Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Twenty-Two: The Avengers Epic Collection, Volume 17: Judgment Day

 Once again, the end of the Roger Stern era, but with extra stuff...

 THE AVENGERS EPIC COLLECTION, VOLUME 17: JUDGMENT DAY collects THE AVENGERS #278-285, THE AVENGERS ANNUAL #16, MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #27: EMPEROR DOOM, THE X-MEN VS. THE AVENGERS #'s 1-4, and WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #2. I already reviewed THE AVENGERS #'s 278-285 here, and those issues are the best thing about this collection. The two annuals are reviewed here, and they're both different degrees of terrible. The attraction of this volume for me was the inclusion of THE X-MEN VS. THE AVENGERS #'s 1-4, which were (Mostly...) written by Roger Stern, and MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #27: EMPEROR DOOM, which I read decades ago and remembered almost nothing about.

 The mini-series, presented in continuity here as the last Roger Stern scripted AVENGERS book, is pretty terrible. It was almost bloated and muddled enough to make me feel like it had been written by X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, and Stern, while a stellar AVENGERS writer, has a terrible grasp of The X-Men. His Rogue talks like Zsa Zsa Gabor (Dahlink...), and absorbs people's accents as well as their powers. The story finds The Avengers and The X-Men playing tug-of-war over the newly "reformed" Magneto, who may or may not be backsliding into his world-dominating ways. The story is a mess, and you can feel the editorial meddling on every page. (The original pitch for the mini-series, as well as Roger Stern's script for issue #4 is included, at maddening, eye-ruining thumbnail size, in the back of the book.) The final product bears little resemblance to Stern's pitch, as editor Mark Gruenwald's notes make it clear that Marvel had no room for ambiguity about Magneto: He was to be presented as a hero, despite countless murders and acts of terrorism perpetrated at his hands. Stern was removed after the third issue, replaced by Tom DeFalco, who practically starts a whole new story. To his credit, he wraps it up neatly, but hardly satisfactorily. A very disappointing book, which could have been a classic. Gruenwald's image takes a beating from the petty "NO!" notes he scrawls all over Stern's scripts...You can see that he was getting sick of Stern, and was, in fact, mere months away from firing him off of THE AVENGERS for refusing to perform a character assassination on Captain Marvel so Gruenwald's pet character, Captain America, could lead the team again.

 The EMPEROR DOOM graphic novel is a good idea poorly executed: What if the bad guy won, conquered the world...and made it a better place? Writer David Michelinie ham-fistedly moves the characters around like chess pieces to prove his point, and artist Bob Hall adopts a more mature Bill Sienkiewicz style than we're used to from him, but it's all pretty sloppy and childish. Unless you're a completest, skip this volume and buy the AVENGERS: ASSAULT ON OLYMPUS collection, instead.

 Six out of ten devil heads:
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