Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Parting Of The Ways

We've already covered Parts One and Two of the dramatic trial of Henry Pym, former member of the Avengers, who had been set up by his old nemesis, Egghead, to take the fall for a federal crime. As things turned out, though, there was actually very little of the trial itself to see. Egghead was set on having Pym assist him in his longevity experiments, and so he brought together a new grouping of the Masters of Evil in order to free Pym from custody, while making it seem that it was Pym himself who had orchestrated the escape.

Once he'd discovered the circumstances of his abduction, it seemed as if Pym was at the end of his rope--and, having no other options, he decided to join Egghead in the lab of his own free will. But Pym had only feigned his cooperation; in reality, he was taking steps to turn the tables on his captors, and bring Egghead to justice. And when the moment came to act, Pym's preparations paid off--on his own, and without suiting up in any of his former costumed identities, Pym took down the entire Masters of Evil. That left only Egghead, who had not only been defeated but humiliated by his old enemy--but when Pym's back was turned, Egghead pulled a gun and prepared to deprive Pym of not only his victory but also his life.

However, unknown to either of these men, Hawkeye was on the scene--and, seeing what Egghead was planning, the archer sprang into action and fired an arrow directly into the nozzle of Egghead's weapon at the moment of its discharge, causing it to backfire and slay its wielder rather than its intended victim. At different times in his sordid career, Egghead had wronged both of these men--and now, each of them was present at his death:

The battle over, this third part to the story will tie up several loose ends--for Hank Pym and for Hawkeye, certainly, but also for the Avengers, who now face the task of closing the door one last time on one of their founding members.

With Egghead's death, Pym is understandably concerned about his chances for clearing himself with the law. But Hawkeye assures him otherwise:

As for "this place"--the Forest Hills home which served as Egghead's lab as well as the base of operations of the Masters of Evil--one of its occupants is only now beginning to recover from the effects of Pym's attack. Escape is looking like a pretty good option to Moonstone right now--but, with the arrival of the other Avengers, "surrender" seems a more practical choice:

The testimony of Moonstone, as well as the Beetle, indeed goes a long way toward proving that Pym had been set up by Egghead. But what proves equally helpful is the mental scan device that Tony Stark had developed--initially to hopefully prove that Pym might be under the mental influence of another, but now serving to clear the false memories Egghead had planted in his niece, Trish Starr, who was the lead prosecution witness against Pym. Having done the same for the Shocker, one of the members of the Masters of Evil who had also "lied" about Pym's role, Pym is now free and clear as far as the law is concerned.

That only leaves Hawkeye's role in bringing about Egghead's death, if inadvertently--an act which requires the Avengers to hold an inquiry to determine if the death was brought about by an "unreasonable use of deadly force." And as the only other witness to the event, one man feels an obligation to be present and give testimony, however uncomfortable it might be for him.

The scene provides a nice sense of nostalgia, and sets the tone for the rest of the issue--the formality of Hawkeye's court of inquiry, and what could be Hank Pym's final meeting with his old comrades. Yet there's one more intriguing scene that will serve to dispel a notion that frankly never occurred to me: the use of the mental scan device to explore the possibility that Pym's erratic behavior that brought about his expulsion from the Avengers was itself the result of outside influence. And while we wait for Pym's response to whether or not he'll agree to the test, let's have a peek at what everyone else is thinking:

Again, a rather minimal response from Thor, whose heart has been proven to be with this team but whose interactions with them during writer Roger Stern's tenure have thus far been somewhat distanced--as if Stern doesn't quite yet know how to work him in with the chemistry which he's done so well at establishing among the others. Thor is the odd man out--the last thing he should be, given the rapport he's been known to experience with other mortals.

At any rate, Pym puts the issue to rest once and for all:

Pym himself makes an excellent observation of why the results of this test needed to come up negative: "it would have changed a lot of things," had an outside influence been responsible for his actions. There are probably those in the camp that think that Pym's downward spiral and subsequent expulsion was a bad concept and badly handled; but I always thought it was a compelling story, and an interesting one, given that it was happening within the ranks of a band of heroes of the renown of the Avengers. We've always seen infighting behind the walls of Avengers Mansion, in one form or another, at times even branching off to deceit and betrayal--but a founding member being expelled in disgrace? If it was going to be done, Pym was a perfect choice--and once it reached its culmination in this storyline, I found its ending adding real distinction to the team's history.

But before we reach that point, there's some pressing Avengers business to take care of:

Hawkeye is likely correct, if jumping the gun a bit. We should include the proceedings, though, not only because it's one of the rare instances to date we've seen a member of the team brought up on formal charges, but it's also a glimpse into one of the few times we see the "chairman" of this team performing duties beyond calling a meeting to order. Given how the post of Chairman has evolved to include team leadership in the field, it's almost gratifying to still see instances when (and why) an air of "formal business" applies to the workings of the Avengers:

Hawkeye isn't the type to mince words, of course, so he's rather blunt in reminding the Avengers that quick thinking in their line of work goes hand-in-hand with good judgment, yet still may not always produce ideal results. There may be some question as to whether he needs to remind the Avengers of this--but the fact that he feels that he does speaks well of Stern's handling of his character. In any case, Pym is able to show us a more tactful response of basically saying the same thing:

Pym then closes his testimony with a final nod to his comrades. But there is still one in residence whose last words with Pym are necessary to bring his state of affairs with the Avengers to a fitting conclusion:

The inquiry concluded, Pym and his comrades finally have a proper set of goodbyes. As well as belated regrets:

And then, a very odd outburst from Captain America which almost spoils the moment for everyone (readers included), but which Pym salvages:

In a way, it's interesting that Cap feels such an overwhelming sense of responsibility for Pym's place on the team. Given Pym's seniority in the Avengers (even over Cap), you'd think that Cap would defer to Pym's judgment in this matter and making the decision he's made; in fact, it seems odd that Cap wouldn't agree with it, even admire it.

But we have one final farewell to observe--that between Pym and his ex-wife, one we never really got to see when Pym was booted off the team, but which now provides a sense of closure for these two people who were once as joined at the hip in the Avengers as they were in their personal and professional lives:

It would take a little while to find out where the threads of Pym's life would be picked up (and in what book)--but as for the Avengers, we'd see them thrive under the Wasp's leadership, and the book equally so under Stern's.  And when you think about it, one insect-sized hero on this team is really sufficient, isn't it?

The Avengers #230

Script: Roger Stern
Pencils: Al Milgrom
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Jim Novak


Iain said...

This was a great storyline and for the first time in years I waited for the next issue of each Avengers comic with baited breath. I don't think any other era of Marvel comics has affected my emotions as much as this period did.

Comicsfan said...

One of my favorites too, Iain.

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