Thursday, June 12, 2014

Death Of A Hero!

As uncelebrated a character as he is, you wouldn't think Egghead would have gotten the mileage he has as a villain; but he's been around awhile and gone up against some heavy hitters in Marvel's stable, most notably the Avengers. He's an odd egg, that Egghead. It's anyone's guess how the guy has gotten his hands on the resources to cook up the schemes that he has. For some reason, while I find the character repugnant, I also find him oddly fascinating. I find it equally fascinating that, periodically, it will occur to a Marvel editor or writer that we haven't seen Egghead for awhile, and thus feel he's long overdue to make an appearance again. How does Egghead occur to anyone, I wonder. At some point I feel certain that we'll see him scheming against Asgard, and confounding Thor in the process.

Yet that seems unlikely, since, the last time we saw Egghead, he'd finally met his end, thanks to a timely shot from Hawkeye. But one of Egghead's past schemes is relevant to that story, because Hawkeye had mentioned that he'd had a score to settle with Egghead--and that vendetta was born in an Avengers tale published almost 14 years earlier, and the destruction of a small city in the midwest:

But while this might appear to be a simple story where Egghead has his finger on the trigger of a WMD and must be stopped, the story will also serve to spotlight Hawkeye on a personal level, in his days on the team shortly after he gave up his bow and arrows to become Goliath. And when the story has reached its end--well, if I were Egghead, I'd want to find the nearest hole and scurry into it.

After the midwest disaster, the Avengers catch wind of Egghead's ultimatum on the news. You'd think "Avengers priority" status would rate a government briefing, rather than having to tune in the network news to find out the planet is imperiled, but what do I know.  (Perhaps all that was done beforehand.)

Yet, before the Avengers get down to business, their ranks are about to experience a major change when a mainstay character unexpectedly (and inexplicably) switches his identity and abilities:

But the problem with Egghead's hidden space station remains. (The bigger mystery is probably how Egghead has managed to finance, build, and launch a space station in the first place--but again, the man's resourcefulness is a nut we'll probably never crack.) As if on cue, the Avengers receive a rather low-life visitor in the form of Barney Barton, who's come to speak to Hawkeye and claiming to have information on Egghead's space station. But he's going to have to set his sights a bit higher to converse with the former archer:

With nothing else to go on at this point in the story, we can only assume that Barton is looking up Hawkeye because of the bowman's former altercations with the law. The story side-steps that connection here with good reason, as we'll later discover--but perhaps too easily, given that Hawkeye's public profile as a criminal was mainly in association with the Black Widow, and it's not clear why someone of Barton's credentials would look him up.

Regardless, the Avengers find that, in addition to whatever information he has on Egghead's operation, Barton has an odd proposal to throw into the mix:

Barton tells the Avengers of a meeting where Egghead was approaching figures of the underworld in order to obtain financing for the operation, in exchange for being taken aboard the space station when the time came for him to make his play. But Barton scoffed at Egghead being able to pull off such an outlandish plan, and decided to leave. Or try to:

Barton's "next move" led him to the Avengers--ostensibly to help stop Egghead, though the Avengers are dubious. Particularly Goliath, whose low opinion of Barton has been obvious from the beginning of this meeting:

Fortunately, Barton's information on the location of Egghead's station proves legitimate. And soon enough, the team is preparing to board in its own covert and unorthodox fashion:

(Some day we'll have to find out exactly what "sub-space" is in the Marvel universe. Whatever the Vision's impression here, I think we can all agree that this space station is in orbit in just good 'ol regular outer space.)

Still, just because the Avengers board without immediate incident, it doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to be deprived of a battle:

Nor is Barton spouting mere bravado. Instead of heeding the Panther's advice, he's right there in the thick of battle along with the Avengers:

But, what of the mastermind of this operation? It turns out that Egghead has planned ahead for interference from the Avengers, with a device that proves that it pays to have friends in low places. Yet the gambit would pave the way for Barton to have his wish fulfilled, though with fatal results:

And so, in a turn of events no one could have predicted, Barney Barton, low-life racketeer, dies a hero. But, where does Hawkeye's vendetta come into play with Egghead's actions--and how does it all involve Barton? We find out as Barton's dying words hint at a greater connection between himself and the man now known as Goliath:

It's our first introduction to Clint Barton, whose real identity has been kept from the Avengers until now. Clint would become estranged from Barney when, as a protégé of the Swordsman, Clint rejected the life of a criminal which his brother would later choose to embrace. We'll learn the circumstances behind it all, as well as the detailed origin of Hawkeye, the Marksman, when this story concludes.

The Avengers #64

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Gene Colan
Inks: George Klein
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

It almost boggles the mind some of the things they wanted us to believe back then. Sub space, platforms in low earth orbit, high ranking people getting their information by seeing it on the news, people x-rayed for weapons!?! Imagine if we did, indeed, live in a world such as that.

Now for the real things. Shouldn't the "KLIK" have been out of the word balloon? Or did the newscaster say "Klik" so people would know to stop listening? I just realized it was Egghead, not Dr or Prof, just Egghead. And speaking of Egghead, a boy like that, will kill your brother.....

The Prowler (Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes).

Murray said...

Something in your opening leads me to infer you're not up on the "Intelligencia" in Marvel. I cannot explain why this particular one-shot issue caught my eye during "World War Hulk". None of the rest of that "epic" did.

Narrated by the Leader, we learn a club of villain superbrains has existed for years in the Marvel Universe. Egghead was one of the charter members. Unlike most efforts at retconning history, I rather admired this one. It was explained that the Intelligencia helped establish "back doors" to rescue fellow members when "personal projects" took a turn for the worse. To keep the heroes distracted and busy, they kept resurrecting-reconstituting brawlers like Sandman and Absorbing Man (without their direct knowledge).

In this recollection narrative, the Leader speculates that Egghead may have grown too cavalier on the "back door" rescue. "He risked too much, pressing an advantage he really didn't have and paid with his life."

He goes on to comment "His loss was nearly the end of the Intelligencia"

Which suggests to me, if Egghead ever returns, it will really be a hail mary miracle of a resurrection.

Anonymous said...

Gentleman Gene Colan's art was fantastic, and I can overlook illogical elements in the story, but the dialogue exceeds the recommended daily allowance of cornball. It's painful.
Also, Clint had no business being Goliath. I have never understood that.

Comicsfan said...

Heh heh, Prowler--the "Klik!" was sort of out of the word balloon, coinciding with the Wasp switching off the set. Anyway, that's a great observation about Egghead, whose name apparently doubles as his credentials.

Murray, thanks for that info about the Intelligencia, it had (pardon the expression) slipped my mind. I wonder who else was in that assembly? The Wizard? Doctor Sun? The Thinker? The Supreme Intelligence?

Murray said...

No need to speculate on the Intelligencia. The issue is still on my desk from digging it out yesterday.

It started with the Leader, the Wizard, the Red Ghost, the Mad Thinker and Edwin "don't call him Egghead!" Starr. Dr. Doom was involved, but didn't go on field missions. When Egghead died, he was replaced by MODOK.

In "Amazing Spider-Man" #676, the Leader had been replaced by Klaw (had been replaced by Chameleon). Dr. Octopus and his Sinister Six took the Intelligencia "out to the playground and pantsed them" (to paraphrase Sandman). Mostly because their schemes were going to conflict with Doc Ock's schemes, but also because Dr. Ock wasn't invited to join their club.