Friday, August 12, 2016

The End... The Beginning!

Welcome to the final day of Avengers:Transition, winding down our five-day series of posts featuring the issues of the 2005 Earth's Mightiest Heroes limited series which dealt with the team's first lineup change. Forty years after the fact, writer Joe Casey has taken Stan Lee's original tale and re-worked it, providing supplemental material that changes those events to a certain degree while keeping intact the basic structure of the story, allowing the original Avengers to play more of a part in the decisions which led to their exit from the book. In the process, we're given a more dramatic story, with the details of the departure of the founding members and the introduction of their replacements playing out before our eyes, rather than behind the scenes.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this series of reviews focused on the arrival of Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch, with Casey's new material adding a different take to the circumstances which led them to the Avengers' doorstep. In Part 3, it was time to confront the elephant that had been standing in the room for decades: Why did the original Avengers suddenly decide to leave? More to the point, why were they being jettisoned from the book? Casey's material can't answer the latter question, of course (though author Sean Howe briefly addresses the matter in an excerpt included in Part 1)--but he makes an honest attempt to give their departure more context. Finally, in Part 4, we find the Avengers in the midst of parting company, and passing the torch.

Now that the dust has settled, and the new Avengers are on their way into making history, you might enjoy taking a look at some of the other scenes which were a part of this transition--scenes that not only add some helpful perspective to the events involved, but also bring a good deal of additional character to old and new Avengers alike. And while many of these scenes weren't part of the original 1965 story, in a way you may find that they still ring familiar.

(A reminder that Casey's material adds a more contemporary look to the original story, so you'll no doubt notice a few things that weren't around in 1965: cell phones, personal computers, and e-mail, to name a few. Given that comics often excel in featuring scientific advances that are nowhere to be found in the real world but seem to be commonplace with super-villains and fictional intelligence agencies, these updates generally don't detract in the least from Casey's story--though I think a rotary phone in use in Avengers Mansion would have been awesome.)

We can certainly start with one of the more volatile scenes to be found in this transition--and when we speak of "volatile," we're either talking about the Hulk or, in this case, Special Agent Murch of the National Security Council. Murch, an agent who throws his weight around (like another government agent we know of), has made Iron Man fight for every inch of ground in his efforts to secure government clearance for Avengers operations; as a result, Murch is often in the habit of extending his influence by presuming to make policy for the team, a presumption that's so far been tolerated because of the A-1 priority carrot he dangles over their head. When Iron Man decides to radically shake up the team's roster, he understandably keeps Murch out of the loop in order to have the process move ahead without distraction or interference--but when the news breaks, you can imagine who's going to come bursting through the Avengers' doors. And Iron Man, expecting the intrusion, finally reaches his limit with this man.

Murch may have backed down, though he'll continue to be a thorn in the side of the Avengers during his tenure as their liaison with the NSC. And given his trademark tenacity, that's just as it should be.

In another segment, we can also get a better understanding of why Captain America was progressively becoming more obsessed with hunting down Baron Zemo, brooding alone and leaving his fellow Avengers out of what he considered a personal matter--a situation which created complications, since Zemo led the Masters of Evil, who had become enemies of the Avengers as a whole. Things come to a head for Cap when the Avengers battle the forces of Count Nefaria, and one of their own falls--an incident that has Cap in part blaming himself for an Avenger at death's door.

Iron Man's worry stems from the NSC's condition that Cap remain an Avengers member in exchange for continued government clearance for the group, with Iron Man fearing that Cap's state of mind will make him do something that warrants his resignation. (At least that's my interpretation of Casey's drawn-out handling of Cap in this new version. Casey doesn't come right out and say it, which leaves the reader to form a conclusion; but it seems apparent that this is Casey's way of putting into jeopardy the NSC clearance, which serves to progress the story to the point of having Iron Man considering disbanding the Avengers. It's the one part of this new story material that seems overly jumbled.)

A more pleasant scene with Cap involves the moment when he returns from Bolivia, to find in progress the changes that Iron Man, Giant-Man and the Wasp have implemented in the team's lineup, and to smooth things over with them on his conduct regarding Zemo. But with Iron Man's announcement that he, too, has decided to leave the Avengers, Cap discovers that his old comrades believe that they're looking at the perfect man to stay and lead their replacements.

Three-quarters of the Avengers being made up of ex-criminals is certainly jarring when said "out loud" like that--and it seems appropriate that Cap is the one to reiterate the point. In Lee's story, the matter was whitewashed to an extent--but looking at these internal discussions, you get a sense of the bold move the Avengers have made here, and admittedly why the NSC would have objections to it. It later becomes clear that the decision was allowed to stand because the President had confidence in Captain America to handle things, another off-the-record nugget that helps to add to Casey's closing pages of this series.

In another part of the mansion, though, another meeting is taking place, with introductions being made between three new Avengers who have never conversed together. The results are delightful, thanks to the forward nature of the one and only Hawkeye.

The time then arrives for Cap to meet with his new team, and for the others to depart--and Cap assumes his post as Chairman for the first time, meeting with the press to introduce the new Avengers team to the public. And closing out this series nicely, the scene is viewed by Tony Stark, who checks in and sees not only the Avengers in good hands, but observes the vision he and the others had for the Avengers unfolding before his eyes.


With Avengers Mansion playing such a part in the EMH series, let's have a look at its real-life location in New York City, on the corner of 5th Avenue and 71st street in Manhattan. On "our" Earth, the location appears to be the home of the Frick Art Museum and Reference Library, with apartment buildings on the opposite side of 71st St.--but the similarity in overall layout is striking, eh?


Anonymous said...

Tony Stark has created a face-plate that allows him to knit his brows together, and make him look like he's angry, effective for dealing with annoying government types.
That's technology!

B Smith said...

Have to admit I almost spat the drink when Cap said "I've never been the type to brood..." - for about the first ten years after his revival that's all he ever did!

Anonymous said...

This is why Marvel was (and still is !!) so great - they dumped all the original Avengers and had a new team that contained three former villains. Only Marvel would be so daring and innovative !!

Comicsfan said...

What worried me, M.P., was: Could a nose be far behind??

B, that's a fair point about Cap, though his constant brooding really didn't seem to kick in to a profound degree until his own team lineup was put in place and he was often left alone with his thoughts and no one but Jarvis for company. (It was also around the same time that his stories in Tales Of Suspense began focusing on his war-time memories and his lost partner; fortunately, he also began forming ties with SHIELD, which gave him needed distraction during his down time with the Avengers.) That said, I agree that Casey could have handled that scene a little differently.

Colin, it was certainly a risky move for Lee to make with the Avengers, pulling the virtual rug out from under us like that. I wasn't particularly thrilled with the new lineup, since all these people seemed to do was to bicker with each other between action sequences. Jarvis must have bitten his tongue frequently at wanting to tell the lot of them to straighten up and stop acting like petulant children.

Kitty Trundle said...

Just such a shame that such good writing had to suffer from decent pencils ruined by digital inks which can be done (since they're crap) on a 2005 Acer laptop using Flash MX.

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