Monday, June 24, 2013

Tough Choice: Perfume, or Dr. Spectrum?

Not only will you find 1978's Avengers Annual #8 to be your basic all-action issue:

You'll also get to see an evangelical minister as the new Dr. Spectrum. Praise be.

That's not to dismiss the issue, which really is an enjoyable read and a worthwhile Avengers annual. And the story does, for once, do justice to the formidable character of Dr. Spectrum, whose driving force is an evil Skrull and whose will, combined with a human host, powers a gem which can convert thought into reality as long as the host grips it. Krimonn, the gem's resident Skrull consciousness, seeks either autonomy for itself by totally supplanting the human host's will, or at the very least to be able to dominate the will of the host sufficiently so that their own wishes are secondary to Krimonn's. In the case of the gem's previous host, Dr. Obatu, Krimonn and Obatu were constantly vying for control, and consequently weakening their joint power to the point of enabling Iron Man to overcome both of them.

In this case, it's Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, who falls victim to the gem's total control. How? Because of her husband's reasoning for giving her a unique birthday gift:

There's no doubt anymore--Henry Pym is certifiable. "Gosh, what to get for Jan? I know! I'll repair Dr. Spectrum's gem that held the consciousness of an evil Skrull, and surprise her with it! She won't be horrified or anything--after all, I can personally guarantee that it's harmless now, and I've batted 1000 so far, haven't I?"

So Jan sneaks a peek at her present, and... well....

Spectrum, having total control over Jan, decides to again seek out Thor in order to have its host body be the most powerful to inhabit. But Iron Man, who knows Spectrum's vulnerability to ultra-violet light, has to be Spectrum's first stop--an easy target, since he doesn't suspect that Jan has been possessed:

Unknown to Spectrum, though, Hank has alerted the rest of the Avengers. But Krimonn now has total control of Spectrum's power, and he uses it well (though I doubt a victory against Ant-Man is something he'll feel compelled to brag about):

But as the other Avengers wage an all-out battle against Spectrum, the Vision has come prepared to deal with him, courtesy of Iron Man's documenting Spectrum's weakness:

Yet freeing Jan from Spectrum's influence has a complication, which requires seeking out Spectrum's previous host, the Reverend Billy Roberts:

Roberts, along with Hyperion and the Whizzer, had his memory of being Spectrum suppressed by Dr. Strange after the Squadron Sinister's last battle (with the Defenders)--so once the Avengers are assured that Roberts wishes to help, they bring him to Jan's side. And it's quite the tactical blunder:

Spectrum, now restored to his previous host, begins dropping the Avengers like flies--and since Roberts' persona is now fully in control, the team has the dubious pleasure of listening to various quotes of scripture as they get walloped. Yet Roberts' triumph over the Avengers as well as the alien gem will prove to be short-lived, as the gem's true goal enters the fray:

The sight of Thor strengthens Krimonn's will enough to allow him to escape Roberts and take full possession of the Thunder God. And if you thought Avengers were dropping like flies before:

Finally, Iron Man arrives on the scene, but realizes that he's ultimately no match for Thor. That doesn't stop him from making the effort, of course; but in the meantime, the prism falls victim to a factor it didn't anticipate:

And sixty seconds later, Krimonn and the power prism are no more (at least in this annual):

Which means that Jan will come up empty as far as a birthday present, but the good news for Hank is that she'll probably never want another piece of jewelry again. In fact, if she's smart, she'll just pass on any more presents from Hank altogether. What was it he gave her the last time--a souped-up weapon?? The guy just overflows with sentiment, doesn't he?

While you may have the impression that this issue was rather two-dimensional as far as the Avengers slugging it out with Spectrum, there are one or two *ahem* gems to be found in addition to the main struggle. For one thing, Ms. Marvel is very well handled in terms of characterization and her action sequences; in fact, I thought her fight with Thundra (if a brief one) was a great idea. And Hyperion's battle with the team included a very nice series of panels where he was clearly still enraged at the human race for causing the deaths of his world's population--a strong motivation for his anger and vengeful actions which I was glad to see hadn't been lost in the shuffle of prior appearances, nor should it be.

By the way, how can you pass up your very own Dr. Spectrum action figure?

I'm guessing Hank snatched one up as an anniversary gift.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Welp, I've got this comic. I was always a fan of the Squadron Sinister, and I gotta admit, I was surprised that Dr. Spectrum became a televangelist, but once a once a power-hungry sociopath, always a...well, you get the idea.
It was around this point that the writers at Marvel started to portray Thor as a major heavyweight, Superman-level character. He could fly through space, destroy starships, threaten Celestials, get into fistfights with the Hulk, and then go order lunch. Even Doctor Doom and the Sub-Mariner were wary of him, and they were both egomaniacs.
It was interesting to see the development of Thor, and how he was written in different ways over the years.

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