Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Touch Of Scarlet--A Dash Of Silver


You've come to Part 2 of Avengers:Transition week, the PPoC's five-day spotlight on the issues of the 2005 Earth's Mightiest Heroes series which dealt with the exit of the original Avengers and the arrival of the new team members who would take their place. In Part 1, we saw the founding members of the Avengers in disarray and the team approaching near-collapse, as a series of events began a domino effect that threatened to split the Avengers apart--just as they had finally secured their A-1 priority status from the National Security Council. Yet that priority clearance was granted on the condition that Captain America remained a member of the Avengers--and Cap had recently become fixated on pursuing Baron Zemo to Bolivia in order to exact vengeance on the man he held responsible for the death of his wartime partner, Bucky Barnes. Technically, you could argue that Cap was acting as an "Avenger," and Iron Man was prepared to gather the team to accompany him--but Cap was adamant about going on this mission alone, which Iron Man knew might not sit well with the NSC.

For now, Cap going AWOL was being kept by Iron Man as a private matter. However, after Cap departs, and the Masters of Evil that remain in the city have been dealt with, Thor announces that he's also leaving the team, to attend to an Asgardian matter; and later, because of the Wasp's near-death experience after an encounter with Count Nefaria, Giant-Man makes it known that he and his partner will be taking an extended leave of absence. In effect, the Avengers, as a formal entity operating with government clearance, appears to be in the midst of dissolution--which seems a premature assessment to make, either on the part of Stan Lee in his original story or this 2005 re-telling by writer Joe Casey. These heroes, after all, have only banded together in common cause; there's nothing written in their charter that compels them to abandon their own affairs or their own activities as costumed individuals. Cap has departed on a mission of his own--so what? He never said anything about quitting the team--nor did Thor, for that matter. Does the NSC expect these heroes to operate together 24/7? Does Iron Man? Why shouldn't they be free to conduct missions of their own?

Yet by the time Hawkeye arrives to petition for membership, Giant-Man and the Wasp have dropped their news on Iron Man--and both writers regard the current state of the Avengers as a prelude to disbanding, with Lee even having Iron Man mentioning the word aloud. Talk about jumping the gun. But Casey has already partially dealt with Cap's absence, and we'll later see more in-depth coverage by him on Thor's exit (where Lee provided none); but for now, Hawkeye's arrival has Iron Man and the others thinking about shifting the team's posture to that of replacement members, and keeping the legacy of the Avengers alive. And there are two more prospective members who might be joining their ranks--if they can surmount the pall of their own hopelessness.






On the run in east Transia, presumably after finally escaping Magneto's yoke, Pietro and Wanda--better known to the world at large as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch--are at a loss as to what to do with their lives, believing their association with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to have damned them forever in the eyes of others. As to where they might go from here, it's unclear at first why the pair would consider that a quandary; since both of them also consider their status as mutants to handicap them in terms of seeking normal lives for themselves, the sensible thing to do (at least for the time being) would be to seek sanctuary with Charles Xavier and the X-Men, who have been sympathetic to the pair and would be made to order for their situation.

Instead, both Lee and Casey veer them in the direction of the Avengers, with Lee accounting for their decision by mentioning Pietro's wish to be part of an organization that, unlike the X-Men, wouldn't constantly remind them of their status as mutants and would accept them, as Pietro puts it, "without caring that we are different." Thanks to the inadvertent inspiration provided by Hawkeye, they receive their chance when the Avengers make a broad media appeal for new members and word eventually reaches these two. Casey's supplemental material brings them to London to be interviewed by Anthony Stark as well as Agent Murch of the NSC in preliminary overtures--though it becomes obvious that Pietro is being careful to assure himself that the Avengers meet his expectations as far as any personal feelings they might harbor toward himself and his sister.




Considering his well-known acerbic nature, which Casey doesn't water down to the level it was in 1965, to say that Pietro is on edge is no doubt putting it mildly, given the distrust he's developed in his dealings with his fellow man--stemming from his experiences with fearful villagers and gypsies since the powers of himself and his sister became known, as well as his servitude with Magneto. Murch, a liaison which the Avengers have never warmed to, remains opposed to the pair as Avengers members because of their status as mutants (and as mutant terrorists), which Pietro seems to have already picked up on--while Stark, who no doubt keeps in mind that it was Wanda and Pietro who reached out for this meeting (and who, as Iron Man, is doing his best to keep the Avengers going), is motivated to move the meeting forward calmly and address the concerns of both as best he can. To accomplish that, he'll have to give Pietro considerable latitude as far as the tactless manner in which the man explains their reasons for attending this meeting. Though give Pietro some credit--by the time he's finished, you're not quite sure who's interviewing whom here.



Despite the tension in the room, Stark navigates the situation like a pro, moving through the formalities with a polished candor that seems to put even Pietro more at ease--who, by the time the meeting wraps up, seems to sense that he's on the same page with Stark when it comes to Agent Murch, which provides welcome common ground between the two. The introductory phase is drawn to its close with optimism on Stark's part, and perhaps cautious optimism where Pietro is concerned--but by any measure, this meeting has been a productive one.





Naturally, in Murch's case, there are details post-meeting to be worked out in private--most obviously, his anti-mutant sentiment, as well as his reservations about the criminal records of these applicants and where their loyalties lie. As far as Stark is concerned, it's clear he's made up his mind, perhaps rushing the process through a bit because of the responsibility he as Iron Man still feels for his misjudgment of the Hulk and the failure to retain him on the team.



As with Hawkeye, Casey's new material doesn't deviate a great deal from the basics of the original story of the arrival of Pietro and Wanda in the States, though in each case the differences are noticeable. In Lee's story, introductions are made during the pair's arrival at the airport, and their meeting with Stark conducted cordially in Stark's townhouse--nor does the NSC or its agents play any part whatsoever in the original tale (and wouldn't be a factor in The Avengers for quite awhile). Also, when we first encounter them, Wanda and Pietro are living comfortably in a Swiss chalet, not fugitives on the run in Transia and fearful of discovery. So the changes Casey makes are sensible ones in the broad sense; he even picks up on the X-Men angle during the meeting with Stark and Murch, with it almost being implied that Pietro might have previously made contact with Xavier and perhaps solicited his assistance in arranging the meeting. It's an interesting study in storytelling from the perspectives of two different writers--though Casey of course has the benefit of hindsight, with Pietro's blunt tone and assertive posture much more evident in Casey's scenes.

And while the pair's arrival at JFK has no scene with Pietro demonstrating his power in racing Stark's limo back to the townhouse (though it might indeed have taken place--watch how Casey leaves the door open for it), they still turn heads as they disembark, and Casey captures the mob of the press reception nicely.






As the time approaches for Pietro and Wanda to meet the other Avengers, Casey again makes use of Jarvis to appropriately make the pair feel at ease in their new home. It's a shame that "the Avengers' butler," as he was known during Lee's tenure on the book, took awhile to catch on as a character in his own right, since the exposure Casey provides him with in this series more than demonstrates his capability of holding the reader's interest as the type of character who can balance the unpredictable, forthright nature of the Avengers with his simple humanity.




As much as Pietro might have bristled at being referred to as "young man," I dare say that Jarvis might just be the first person in this house to have earned his full respect.

The original Avengers pull up stakes! But why?

2 comments:

dangermash said...

Wanda's and Pietro's escape from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was made easier by The Stranger turning Mastermind into a statue and taking Magneto and The Toad back to his home planet in X-Men #11.

Cracking article though. Always good to see a comic attempting to fill in the gaps in the silver age.

Comicsfan said...

Yes, it's too bad Pietro and Wanda didn't stick around a little longer to learn of Magneto's fate, dangermash--though perhaps small comfort, since, as fugitives, they would have been on the lam regardless.

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