Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Return Of--The Swordsman!

After about twenty-five issues had passed since the Swordsman's first appearance in the pages of The Avengers--when he became a member of the team under false pretenses, only to see his membership implode due to his alliance with the Mandarin--this once-Avenger finally makes his dramatic reappearance (if you're not counting his shoehorned appearance in the first Avengers annual). But is he still gunning for the Avengers for no good reason?

Indeed, it seems there's little changed in the Swordsman. The man is still slithering his way, if haughtily, through the criminal underworld, though now he's apparently gone into business as an informal sword-for-hire. It's in such a business meeting that we catch up with him--and his prospective employer turns out to be someone we've seen just recently:

Yes, Egghead, who obviously escaped from the space station where Hawkeye's brother, Barney Barton, lost his life. As it happens, that earlier incident and this story have the Swordsman in common, if indirectly.  In his original appearance, we'd already seen  how the Swordsman's origin coincided with that of Hawkeye--a story which Egghead now recounts, with the Swordsman learning this time that Barton was present, as well:

And so Egghead rears his egg-head again to menace the Avengers within just a day or two since his last defeat, this time by proxy. But while the Swordsman may be willing to take his employer's money without needing to know more, there are still a few questions left to untangle. It's obvious that Egghead is still pursuing his obsession with Henry Pym--but why would the Swordsman still carry a grudge against Hawkeye, a grudge that really had no foundation? And why didn't Barton hold the Swordsman accountable for the attempted murder of his brother? Whatever the answers turn out to be, you have to admit the prospect of the Swordsman taking on the Avengers with nothing but a sword, confidence, and a truckload of daring could well be something to see.

Thanks to Goliath (formerly Hawkeye), we can answer one of our questions right now. For while Egghead has been demonstrating his knowledge of the Swordman's tutoring of the future Hawkeye, Goliath has been bringing his teammates up to speed on some additional details of that tale--specifically, the fact that it was the Swordsman's altercation with him that ended up driving a wedge between himself and his brother:

In light of the loss of his brother, and the fact that he wasn't physically present at the moment he was killed, it's understandable for Goliath to assume that Egghead was directly responsible. Yet it's odd for this story not to clarify that Barton was killed as a result of an accident, when he jarred Egghead's paralysis machine which then exploded. (Egghead even tried to warn him off.) That being the case, Barton's death falls under no definition of first- or second-degree murder, or even manslaughter. The story would still work if Goliath was simply focused on bringing Egghead to justice; instead, as we'll see later, it would remain comfortable with Egghead's status as Barton's murderer.

As for the Swordsman, he's going to be making some misassumptions himself, though he's certainly deduced correctly his chances of infiltrating Avengers Mansion right under the noses of its residents:

And so, before you can say "Surprise!":

The story then takes a curious direction, as Goliath bars his own teammates from attacking the Swordsman in order to presumably honor the Swordsman's wish to battle him one-on-one. But, since Goliath has no intention of resuming his role as Hawkeye, the point of who is the more skillful with their weapon is moot--so why this standoff with the other Avengers?

Even more inexplicable is the ease which the Swordsman dispatches the Panther, Yellowjacket, and the Vision in one fell swoop, using the rays from his sword--necessary to isolate Goliath for his more personal conflict with the Swordsman, but a little unrealistic for the Avengers to go charging into enemy fire. With the Wasp seemingly forgotten off-panel somewhere (but at least not on the cover), that leaves only Goliath, who gets much the same treatment:

The Swordsman then departs with the unconscious Goliath, not realizing (or caring) if he has the same "Giant-Man" that Egghead had sent him after. In doing so, he also clears up for us just why he was so intent on crossing weapons with Hawkeye in battle--to prove that, of the two of them, he was still the "master," and Hawkeye merely the upstart. A point of contention, unsurprisingly, only of concern to the Swordsman.

Back at the warehouse where Egghead is holed up, the Swordsman arrives with his prize, and, as far as he's concerned, the terms of their contract have been fulfilled. It will prove to be a more lively point of contention where Goliath is concerned, though giving him a much-needed breather to get back in the game:

Jeez, Egghead has some moves in him. You'd think three Avengers could have done half as well. Thank goodness he would eventually outgrow his incessant Shakespeare-patter, though he'd always have a fondness for pulling a gun:

It's here that Goliath, in his own way, will end up satisfying the Swordman's wish, after all. Once he flicks away the annoying Egghead, he moves to save the Swordsman with some quick thinking and resourcefulness:

We can reasonably assume that Clint Barton's score with Egghead has been settled, though we would later see him more definitively settle accounts with the villain. This two-part story effectively had the Avengers recede into the background for all intents and purposes, while giving Goliath more focus as well as some fairly interesting supplemental material to his character. With his recent shift to a new costumed identity, the timing couldn't have been better to highlight his changed role on the team, while still allowing readers to say something of a farewell to Hawkeye.

The Avengers #65

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Gene Colan
Inks: Sam Grainger
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

Lo, the Swordsman strikes!
I've always liked that character, but I have no idea why.
I just like cornball, I guess.

Murray said...

A lone individual taking out the Avengers always makes me wince. When that individual is Ultron or Typhon or Count Nefaria...okay, it's all good and let the story unfold.

When it's a nimble guy with a pimped out suspension of disbelief collapses in a pile. Well, I'm not going to rant on that just now. What has cross-pollinated in my mind is your previous entry on the Jester and Daredevil's rogue gallery. Swordsman would've made a great Daredevil villain!

What goes thru the minds of Marvel's creative people...or, what doesn't go thru their minds? "What to do with this month's issue of DD? If only there was a lone wolf swashbuckling rogue to match skills with my lone wolf swashbuckling hero. Sigh. Well, Stiltman again, I guess."

Comicsfan said...

That's an excellent observation about the Swordsman and Daredevil being a good match-up.

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