Thursday, August 29, 2013

Avengers 145-146, 150-152

Avengers 145-146, 150-152

Hawkeye's glass stomach?
Big shakeups inside and out.
Unkind cuts are made.
Beast; Henry "Hank" McCoy
Captain America; Steve Rogers
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Moondragon; Heather Douglas
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Thor; Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Yellowjacket; Henry "Hank" Pym

Featured Allies/Reserve Members
Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff
Falcon; Sam Wilson
Hercules; Heracles
Hellcat; Patsy Walker
Hawkeye; Clint Barton
Thing; Ben Grimm
Wonder Man; Simon Williams
     The first two issues here are an out-of-sequence inventory story that are a bit difficult to place, but I've decided to put them here. In the letter column to Giant-Size Avengers 4, readers were told the next issue of GSA in September, 1975, would feature a story by Tony Isabella and Don Heck. That writer and artist match the creators of these two issues, so I have to assume it was meant to have been this tale. Giant-Size Avengers 5 instead featured a reprint of Avengers Special 1, and the Giant-Size Avengers series was canceled after that, leaving this story in limbo. Since there was a problem meeting the deadline for issue 145, the story was used to fill two issues while the regular creators caught up.
     This is by no means official placement of the story in the timeline. Hawkeye had left the team to go out west, but he appears in these stories. Hopefully having his buddy Captain America put in the hospital would induce him to show up despite his detached status. Falcon also appears in issue 146, and was there not as an Avenger, but a concerned friend of Captain America. Wasp is wearing the costume here she wears when returning to the team in issue 151. Moondragon and Hellcat are not present, but no other place was perfect to place it either, as stories after 151 feature Wonder Man and start a new adventure. Some people think it may have happened before issue 141, but Beast is present, and he mentions that Wasp and Yellowjacket were in the hospital "a few weeks ago."
   The second batch of issues are the last story and plot to be written by Steve Englehart. The editorial department, especially the Editor-in-Chief position, continued to go through changes. From 1974 to the beginning of 1976, five different men had held the position. On Steve Englehart's website, he recalls he was halfway through scripting issue 150 when the editorial changes in the office factored into him leaving the title. His script and plots would still be partially used for issues 151 and 152. This seems to be during the brief period that Gerry Conway held the Editor in-Chief position. Most of the previous Editor-in-Chiefs had found it preferable to gain artistic control of a small number of series as a combined writer and editor on the same book, and Gerry Conway also followed that route. With issue 153, after he is no longer Editor-in-Chief, he would become both writer and editor of Avengers.
     Englehart would move on to write for DC's premier hero team, the Justice League of America, starting with the February, 1977 issue, issue 139. His run on that series would end with issue 150, the same issue number he was writing when he left Avengers. Although he would write for other publishers in the interim, he would return to Marvel and the Avengers with the West Coast Avengers regular series in 1985. Englehart talks about his run on these series as well as his many other writing endeavors on his website,
Avengers Vol 1 145

Avengers 145
The Taking of the Avengers!
March, 1976
Written by Tony Isabella and Scott Edelman
Art by Don Heck and John Tartaglione
Lettered by David Hunt
Colored by Don Warfield
A masked assassin is contracted to kill all the Avengers by unknown parties for the sum of one billion dollars, plus expenses. The Assassin asks for one year to complete the contract. After that time period, Captain America comes across a gang of robbers wearing Captain America masks. He knocks them all out except one. He chases the last robber and uses his shield to incapacitate him. While shieldless, the Assassin appears and fires a ray that puts Captain America in a state near death as part of the master plan. Captain America is taken in for treatment, and many of the Avengers stand vigil at the hospital. The doctors can't identify the problem, so Iron Man suggest to Thor that Don Blake may have a helpful opinion, and they go to Stark's Long Island complex. Hawkeye arrives at the hospital and sees two men dressed as aliens in the hallway. They escape in a smoke screen, and Hawkeye loses sight of them. He reunites with Beast, Scarlet Witch, and Vision near Captain America's room and offers to take over. Vision remains with him while Scarlet Witch and Beast go to get some sleep. The Assassin, watching these events, gets ready for the next move.

Robber: "There's too many of us! you can't beat us all!"
Captain America: "You know, I figure I've heard that line maybe a hundred times by now. But what none of you clowns take into account--is that I've spent a lifetime training to be able to do just that!"
  • The identity of the people who take out the contract on the Avengers is only revealed as several of their old enemies pooling funds.
  • A billion dollars in 1975 would be $4,341,933,085 in 2013. Of course, the team has a lot more members now, so the cost per head would probably be less.
  • A text page that features a list of Marvel publications for the month has the cover and plot explanation for the Squadron Supreme adventure that will actually end up as Avengers 147, but it is listed for Avengers 145.
  • The Assassin's cohorts will not be well rewarded. Their costumes, weapons, and their payments are coated with a slow-acting poison that will kill them a few days after they complete their assignment. The two "aliens" that were spotted by Hawkeye are killed by their employer off-panel for making the mistake of being seen.
  • The doctor attending Captain America in the hospital mentions that Cap saved his life in World War II. Synchronicity.
  • It seems strange that Iron Man would go to Stark International to consult with Donald Blake. We find out next issue that it was to get a Thor Life Model Decoy.
  • Hawkeye says, "What the heck." The artist of the issue is Don Heck.
  • Captain America, though comatose in bed, still has his mask left on.
  • The Bullpen Bulletins congratulates Steve Englehart on his marriage to Marie-Therese Beach.
  • This month has the first appearance of future Avenger Jack of Hearts in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 22.

Avengers Vol 1 146
Avengers 146
The Assassin Never Fails!
April, 1976
Written by Tony Isabella
Art by Don Heck, Keith Pollard, and John Tartaglione
Lettered by David Hunt
Colored by Petra Goldberg
More men in alien outfits watch Avengers Mansion and have weapons trained on Wasp, Yellowjacket, Scarlet Witch, Beast, and the visiting Falcon. Captain America is in surgery at the hospital, and Don Blake is inserting counter-radiation capsules in his body to hopefully reverse the effects of the ray. A nurse offers Iron Man and Hawkeye some coffee, but Vision has no interest in it. Iron Man and Hawkeye begin to feel woozy, and they realize they've been drugged. Goons rush to attack them while they're weak. Vision takes on most of the men while the Thor LMD that is standing in for Thor is easily deactivated by a simple rifle blast. The Assassin slips a device on Vision while he's solid, causing him to collapse. The Assassin explains that it will supercharge him with solar energy and cause him to explode soon. After examining the Thor LMD, the Assassin confirms the theory that Don Blake is the real Thor, and the Assassin moves to shoot Don Blake. An arrow whizzes down the hall and entangles the Assassin's arm. As Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Vision explain how they recovered, the Assassin downs Hawkeye with a kick to his midriff and points a gun at his head. Donald Blake exits the surgery theater and jostles the Assassin with the door, ending the standoff. Vision and Iron Man disable the gun and blast off the Assassin's costume, revealing the nurse who had drugged them earlier. She throws a gas grenade to cover her escape and gets out of the hospital. She rushes to her squad of men, but they don't realize she's the Assassin, and they shoot her as a possible witness, killing her. The Avengers round up the rest of the men easily, and Captain America recovers. We later discover that the man who brokered the hiring of the Assassin was her father. This man's son, in grief over his sister's death, brandishes a gun at his father and promises revenge, but the father is able to get off his own shot first, killing his son. He turns the gun on himself, presumably ending his own life.

C-Squad Leader: "The plan is working to perfection! The Avengers are so concerned about Captain America that they've let their own defenses down."
  • Iron Man reveals he has a LMD, Life Model Decoy, of Thor handy. It stands around while Don Blake does surgery to protect his secret identity. The Assassin's plan to destroy Thor was to focus the electrical power of the entire city through the hospital's generator room. Since the LMD is taken out with one blast, this plan is never developed.
  • The Assassin's men all have a sword insignia on their masks that match the one on her tunic. Not very low-key.
  • The Avengers call on the expertise of Mister Fantastic and Bill Foster off-panel, but neither is seen. Mister Fantastic comes up with the radiation theory that they act on.
  • The poison meant to affect Hawkeye and Iron Man doesn't work. The poison was meant to kill them upon reaching their hearts, but Iron Man has an artificial heart that is not affected. Hawkeye just vomited up the poison before it took effect because of his, he claims, "glass stomach." He is knocked out with a kick to the stomach after he says this. (I like to think he ate some bad chili while working out in the west with Two-Gun Kid.)
  • The Assassin does mention Moondragon as being an Avengers member, even though she doesn't appear in the story.
  • The defeated thugs are noted as dying several days after the story from the poison in their outfits. Donald Blake and Henry Pym develop an antidote, but 14 of the men die first.
  • No more of the Assassin or her family are seen again in future stories. Her name was Maria, and her brother's name was Angelo.
  • This month's issue of Marvel Team-Up (1972) 44 features over half the team. The title guest star is Moondragon, but it also features Vision, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, and Avengers Mansion. Since Iron Man is wearing a helmet with no nose and Moondragon is still with the team, it probably takes place somewhere between Avengers 149 and 150, though it doesn't fit there easily.
Avengers Vol 1 150
Avengers 150
Avengers Assemble!
August, 1976
Written by Steve Englehart and Stan Lee
Art by George Pérez, Jack Kirby, John Tartaglione, Duffy Vohland, and Dick Ayers
Lettered by Denise Wohl and Art Simek
Colored by Irene Vartanoff
The team and its allies meet to discus who will be on the next team roster. The public is aware of the meeting and gathers outside along with the press. Newsman Sam Reuther tells of the history of the Avengers, which leads into a tale from the first major membership shake-up the team underwent. Inside, Thor announces that he will be leaving the team, but will always remain to aid them if called upon.
Thor: "I have remained with ye more from vanity than from need. Ye have prospered without me on other occasions. Mayhap, in my heart of hearts, I did not appreciate that."
  • Archie Goodwin is credited as editor. He became Editor-in-Chief at Marvel in the spring of 1976, replacing Gerry Conway, who only held that position for a few weeks. Goodwin had a long history as a writer and editor at various publishers.
  • The narrator of the Nero Wolfe mystery novels is Wolfe's assistant, a character named Archie Goodwin. Those stories began to appear in 1934, three years before Goodwin was born. The real Goodwin succeeded Marv Wolfman as editor of Avengers.
  • The reprint material comes from Avengers 16, another issue that dealt with a public changing of the membership. There are only six pages of original story and 12 pages of the reprinting.
  • This is the first Avengers credit for Duffy Vohland and Irene Vartanoff. The two of them only work on this issue and Avengers Annual 6.
  • Reporter Sam Reuther has been seen before in Avengers. He works for CBS and is reporting to a "Walter," probably Walter Cronkite, who was the CBS News anchor until 1980.
  • At the end of the reprinted portion of the story, none of the original founding Avengers had remained on the team. When the current lineup is announced in issue 151, most of the original members have returned.
  • During the Avengers meeting, Scarlet Witch jokes about reviving the Lady Liberators team from issue 83. If you take the issue numbers of this issue and the reprint material, 150 plus 16, their average is exactly 83.
  • Thor makes a mention of Iron Man's new armor, the Mark V, without the nose. It premiered in Iron Man (1968) 85 in April, but this is its first appearance in this series.
  • Iron Man loses his "nose" in the same story that the writer leaves. I'm sure there's some reference to management "cutting off its nose to save its face" that I could make.
  • The symbol on the back of Iron Man's chair is below. It is the alchemical symbol for iron as well as the symbol for man. He only has it appear once, since it applies to both words in his name.

  • Beast and Hellcat sit at chairs with no symbols on the back.
  • Thor talks about elections for Chairman, when previously that job rotated among the members.
  • The Bullpen Bulletins talks about the return of Wonder Man in Avengers 150, but because of the story being split, he won't appear until next issue, unless you count a brief flashback of him. 
Avengers Vol 1 151
Avengers 151
At Last: The Decision!
September, 1976
Written by Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, and Jim Shooter
Art by George Pérez and John Tartaglione
Lettered by Irv Watanabe
Colored by Don Warfield
News reporter Sam Reuther continues to recap moments in Avengers history outside the mansion. Around the country, various other superhumans are seen responding to the news coverage, including former Avengers Black Widow and Hercules. Inside, the team tries to decide who will be on the new roster. Discussion is also made of a new membership status, either called detached or special status, that would only involve being on call for more dire emergencies, much like Hawkeye is currently doing. The core team begins to form up, including Iron Man, Captain America, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Wasp. Yellowjacket decides he does not want to join and leaves the meeting. Moondragon also turns down membership, feeling she must have her freedom. After some discussion, Beast is also made a full member. Iron Man is willing to have one further member only, and they offer that spot to Hellcat. She enthusiastically accepts, but Moondragon objects, telling Hellcat she must come with Moondragon for further training. Hellcat agrees to this, and the two heroines are given special Avengers status. Yellowjacket returns to the meeting and announces that he will take the final spot after all. The new team of seven goes out to the press to announce their roster. A large crate nearby shatters from the inside, revealing a dazed Wonder Man, who accuses Vision of having stolen his mind.
Iron Man: "I get the era has just passed!"
  • With this issue, the price goes up to 30. This equates to $1.23 in 2013 dollars.
  • Jack Kirby is the artist for this cover and the next seven covers.
  • No editor is credited on this issue. Some other sources list Gerry Conway as editor, and that fits with the writer/editor post that Marvel was using around this time.
  • This is the first Avengers issue Jim Shooter has writing credit on. He will become the regular writer of the series with issue 158.
  • The word "Assemble" almost appears to be part of the title on the cover. There will eventually be Avengers Assemble comics beginning in 2010, as well as it being the name of an animated series and the British title of the 2012 Avengers theatrical film.
  • The Thing is in his human form of Ben Grimm when he appears here. In Fantastic Four (1961) 167, exposure to the Hulk's gamma-powered body caused him to revert to normal. Mister Fantastic built him a powered exoskeleton that looks just like the Thing did, and he is wearing it in this issue with the helmet off. This is the same exoskeleton currently worn by Darla Deering as Miss Thing in the current FF (2013) series
  • The Thing is seen drinking Shotz Beer. This is the beer company Laverne and Shirley work for on Laverne and Shirley.
  • The letters page promises an upcoming Giant-Size Avengers 6, but instead the story will be printed as Avengers Annual 6.
  • There is an editorial apology on the letters page about the reprint pages appearing in issue 150. It explains how the six original pages in 150 and most of the pages in issue 151 were meant to be one full story in issue 150. The editorial explanation for the snafu is that "Steve Engelhart" (it was spelled wrong on the letters page) failed to finish the script on time, necessitating the reprint. Jim Shooter finished the script for 151, but it was now six pages short. Gerry Conway wrote the additional six pages, which consist of full-page interludes and subplots.
  • An older gentleman reacts to the news in his hotel room. He will be revealed as Robert Frank, the Whizzer, in issue 153.
  •  A mystery villain plots revenge on the Wasp, talking about how he offered her his love in the past. I almost forgot Living Laser was smitten with her back in issue 34.
  • Iron Man becomes chairman with this issue after Thor leaves.
  • Yellowjacket toys with the idea of instead joining the Defenders, as there's less time pressure on his career as a scientist.
  • Iron Man calls Moondragon an applicant here, but sources like the later Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe list issue 137 as the issue she had joined the team. With Moondragon, "maybe" means "yes."
  • In the sequence where Moondragon tells Hellcat she must leave the team for training, it is implied she uses mental manipulation. Hellcat does a complete turnaround from enthusiastically joining the team and stutters, "I-I must! I mean--I do need training..." Moondragon will indeed train her, increasing Hellcat's combat skills and bringing out some of her psychic potential.
  • Wonder Man's crate does not have any airholes, but it's all right. He doesn't need to breathe.
  • Wonder Man last appeared in Giant-Size Avengers 3, but to him, the last thing he remembers is his death way back in Avengers 9.
  • The Bullpen Bulletins mentions that "Steve Engelhart" (misspelled again!) is producing horoscopes professionally. This might be true, or perhaps it's some kind of coded dig at him as he was quitting the company. Or both.
  • This month features the first appearances of two future Avengers. Sersi debuts in Eternals (1976) 3, and Richard Rider, the first Nova, stars in his own new series, Nova (1976).
Avengers Vol 1 152
Avengers 152
Nightmare in New Orleans!
October, 1976
Written by Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Lettered by John Costanza
Colored by Petra Goldberg
Wonder Man continues to repeat the same accusation against Vision and suddenly collapses into unconsciousness. The Avengers take him inside, and analysis shows he is definitely alive, not an undead being. Scarlet Witch investigates the crate and finds some dirt. She focuses on it mystically and gets a vision of men performing a ritual, and the location of New Orleans springs into her mind. The team takes Wonder Man there in a Quinjet. Scarlet Witch senses that a man nearby is involved, so the Avengers interrogate him. He admits little until the Scarlet Witch whispers something unsettling to him, and he tells them to go to Le Mort Bayou. On the way the way, Wonder Man revives and begins to shamble forward in a dazed state, talking about responding to a call. The team follows him and come upon a group dancing around a bonfire and performing a ritual. Corpses rise out of the ground and, along with Wonder Man, they present themselves to the Black Talon. He is  surprised to see Wonder Man there and mentions that they have another master who had sent him to New York for a purpose, but now that he has failed, Wonder Man must be destroyed. The Avengers attack the group and have little trouble until the serpent god Damballa is summoned to the swamp. Although merely lurking nearby, its mere presence causes everyone, including the Avengers, to fall, crushed under a mystical force. Only the Scarlet Witch is unaffected. Hearing Black Talon call Damballa a "dark god" and seeing it keep to the shadows, she hurls a branch from the bonfire toward it, causing it to retreat from the light and leave the dimension. Without this support, Black Talon is defeated, but he can give no more information about how Wonder Man was revived or who he was really working for. Scarlet Witch, despite being instrumental in this whole adventure, feels she needs some time alone to further develop and announces she must leave the team for the moment.
Yellowjacket: "I'm not a swashbuckler anymore. I'm a grown man--and I feel kind of silly chasing around playing hero."
Vision: "There are questions which require answers, questions which I must ask myself--concerning my 'immortal soul.'"
  • Gerry Conway becomes the writer/editor starting with this issue. He used a plot that had been created by Steve Englehart before his departure.
  • Including issues he collaborated on and Giant-Size Avengers, Steve Englehart was writer on 48 issues of Avengers, making him the second-most prolific writer on the series to date.
  • The Black Talon has four fingers on his gloves on the cover. Inside the issue, he has five fingers. An actual rooster would have four claws--three in the front and one spur in the back. In the interior art, he seems to have three toes and a spur on his footwear, but the angles used make that inconclusive.
  • This story is said to occur exactly 42 seconds after the end of the last issue. That's oddly specific.
  • The story uses the term "zuvembie" rather than "zombie" to describe Wonder Man and the corpses. The Comics Code Authority, which determined what was "suitable" for young readers, did not allow the use of certain terms, and "zombie" was one of them, so this was a stopgap term. It comes from Robert E. Howard's 1938 story "Pigeons from Hell." The word "zombie" will come back into use in Code-approved comics in 1989. The term "zombie" could still be used in other series that did not use the Comics Code, like Tales of the Zombie.

  • Newsman Sam Reuther's hair changes from being dark in previous issues to reddish in this issue. Perhaps it's a side effect of seeing a zuvembie!
  • While unconscious, Wonder Man mutters about "the silver shadow" and "the reaching hand." Most later evidence seems to point to his reference being to Ultron, but this plot point is only indirectly picked up in subsequent issues.
  • In New Orleans, Beast carries around the unconscious Wonder Man over his shoulder. They will end up having one of the stronger friendships on the Avengers teams.
  • The character here is the third to have the name Black Talon. The first appeared in Captain America Comics in the 1940s, a murderer who was a white man with the transplanted right hand of an African-American criminal. The second died in a 1974 issue of Tales of the Zombie and was a fake voodoo priest with the same rooster outfit seen here. This is the first appearance of the third Black Talon, Samuel Barone.
  • Yellowjacket has returned to using his shrinking powers and doesn't mention any ill effects that could arise from doing so. It seems the treatment used in issue 140 has made it safe to do so.
  • Once the Avengers start the fight, Wonder Man is not seen any further. We have to presume he just collapsed again.
  • Black Talon gets his power from the demon Damballa, aka Damballah. In the Marvel stories, there is a serpent god that is the son of Set and also an African god by the same name who also appears in snake forms. Since only eyes in shadow appear, it's hard to tell which one this is meant to be.
  • Yet another future Avenger makes his debut this month, Captain Britain in Captain Britain (1976) 1, which was published in the United Kingdom. He would not appear in an American Marvel comic until 1978.

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