Friday, November 15, 2013

Avengers 173 to 177: Korvac Saga, part 2

Near mint collecting.
Avengers to the slaughter.
Eternity remains.

Captain America; Steve Rogers
Iron Man; Tony Stark
Scarlet Witch; Wanda Maximoff
Thor; Donald Blake
Wasp; Janet Van Dyne
Yellowjacket; Henry "Hank" Pym

Featured Allies
Black Panther; T'Challa
Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff
Captain Marvel; Mar-Vell
Hawkeye; Clint Barton
Hercules; Heracles
Moondragon; Heather Douglas
Ms. Marvel; Carol Danvers
Nikki; Nicholette Gold
Quicksilver; Pietro Maximoff
Starhawk; Stakar/Aleta Ogord
Two-Gun Kid; Matthew Hawk
Vance Astro; Vance Astrovik
Vance Astrovik (future Marvel Boy/Justice)
Wonder Man; Simon Williams
Yondu; Yondu Udonta    
     The middle of the Korvac Saga saw a shift in the creative personnel. Jim Shooter was now Editor-in-Chief, so he needed help to finish off the saga, and writers David Michelinie and Bill Mantlo came aboard. Roger Stern and his assistant Jim Salicrup took the editorial reins from Shooter on the book as well. These changes mid-story didn't stop the whole saga from winning the 1979 Eagle Award for Best Continued Story, the second time the series had captured that honor in a row.
     Although these issues are noteworthy for the sheer number of characters, almost every Avenger that had so far appeared, it may be better remembered for its novel denouement. The Avengers are nearly all killed, but the wannabe deity they are fighting loses heart, nonchalantly brings them all back to life, and appears to kill himself when his wife feels doubt for him. Korvac, now calling himself Michael, does not really consider the Avengers his enemies, though they call him "The Enemy" before his identity is discovered. Michael's struggle is being played out against universal forces, and we don't really get a clear look at what he's doing or a vision of what his universe would look like. He systematically removes or incapacitates anyone who can sense him so that he can work unhindered, but the Avengers are dogged in finding out who is behind recent events and end up painting Michael as a target to the cosmic forces he had hoped to avoid.
     The last few pages of issue 177 create the moral quandary that sets the saga apart. Moondragon looks inside Michael's spirit and declares that his goals were peaceful and would not have hurt anyone. Thor, the only Avenger left standing after the carnage, ponders if maybe the Avengers should have left Michael alone and had only made things worse by pursuing him. The characters are not given much time to figure this out, as Moondragon erases everyone's memory of these facts so they are not burdened with the thought they may have attacked the wrong person. This at least lets the reader think about how force can be abused by the authorities when all the facts aren't known, and this ambiguity of who is the hero probably helped the story secure its Eagle Award by standing out.
     In the big picture, there are a few reasons to support Moondragon's assertion. The Avengers are freaked out by all their comrades disappearing and being collected, so when the Collector is killed and an even more powerful adversary is revealed, they are so on edge that they act out of fear and concern. Unfortunately, except for the subtle change in Starhawk's perception so he can be left alone, Michael really didn't do anything directly to them to warrant being attacked. He admits he wants to rule the universe, but the Avengers don't really have jurisdiction over who is "in charge" of the universe. As in most comic book stories, the existence of God is not debated or mentioned, so instead the previous supreme cosmic being, Eternity, is presented as the ultimate cosmic power that Michael wants to overthrow. Since there are no elections for cosmic ruler, it's unclear how such power changeovers should naturally go and whether Michael is really doing anything against that process.
     Since the Avengers are our heroes of the series, there are reasons to side with them instead. In my mind, the greatest problem with Moondragon's point is that she's the one to make it. She has demonstrated time and again that she lacks compassion, and in issue 176, she demonstrates this by forcibly going into Quicksilver's mind to remove his prejudice. Her tactic here, taking something that is justifiably negative and just removing it with no regard to Quicksilver's right to be his own crude and imperfect self, shows her idea of how to deal with problems. Quicksilver himself says he feels better afterwards, but considering his mind has just been altered, is that a fair payoff that most people would favor? Michael likewise talks about his distaste for things that are chaotic and crude, which probably is why Moondragon is such a fan of the universe he would rule over. It will be orderly, and she sees that as a better universe. Her teammates may not agree with her at all. Many of them would side with the rights of an individual over that of someone imposing order, no matter how benevolent, and would probably still fight Michael because of this principle, even knowing what he planned. Despite his words, Michael had recently killed the Collector, making him a murderer on a cosmic scale and responsible for his crime, even if it wasn't directed at the Avengers themselves. History is also not kind to Michael. In his subsequent appearances, he acts selfish and dictatorial, showing his true nature is not very benevolent after all.
     As a character, Michael is also a good example of someone who makes continuity in a fantasy universe impossible. He can 1) travel through time 2) alter another character completely without them noticing it, as in the case of Starhawk 3) avoid most detection if he wishes, and 4) alter the perceptions of most of the universe. We see he is not omnipotent or omnipresent since the Collector is able to capture Avengers without Michael's knowledge, so he has limits, but even with them, he's a continuity nightmare. While the Avengers were searching for him in his tasteful suburban home, he could have traveled to a near-infinite number of locations, changed subtle things, and no one would ever have known. So if a character is acting "out of character" or some part of history doesn't seem to fit anymore, Michael or someone else like him could be the cause, and we'd never know...
Avengers Vol 1 173
Avengers 173
Threshold of Oblivion!
July, 1978
Written by Jim Shooter and David Michelinie
Art by Sal Buscema and D. Hands
Lettered by Annette Kawecki
Colored by Nel Yomtov
After old members and allies were informed of the disappearances, they begin to arrive at the Mansion. Hercules, Black Widow, Whizzer, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther are the first to arrive. Michael Korvac mentally observes not only events at Avengers Mansion, but also those of the Guardians of the Galaxy and several cosmic entities that he wishes to keep ignorant of his affairs. His end plan is to gain control of the entire universe. While he monitors others, his wife Carina surprisingly reaches out with her own cosmic power. Michael senses she is doing so and confronts her, but upon searching the depths of her soul, he finds no hint of betrayal, only love. Yellowjacket admits defeat on finding any clues to the disappearances, so Black Panther suggests they use the Guardians' equipment from the 31st century to aid their search. Before those two can follow through, they disappear suddenly, becoming the latest victims. This is soon followed by Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man's disappearances as well. Vance Astro is still orbiting in Drydock, and he does find an orbiting construct that may have teleported the missing heroes away. Vance Astro teleports Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and Wasp into the construct, where they find the missing heroes and their kidnapper, the Collector.
Michael: "Eternity! He who is the universe personified...within whom all the stuff of this reality exists. He's so confident, so serene in his omnipotence! He would pay little heed to a mote such as I, even had I not shielded myself from his sight! But one day--one day soon--I will take what is rightfully mine!"
  • This is David Michelinie's first issue as writer. He will continue to contribute to the series for the next three years or so.
  • The use of "D. Hands" refers to "diverse hands." Inkers Pablo Marcos, Win Mortimer, Bob McLeod, Joe Rubenstein, Dan Green, Rick Bryant, and Klaus Janson each worked on two or three pages of the issue. They are given credit in the letter column of issue 179. Except for regular inker Marcos, Janson and Rubenstein had each worked on only one issue of Avengers before this, and the rest have this as their first issue.
  • Speaking of firsts, this is also the first Avengers issue for letterer Annette Kawecki and colorist Nel Yomtov as well. Its also Kawecki's only Avengers issue, so it's her last as well.
  • This is the first issue to credit the assistant editor, in this case Jim Salicrup. Usually only the editor is credited.
  • The Champions series had ended in January, 1978, and the team had disbanded, leaving Hercules and Black Widow with some free time.
  • Hercules is still being confused with Steve Reeves, this time by a little boy. In 1978, Reeves was 52 years old and hadn't appeared in a movie as Hercules since 1959, long before the little boy was born.
  • The Watcher is a character who spends his time watching events on Earth. In this issue, we see that Michael is watching the Watcher without his knowledge.
  • Whizzer has decided to retire from superheroics after his last showing against Count Nefaria. He shows up in his civilian clothes.
  • Thor arrives at the mansion and not only doesn't have knowledge of all their recent battles, but he hasn't even met Wonder Man after his return from the dead. This means every Thor from issue 159 on was not the present Thor until now.
  • Although their disappearances are not shown, Black Widow, Hercules, and Captain Marvel are among the Collector's collection by the end of the issue.
  • The Collector is able to grab so many team members in a short period because he knows from Carina that Michael is busy elsewhere.
  • The Collector's gigantic ship only appears as three meters across on Astro's scanners. He advises that the Avengers don't try to teleport there, but he helps them anyway.
  • The Bullpen Bulletins announce that Mark Gruenwald has joined the staff as an assistant editor. He will later become the editor guiding the Avengers line of comics in 1982 and will be editor of the title at his death in 1996.  
Avengers Vol 1 174
Avengers 173
Captives of the Collector!
July, 1978
Written by Jim Shooter and Bill Mantlo
Art by Dave Wenzel and Pablo Marcos
Lettered by Shelly Leferman
Colored by Phil Rachelson
Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Wasp face down the Collector aboard his ship. The Collector grabs nearby artifacts to combat them. He summons energy creatures that he claims are conduits to another dimension. Thor's hammer gets stuck in one creature, and the Collector claims that removing it would cause an upheaval in the other dimension, killing billions of beings. This takes Thor out of the fight, and gas capsules immobilize Iron Man's armor. In reality, Thor is only absorbing negative energy through his hammer, and the death of innocents was a lie. The Collector jolts Thor with positive energy, and this reacts with the negative energy Thor absorbed and knocks him out. Wasp is shocked into unconscious by an electrified net, leaving only Hawkeye in the fight. Hawkeye evades several other threats and corners the Collector, who calls on the Power Cosmic. The Collector had not used this ability in some time, so it is slow to build, giving Hawkeye time to disable him with a shock arrow. The captured heroes are freed, and they question the Collector. He claims that he saw a future where the universe was in peril from Thanos, so he spent thousands of years collecting items and creatures of interest to preserve them. On the defeat of Thanos, the Collector sensed another powerful enemy was coming, so he sent his daughter Carina to get close to this new threat. Before the Collector can reveal Michael's identity, Michael disintegrates him with a bolt from Earth.
Vision: "But the Enemy learned that he was about to be revealed--and eliminated the Collector from afar!"
Iron Man: "And right before our eyes--as if to show us how insignificant we are! Fleas compared to a being--who can kill a god!"
  • Bill Mantlo steps in to handle the scripting this issue. This is his first Avengers writing credit, but he had done coloring for the series previously.
  • Beast appears on the cover in a tube, but he was not collected. He was busy with the X-Men in their series. Narration says that only 13 people have been taken, so since 13 have so far been accounted for without Beast, he can't be hiding in stasis around the ship somewhere.
  • Hawkeye mentions that they thought the ship was three cubic yards. He changed that from Vance Astro's actual reading of three cubic meters. Hawkeye doesn't do metric, apparently.
  • The Collector's items this issue include a Vandarian power wand, energy creatures from Erdile, a Biogram image, missiles from Dergos, and a positron cannon.
  • Collector finally reveals that he has the Power Cosmic and also the existence of the Elders of the Universe. He refers to a "brother" who roams the universe and plays games, probably the Grandmaster. They are not true brothers, more like fraternity brothers.
  • The Collector is truly dead until his resurrection in Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions.
Avengers Vol 1 175
Avengers 175
The End...and Beginning!
September, 1978
Written by Jim Shooter and David Michelinie
Art by Dave Wenzel and Pablo Marcos
Lettered by Annette Kawecki
Colored by Nel Yomtov
The shocked Avengers stand over the Collector's ashes. They search his ship for answers, but the computer's memory that stored information on "the Enemy" has also been turned to dust. They do come upon Collector's time device, and Two-Gun Kid is ready to be sent back to his home time period. They manage to use the teleporter to get the rest of themselves back to Earth, but the coordinates are not accurate, leaving some heroes in precarious situations. While they return home, Michael is trying to see how Carina is coping with the murder of her father. She seems fully all right with it and supportive of Michael's plan to alter the universe into a peaceful place under his complete rule. Michael's ascension is explained as his having absorbed information and power from the computers aboard Galactus' star ship into his own body. Though he was once a villain obsessed with revenge, he found that his new state of being made him forget such small concerns and instead focus on the welfare of the universe. His last selfish act had been transforming himself from the half-computer body he had previously been trapped in. The Avengers meet in their mansion, but they have no idea how to proceed. Ms. Marvel arrives to help, and Quicksilver, after causing tension among the group with his comments about Jocasta and Vision, prepares to return home. Small teams investigate different avenues, and Iron Man is upset to find that Gyrich has removed most of their computers. Jarvis suggest they turn to Starhawk's cosmic senses, and Iron Man calls him in, not knowing that Michael has made Starhawk unable to sense Michael in any way.
Wonder Man, after totaling a bus: "I, uh, had to promise the driver that Tony Stark would pay for the bus."
Scarlet Witch: "That's okay, Simon. Mr. Stark makes a habit of bailing out Avengers."
Iron Man: "All right, cut it out! The days when Avengers punched each other out at the drop of a cowl are over! We're a team now--and we're going to act like one!"
Michael: "...I hold no enmity towards the Avengers. And it would be a pity indeed--to have to destroy them!"
  • The memory banks of the Collector's time machine reveal how he transported Thor to help the Avengers from issues 162 to 170, then sent him back with his memory erased. The era that Thor came from is not pinpointed, but based on his behavior it is during his time with the Avengers.
  • While narration retells Michael and Carina's story, the two have sex in the bedroom of their house. They turn into glowing cosmic images of themselves, but despite their evolved nature, they still are horizontal in an embrace. This is the first shown sex scene in Avengers.
  • Narration tells that Carina's body was chosen to appeal to Korvac. It's not her original form. But then, her father, the Collector's, original form looks like this...
    His cape is actually Galactus' baby washcloth and the jewel of his collection. (not true)

Avengers 176
The Destiny Hunt!
October, 1978
Written by Jim Shooter and David Michelinie
Art by Dave Wenzel and Pablo Marcos
Lettered by Rick Parker
Colored by Bob Sharen

The Avengers and their allies separate to search for any lead on their mystery adversary. Moondragon grows tired of Quicksilver's words and uses her mental powers to remove bigotry and hatred from his mind. She then begins commanding the other heroes around and taking charge of the situation. She calls everyone back in for a meeting, and the information they've gathered is compiled in the computer. Although each member's data seems trivial and unconnected, the computer does produce an address for a home in Forest Hills Gardens. The team is unable to use a Quinjet with their government clearances revoked, so they are forced to commandeer a bus in order to get their nonflying members there. They ring Michael's doorbell, and though he is annoyed, he calmly lets the heroes in. They search the house and find nothing out of order. Starhawk, unable to sense Michael in any way, exclaims that the group has been talking to empty air during the whole visit. Realizing that Starhawk's senses have been tampered with, the Avengers conclude that Michael is their true enemy. He confirms their suspicions and tells them that they have ruined his plans by revealing his presence to the greater powers of the universe. Michael declares war on the Avengers and displays his cosmic power in preparation for a battle.
Herb: "Gee, guys, I, um, don't have anything against super-heroes, but...well, don't things have a habit of getting trashed when you're around? I mean, I've only got three more payments on my mortgage and--"
Woman: "R-Relax, Herb, they're probably just here to open a 7-Eleven or something!"

Hawkeye: "Terrific. 'Avengers attack suburban home! Defeated by stylish d├ęcor!' The tabloids are gonna love this."
  • This is Rick Parker's first issue lettering the series. He is also a cartoonist and would be one of the artists to create the "Bull's Eye" cartoons for the Bullpen Bulletins in the late eighties and nineties. He also drew the Beavis and Butthead series for Marvel.
  • This is colorist Bob Sharen's first issue. He had only been doing color guides for Marvel for about two months before doing this issue.
  • The cover declares the price is still 35. DC Comics had raised the price of their comics to 50 in September, but they would drop it down to 40 in December. Marvel would eventually raise their prices to 40 as well in May of 1979.
  • Hawkeye calls Quicksilver a "Simon Pure." This is a character from A Bold Stroke for a Wife, an English play from 1717. The character's name became a term for either someone of integrity or someone who pretends to have that that quality, but it is really a hypocrite. We can assume Hawkeye is using it the latter sense.
  • When Wonder Man is frustrated with inactivity, Black Panther suggests he reads some Keats. He's referring to John Keats, a 19th-century romantic poet, perhaps best known for his "Ode on a Grecian Urn."
  • When Jocasta reveals herself in a crowd, someone wonders if Alan Funt is around. Alan Funt was the creator and host of Candid Camera, which filmed people's reactions to staged events. The show appeared on television in one format or another from 1948 until 2004.
  • When the Avengers arrive in Forest Hills Gardens, a bystander says they may be there to open a 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven sold Slurpee cups featuring a large variety of Marvel characters on them in 1975 and 1977.
  • Wasp declares that Michael and Carina's home is decorated in good taste, so at least Michael's rule of the universe would have been visually stylish.
  • There is a letter in the letter column from future Marvel archivist Peter Sanderson.
  • The Bullpen Bulletins mentions new artist John Romita Jr. starting on Iron Man (1968). He will later be the regular Avengers artist at the start of the 2010 series. It also compliments Dave Wenzel on his work on Avengers and states the Korvac Saga is 10 issues long, which tracks back to it starting on issue 167. (skipping 169)
Avengers Vol 1 177
Avengers 177
The Hope...and the Slaughter!
November, 1978
Written by Jim Shooter
Art by Dave Wenzel, Pablo Marcos, and Ricardo Villamonte
Lettered by Denise Wohl
Colored by Nel Yomtov
The Avengers are poised to strike at Michael, but they are all frozen in place by his cosmic power. Moondragon sends out a mental summons to the nearby Guardians of the Galaxy, who race to Michael's house in a borrowed Quinjet. Michael laments the fact that these events have revealed him to the powers of the universe and ended his chance for a silent takeover. When the Guardians arrive, Michael does not freeze them, and he shows his overwhelming power by destroying the Drydock space station with Vance Astro in it, killing his first hero. Nikki rushes to attack, and she distracts Michael, ending the paralyzing effect in place on the other heroes. They all attack in turn, but no one is powerful enough to do serious harm to Michael. Iron Man suggest they use Carina as a hostage, but Michael responds by killing Yellowjacket. Several Avengers die in the assault, and the rest are knocked out or stunned except for Captain America, who engages Michael in hand-in-hand combat. Moondragon has remained out of the fight, and she stands by weeping now that she has sensed Michael's inner self. During this battle, several of the more powerful heroes have had time to recover, and they pile onto Michael. He reaches out his consciousness to Carina for mental support and finds that she has been shocked by all the carnage and has a seed of doubt about Michael's intentions. Sensing that their love is not as perfect as he had hoped, he wills himself to die. Carina is distraught and starts fighting the heroes with her own formidable cosmic power. After calming down somewhat, she resolves to join Michael in death and mentally forces the last remaining hero, Thor, to fatally wound her while she lowers her defenses. She dies next to Michael, reaching for his hand. Moondragon explains to Thor that Michael's plan was not truly evil and that Michael had also reached out with his power before dying to resurrect and heal all the heroes that had been slain. Thor wonders if perhaps the Avengers were standing in the way of goodness this time. Moondragon uses her mental power to remove everyone's memory of her disturbing revelations, letting them believe that they won a great victory over yet another villain, but she herself will remember.
Michael: "Know this, as humble as you are, I would rather enter into death myself than slay you--were it not for Carina and what I have found with her!"
Captain America: "Or maybe you don't even count me--because I'm just a man? Hear that, Mike? This is no god hitting super-man! Just a man!"
Moondragon: "He was not evil, Thor! He sought not to rule us...nor even to interfere with our madness! He wished only to free us from the capricious whims of Eternity!"
Thor: "Can it be that Michael was just--and we were the villains? Verily, then, his innocent blood is on our hands!"
  • Jim Shooter did not have a cowriter for this issue, probably because it was the crux of the story he wanted to tell.
  • This is inker Ricardo Villamonte's first Avengers issue.
  • For those more familiar with Avengers film characters, that is Dr. Don Blake on the cover, Thor's secret identity.
  • Narration translates the name Michael as meaning "like unto God."
  • Black Panther has an opportunity to attack Carina, but he doesn't. He still feels it's dishonorable to attack a woman. Yellowjacket has no such qualms and takes her hostage briefly.
  • Captain America's shield striking Michael's head makes a "Kang!" sound effect.
  • When Donald Blake has the entire team to give medical aid to, he goes to Iron Man first, even though his wearing armor will make him the most difficult to help right away.
  • A future story reveals that Michael's suicide was not due to Carina's doubt. Now that Michael was revealed to the universe, Galactus became aware of him and was not happy Michael had stolen the energies from Galactus' computers. An Ultimate Nullifier beam was on its way to Michael, and Michael sent out a "gene packet" to his ancestors and then ended his own life, allowing him to plant the seed for a return in the future. The Ultimate Nullifier's effects would have been more permanent for him, so this was his way of avoiding that worse fate.
  • Carina will also return. Her glowing body is mistaken for Wasp's when Henry Pym discovers it in Underspace and builds the Infinite Mansion there. Avengers Academy student Veil brings back Carina into normal space in 2011 thinking it is Wasp, who was missing at that time.

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