Friday, June 21, 2019

In Final Battle!

Even with the best security money can buy, a townhouse that's been revamped as a three-story mansion--located on Fifth Avenue and 71st Street in Manhattan and only a walkway's distance from street access--is going to be vulnerable to attack by a determined super-villain or group of villains. And that's the scenario the mighty Avengers now face, as they struggle to overcome the siege of their mansion by the Masters of Evil, who have struck while it was virtually deserted and, later, injured two Avengers while also leaving Hercules at death's door and their butler, Jarvis, in critical condition.

But though the Masters indeed seized the day--and the mansion--the Avengers have rallied and fought a hard-pitched battle against those who still occupy their headquarters, as they strive to secure for Jarvis the urgent medical care that he needs. Above, Captain Marvel has just dealt with Moonstone; but the immediate danger comes from the Masters' leader, Baron Zemo, who has ambushed Dr. Druid on the roof and regained control of his operative, Blackout, whose "darkforce" holds the key to tilting the odds in this battle back in the Masters' favor.

But though paralyzed by Zemo's weapon, Druid is still able to reach out to Blackout and influence him as to Zemo's true motives--and so the fight for Blackout becomes a battle between Druid's honesty and Zemo's duplicity, with Blackout struggling to assert his own identity.

Yet there are other struggles being waged below, in the sub-levels of the ravaged Avengers Mansion. Judging by this issue's cover, however, the deciding battle will take place in the light of day--though there may be precious little mansion, or Avengers, left to bear witness to it.

Following up on where we left things previously, the Wasp and the Black Knight are now attempting to make their way upward in order to lend their assistance to Thor and Captain America*, as they fight for their lives against powerful opponents--two of the same men who helped to pummel Hercules to within an inch of his immortal life. Thor has engaged with Goliath, though at a disadvantage--his bones vulnerable to irreversible injury due to a curse inflicted on him by a vengeful Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death. And so Thor must prove an elusive target, and keep out of reach of his super-strong, super-sized foe--if he can.

*Yet another irregular twist to writer Roger Stern's handling of this crisis in order to accommodate inconsistencies which have returned to hamper him. It was the Wasp herself who previously insisted on making Jarvis a priority, choosing to stay behind with Ant-Man and the Knight to help him reach medical care on the surface; and while it's perfectly understandable that the sounds of battle above would draw her attention and decide to trust in the Knight and Ant-Man to see to Jarvis while she speeds to the aid of her teammates, she also agrees to the injured Knight's insistence on accompanying her. As a result, unless Ant-Man can summon a truckload of ants to help carry Jarvis's stretcher to the surface**, she's chosen to leave Jarvis to languish below until the battle is settled, one way or the other.

**And gosh, here's a thought, just off the top of my head: Why doesn't Ant-Man shrink Jarvis to ant size and air-lift both him and his stretcher to the surface with a couple of flying ants? Not only would they not have to worry about being spotted by any of the Masters, but they'd also reach the surface far more quickly than on foot.

As for Captain America, his own battle is equally desperate, if not more--for while Thor has already drained the portioned Asgardian power of the Wrecker from his "Wrecking Crew," that power now resides once more within the Wrecker, who as a result is now proportionally more powerful. And without the defense of his shield, which Zemo has appropriated, Cap must rely more than ever on his skill and knowledge of tactics in order to stay alive.

But thanks to some Avengers teamwork, each "Master of Evil" meets their finish, at roughly the same time.

Above, unknown to Zemo, Captain Marvel has slagged the wiring of his escape craft--and with Goliath's growth spurt sending it crashing down through what's left of the mansion, Yellowjacket, who was aboard, is all too willing to surrender. But Zemo himself isn't so compliant--first dealing with the insubordinate Blackout, only to face the Avenger he was sure Blackout had disposed of. He has one other Avenger to settle accounts with, however.

Cap has no history with this man, other than as the Phoenix--and so in the words they exchange with each other in what would be the final battle of this struggle, the ghost of Heinrich Zemo hovers over and between them, just as it did in their prior conflict. To Zemo, Cap remains a murderer--nothing will shake that conclusion for him, or the idyllic image he has of his father; while Cap now strikes at Zemo as an Avenger, for the injuries that occurred because, as Cap puts it, "You organized a small army of criminals to strike at me, through the Avengers!"

Zemo remains defiant to the end, deluded to the end. And the end is indeed what awaits him--another Zemo whose apparent death is by his own doing (though Stern remains mum on the subject).

Stern provides this story with a decent, and welcome, aftermath, given how many issues it took for the entire story to play out. We leave with the impression, as we should, that the Avengers have been through a brutal struggle--one that was costly for both sides, but for Cap in particular. For aside from the knowledge of being the focal point of Zemo's machinations vis-à-vis the Avengers, in the ruins of the mansion are shredded remnants of his past... though in the end, they stand as reminders of how important it is to look toward the future, side-by-side with those whose lives you fought for.

The Avengers #277

Script: Roger Stern
Breakdowns: John Buscema
Finisher: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Jim Novak


Big Murr said...

Shrinking Jarvis down and vamoosing is an excellent notion. I don't know, though, when in the history of events the users of Pym Particles could apply them to other people/objects. That's business as usual today (especially in the movies), but in early days it was a very special and exclusive club who shrank (or grew).

I can only assume there must be a scene in some comic where Dr. Pym monologues an explanation as to the strange deus ex machina properties of Pym Particles.

(You've got me wondering why Ant-Man didn't go "Giant Man" and lend a big hand?)

Comicsfan said...

Keep in mind though, Murray, that Ant-Man was at the time using enlarging/reduction gas from his belt canisters to change size; and in fact, what brought the idea about Jarvis to mind is that Ant-Man had previously tossed one of those canisters at Titania to shrink her and make her more manageable for the Wasp to K.O. Ergo, if Jarvis was still breathing (and he was, thank goodness), one whiff and problem solved.

Tiboldt said...

I know that Hercules caught up with Goliath (as Atlas) and tried to fight him in revenge for the beating he received during this story, but did he ever seek retribution from any of the others involved? I'm sure that claiming you have Herc on speed-dial would end any fight with the Wrecking Crew or Mr. Hyde instantly.

There's also the nature of Hercules' revenge - the Greek myths don't tend to portray him as particularly forgiving.

Comicsfan said...

Hercules only went after Atlas because of an unexpected news report he received from out of the blue, Tiboldt, so it doesn't seem likely that he would develop an obsession with hunting down Hyde and the others; in fact, since his meeting with Atlas left him feeling even more dissatisfied than when he arrived, he may be inclined to just let the matter drop. However... if he should happen to cross paths with the others at some point, I imagine all bets would be off.

Anonymous said...

According to the Official Pym Manual of Shrinking People and Other Stuff, it's not a good idea to shrink a guy with a head injury.

M.P. (waiting patiently for his No-Prize)

Comicsfan said...

Touché, sir!

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