzer, though its only their “astral images” in the last two panels.
·         This is only one of three occasions where the issue number is the same as the year of publication. This won’t happen again until Avengers (2010) 11 in 2011 and Avengers (2013) 13 in 2013.

Avengers Vol 1 70.jpg

Avengers 70
When Strikes the Squadron Sinister!
November, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger
Three Avengers are sent back to the 20th century to face their foes, The Squadron Sinister. To even the teams, the Iron Man of that era joins them. Images of four landmarks are revealed, and the contest is who can win one-on-one battles at those locations. Captain America defeats Nighthawk at the Statue of Liberty, Iron man beats Doctor Spectrum at the Taj Mahal, and Thor overcomes Hyperion at the Sphinx. The last skirmish is between Goliath and Whizzer. The Black Knight had relocated to England, and he interferes in the battle to help save Big Ben, knowing nothing about the contest or its stakes. Although Whizzer is defeated, this breaches the rules of the contest, and the four Avengers are taken back to the future, leaving the Black Knight puzzled in 20th-Century London.

Thor: “Thor doth say thee…nay! Nor shall Asgard-forged Mjolnir speak with my softer voice!!”
Hyperion: “I have heard all it has to say, immortal!”
Mjolnir: Wham!
Hyperion: “And it has left me unimpressed!” 

·         The Squadron Sinister were given their powers and abilities by the Grandmaster so they could serve as pawns. We find out later he based them on members of the heroic Squadron Supreme from a parallel Earth.
·         The Squadron’s members are clear parallels to a few of DC’s Justice League members, giving fans a little taste of what a meeting between the teams might be like. In 1971, DC did the opposite, creating a team of aliens called the Assemblers that resembled some of the Avengers characters.
·         Doctor Spectrum, a parallel to Green Lantern, was given a Power Prism to give him his abilities. It is much later revealed the prism is really an alien Skrull locked in the form of a crystal. This prism does talk to Doctor Spectrum out loud.
·         Whizzer on this Earth, a parallel to the Flash, is a chemist, James Sanders, who takes a pill to get his speed. He is unrelated to the Golden Age Whizzer, who this evil Whizzer mentions as being a comic book hero he is emulating. The elder Whizzer is a real hero from the forties that will later become an Avengers ally. Sanders will eventually change his name to Speed Demon and have a long career as a villain and, later, Thunderbolt.
·         Nighthawk is a counterpart to Batman. He will later reform and become a hero, serving a long time with the Defenders. Of all the Squadron Sinister, he is the only one whose alternate in the Squadron Supreme’s Earth is the same person, Kyle Richmond.
·         Hyperion, a parallel to Superman, relates his origin as being from an atom-sized world that was split in atomic tests. These memories are false and were given to him by the Grandmaster. Unlike his teammates, he was created from nonliving matter to serve in this scheme. He believes is an alien called Zhib-Ran. The real Zhib-Ran will not appear until New Thunderbolts 16 in 2006.
·         The contest is quite one-sided. For the Avengers to win, they must be victorious in all four battles.
·         Black Knight is seen relocating to England and another Whitman Castle there in Marvel Super-Heroes (1967) 17, which takes place before this issue.
·         The word “Mighty” is removed from the title on the cover, starting with this issue.
·         Thor defeats Hyperion by using Mjolnir to shrink him and capture him in a glass globe made from sand. Though these abilities seem highly random, Thor claims he must call upon Odin for these events to happen.

Avengers Vol 1 71.jpg

Avengers 71
December, 1969
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger 

Black Knight’s Ebony Blade was held by Goliath when he was transported to the future, so Black Knight goes to his castle and consults the spirit of his ancestor, the original Black Knight. The ghost shows him what has transpired through magic. Through a link between himself and the Ebony Blade, Dane Whitman is able to will himself through time and space to Kang’s headquarters and free the remaining Avengers in the future, who are trapped in stasis. Meanwhile the second stage of the contest involves sending Yellowjacket, Vision, and Black Panther to battle Captain America, the Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner in the Nazi-occupied France of World War II. The Avengers are able to win the battle, but this only gives Kang half of a victory after the spoiled first round. Grandmaster agrees to give Kang the power of either life or death temporarily, rather than both. Kang is about to choose life and revive Ravonna when the freed Avengers burst in on him. Faced with defeat, Kang chooses the power of death over the Avengers instead. As Kang’s foes lie helpless, the Black Knight, unaffected since he is not an Avengers member, strikes down Kang. The Grandmaster returns the team to its present, and the Black Knight is made an official member of the team. 

Kang: “Can any blame me if I would risk a planet’s history to see her draw another breath? Can any blame Kang the Conqueror…because he is also…a man..?” 

Grandmaster: “Think on Kang…and have pity! Because his heart held more hate than love…his hands are now empty!” 

·         According to this issue, Black Panther can speak six languages.
·         This is the first appearance of the World War II hero team the Invaders, but they do not actually use the name Invaders in the story. They would go on to have their own series in 1975. This is the first use of their battle cry, “Okay, Axis, here we come!”
·         When Vision battles the Human Torch, he is fighting himself in another time period, though Roy Thomas didn’t know it at the time.
·         The original Human Torch shown here will become an Avenger in the future, recently being part of the Secret Avengers team.
·         Black Knight says two of the future soldiers are not exactly Conan and John Carter. He’s referring to them as fictional characters, but in 1970 Marvel would start a Conan series written by Roy Thomas, and Conan would become part of the Marvel mainstream continuity.  John Carter adventures were also published by Marvel Comics, but they were not part of the Marvel Universe.
·         The forties Captain America is still using his original traditionally shaped shield, but he says he could really use a round shield for throwing.
·         At the end of both stages of the contest, the Wasp is not used by Kang, even though she was part of the team that went to the future. Kang does not even place her in stasis with her teammates.
·         The point of view of the Invaders characters of these events is explored in Invaders Annual 1, which isn’t published until 1977.

Avengers Vol 1 72.jpg
Avengers 72
Did You Hear the One About Scorpio?
January, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger 

Captain America has called an Avengers meeting because several city officials are missing. Rick Jones happens to come to the mansion at this time, and all are stunned by a message from SHIELD that Nick Fury has been killed. Rick relates how he came upon Scorpio in Nick Fury’s apartment and that Scorpio left behind a list of the same missing officials. Scorpio himself then appears on the monitor screen to taunt the Avengers before the screen explodes. When the team revives, they are trapped at a Zodiac hideout. The rest of the Zodiac join Scorpio, and Aries reveals that he is the true head of the organization and owner of the Zodiac Key, a weapon previously wielded by Scorpio. Yellowjacket manages to summon some ants that ruin the machinery restraining the Avengers, and a battle breaks out. Aries is poised to kill Captain America when Scorpio reveals himself to be Nick Fury in disguise. Despite the shift in numbers, Aries manages to daze all the Avengers and Fury with the powerful Zodiac Key. Rick Jones, forgotten in the melee, jostles Aries’ arm at the last moment, deflecting his fatal blast. With the Key low on power, the Zodiac makes their escape. Fury reveals that the whole plan was a ruse to flush out the rest of the Zodiac group.

Captain Marvel: “Poor Rick! He’s wanted all his life to be a superhero! And now he feels like little more than a spear-carrier!”

·         With this issue, letterers Art Simek and Sam Rosen have each lettered an even number of issues, 35 each.
·         Rick Jones’ last encounter with Captain America was in Captain America (1968) 115, when the mind of the Red Skull was in Captain America’s body. Rick still thinks that the real Cap treated him with contempt until this is explained to him here.
·         The meeting table’s chairs are shown to have emblems imprinted on them for each of the members. Black Knight does not seem to have one here, but he also doesn’t meet with the team in the United States.
·         For whatever reason, this issue had an extra page of story, or 21 pages.
·         Rick Jones was currently bonded with Captain Marvel, and their bodies would switch places. Rick tries to keep this a secret, so although the reader gets a clear retelling of past events, the Avengers are confused by his tale because of this omission. Despite the cover, the Avengers do not meet Captain Marvel in this issue.
·         This is the first appearance of Captain Marvel in Avengers. He would be made an honorary Avenger after his death.  The original Captain Marvel (Shazam!) was published by Fawcett Comics in 1940, but a lawsuit where DC Comics claimed that he was too similar to Superman meant they had to cease using that character. Marvel Comics introduced this character in 1967 and took over the trademark on the name. His code name comes from his Kree name and rank, Captain Mar-Vell. DC later bought the rights to the Fawcett Captain Marvel and have brought back that character, but they avoid using the title Captain Marvel for any series featuring him.
·         The Avengers are told that Nick Fury was killed by Bulls-Eye. This is not the more famous Daredevil villain Bullseye. He won’t be introduced until 1976. It’s just an assassin with a similar code name who was killed by S.H.I.E.L.D in a gunfight immediately in his first and last appearance.
·         This is the first appearance of the criminal organization Zodiac. They will change members and methods many times. Most recently, they appeared as powered thralls in the service of Thanos in Avengers Assemble (2012), not as a crime syndicate.
·         Well, mostly their first appearances. The “real” Scorpio and his Zodiac Key had appeared battling S.H.I.E.L.D. in previous adventures without his Zodiac cohorts.
·         Taurus’ identity is Cornelius Van Lunt, a crooked businessman who will appear again in issue 77. No connection will be made between him and Taurus until Avengers 121 in 1974 by a different writer.
·         Libra’s real name is Gustav Brandt. He is the father of future Avenger Mantis.
·         Captain Marvel can communicate with Rick telepathically. He offers to join in the battle against the Zodiac, but Rick wants to handle it himself.
·         The story title follows the question format for stories featuring Scorpio. The previous two Scorpio stories in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D (1968 ) were titled “Who is Scorpio?” and “What Ever Happened to Scorpio?” The next story featuring him in The Defenders (1972) will be “Who Remembers Scorpio?”

Avengers Vol 1 73.jpg

Avengers 73
The Sting of the Serpent
February, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Frank Giacoia and Sam Grainger 

Black Panther returns to the United States, where a new Sons of the Serpent group has been formed under a new leader. An African-American talk show host, Montague Hyde, is assaulted by the group. His sponsors don’t like the negative publicity, so he loses his show. He goes on another talk show hosted by the conservative white host Dan Dunn, where he becomes a frequent guest. Another guest is singer Monica Lynne. The Sons of the Serpent then target her, but they attack her near Avengers Mansion, and Black Panther intervenes. Lynne and Hyde go back on the Dan Dunn program, and their debate over race relations and violence begins to inflame the viewers. The Avengers are keen to find the Serpents, but Black Panther feels as an African man he would like a chance to handle it alone, so the team gives him 24 hours. He finds a Serpent member in costume, renders him unconscious, and takes his place. He manages to infiltrate the Serpents’ hidden submarine, but when he doesn’t know the pass phrase, he is revealed as the Black Panther in the enemy’s lair. 

Black Panther: “Don’t go on TV tomorrow…I’m asking as a soul brother!” 

·         This is the sixth issue in a row inked by Sam Grainger. He ties for the longest streak so far with George Bell and Frank Giacoia.
·         Since Art Simek letters this issue, he is one ahead of Sam Rosen.
·         This is the first appearance of Monica Lynne. She will be the love interest of Black Panther for many years after this meeting.
·         It is reinforced here that that the public at large does not know that Black Panther is an African man. He reveals that to Monica Lynne to persuade her not to go back on television, but it doesn’t sway her.
·         Goliath tells Yellowjacket to stop “playing Captain Video” when he spends a lot of time at the monitor. Captain Video and his Video Rangers was a science-fiction television program from 1951 to 1955.
·         The members of the Sons of the Serpent can be killed via remote control from their command center. The Supreme Serpent uses the device with little deliberation.

Avengers Vol 1 74.jpg

Avengers 74
Pursue the Panther!
March, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

The news reports that Black Panther has been committing petty crimes, even though we know he is a prisoner of the Sons of the Serpent. Don Dunn’s program continues to fan the flames of racial tension in the country with each broadcast. The Avengers spilt up to try to find Black Panther, and Wasp is lucky enough to come across a robbery by an obvious imposter. Even though it is not T’Challa, the imposter is skilled enough to evade capture from Wasp and the rest of the team with the help of a Sons of the Serpent aircraft. Monica Lynne finds the Avengers at their mansion and  alerts them that the Sons of the Serpent are breaking into television broadcasts and are planning to unmask the Black Panther on the air. The Avengers track them to an abandoned TV studio, but not before they unmask their own imposter as a black man. The Avengers free T’Challa, reveal that the imposter is actually a white man in a mask, and also unmask not one, but two Supreme Serpents, who are Montague Hale and Don Dunn working in concert. 

Man (regarding Vision): “He ain’t white…and he sure ain’t black! Whose side are you on, baby?” 

Fake Black Panther: “But, if you’re here to help Mr. Charlie there get back his marbles, then, lady you’re definitely in the wrong pew!” 

·         This is the first issue inked by Tom Palmer.  He would go on to ink about a hundred issues of the series, many along with John Buscema, until 1996.
·         A taxi in the background belongs to the Caliban Cab Company. Earlier in the series, Magneto likened Toad to Caliban, and Toad will appear in the next issue. Accidental foreshadowing?
·         The Sons of the Serpent say they will repel foreigners like the serpent repelled Adam and Eve from the garden. Perhaps that’s not the best role model.

Avengers Vol 1 75.jpg

Avengers 75
The Warlord and the Witch!
April, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

Quicksilver returns to the Mansion in search of the Avengers and is directed to the pier where they have wished Yellowjacket and Wasp farewell. He tells them how he, his sister, and Toad have been searching for a way to restore the powers of the Scarlet Witch. They had found a book hidden in an ancient library, and reading an incantation from it opened a portal which Arkon had come through. He overpowered the Mutants and kidnapped Scarlet Witch to be his bride as well as Toad. During the encounter, Arkon told Quicksilver how his world was suffering a crisis. His planet is surrounded by an energy ring that provides light to its people and crops, but the ring has been fading for 20 years. Their scientist discovered that atomic explosions in the dimension of Earth reenergize the energy ring for a short time, but they were disappointed that such explosions are rare. They were unable to travel here until the spell Scarlet Witch read activated a connection between the dimensions. Now that has happened, Arkon plans to unleash a massive atomic explosion to fully reenergize the rings. The Avengers are skeptical of Quicksilver’s story until a news report reveals that Arkon has kidnapped top atomic scientists from Earth in order to build him the bomb he needs.

Quicksilver: “Look! The stone rises in place, to reveal…a book! It throbs and glows in my hand…like a lethal living thing!” 

·         Since Sam Rosen lettered the last two issues, he has taken the lead 37 to 36 and will continue to keep the lead into the future. No, it’s not wrong to care about lettering.
·         Jarvis reveals he almost became a certified public accountant due to his mother’s wishes.
·         Narration affirms the Avengers Mansion is on 5th Avenue. The official address is 890 5th  Avenue, which in real life is bounded by Central Park and East 70th and 71ST Street. The “real” Avengers Mansion is the Henry Clay Frick House, an art museum.

·         Yellowjacket and Wasp leave for Alaska when Henry Pym is asked to investigate how new oil fields are affecting Alaskan wildlife. Bill Foster also goes with them.
·         Quicksilver appeared in Amazing Spider-Man (1963) 71 since his last appearance here. He attempted to help his image by capturing Spider-Man, but ended up befriending him instead. He still had his green costume then, but he has a new silver costume in this issue.
·         This is the first appearance of Arkon and his realm.
·         Arkon’s title is Imperion. There’s no real-world usage of this term. Their culture esteems battle above all else, so he won the title through conquest. The similar-sounding “archon” is a title of leadership in ancient Greece, meaning “ruler” or “lord” in Greek.
·         Starting with this issue, pages 12 and 13 of the story would only be half-pages. The top half of the page would be comic panels, and the bottom half would be advertisements. This dropped the page count of each story to 19 full pages.
·         By Arkon’s account, only a Mutant who read the words could bring him to Earth. This is supposed to be because of Mutants’ relationship to the atomic energy that caused their mutations.

Avengers Vol 1 76.jpg

Avengers 76
The Blaze of Battle…The Flames of Love!
May, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

Black Panther tries to use a D-Machine to breach the dimensional barrier to Arkon’s world, but his efforts fail. Scarlet Witch is still a prisoner, but she begins to be intrigued by Arkon despite his intentions. The atomic scientists that had been kidnapped have their knowledge extracted by technology, and Arkon’s scientist creates a powerful Atom-Sphere device. Thor and Iron Man arrive to help, and Thor’s hammer Mjolnir is able to transport the team to Arkon’s world. While they battle Arkon’s troops, Arkon returns to Earth with the Atom-Sphere and Scarlet Witch. Goliath, Black Panther, Quicksilver, and Vision follow him and delay him from setting off the device at the top of the Empire State Building. Iron Man works with the scientist to create an alternate means to reenergize the energy ring, so Arkon calls off the attack and returns home, leaving the Atom-Sphere in Thor’s hands. 

Quicksilver: “My sister’s life is in deadly danger!”
Vision: “If what you told us is true, Quicksilver…a cosmos is in danger…for, the one called Arkon means to destroy all Earth with a nuclear device! And you dare dwell on one lone life?”
Black Panther: “If you were human, Vision, you’d deal more kindly with Pietro! The life of one person close to you means far more than those of abstract millions!”

Vision: “You were once an Avenger, Pietro…though it shames us now to admit the fact!”
Black Panther: “He’ll be worthy of admission to our ranks again, Vision…when his humility matches the speed of his limbs!” 

·         Goliath keeps his archer skills sharp by training with a giant crossbow in the Mansion.
·         Black Widow appears to Goliath and breaks up with him. She says she cannot say the reason why, and she falsely tells him that she never loved him.
·         Scarlet Witch recites the Tennyson poem “Flower in the Crannied Wall” to Arkon. Arkon doesn’t really get poetry.
·         This issue features the first meeting of Vision and Scarlet Witch, who will later be married. Vision is not too concerned with her well-being before he meets her.
·         Despite the Avengers victory, Toad is left in Arkon’s world without an explanation here.
·         Arkon tells Scarlet Witch that passing through the “Great Barrier” between dimensions should have restored her powers. 

Incredible Hulk Vol 1 128.jpg

The Incredible Hulk 128
And in This Corner…The Avengers!
June, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Herb Trimpe 

The Hulk is smashing his way through underground tunnels and headed for the San Andreas Fault, so Thunderbolt Ross calls in the Avengers for aid. With the aid of Ross’ instruments, they pinpoint the area above the Hulk, and Vision sinks into the Earth to intercept him. He lures the Hulk to the surface to face the entire team. The plan is to position the hulk between two nodes of a Gammatron Bombarder to return him to his human form. The Avengers are unable to hurt the Hulk, but they do manipulate him to the designated spot. The ray bombardment is not as effective as expected, so the Hulk reflects the rays back, destroying the machine. Tired of combat, Hulk leaps away. Although the Avengers couldn’t capture him, they feel some accomplishment at stopping him from reaching the fault and feel some confidence about their new lineup. 

Goliath: “This man-mountain’s been waitin’ for a chance to wrestle ol’ Green-Skin for a long time now!” 

Hulk: “The Avengers! Hulk has heard that name before! But…don’t remember when…or where!” 

·         General Ross is a bit disappointed with the current lineup. He really wanted the help of Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.
·         The Avengers still hold out hope that they can convince Hulk to rejoin them.
·         This issue also features half-pages on pages 12 and 13, so it’s not just the Avengers that reduced its page count during this time.
·         Despite Arkon’s declaration, Scarlet Witch attempts to use her hex power and is unable to at first. By modifying her gestures, she creates a “hex sphere,” a globe that unpredictable events occur inside of.

Avengers Vol 1 77.jpg

Avengers 77
Heroes For Hire!
June, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

Tony Stark tells the team that he’s facing economic pressure from a rival, Cornelius Van Lunt, who is attempting a hostile takeover of Stark Industries, so he needs as much cash as he can get. He tells the team they need to pay their back rent, so they look for ways to make money. Individual members of the team have come across a string of robberies in the city perpetrated by the Split-Second Squad. They are civilian criminals run by a masked man called Kronus. Van Lunt offers to employ the Avengers and reveals he engineered the takeover attempt to put the Avengers in this situation where they needed to seek employment. He will also stop his takeover attempt if they agree to his terms. They do and undertake several demolition jobs for Van Lunt. The last task is to renovate a tunnel under the East River. This turns out to be a trap to kill the Avengers, and an explosion destroys the tunnel with them inside. The Split-Second Gang attempts a robbery due the Avengers’ deaths, but finds the Avengers had been suspicious all along and had planned an escape from the tunnel before the explosion. Despite the evidence that Van Lunt is Kronus, it turns out to be his assistant Wilkins, who had tried to frame Van Lunt while getting rich from the robberies. 

Goliath: “Dig Pietro! Back in the Avengers for two days, and already he’s makin’ with the leader-sounds!” 

·         This is the fourth issue in a row that retains the same writer, penciller, inker, and letterer for all the issues. So far, this is the longest streak of issues where the entire creative team remains the same.
·         The issue title “Heroes For Hire” precedes its first use by Luke Cage in 1972.
·         This appears to be the first appearance of Cornelius Van Lunt, but he actually appeared in his Taurus costume in Avengers 72 already.
·         Van Lunt translates from Dutch to mean “from a match” in English.  Lunt can refer to the spark used to start a fire or the smoke coming from a fire.
·         Black Panther tells the team how he has taken a job as a schoolteacher under his English name, Luke Charles. He discovers that the hero his African-American students look up to is the Falcon.
·         We discover that the 1970 rent on the mansion is $2,000 a month, and the team owes 60 months of back rent, or $120,000. In 2014 dollars, that translates to $12,270 a month and $736,178 total. This also implies the team has been active for five years.
·         Jarvis offers to serve without pay for the duration of the financial crisis.
·         Although Black Panther is wealthy, he states he is bound by honor not to use Wakandan money to help the Avengers pay their rent.
·         Because Wilkins is much smaller than Van Lunt, to impersonate him he must wear a padded bodysuit as well as a mask.
·         Despite the colorful names of the Split-Second Squad, such as Pecos, Joe the Gorilla, Cap’n Skragg, Sweet William, and Onionhead, they and the group are not seen again.
·         Black Panther tells how his “uncle” N’Baza sent him to college abroad. In a later issue, N’Baza is just the father of T’Challa’s friend, not a relation. His use of “uncle” here may just be seen as a title a younger man might use for a family friend of his parents.
·         The Scarlet Witch seems more comfortable using her power in this issue.

Avengers Vol 1 78.jpg

Avengers 78
The Man-Ape Always Strikes Twice!
July, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Tom Palmer 

A note summons Captain America to the mansion, but before he can enter, the Man-Ape attacks him. The rest of the Avengers intervene, but Man-Ape is still able to escape. The Avengers ponder why the target was Captain America, but in the meantime, Man-Ape kidnaps Monica Lynne. He sends the Avengers a message that Black Panther must come alone to battle Man-Ape one on one if they value Lynne’s safety. Black Panther arrives at Man-Ape’s aircraft and fights his way to Monica Lynne, but he discovers it is only a manikin, which promptly explodes. Man-Ape takes the unconscious Black Panther to an underground lair where the full plot Is revealed. Living Laser, Power Man, Swordsman, and Grim Reaper are also part of a team called the Lethal Legion, and they are hunting the Avengers as part of a contest. 

Captain America: “Maybe the Man-Ape had only one enemy before tonight..but now he’s got another one…and his initials are…Captain America!” 

·         We see that Monica Lynne has given up her singing career in favor of being a social worker.
·         Black Widow begins using a new look that resembles her modern one in Amazing Spider-Man 86 this month. No more skirt and stockings.
·         Man-Ape survived his last mishap with the aid of his servant N’Gamo and secret herbs that healed him.
·         Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s heads return to the corner box, and Yellowjacket and Wasp are removed.
·         The issue title is probably a take-off on The Postman Always Rings Twice, a 1934 novel that was also adapted for film in 1946 and 1981.
·         There would be several versions of the Lethal Legion over the years, but most of them battle one of the Avengers teams. The most recent one is still formed by the Grim Reaper.
·         The name Lethal Legion was coined by Stan Lee. Roy Thomas knew he wanted Legion in the team name, and the alliteration-loving Stan Lee suggested the “Lethal” adjective.

Avengers Vol 1 79.jpg

Avengers 79
Lo! The Lethal Legion!
August, 1970
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer 

Iron Man and Thor join the team for a meeting since Black Panther is missing. Vision goes to the school Black Panther teaches at to explain his absence. The Grim Reaper splits his Lethal Legionnaires up to three different spots near Black Panther. When left alone, Black Panther escapes and gets a message to the Avengers, warning them of the villains’ locations, but he is overcome by a lurking Grim Reaper, who allowed him to escape and send the message. Goliath and Scarlet Witch are defeated by Power Man and Swordsman, and Captain American and Quicksilver are overpowered by Man-Ape and Living Laser. The five captured Avengers are placed in an hourglass deathtrap. Grim Reaper notices Power Man’s absence, and we learn he went to Avengers Mansion to ransack the place. He rejoins the Legion with a knocked-out Vision, who is thrown into the deathtrap.  Grim Reaper looks over the Avengers’ files on their members. When he learns that the mind of Vision is based on that of the Grim Reaper’s brother, Wonder Man, he shatters the deathtrap to free the Vision. Suddenly we discover that the Vision is masquerading as Power Man, and the “Vision” placed in the trap was a knocked-out Power Man. The other Avengers were also feigning helplessness, and the reunited team defeats the Legion. Feeling that he is not truly human, a perturbed Vision announces he is leaving the Avengers. 

Grim Reaper: “What were you before I came, but four spiteful failures…gnashing your teeth and muttering of revenge on the superheroes who had defeated you?” 

Living Laser: “But, Reaper…I thought the Avengers killed your brother before most of these guys were even dues-paying members!”
Grim Reaper: “That doesn’t matter, Laser! It’s enough that they are Avengers!” 

·         Vision disguises himself with a mask and clothes to appear as a normal man. This is his first use of a secret identity. He will later call himself Victor Shade when in this disguise. Unfortunately his artificial voice and mannerisms stand out easily.
·         We see that Black Panther teaches at Andrew Jackson High School. In 1970, a high school by that name in Queens, New York, was found to have a heroin-processing factory in its basement. So far, Black Panther’s school is only said to be “in the ghetto.” The real high school is no longer open.
·         On the cover, Grim Reaper has a normal right hand rather than the scythe device he wears. At this point, the scythe can be removed, but in the future, that hand will be amputated.
·         We discover another Avengers code phrase, “Prometheus priority.” This means the speaker suspects or knows that a trap for the team is imminent.
·         Goliath again quips, “I’m from Missouri!” But this time, he follows it up with, “Show me!!” so it’s a little clearer what he means this time.
·         Although Thor and Iron Man show up to aid the team, they end up not playing a factor since they go on a wild-goose chase.

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