Friday, December 2, 2016

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Fifteen: The Avengers: The Legacy of Thanos

 A choppy, uneven read that closes the books on a few large pieces of The Marvel Universe.

 First off- Yes, THE AVENGERS: THE LEGACY OF THANOS is a choppy, uneven book. But, even so, it's light-years ahead of Steve Englehart's WEST COAST AVENGERS and VISION AND THE SCARLET WITCH- A YEAR IN THE LIFE. Roger Stern continues his masterful run on THE AVENGERS, joined here by penciler John Buscema and inker Tom Palmer, a legendary art team if ever there was one.

 The book starts off with Captain Marvel, who is off on a space mission to locate and investigate Sanctuary II, the abandoned warship of Thanos. Things quickly go south, as CM is captured by Nebula, a female pirate who claims to be the granddaughter of the mad titan himself. The Captain Marvel subplot goes on for a while, as The Avengers have their hands full on Earth with the threat of Terminus.

 Post-Terminus, the team heads out into space to rescue Captain Marvel, and soon find themselves not only contending with Nebula, but also thrown into the mix as participants in a massive Skrull civil war.

 I was surprised to see that Roger Stern spent a huge amount of time tending to the landscape and continuity of The Marvel Universe during his run, something that must have slipped under my radar when I was a younger reader. This volume collects THE AVENGERS #'s 255-261, AVENGERS ANNUAL #14, AND FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #19, Over the course of these nine issues, Stern lays waste to The Savage Land and neighboring Pangea, and destroys the shape-changing abilities of perennial Marvel baddies, The Skrulls. I would love to see Stern address the reasons behind the wholesale destruction of two Marvel Universe mainstays.

 The Savage Land is destroyed by the massive Terminus, who is looking for technology for a reason that is never addressed. As muddled as his motives may be, the gigantic alien gives The Avengers a run for their money.

 The Terminus story offers a nice little coda to the late, lamented Bruce Jones/Brent Anderson KA-ZAR comic, but ends with a huge, unique chunk of Marvel Universe real-estate taken out, which, while a game-changer, seems a little overly harsh and final. The Savage Land has come back since then, I have no idea how, but it was still an odd way to end the story.

 This is followed by a fairly self-contained issue that plays off of a storyline that was running concurrently in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, namely Spidey's epic battle with Firelord.

 The meat of the book gets started after the Firelord issue, as The Avengers ally themselves with The Skrulls to stand against the armies of Nebula. This is Marvel space-opera at its finest, with each hero getting a chance to shine during the battle. Unfortunately, the battle with Nebula is marred by the inclusion of The Beyonder on two different occasions. Although the appearances are well-explained, these scenes are going to be a major turn-off to readers who are unfamiliar with the SECRET WARS II story.

 After wrapping up the Nebula case, the team finds themselves in the middle of an inter-Skrull conflict in a sort-of-two-parter that runs through THE AVENGERS ANNUAL #14 and FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #19. John Byrne supplies the art for both stories- He is inked most unappealingly in the Avengers half of the story by Kyle Baker, who is probably the worst possible choice to be paired up with Byrne. The FF half fares better, with Byrne being inked by Joe Sinnott. The story features a planet filled with Skrulls who pattern their society after 1930's gangster films, which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds. Again, I would kill to find out just why Stern and Byrne decided to strip The Skrulls of the shape-changing powers. Also, kudos to John Byrne for getting away with using THE EXACT SAME ART (Albeit with two different inkers...) for eight pages in both books. This is not really a crossover, as the Annuals happen at roughly the same time...it's more two separate adventures that dovetail at the end. Just in time for a certain someone to use eight pages of the same art in both books.

 After the Annuals, The Avengers tie up the loose ends of their space adventures, and head back home to face The Beyonder in yet another SECRET WARS II crossover.

 This wasn't a bad book, by any means, but the Annuals tell a lackluster story that you're basically reading twice, and they kind of killed off the momentum that Stern had built up during the Nebula issues. Another major hurdle is that Stern is not working with the most interesting team of Avengers.....Hercules, The Wasp, Captain America, Starfox, Captain Marvel, and The Black Knight. These are, for the most part, an all-business assortment of characters. The humor of someone like Hawkeye, for instance, is sorely missed.
Also, this collection is massively overpriced at $34.99.

 There's a smattering of extras in the back, including some Buscema and Byrne original art (Sadly, the art is shown thumbnail-size.), part of a MARVEL AGE article about the 1985 Annuals, a Nebula color guide, and an OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE entry about Skrulls.

 Not a bad volume, but not one of Stern's best. 7 out of 10 devil heads.
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