Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fools Rush In

If you haven't yet read the story of the Avengers' first battle with Graviton, which took place in Avengers #s 158-159, you may be expecting a lot more than what you'll actually find. Obviously, this is just one guy vs. the assembled Avengers, so your first impression might be that there has to be a lot more to him than just a flashy costume. And being called "Graviton," it's a fair bet that he controls gravity in some way. Ergo, his gravity power is impressive enough to merit a full complement of Avengers taking him on. Lots of solo villains have taken on the Avengers before, after all--so there's no reason to think that Graviton wouldn't be able to hold his own, at least for a little while.

On the other hand, this is Graviton's first time out of the gate. He's experimented with his power up to this point, but he's never used it tactically, and he's certainly had no practice in battling an elite, trained group of super-beings all at once. Few novices in their right mind would want to cut their teeth taking on the Avengers. So how much of a threat can this guy really be?

That's probably a question the Avengers were asking themselves as they gathered to confront him on his newly-risen sky island, in response to an emergency call for help. The team had only recently pulled its ranks together, following a vicious fight between the Vision and Wonder Man. And they've only had the most minimal briefing on Frank Hall, whose work on a teleport beam coincided with the energized atoms of a radioactive anti-gravity element to infuse him with the power to control gravity. "Graviton" might be what a refit of the Wizard would look like, had that villain's power over gravity been put to more aggressive use in his schemes.

But with their internal conflicts put on hold, the Avengers certainly look like they're ready to take this guy down, whatever his threat level. And, really, what can a fresh-out-of-the-box villain do if a team of Avengers, at peak strength, descends on him?

Well, new reader, get ready to have your jaw hit the floor like the rest of us who read this story the first time around, because Graviton apparently did pretty well his first time out:

I wish I could honestly tell you what writer Jim Shooter was going for when he wrote this two-part story. In essence, the Avengers get their asses handed to them, with the goal apparently to show how completely ineffectual their best efforts are against Graviton--while Graviton pretty much becomes the human version of Magneto in terms of power and ambition, and, given time, reputation. And he wastes no time starting things off with a bang:

If you're looking for Avengers teamwork in this story, forget it. If you're looking for them to rally, I hope you enjoy disappointment. If you're looking for them to prevail, and for this story to be one of those classic battles that goes down in Avengers history, I feel your pain. Because this story, from start to finish, is Graviton's--and the Avengers are only here to be mowed down. On the bright side, you may find yourself becoming a Graviton fan, because he seems to have more strategy in his little finger than the Avengers combined:

If there's one nit to pick in this story, it has to do with Graviton's power itself--which seems to include telekinetic abilities that actually don't fall within his purview. Sure, you can make a floor rise, if you have power over gravity--and you can constrict its mass to shape it into a deadly object. But to send it hurtling in a direction through a group of Avengers off to the side? I guess a physicist is going to have to school me on this, because I don't see how power over gravity can spin objects in mid-air, either:

(Some day, someone will have to clue in Yellowjacket and the Wasp to shrink down to a size your foe can't visually detect. When was the last time you detected a mosquito well before it took a bite out of you?)

But we've got some more Avengers to take down like rank amateurs, so let's keep going:

And that, as they say, is that:

You know, I counted seven seasoned Avengers and one Wonder Man, vs. one inexperienced if powerful villain. I may be looking at this simplistically--but if Graviton is focusing his attention on certain members of your team, doesn't that give the other members more than enough time to close on him and take him out with a punch or a hex? What were the other seven members doing while the Vision was being manipulated by Graviton--watching from the sidelines?

Yet this story has even more inexplicable humbling of the Avengers to do--and just to hammer that message home, Shooter lets the spotlight fall on its two strongest and most resourceful members who we'd expect to prevail when all else fails. One of those Avengers is Thor, who arrives with the Panther:

What is this, an annual? I'm surprised Shooter isn't flying in the Hulk for good measure. At any rate, as you can see, Thor has taken his knocks almost immediately after encountering Graviton. And although he sounds like he's just getting revved up, Thor already looks like he's on the defensive. And he's going to stay that way:

Finally, Thor is downed by... by...

I don't know what happened, frankly. Graviton doesn't seem to know, either, and we're not going to find out--because the point was for Graviton to trample over Thor just like he has with the rest of the team. And now Iron Man, freeing himself from Graviton's slab, leaves the Panther to free the rest of the team while he takes Graviton on solo. Do I really need to tell you at this point that his efforts are doomed to failure?

But look, the other Avengers are free! And, man, they're ready for Graviton this time!

And that's the ball game. The crowd, though, doesn't go wild; in fact, we're pretty darn confused, and more than a little disappointed. Really, I wasn't kidding--the fight's over.  The Avengers are done. What was all this for?

Yet when all is said and done, the Avengers are going to put this in the "win" column. Even though Graviton dooms himself, when he thinks a woman he was fond of has jumped to her death:

The Avengers' heroics save Manhattan from the falling sky island, and Shooter seamlessly moves us on to the Grim Reaper in the next issue, as if this team hadn't just fought one of the most mishandled, inept battles in its history. As for Graviton, he never does reach Magneto status, with his next appearance finding him in dire straits. The story seemed to be a showcase for the villain that imploded much like Graviton himself; and the Avengers, happy and satisfied back at their mansion, apparently aren't giving it a second thought.  Before this battle began, Iron Man gave the team a tongue lashing as far as stepping up to being more responsible Avengers--perhaps a refresher course in team strategy wouldn't hurt, either.


dbutler16 said...

OK, I have a theory on how Graviton spun that pencil. When he altered its mass by manipulating gravity, he made the center of gravity of the pencil off to one side. If you drop a pencil whose center of gravity is not in the middle, it will spin. It's a bit like loaded dice.

dbutler16 said...

A bunch of heroes (or villains) standing by while the others attack their opponent one at a time is standard comic book practice. Though I enjoyed this story (especially the art) quite a bit, I was shock with how Graviton mopped the floor with the Mighty Avengers.

Comicsfan said...

That "center of gravity" explanation works well enough for me, at least as far as the pencil is concerned. As for the other objects Graviton is hurling around, like the ball of rock as well as that building, I don't think that explanation would fly. (Get it? Ha ha!)

I liked Sal Buscema's work on this story, as well--and he certainly made Graviton come alive. He would pinch-hit with other artists (such as John Byrne and Dave Wenzel) while George Perez continued his run on the title, and his familiarity with the Avengers was always nice to see.