Monday, October 10, 2016

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Five: Essential Avengers, Volume 9

 The final group of AVENGERS comics to be collected in the late, great ESSENTIAL format....sob.

 ESSENTIAL AVENGERS, VOLUME 9 collects THE AVENGERS #'s 185-206, AVENGERS ANNUAL #9, and material from TALES TO ASTONISH #12. Much of this volume's contents have already been covered here and here, so check those reviews for anything  not covered in this one.

AVENGERS #197 is another "Day in the life" issue, written by David Michelinie, with art by the always reliable Carmine Infantino and a variety of uncredited inkers. The story serves as a set-up for the two-part Red Ronin arc that starts in #198, but functions well as a stand-alone breather, furthering the sub-plots of The Vision and The Scarlet Witch, showing what The Beast and Wonder Man do on their nights off, and introducing the fast-laned plot device of Ms. Marvel's pregnancy.

 George Perez returns to art duties for the two-part Red Ronin story, which finds the giant robot (Last seen in the pages of Marvel's awesome GODZILLA series) hijacked by a paranoid lunatic out to start World War III. This leads directly into the odd 200th issue, which features Ms. Marvel's pregnancy playing out in a most head-scratching manner. (I'm sure I'll get more in-depth with this when I review the second Ms. Marvel Marvel Masterworks volume, so stay tuned for that.) The 200th issue is credited to David Michelinie, from a plot by Jim Shooter, George Perez, Bob Layton, and Michelinie himself, and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for THAT plotting session.
"OK, we have one of Marvel's few female characters that have headlined their own series on The Avengers roster....what should we do with her?"
"How about if we get her pregnant?"
"Yeah, that's good, but who will the father be?"
"What if we have an immaculate conception...? But then we reveal that her baby is HIS OWN FATHER!!! She gives birth, the baby ages to adulthood, then SHE FALLS IN LOVE WITH IT AND GOES OFF TO LIVE WITH IT IN LIMBO!!!"
"Yay! Great idea!"

 Yes, have Ms. Marvel kidnapped, brainwashed, and raped by a guy, then give birth to THAT SAME GUY, who is NOW HER SON, and have her say "Yes, I want to go off to a totally desolate, isolated place, so I can do nothing but FUCK MY SON." 

 And The Avengers think that that's just a dandy idea!

 How did such an unusual group (The series regular writer and artist, the Editor-in-chief, and a totally unrelated artist) end up conspiring to write such a prominent character off completely? Did they think that this was....a happy ending for her? Was this some kind of punishment? I'd love to get some answers to the questions that this issue raises....

 Avengers #201-202 are a rather lackluster Ultron story (Based on a short story by Jim Shooter...More unanswered questions! What short story, where did it appear, why was it written...? It's not like 1980's Marvel had a thriving industry of short prose stories....) #201 is fondly remembered from my childhood for the eight-page backup that featured Avengers Butler Edwin Jarvis on a rare day off, going to visit his mother in The Bronx (!) and challenging a local bully to a fight.

 Issues 203-206 are all basically fill-in quality, with #203 (Illustrated again by Carmine Infantino) finding The Beast and Wonder Man investigating monster sightings in the New York City sewer system, #'s 204-205 featuring the team against a villain that has the politically correct cringing, The Yellow Claw, and #206, written by Bill Mantlo and illustrated by the legendary Gene Colan, pitting the team against a new threat, Pyron. The collection is rounded out by a Vision back-up from TALES TO ASTONISH #12. There are a handful of extras, including the letters page from issue 192, which features the genesis of the Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch origin issues, the wraparound cover to the AVENGERS: THE YESTERDAY QUEST collection, and the cover of AVENGERS VISIONARIES: GEORGE PEREZ.

 I miss the ESSENTIAL books....they were a great value, and provided hours of reading. I guess Marvel's EPIC line is a step up, but I'll always have a soft spot for these ol' black-and-white bricks.