Monday, December 24, 2012

The Spy Who Served Me

OR: "Pay No Attention To That Butler Behind The Cowl"

It probably goes without saying that, in his capacity as Tony Stark's butler (on permanent loan to the Avengers), Edwin Jarvis was bound to have his share of altercations with super-villains who would infiltrate or otherwise force their way into Avengers Mansion:

And sometimes the Avengers' schedule might interrupt the usual social niceties:

But he probably never expected his own employers to treat him unduly:

Which brings us to a rather shocking

Marvel Trivia Question

What made Jarvis betray the Avengers?

Given the sterling character of Jarvis, it would be easy to assume that he would have to be under some form of mind control or similar influence in order to turn on the Avengers, whom he's served so faithfully through any number of lineup changes. But even at a point in time when we really hadn't had all that much exposure to Jarvis's interaction with the team, it's still startling when we come across a butler who doesn't exactly look like he harbors any loyalty to the Avengers, a man perfectly in control of his faculties:

And just look who he's covertly meeting with:

Nor is it Baron Zemo who leads this new incarnation of the Masters of Evil, but a figure whose identity is completely unknown to either Jarvis or even his own subordinates:

As for what information Jarvis is selling to the Cowl, nowadays it seems pretty trivial to us:

After all, no matter how the Avengers have upgraded their auto-defenses, they're really only a deterrent for small-time villains who don't have the power to just wade through them. The Masters of Evil have never fallen into that category; even the Grim Reaper just blasted his way through a wall, and incapacitating a couple of Avengers in the process. Yet this information seems crucial to the Masters' success--and as we'll see, it will be, but only insofar as it allows them to get into the mansion undetected as well as use the Avengers' new devices against them.

As for Jarvis, he's about to find that to the Masters, an informant is only as useful as the information he's just delivered:

The Cowl instructs his team to proceed with the plan for capturing the Avengers, while he "disposes of" Jarvis. And the Masters succeed--minus the Black Knight (who's really the nephew of the Knight who belonged to the original Masters group), who was captured in an attempt to warn the Avengers. But as the Masters head back to their lair, they get an incoming message from the Cowl, who has one more card to play--one which will come as much of a surprise to the Avengers as to the Masters of Evil:

Call me crazy, but I think Jarvis's days of serving tea are well behind him.

But don't start missing those cucumber sandwiches yet. Once everyone is assembled back at the lair, the Cowl makes another revelation that pretty much nullifies the shocking image we just saw:

What the Cowl really means is that it served writer Roy Thomas's purposes: presumably, to end the prior issue with something so incredible that it was bound to make readers pick up the next issue. Or it was just done for simple shock value--who knows? And as for the Cowl amusing himself, let's get to that after yet another revelation, which also sheds some light on why Jarvis thought he could betray the Avengers with no harm done:

And if you think that robot looks familiar:

So now that we know we're dealing with Ultron-5, his little deception makes no sense on either front. Obviously he has some measure of satisfaction with Henry Pym being one of his captives in imminent danger of death--but hypnotizing and disguising Jarvis serves no "purpose" in that sense or any other that I can see. And since he admits to performing this brief bait-and-switch more for its amusement factor, why would Ultron spend his time so fruitlessly?

In other words, we're all probably better off pretending the scene never happened. I mean, as long as the story is going to, why shouldn't we?

Appropriately, if Jarvis is to have any sort of redemption, this story must circle back to him in some way. And after running for his life after being almost fatally injured by the Melter, Jarvis encounters the one hero that everyone seems to have forgotten about:

Without boring you with details I'm sure you can piece together yourself, the Avengers are freed by the Knight and proceed to clean the clocks of the Masters of Evil--all except for Ultron-5, who vows offstage to bring death to the Avengers another day. But what we're probably eager to discover are the motivations of Jarvis, who you'd think would have a pink slip in his immediate future:

Which seems a good time to bring Thor and Tony Stark back into the picture to set things right with their irreplaceable "gentleman's gentleman":

Jarvis may not have super-powers--but when two charter members of the Avengers make an effort to reach out and shake your hand in humility and friendship, you're not doing too badly.

(With apologies to George Perez and Terry Austin for the alterations to their splendid cover for Avengers #201)


Kid said...

Merry Christmas, Comicsfan.

Comicsfan said...

Thank you, Kid, and to you, as well!