Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Familiar Debut Of... Whirlwind!

Once characters such as the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Giant-Man, and Dr. Strange graduated their mid-1960s feature mags and made the move to titles of their own, some of their old foes made the move with them, becoming more serious threats in stories that invested more time and thought into the characters and the plots they were swept up in. In the case of Giant-Man--the one character who didn't receive his own title but instead returned to the Avengers as Goliath--he found himself once again dogged by his old nemesis from Tales To Astonish, the Human Top; and while the Top didn't exactly set the world of comics fandom on fire in the push to make him an arch-enemy of a headlining hero, what better way to take another shot at prominence than to guest-star in a "rising star" mag like The Avengers?

And this time the Whirlwind, a/k/a Dave Cannon--whose face, it's important to note, was already known to both Giant-Man and the Wasp--arrives in sheep's... er, chauffeur's clothing as "Charles Matthews," a man that Janet Van Dyne has hired as her limo driver, proving again the old comic book practice of being able to effectively conceal your identity with a simple pair of glasses or, in this case, a chauffeur's uniform.

The Wasp and Goliath may have left the Top behind in those old Tales To Astonish issues, but Cannon is as focused as ever on revenge, as well as intent on rebuilding the rep he was making for himself before his encounters with Giant-Man diluted it. To that end, he shifts his identity to one that puts a new (forgive the word) spin on his power.

It doesn't seem like much of a move up in the costume department, does it? And that helmet looks like it could double as the agitator in somebody's washing machine.

For a story that purports to renew the long-standing battle between Whirlwind and the now rechristened Goliath--to "re-establish my reputation," as Cannon puts it--it has a strange way of playing that out. Instead of a protracted fight that would electrify the issue and showcase the power that the new, improved Whirlwind brags of, he instead traps Goliath and the Wasp within an ant colony and puts a bomb in place to finish them--while the bulk of the issue is spent watching the pair of heroes attempt to survive among the ants they aren't equipped to control. What a detonated bomb explosion would do for Whirlwind's reputation is anyone's guess, since any villain worth his salt could plant a bomb; but he at least gets points for planning, though he's admittedly gotten the drop on Henry Pym often enough to be able to outmaneuver him without breathing hard.

The story is resolved by seeing Goliath rig a way to control the attacking ants, while Whirlwind is intercepted by Captain America and Quicksilver and the bomb is dispatched prior to detonation.

Whirlwind then becomes the type of villain who's shuffled into various stories as little more than a warm body for a writer who needs to supply his story with a few, much like the Swordsman and Power Man became operatives for others after their moments in the spotlight faded. Whirlwind, for instance, was often made part of various lineups of the Masters of Evil--though it's difficult to see Cannon as a team player, much less a subordinate. But his name and spinning display made for a nice cover image and, washing machine part or not, that helmet was just sinister looking enough to pique a buyer's curiosity.

It was when Pym was trapped at ant size and presumed dead that Cannon chose to try to take advantage of the Wasp's grief as "Charles," as by this time he had developed a fixation on her (and certainly on her fortune). She never did turn to him in a personal way; and after a fire he set in their lab gave the impression of killing both heroes, "Charles" finally played his hand and teamed up with the Pyms' lawyer, Blackburn, to craft a plot to embezzle Jan's millions. That plot fizzled, of course, when the Pyms turned up alive--but Cannon's subterfuge as Jan's chauffeur was effectively put to an end.

Yet "Charles" wasn't giving up--and when Jan was later injured in a near-fatal explosion, Pym makes it clear to him that bygones are not bygones, and that Charles' walking papers were long since handed to him.

Shortly afterward, Whirlwind makes his appearance and tries to kill Jan in her hospital bed--but he flees when Pym is about to use his disruptor gun on him, a weapon the villain had never seen and shouldn't have flinched from. And with the coincidence of Charles showing up again, it doesn't take Pym long to put two and two together--and at last, Charles' cover is blown wide open (which seems appropriate for a villain with his particular power).

For those of us aware of the long-standing enmity between these two, the main attraction of the presence of either the Human Top or Whirlwind remains the friction of Pym and Cannon battling one another. And while Cannon has had his share of defeats at Pym's hand, he retains the arrogance of knowing that his speed makes a mockery of Pym's giant-sized form, whether as Goliath or as Yellowjacket--and he continues to play that hand well, though he remains at risk the longer he gives Pym time to come up with a strategy.

And so it goes, with Whirlwind once again being carted off to prison, where his cell probably has his own name plate on the door by now. But their long history together remains the driving force for any encounters Whirlwind has with Pym or the Avengers; and in one case, even prison serves as their arena, when Pym--disgraced and sent to the big house after being set up by Egghead to commit a federal crime following his expulsion from the Avengers--meets his old adversary in the prison cafeteria, and sparks fly.  (To say nothing of food trays.)

True to Cannon's prediction, Tiger Shark then bursts in to break out Whirlwind as well as Moonstone in order to bring them into the new Masters of Evil. And thanks to Whirlwind's eagerness to get his hands on Jan, the group is forced to battle the Avengers much sooner than Egghead's plans called for it, and they eventually pay the price.

Time passes, and Pym begins spending time with the West Coast Avengers in a civilian capacity--but when he gets a lead on Whirlwind, he helps to lay a trap for him with the assistance of Tigra and the Hellcat. Only it's not Whirlwind's power that Pym must beware of, but his stinging words.

Whirlwind's tirade hits Pym at a low point in his life--and afterward he's barely able to pull himself out of an attempt at ending his own life, going on to become Doctor Pym, the so-called "scientific adventurer." As for Whirlwind, he falls into this appearance or that, even ending up in Las Vegas where he hires call girls to dress up as the Wasp for... well, you know the old saying about things happening in Vegas. Suffice to say that he's sufficiently motivated to suit up in costume when he learns that the Wasp is in town, albeit with her ex-husband--and a reckoning is again at hand for these three, as Pym and the Wasp recover from Whirlwind's surprise attack to vent their anger on their old foe.

If you're a little shocked at Pym's startling appearance here (aside from his height, that is), let's just say that this issue had its share of surprises.

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