Monday, July 25, 2005

It Came from the Long Box! The Avengers #227, January 1983

This is sort of an interesting issue to look back on, as it was meant to clear up loose threads, take a moment before the next major plot arc started to do some character stuff, and set the table for one of the group’s periodic wholesale membership changes, as well as an upcoming story arc.

Some of the stuff I remember, some I don’t. (C’mon, the comic’s twenty plus years old now.) I mean, there’s about a hundred plot threads going on here. However, given my background I generally kept up, and of course comics of that era really made an effort—often resulting in way too much barely disguised and quite clunky exposition—to keep readers apprised of such.

A major focus of the issue is the then recently introduced superheroine Captain Marvel, in this case a black woman with big frizzy hair and a particularly boring costume who could turn into energy, or some damn thing. Let’s just say that she hasn’t entered the pantheon of great superheroes, and had she been white, she’d probably be even less remembered.

The story starts with a test of her abilities, and in her energy form she literally goes around the world in “under two seconds.” Needless to say, she was one of the characters where the writers had to ignore the potential of her abilities so that nearly every issue wasn’t resolved immediately. Jan, aka the Wasp (then the group’s chairman) then hugs her (!) and invites her to join the team.

Jan then leaves for a lunch date, at which she is eventually joined by Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, who here wear versions of their classic blue uniforms that look like bad jogging suits. This event is interesting as an early (if not particularly good) example of trying to portray the private lives of superheroes, something that writers like Brian Michael Bendis have recently brought to vogue.

There’s a pretty lame ‘woman’s lib’ vibe going on in the issue (one belied by the Wasp, who despite being the group’s then leader still is portrayed as a bit of a ditz.) This includes a moment where then-member She Hulk picks up a big piece of equipment that "weighs five tons!", earning amazed looks from Captain America and Iron Man. This is a particularly silly moment, as both gentlemen have known hundreds of people who could do the same. Meanwhile, Hawkeye, often sadly cast as the group’s hothead doofus, stalks off due to all the uppity chicks.

Meanwhile, Hank Pym, Jan’s ex-husband (I think—if they were still married at this point, they wouldn’t be later) had recently gone nuts and committed various crimes and is currently imprisoned and he and Jan are now divorced and blah blah. Hank, for his part, gives a rather long recap of his and Jan’s career to his defense attorney. Since he’s had quite a few superhero identities, this takes a while, in fact eating up the vast majority of the book. Since I’ve never been a huge Ant-Man, Giant Man, etc., fan, this didn’t do that much for me.

The book is well put together, being scripting by the gifted Roger Stern and drawn by old hand Sal Buscema. Still, it points to an uncoming era in which such uninteresting characters as The Wasp, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, etc., would come to dominate the book. (Especially since Thor, on hand in the beginning of the book, indicates that he will shortly leave the group for about the 100th time.) The book looks forwards to days in which superhero comics would become more sophisticated, but in inself isn't quite there yet.

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