Sunday, November 6, 2016

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Ten: The Avengers: Absolute Vision, Book 2

 The Vision's plan for world conquest comes to fruition....is there any coming back from this for the synthezoid Avenger....?

 THE AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION, BOOK 2 picks up where book 1 left off, and finally gets into the meat of the ABSOLUTE VISION storyline, but not before making a few interesting detours. This volume collects THE AVENGERS #'s 242-254 and THE AVENGERS ANNUAL #13, and starts off with a large part of the team being abducted by The Beyonder in the middle of a party to celebrate the marriage of Hawkeye and Mockingbird. While they're away fighting the SECRET WARS, The Vision uses this opportunity to form the West Coast Avengers team, in an attempt to solidify a coast-to-coast power base. Issues 244-245 pose an interesting collected volume conundrum, as they heavily feature The Dire Wraiths, but fortunately contain no ROM appearances (Although there are copious mentions of goings-on in his title), so Marvel didn't have to excise these issues from the collection because of rights issues. (Even though the previous ABSOLUTE VISION volume did contain a few ROM cameos, and it didn't seem to be a problem.)

 AVENGERS ANNUAL #13 is up next, an odd Arnim Zola story that features Steve Ditko pencils with John Byrne on inks. If that combo isn't enough to put a smile on your face, there are also appearances by The Beast, Mr. Fantastic, and Hank Pym. It's a neat little done-in-one issue that cleans up some dangling sub-plots from THE INCREDIBLE HULK after his banishment to the crossroads dimension.

 Issues 246-248 tie up more loose ends, this time from Jack Kirby's ETERNALS comic, and features the first scuffle between The Avengers and Maelstrom, who will feature more prominently in issue #250.

 #249 is a side-story that parallels events in Walt Simonson's THE MIGHTY THOR. Malekith the Dark Elf has shattered The Casket of Ancient Winters, unleashing sub-zero temperatures across the globe, paving the way for an invasion by Surtur's demonic hordes. This was a favorite issue of mine as a kid, since it illustrated the tight continuity that Marvel was known for under Jim Shooter. This issue wasn't necessary to the THOR storyline, but it showed how the rest of The Marvel Universe had united to deal with the symptom while Thor tackled the disease. A fun issue that finds Hercules rejoining the team. This is followed by one of Marvel's recap pages that clue you in on how the Thor storyline wrapped up, and also summarizes the WEST COAST AVENGERS mini-series, since the team figures heavily in the double-sized 250th issue. The next installment of this marathon will cover the WCA mini, but I have to, once again, express my appreciation to Marvel for including these text pages, since they make for a much smoother reading experience. DC could learn a lot from Marvel in this department.

 #250 is another old favorite of mine, since it features Maelstrom, who would later turn out to be the "Cosmic threat" that Quasar was empowered to fight. (I really, REALLY wish Marvel would continue collecting QUASAR. They published one volume, years ago, which is a shame, since QUASAR was a series that didn't really hit its stride until after the issues in that collection. The Maelstrom storyline was amazing, and deserves to be read by a wider audience.) Maelstrom's wacky plan to absorb the kinetic energy of the Earth itself is just the type of huge menace that you need to bring together the east coast and west coast teams.

 The remainder of the collection finds The Vision finally implementing his plan for benevolent world domination, as the rest of the team marshals their forces to try to peacefully talk him into relinquishing his power. I won't spoil what happens, but I will say that Roger Stern did an excellent job of creating conflict within the team, but still portraying them as longtime friends and allies who seek a peaceful solution to their internal difficulties, and don't immediately resort to fisticuffs.

 The art for the bulk of this collection is handled by the team of Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott, who I have previously done much gushing over. Their tenure comes to an end in issue #250, and they're replaced by penciler Bob Hall, aided by a revolving door of inkers. The book retains the clean, uncluttered look of the Milgrom/Sinnott era, but it just isn't the same. Luckily, Big John Buscema takes the reins in the next volume, ushering in a new era of artistic greatness for Earth's mightiest heroes.

 The collection is rounded out by a few thumbnail-sized pages of original art, a Marvel Press poster featuring both teams,  a gallery of pin-up pages from various issues of MARVEL FANFARE, and a large helping of profile pages from THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, spotlighting various Avengers and their tech.

 Overall, another strong Stern-helmed AVENGERS collection that includes some pivotal issues in the team's history. Highly recommended.