Thursday, July 4, 2013

Avengers 137 to 140

Avengers 137 to 140

New members are sought.
Enter space-born beauty, Beast,
and pair of founders.

Hawkeye; Clint Barton
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Moondragon; Heather Douglas
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Thor; Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Yellowjacket; Henry "Hank" Pym
Featured Allies:
Beast; Henry "Hank" McCoy
Patsy Walker
On video only:
Black Panther: T'Challa
Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff
Captain America; Steve Rogers
Quicksilver; Pietro Maximoff

     With the focus taken off Mantis and Vision, Englehart set about bringing in some new characters to mix things up. He brought in Beast, the character he had started writing before Avengers, as well as some of the locations and supporting characters from that series, including Patsy Walker, who would soon become Hellcat. He also began to feature the "runner-up" in the Celestial Madonna contest, Moondragon, whom Englehart had brought in from Captain Marvel (1968). The Marvel Universe continued to show how inextricably linked all its books were, as you never knew where stories and characters that had been abandoned would end up.
     Beast brought in his fun-loving, gregarious character to lighten the mood and would stay with the team off and on for the rest of its history. He has been on the Secret Avengers team as recently as 2013. He was not the only ex-X-Man to find a new home. Both Iceman and Angel would join another team of heroes, the Champions. At this time, the X-Men (1963) series had been only printing reprints for some time, and when the X-Men series was finally revamped, these three heroes would find new homes elsewhere. The X-Men managed to become an incredibly popular series without them, though. Beast will have to share many adventures with the Avengers before he's actually made a member, however.
    Moondragon was far from fun-loving. She brought a more dour demeanour to the team, though her mental powers were certainly formidable and helpful. As the new single lady on the team, she had to weather her share of comments about her great, if unconventional, beauty, but she was at worst uninterested or at best just unsure of human customs and never fell into the role of romantic interest. She only viewed Thor as being her equal and would soon lead to him doubting his place on a team of heroes who she deemed "beneath" them both in power and worthiness. Unlike Beast, Moondragon did not mix well with the Avengers, and her visit would be relatively short. Once the 1980s roll around, Moondragon will find herself again on a team with Beast (and the aforementioned Iceman and Angel) when they are all in the Defenders (1972) series.
     There was also a bit of a classic taste to these issues, as Wasp and Yellowjacket came back to the team, mostly because of Wasp wanting to get back into the superhero life. Yellowjacket tagged along, even though he continued to show some anger issues. Both heroes unfortunately end up sidelined by injury almost immediately on rejoining the team and will miss out on the next cycle of stories.

Avengers Vol 1 137
Avengers 137
We Do Seek Out Avengers!!
July, 1975
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Lettered by Charlotte Jetter
Colored by Phil Rachelson
Most of the the team return to New York from Vietnam, but the Vision and Scarlet Witch have stayed in the South Pacific for a honeymoon. Feeling shorthanded with only three members in residence, Thor proposes they look for more members. Iron Man nominates Moondragon for membership, and she is accepted onto the team. Many of the inactive members are contacted and refuse to join, but Wasp and Yellowjacket return. Hawkeye decides he will seek out the Black Knight in the 12th century, and he strikes out alone to use Dr. Doom's Time Platform in order to do so. A televised recruitment drive brings out only one potential new hero at Yankee Stadium, the former X-Man Beast. Before the Avengers can administer their own test, floating mines fill the air in the stadium. A voice from the shadows warns that one out of every five mines is primed to explode unless a disarming lever is pulled in the next six minutes. Thor and Beast recognize the voice as that of an alien menace, the Stranger. Thor, Iron Man and Wasp attempt to fly through the mines, but they fail and are knocked out by the explosions. Moondragon mentally paralyzes Yellowjacket before he can make an attempt and injure himself. Beast uses his superhuman agility to navigate the mines and throws the switch. Upset that no one was killed, the Stranger appears and attacks the Avengers himself, but Moondragon's mental attack on him makes him flee the scene.
Agatha Harkness: "...your Wanda will never be a great witch, much less a sorceress--but she will be very good!"
Yellowjacket: "Jan and I are a team. We're not together all the time, certainly, but I wouldn't want to be apart from her for any great while!"
  • Despite Beast's comment on the cover about being an Avenger, he is not a member of the team yet.
  • The star that heralded the coming of the Celestial Madonna is still in the sky. Apparently it also figures into a story line in Captain Marvel 38 and 39.
  • The decision to reprint an old Beast adventure in issue 136 helped introduce him to readers of this issue, but he still retells his story to the Avengers.
  • Vision and Scarlet Witch are off on their honeymoon in Rurutu. It's the same island on which they battled the Silver Surfer in Avengers 116.
  • Agatha Harkness moves out of the mansion after her return from Vietnam.
  • The former team members who turn down membership are Black Panther, Quicksilver, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hercules.
  • Since his departure from the team, Yellowjacket spent some time as a Defenders member. His last issue with that team was Defenders 25.
  • Yellowjacket announces he has a new weapon, a cellular disruptor gun which paralyzes living tissue. Later in the issue, Moondragon paralyzes him with her mental powers.
  • Yellowjacket's size-changing drama continues. He cannot shrink without risk of staying permanently at ant size because the microbe that had caused a similar condition previously is still in his blood.
  • Yankee Stadium is deserted because of construction. In real life, it was closed between 1973 and 1975 for renovations, and the Yankees played at Shea Stadium during that time.
  • Thor tells Beast they do not need to know members' secret identities for people to join the team.
  • While inactive as a hero, Beast spent his time reading books by Carlos Castaneda and listened to Stevie Wonder.
  • This is the Stranger's first mention in Avengers, but both Thor and Beast are familiar with him from his appearances in Thor (1966) and X-Men (1963).
  • This month features the first appearance of future Avenger Justice in Giant-Size Defenders 5. He is still a boy and has no powers yet, so he appears as civilian Vance Astrovik.
Avengers Vol 1 138
Avengers 138
Stranger in a Strange Man!
August, 1975
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Lettered by Charlotte Jetter
Colored by George Roussos
Wasp is in the hospital from her injuries, and the Avengers vow to go after the Stranger. They are assaulted by a mind blast while they are planning, and they see the face of the Scarlet Witch in their minds. Reasoning that the Stranger is after her location, they decide to lay a false trail. Thor and Moondragon fly to a deserted island to await the Stranger's next move while the rest of the team stays behind to monitor for the source of his attacks. Mental images of the Stranger do attack Thor and Moondragon, but the images are easily overcome. The other group triangulates on the energy trail, and it leads up into the Earth's atmosphere. Beast, Yellowjacket, and Iron Man find a starship and enter it to seek the Stranger. They are separated by a trap, and Beast finds himself alone and pursued by the Stranger. Taking advantage of a moment out of sight, Beast jury-rigs a disguise as actor Edward G. Robinson, which surprises the so-called Stranger and causes him to drop his mental disguise. It is revealed that the person assaulting them is really Toad, who had used the real Stranger's machines to camoflauge himself in the likeness of the Stranger. After being restrained by the Avengers, Toad recounts how he had built his own spaceship after being left behind in Arkon's realm and traveled to the Stranger's planet, which had visited once before with Magneto. Toad mastered some of the technology and planned to return to Earth and ask the Scarlet Witch to marry him, but he was enraged on discovering she had already been married during his absense.

Vision: "Beautiful night, eh, darling!"
Scarlet Witch: "I've never felt such peace, never!"
  • The issue title is likely a play on the Robert Heinlein novel Stranger in a Strange Land, but you might grok a different meaning. In 2012, that novel was named one of the 88 "Books that Shaped America" by the Library of Congress.
  • Somehow, five Avengers and a cabdriver make the drive to Avengers Mansion in one cab.
  • The team is worried Hawkeye is taking too long to time travel. After all, you should be able to return home right after you left.
  • This is newsman Sam Reuther's first Avengers appearance, but he had appeared before in Captain America (1968). He works for CBS news.
  • Toad's mental attacks do not reveal Scarlet Witch's location since none of the team knows where she went on her honeymoon with Vision.
  • Beast quips, "You betchum, Red Ryder." He's referring to a Western comic strip, "Red Ryder" that ended in 1964 and spawned a radio show and many movies. He's probably mimicking Red Ryder's young Indian sidekick Little Beaver.
  • Thor busts on Iron Man by saying he can't be trusted to team up alone with Moondragon because of Tony Stark's known fondness for the ladies. He affirms later it was just good-natured banter.
  • Yellowjacket refers back to the events of Avengers 14, when Wasp was also fighting for her life in a hospital.
  • Beast calls the Stranger "Cesar Romero." Must be the mustache.
  • Toad was last seen in Avengers 76. It's just a coincidence that a former X-Men villain came back when a former X-man entered the series, right?
  • Beast, wearing simply blue trunks, is able to disguise himself fully as Edward G. Robinson in a full coat and outfit in a matter of seconds. Although he has stated he now has great facility with makeup, this strains belief. We have to assume he found the technology Toad was using to project images and was able to figure out its use in seconds with his often-overlooked intellect.
  • One of the films that Edward G. Robinson starred in was called The Stranger. Maybe that's why Beast chose his likeness.
  • There are multiple "Strangers" in the issue. Englehart will later create the Strangers comic book for the Ultraverse.
  • Yellowjacket risks using his power by shrinking down to just under four feet tall to evade some laser beams. He starts to feel ill effects from doing so at the end of the issue, but no one else notices.
  • There is another letter from future Eclipse Comics founder Dean Mullaney in this issue.
  • Another letter writer, Bob Rodi, will later become a writer for Marvel as Robert Rodi, writing some Thor and Loki adventures, among others.
  • This month features the debut of another future Avenger. Moon Knight has his first appearance in Werewolf By Night (1972) 32.

Avengers Vol 1 139

Avengers 139
Prescription: Violence!
September, 1975
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Lettered by Irving Watanabe
Colored by Phil Rachelson

Wasp is still injured from the explosion at Yankee Stadium and is recovering in the hospital. Her old foe Whirlwind attacks her there, but the Avengers defend her. His speed cannot get around Moondragon's mental powers, so he flees. Yellowjacket is still feeling pain from his shrinking, but he hides it from the team and leaves the hospital in a rage. He passes Whirlwind in his disguise as Charles, their old chaffeur, but Yellowjacket dismisses him. Whirlwind tries to attack again, but finds Beast and Thor are still there, so he decides to attack Yellowjacket instead. He goes to Yellowjacket's home and attacks, but when Yellowjacket brandishes the cellular disruptor, Whirlwind flees again. Realizing that Whirlwind should not be familiar with this brand-new weapon, he figures out that Whirlwind is also Charles and lays in wait for him at Charles' car. Yellowjacket forgets about his personal safety and uses his growing and shrinking powers to the fullest to battle Whirlwind. He is close to victory when he is overtaken by pain and left vulnerable to attack. Beast arrives at the last moment and fells Whirlwind with a final blow, leaving Yellowjacket to wonder how he will be affected by the wanton use of his powers.
Iron Man, regarding the surly Yellowjacket: "To think he helped found the Avengers!"
Whirlwind, on his chauffer cover being blown: "Someday, the light had to dawn--but I never would've supposed it would take the light years! You really are a fool, Ph.D.--"
  • This is Irving Watanabe's first Avengers lettering job.
  • The cover promises "Prescription: Death," but the issue's title downgrades that to "Violence." That's why you get a second opinion.
  • The Avengers, as a long shot, bring Toad to Wasp's bedside to help with her condition, but he is unable to do anything.
  • Even though Whirlwind is one of Yellowjacket's arch-villains, Whirlwind pokes fun that he can't keep up with Pym's name changes and calls him "Yellow-Giant" and "Yellowback."
  • Whirlwind only attacks Yellowjacket and Wasp because they came out of retirement from superheroics. He thinks to himself that if they stayed retired, he would probably leave them alone.
  • Whirlwind attempts to use his chauffer cover again, even though the Pyms fired him in Marvel Feature (1971) 9 without knowing he was Whirlwind.
  • This issue features the first appearance of Patsy Walker in Avengers. She will later be the Avenger Hellcat. Well, we see her hands and feet, anyhow. Patsy was the subject of several romance comics in the 1940s, like Miss America Magazine and Patsy Walker. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had her appear as a guest at the wedding of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman in 1965. Steve Englehart later wrote her in as a supporting character in Beast's stories in Amazing Adventures (1970). Her romance stories were later explained as fictional stories that used her as a basis. Patsy's Walker's mother in the Marvel Universe was a comic book writer that wrote them.
  • Iron Man and Moondragon go to Doctor Doom's castle to track Hawkeye, and they find that the Time Platform is missing.
  • In an unguarded moment, Whirlwind sings a lyric from They Call the Wind Mariah, though he uses the alternate name "Maria." His enemy, Hank Pym's, deceased first wife was named Maria, so perhaps that's why he liked that alternate. This song is from the Lerner and Lowe musical Paint Your Wagon, which was made into a 1969 film that starred Lee Marvin and a young Clint Eastwood singing! Singing is rare in Avengers, but here's an instance.
  • Beast drops a quote from a Superman newspaper strip from 1943, hinting that DC characters exist as works of fiction in the Marvel Universe.
  • The last narration caption notes that only seven minutes will pass between the end of this issue and the next.
  • The letters page features more letters from Dean Mullaney and Peter Sanderson.
  • This issue has a notice about the death of letterer Art Simek. Including specials, he had lettered 44 issues of Avengers comics, making him the second-most prolific letterer thus far on the series.
 Avengers Vol 1 140
Avengers 140
A Journey to the Center of the Ant
October, 1975
Written by Steve Englehart
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Lettered by Charlotte Jetter
Colored by Petra Goldberg

Seven minutes after his battle with Whirlwind, Yellowjacket is overcome with pain and collapses. While unconscious, his body starts to increase in size. Beast thinks that an experimental anti-mutation formula he created in the past may help Yellowjacket's condition, but it is stored at the Brand Corporation, the company Beast had been fired from in his secret identity of Henry McCoy. The Vision and Scarlet Witch decide to return from their honeymoon and come across Yellowjacket growing uncontrollably in the street. Scarlet Witch uses her magic to slow the process but can do no more. After battling through guards at Brand Corporation, Beast secures the formula and returns, but he needs to research the microbe in Yellowjacket's blood in order to tailor an antidote to combat it. Thor becomes Don Blake and, as a respected physician, vouches for Beast and gets the hospital's cooperation. After five hours of research, Beast finds a cure, and the comatoseYellowjacket has grown to 150 feet. The antidote must be delivered directly to Yellowjacket's heart, so Vision places the liquid into his cape and lowers his density enough to enter the body himself. He reaches the heart and releases the liquid. Both Yellowjacket and Wasp recover from their respective maladies.
Thor: "This man doth live his every moment for yon woman, Doctor! He hath done that which she would have desired...and if 'tis decreed they are both to suffer for 't, then 'twill be together now as always!"
Beast: "Now look, guard--I'm an Avenger--or rather I'm trying out to be--"
Guard: "Yeah, sure! An' I'm tryin' out for Peter Pan in the company play!"
  • This issue sees a new editor for the series, Marv Wolfman. After a few story credits for DC Comics, notably on Teen Titans (1966), he got a job at Marvel to edit their black-and-white line of comics before now heading up the color division.
  • Previous editor Len Wein held the Editor-in-Chief position for only about eight months. He became overwhelmed by the reponsibility of 54 titles a month and handling business conflicts and chose to step down, similar to the way Roy Thomas did. He went on to write several Marvel books instead, including Thor (1966) and Incredible Hulk (1962).
  • Iron Man and Moondragon appear only briefly in this issue. The Time Platform they were looking for suddenly appears with blood on it. We will find out later that Kang sent the machine back to the castle in order to trap them.
  • Beast mentions a Captain Baxter while breaking into Brand Corporation. Robert "Buzz" Baxter is Patsy Walker's ex-husband as well as the head of Brand's security. He'll appear next issue.
  • Dr. Rich Horrigan, the doctor in charge of Wasp's treatment, turns out to be an old classmate of Don Blake, Thor's secret identity.
  • Beast exclaims, "Holy Hannibal, Missouri!" I assume he chose that town since it was the birthplace of Mark Twain.
  • Vision entering Yellowjacket's body is a reversal of the events in Avengers 93, when Ant-Man had to shrink down and enter Vision's body to repair him. Vision mentions this turnabout himself in this issue.
  • This month sees the premiere of the Champions (1975) series. It featured ex-Avengers Hercules and Black Widow teaming up with Ghost Rider, Iceman, and Angel as a superhero team in Los Angeles. That series doesn't catch on and will  only last 17 issues. 

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