Monday, September 9, 2019

"This Beachhead Earth!"

For a fleeting moment in time in late 1971, Marvel readers looked forward to their favorite comics being published with a larger page count each month, coinciding with a price increase of 10¢--which meant that all Marvel stories from that point on would no longer be limited to 20 pages, but would extend to 34-36 pages, with all books being bound on the spine rather than stapled. That change in course, as we know, vanished faster than you can say "after further consideration"... but for those few weeks, we were treated to a collection of titles which made anticipation of the following months' books practically register on the Richter scale for some of us, a spike in interest that the first Silver Surfer series would surely have coveted.

Having already covered the pertinent issues for Fantastic Four, Mighty Thor, and Invincible Iron Man, we turn now to the expanded Avengers story for that month, which moves the team closer to direct involvement in the Kree-Skrull War when they come into conflict with Skrull agents (including the Super-Skrull) who have plans not only for two Avengers (Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch) but also for Captain Marvel. The Skrulls have already taken measures to gain their objectives by setting a trap for Mar-vell as well as disbanding the current active roster of the Avengers; but unknown even to the Skrulls, their actions have drawn the attention of four of the original Avengers, who have gathered at their headquarters to investigate.

And so, with the return of the Vision, the door is opened (with a THOOOM, at that) to a power-packed issue by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, and Tom Palmer which will make inroads toward drawing the Earth into an interstellar conflict that will see two star-spanning empires at each others' throats, while also eventually forcing Rick Jones to play a pivotal role in their fate.

(Say, Mr. Adams--did you not get that memo on Iron Man's boot jets?)

Following the Vision's immediate collapse, the mystery of his disappearance as well as that of the other three missing Avengers might remain just that for Cap and the others, since the android's state mirrors death.  To examine the Vision in order to determine the extent of his condition, a specialist is needed--one whose timely arrival in response to Iron Man's call to assemble is no doubt welcome, given the nature of the task before him.

" wanted the original team to gather-by-the-river. It was Ant-Man then--so it's Ant-Man now." You're splitting hairs, Doctor. Just why did you decide to attend this meeting as Ant-Man?

If memory serves, this was the only time that Henry Pym would conduct an examination of the Vision from the inside, having previously (and thereafter) used whatever equipment was set up in Avengers Mansion for those exams (most notably for the extended time the Vision was inert following his contact with a null field surrounding the Baxter Building, a condition which would certainly have warranted Pym repeating the steps he pioneered here).

It's a fascinating visual sequence by Adams and Palmer--and a credit to Pym, whose worn self-confidence in later years could have been bolstered by this reminder of one of the many occasions which proved he deserved his place on the team, in a role that sets him apart from the might and resources of those three who in this instance could only stand and wait. As for what unexpected discovery Pym makes as he completes his work, neither he nor Thomas is talking--though later, many presumed that it was evidence of the Vision's construction decades ago, when Ultron didn't yet exist. But there isn't any reason for Pym to keep that secret, either from the Vision or the Avengers--is there?

At any rate, Pym departs when his work is finished, but assures that he'll return when needed--leaving the remaining three Avengers to answer for their summary dismissal of the Vision and the others from their ranks. And as the deception is revealed and notes are compared, the Vision relates the events which occurred at the upstate farm where Mar-vell and Carol Danvers had retreated to, and where the departed Avengers sought to join them--events made all the more incredible when those who confront them appear at first glance to be three members of a very well-known quartet.

The attackers turn out to be three of the four Skrulls who once posed as the FF to disgrace them and pave the way for invasion. But as the Avengers make plans to return, it's interesting that not one of them broaches the subject of Goliath and Rick Jones, if only to wonder about their status; nevertheless, shortly before the Avengers arrive in force at the farm, our Skrulls have dealt with the former.

As for Mar-vell, he's managed to escape his confinement and decided to alert the Kree in order to warn them of the presence of the Skrulls on Earth, by means of an Omni-Wave projector he constructs on the Skrull ship--a communications device which, in the wrong hands, would also become a weapon of mass destruction. (Way to go, Kree engineers--you've probably even wired your dishwashers for destructive use.) But while the battle plays out between the Skrulls and the Avengers, Mar-vell has pierced the facade of "Carol Danvers," who now stands revealed as the Super-Skrull.

Failing to take possession of the Omni-Wave device, the Super-Skrull decides to be content with the prizes he has and escape with Mar-vell and the two Avenger captives taken earlier--even as the other Avengers finish off the three Skrulls, who find they have been abandoned on Earth yet again.

Goliath, making up for lost time, makes headway in his attempt to bring down the Skrull ship, but fails due in part to his own negligence. As for the other Avengers, though they walk away from this battle with three alien captives of their own, they can't help but feel dispirited for failing to save their comrades who are now held captive on the Skrull ship, two of whom are Avengers. And now, as they come to grips with a setback which has impacted on their morale, while being swept up in a war between two galactic empires, will these Avengers be able to rally to save their comrades, and possibly the Earth itself, from a conflict that has already spiraled beyond their control?

The Avengers #93

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Neal Adams
Inks: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Rick said...

I noticed Romita tinkered with Cap's face on the splash page.

Tiboldt said...

© 1939, Phineas Horton -- what Ant-Man saw.

Anonymous said...

On the larger page count vanishing quickly, I recall reading an interview with Roy Thomas who said it was all a Martin Goodman scheme.

Basically, costs meant prices had to go up and the longer 25 cent comic looked like a possible way to go; Marvel adopted it just long enough so DC believed it would become the standard format then switched back quickly to shorter comics at 20 cents, which made their books cheaper.
Apparently thats how Marvel took over from DC as the leading US comic book publisher!


Comicsfan said...

I'm not sure if I buy that, Sean (get it--"buy that"?), though I acknowledge the possibility of the price Do-si-do being premeditated in the earlier post on the subject. I suppose anything is possible in the business world--but I can't see DC hitting the panic button after a single month of Marvel's new format being in effect; it would seem more savvy to wait a short time (good lord, at least another month) to see if Marvel could sustain the extra work and deadline pressures necessary to maintain the larger page count without resorting to padding their issues with reprints (which was already proving to be the case in some of the books for that month) or pulling the format altogether. In addition, what was to stop DC from issuing its own change of heart apologia and moving their own books back in price? An ill-considered "scheme," IMO, if that's the actual true story.

Anonymous said...

Well Comicsfan, DC DID move their books back in price... it just took them a while to respond, by which time they'd fallen behind.
Roy Thomas was editor-in-chief at the time, so I assume he had some idea of what was going on, and it does seem the most likely explanation for why Marvel changed their standard format and then switched back again so quickly (it seems to be only the November '71 cover dated books that were the 25 cent size).

But of course it doesn't necessarily follow thats actually why Marvel overtook DC, or even the main reason.

Those Adams vengers looked great btw. A pity he didn't stick around.


Anonymous said...

That should be "Adams Avengers", obviously. Duh.


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