Wednesday, August 15, 2018

You Can Take The Avenger Out Of The Carnival...

Where YOU Weigh In on the Pros and Cons of a Character's New Attire


Hawkeye, the Marksman   

Following the Avengers' involvement in the Kree-Skrull War, Clint Barton, who at the time was operating in the field as Goliath, was listed as missing in action. But unknown to the rest of his team, his ship had crash-landed on Earth and was discovered by a traveling carnival troupe who offered him transportation in exchange for performances of his impressive archery skills. Eventually, and with Hercules in tow, he makes his way back to New York and becomes involved in a mystery which would result in an invasion of Olympus; but along with his surprise reappearance was of course the surprise of a new costume, replacing one that dated back five years.

In a way, it seems appropriate for Hawkeye's new look (as rendered by artist Barry Smith) to keep in line with his "carny" roots--which indeed it does, thanks to the story's explanation that the costumed belonged to the troupe's former archer who made off with their payroll. The new threads also seem to have inspired Barton to put the moves on the Scarlet Witch...

...though Wanda finally shoots him down. (Ironic how Hawkeye has such lousy aim with Cupid's arrow.)

Funny how the Stalker the Vision winds up in the vicinity of both conversations, eh?

In terms of practicality, these new duds don't seem to be suited to battle situations; for one thing, they're the definition of "wear and tear." One slash from the Swordsman or the Man-Ape and, whoops!, we have an Avenger ducking for cover for all the wrong reasons. (We could say the same for our unfortunate friend Hercules above.) Also, his back- and hip-quivers don't seem designed to accommodate his specialized arrows--while the normal ones tend to fall out in the types of activities that Avengers tend to engage in.

Readers also chimed in with some observations:

If there were indeed "droves" of readers who responded to the entreaty to submit opinions on Hawkeye's new costume, they unfortunately never materialized in the letters column. But with Roy Thomas leaving the book with issue #104 and Steve Englehart coming aboard, the days of Hawkeye's new costume appear to be numbered. Not only does the costume get 86ed after just twelve issues, but the character himself leaves the Avengers following appearances which spanned nearly one-hundred issues over a period of eight years.

So let's have a verdict on Hawkeye's all too brief (in more ways than one) costume!

OR: ?

The floor is open!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Titans Eight!

As often as various Marvel titans have clashed, to great fanfare, it may seem that we've seen the bold splash page title "When Titans Clash!" (along with its sister, "A Clash Of Titans!") any number of times over the years, whether that headliner has been deserved or not. By that I mean I'd be reluctant to categorize a battle between the Mimic and the Super-Adaptoid as anything other than "When Mimics Clash!", which seems so obvious given the nature of the combatants. Marvel, to my shocking surprise, begged to differ:

So out of curiosity, I did a little spot research on the subject, and came up with just 8 instances of an issue's splash page bearing those audacious words. (Actually 7½, but more on that in a moment.) Is that really all? It feels like the number should be higher, since the ground being covered adds up to a little over four decades of stories. Perhaps that speaks well of Marvel's restraint, since those particular words really shouldn't be bandied about excessively, instead reserved only for the most noteworthy of clashes that merit them.

Nevertheless, it makes a tidy feature for today's post--and of course one heck of a banner.

Monday, August 13, 2018

When Titans Tussle!

Aside from his rumbles with Thor, and, on rare occasion, the Hulk, you don't see many one-on-one battles with Hercules that go the distance. What might have been a compelling exception to that assertion would have been to pit the Prince of Power against another unyielding powerhouse who, under other circumstances, would have become a fine recurring foe whose threat potential could have made their bouts as memorable as the issue covers which did their best to sell that concept.

Today, we remember the pairing of Hercules and the Sub-Mariner as one beginning in antagonism but going on to a healthy rivalry built on mutual respect. Yet it was their first meeting in the pages of The Avengers in 1967 which held the promise of much more.

Their battle, however, was to be relatively brief, overshadowed as it was by the title characters as well as the presence of the Cosmic Cube--compounded by the head-scratching complication by writer Roy Thomas of having Hercules grow substantially and inexplicably weaker while battling Namor under water, something even the two combatants couldn't understand.

Nearly three years later, when Namor was well into his own series, a guest-appearance by Hercules seemed the perfect opportunity for them to settle their old score--yet Namor's attack was due to being conscripted by the Olympian known as the Huntsman, well-named since his function as dictated by Zeus was to seek out and return his errant son to Olympus. To that end, the Huntsman mesmerizes the Sub-Mariner to act as a suitable distraction so that Hercules can be taken unawares.

The fact that Namor is going after Hercules not of his own free will saps this conflict of half of its marquee value, since it leaves the door wide open for the story to become a forerunner of what would become a typical Marvel Team-Up plot where both characters meet in battle only to come to their senses and join forces against their common enemy. Indeed, what would otherwise be the opening panels of a page-turning rematch between Hercules and the Sub-Mariner leads to just that.

In all likelihood, Thomas is intent on Namor taking the high road in this affair now that the character has his own title as the Prince of Atlantis, while an attempt may also be at work here in trying to reignite interest in Hercules, missing in action since Thomas pulled him from The Avengers in '68. Regrettably, that means this will strictly be a guest-star story, and nothing achieving the level of the cover-to-cover battle issue we were treated to in that year between Namor and the Hulk.

As for the Huntsman, he has his own ideas on how to deal with this situation, using his staff to create gargantuan mythical figures to do his work for him. From then on, it seems that Namor and Hercules are committed to fighting side-by-side from this point on.

Zeus indeed intervenes, though the story ends with Hercules reconsidering and deciding to return to Olympus after all, to his father's satisfaction. For whatever reason, the Sub-Mariner's memory of the entire matter is erased--though if it's to allow these two to meet in battle again someday, it seems wasted effort considering that Hercules retains his own memory of their alliance. (Then again, whoever accused Hercules of being anything but rash?)

Fifteen years later, when Hercules has rejoined the Avengers, it looks like our pair might engage in no-holds-barred hostilities, when the Avengers visit Hydrobase in the hopes of using it as a hangar for their aircraft and discover a foe from their past haunting the facility. But, what's got Hercules' dander up?

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Fantastic Four Are On The Job!

We've reached the end of our week-long look at the various titles which rode the wave of the Avengers: Disassembled stories from 2004, adding the distinctive DISASSEMBLED banner to their mastheads even if their plots had little to nothing to do with what was happening in The Avengers. But though the Avengers are indeed in dire straits, there yet remains another super-group in New York City, one that used to be the standard-bearer for Marvel Comics and whose book is still going strong at this point in time--and along with a number of other prominent characters, they show up on the Avengers' doorstep during their crisis, which is likely the reason alone that the crossover banner is tacked onto their book's title.  Nevertheless, writer Mark Waid has an interesting and even nostalgic way of associating the book with the Avengers story, one that will again assure New Yorkers why they can always count on the Fantastic Four.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Cycles Of Ragnarok!

The final months of 2004 saw the Avengers decimated by the events of Marvel's DISASSEMBLED story arc--bringing an end to the book as well as several of its characters, even as the crisis trickled down to both Captain America and the Falcon and Invincible Iron Man. The elephant in the room, however--or, rather, not in the room--was the God of Thunder, Thor, the one Avenger you'd think would have been at the forefront of the charge as the Avengers faced their deadliest hour; but Thor would have to be classified as M.I.A., since he was hardly spared Marvel's "scorched Earth" approach that swept through its flagship titles during this time. On the contrary, the Thunder God's entire existence was being disassembled, as Asgard faced the cataclysm of Ragnarok--the Ragnarok, the definitive holocaust of the gods from which this time there would be no escape.

There have been several Ragnarok "false alarms" in the pages of Mighty Thor, among them the story by Roy Thomas that staved off Ragnarok by fulfilling it to a certain extent. (Which, granted, sounds a little like curing the disease by killing the patient.) But this time, in a six-part story that closes out the Thor title, the end of days for the gods actually arrives, though there would be some important differences from the original prophecy divulged by the Asgardian known as Volla. The most important difference is that Odin will not be present, having met his own end three years prior while joining Thor and the Designate (a/k/a Thor Girl) in battle against Surtur.  Volla didn't say anything about a Thor Girl, did she?

Following Odin's death, Thor becomes ruler of Asgard and holder of the Odin-power, eventually coming into conflict with both Cap and Iron Man when he presumes to assert Asgard's will in the affairs of Earth. But when the days of Asgard become numbered, Thor's comrades are by his side to witness the beginning of the end, at least to a point.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tony Stark: Murderer!

As we've begun to see this week, the Avengers: Disassembled story arc from 2004 sent ripples through a select number of other titles, though some mostly shared the story's distinctive DISASSEMBLED banner tacked on to each book's masthead while their stories only loosely made reference to the Avengers crisis. Captain America and the Falcon was probably the only book that could rightly admit to being a "tie-in" to what was happening in The Avengers, as it featured the Scarlet Witch herself in more than a cameo role in a series of stories that took place before everything hit the fan at Avengers Mansion.

In Invincible Iron Man, however, the story that takes place would simply take its cue from Tony Stark's speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, an appearance that took a turn for the worse and tarnished both his reputation as Iron Man and almost certainly his credentials as U.S. Secretary of Defense. Only well afterward would we think to take notice of the woman who appears with him on the dais.

Knowing Stark's history as an alcoholic, our first instinct would probably be to take this display as an indication that he's fallen off the wagon and relapsed into a state of inebriation. Yet it becomes apparent that there's something deeper at work here, when he attests to just the opposite.

Yet as fast as good news travels, bad news outdistances it by a country mile--and the news for Stark keeps getting worse. Thanks to his performance at the U.N., the Stark Enterprises Board of Directors is left scrambling to contain the damage, even to floating the idea of changing the name of the company--while Iron Man becomes embroiled in the Code White alert at Avengers Mansion that has already cost lives. For S.E., the Board believes things couldn't get any worse. For the Board members themselves, however, they soon discover that their future has become hopeless.

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