Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Avengers Dismantle

You might need your calculator for this

Marvel Trivia Question

What's the fewest number of members the Avengers have operated with?

Granted, the Avengers had a pretty small core group, once the Hulk left in anger shortly after the group was formed--down to four members. Still, any team with Thor and Iron Man as members, whatever its size complement, had arguably more than enough muscle to deal with any threat to come its way--particularly with the addition of a fifth member in Captain America soon after. After a little over a year, in the team's first major lineup change, a core group of four members remained, consisting of Captain America, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver--a team of less sheer power, but built from the ground up under the guidance and leadership of Cap's battle savvy and experience.

After roughly the same amount of time as the original team's existence, this group expanded its membership with the return of Giant-Man (now "Goliath") and the Wasp--and with the addition of Hercules less than a year later, a more solid and powerful complement of seven members filled out the roster to its most powerful grouping since the original team disbanded.

And boy, was that about to change. Once again, after a span of about ten issues (as if on cue), the Avengers lineup was about to be shuffled--only this time, in a completely different way. Not only would the team end up less powerful than ever--but the number of members would drop to the fewest in its history, consisting of just Goliath, Hawkeye, and the Wasp. And for a time, to complicate matters, "Goliath" would only have the size-changing ability of reducing to Ant-Man. The Avengers' fighting strength would be at its lowest ebb ever.

To accomplish this, writer Roy Thomas (the trouble-maker--it's always him throwing a wrench into things, isn't it?) put into motion a dizzying chain of events you have to see in sequence to believe--laying the foundation for an exodus of members for one hastily contrived reason or another. First, Captain America, who suddenly wants a life of his own:

Then, out of the blue we begin to see Quicksilver experiencing his first distrust and contempt of homo sapiens, despite having worked with a group of trusted human comrades for almost two years (in publishing time):

Which culminates with the return of Magneto, and his wish to conscript the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in order to reform the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Magneto, unseen, uses his powers to manipulate a human guard into firing at him, with the result playing right into Magneto's hands:

Quicksilver subsequently washes his hands of both humanity and his association with the Avengers, taking Wanda and joining an openly sympathizing Magneto.

Now, even the remaining moping active members can see what direction things are heading in:

Lastly, we have Hercules--who, with the help of this bare-bone team of Avengers, has defeated his own enemy. Now reconciled with his father, Zeus, Hercules is eager to reclaim his position in Olympus. Which of course is the coup de grĂ¢ce to this dwindling Avengers lineup:

On the bright side, the Avengers' butler, Jarvis, is probably doing cartwheels. Because while he may still have to vacuum a whole mansion of rooms, he only has to cook for three Avengers, now at loose ends and probably not even hungry:

It was a convoluted way for Thomas to shift the Avengers membership into a completely different direction, forsaking the formal "lineup change" method of one team replacing another--though the result was much the same, if not the motivation. To the reader at the time, it must have seemed that circumstances were causing members to leave in quick succession. Seen on a month-to-month basis, events must have looked less thrown together than they were.

In any event, readers didn't have long to bemoan a "slim pickings" team of Avengers. The Black Panther stepped in to replace Cap on the team--soon followed by the introduction of the Vision, which captivated everyone. Then, when Hawkeye adopted the Goliath identity, and Hank Pym simultaneously became Yellowjacket, Thomas had a very different and stabilized grouping of Avengers for many issues to come, where he could deal in the original members on an as-needed basis.

Or, to put it another way:

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