Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sins Of The Past

With the defeat of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and their new operative, Rogue, by the mighty Avengers, the story of Avengers Annual #10 would nevertheless be incomplete without returning to the character whose predicament set its story in motion: Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel, and former Avenger who left their ranks following the events of the double-sized Avengers #200. To understand her perspective in the tense reunion between herself and her erstwhile teammates with whom she had severed all communication, a reunion occurring in the Annual's epilogue, we need to return to Carol's final appearance in that prior Avengers anniversary issue (which also marked her final appearance in Marvel comics, at least for the time being) and learn the details of her strange association with Marcus, the son of Immortus, who fell in love with her and set out to see those feelings reciprocated.

The story begins just three issues prior, when Carol confides in the Scarlet Witch that she's pregnant. We'll let Captain America fill us in on the details, what little the Avengers have at this point in time:

And so, under the care of Dr. Don Blake, whose specialty is surgery but who, in a pinch, will do as an obstetrician, Carol's unorthodox delivery takes place.

Everyone is obviously all smiles, even under these bizarre circumstances. With no knowledge of conception or even the identity of the father, Carol was basically used as a vessel in order to bring this child to term, in a matter of days. Blake, Iron Man, Cap, and Hawkeye remain cautious while further investigating the newborn; but for others like the Wasp and the Beast, who fail to see the experience as anything other than innocent, Carol bluntly describes the matter in cold reality.

It's a slap in the face which these Avengers perhaps needed--even Wanda, to whom Carol confided in on the matter. By all appearances, this is a human baby; yet Jan and the Beast almost seem to have adopted it, with some of the others following their lead and appearing to be of like mind. The fact that it's an Avenger who was... chosen? selected? to bear this child, and in an incomprehensibly short gestation period, seems to raise no red flags in their heads at all.

And to say that there have been post-delivery complications is an understatement:

Though not without their element of humor.
(This is being scripted by David Michelinie, after all.)

Meanwhile, reports are starting to come in of time displacements throughout the area, though the Avengers have failed to make a connection between those occurrences and the birth of Marcus. As for Carol, Wonder Man has convinced her to put aside her anger for the time being and focus on confronting the situation. And since she exhibits no signs whatsoever of giving birth, she suits up in uniform and pays her first visit to her "offspring."

Letting little Marcus "tinker" is one thing; watching as he grows into adulthood and nears completion of what appears to be a highly sophisticated piece of equipment makes you wonder if Henry Gyrich shouldn't step in and rip up all of the Avengers' membership cards right before their eyes. But the Avengers have no time to sharpen their focus on Marcus--because time itself has now become a full-blown emergency, and on their very doorstep.

For Hawkeye, this validates his suspicions of Marcus--and, finding that Marcus has rendered Ms. Marvel unconscious (in an effort to assure her safety while he activates his machine), the archer destroys the unit over Marcus's impassioned objections. As a result, Marcus becomes enraged at Hawkeye, and attempts to provoke him into ending his life.

But Marcus is stopped by both Ms. Marvel and the arriving Thor, the latter having dealt with the time-displaced beings from outside and who now listens with the others as Marcus explains his story. How Immortus, seeking companionship, brought an Earth woman to Limbo and went on to conceive a child with her. How the time-lord watched in helplessness as the woman was ripped from Limbo to return to Earth. Later, in an altercation with Kang, Immortus, as well, disappeared from Limbo, leaving the grown Marcus in the same state of loneliness that afflicted his father.

It's important to bear in mind here the subtlety with which Michelinie writes these scenes--as well as the possibility that, told in narrative form, they perhaps carry less impact than they might have under other circumstances. For instance, does Carol seem like the type of woman to allow Shakespeare sonnets to influence and override her free will? The Carol Danvers that you and I know would have been outraged at her abduction, lashing out at Marcus for kidnapping her and rejecting his romantic overtures (and in no uncertain terms) until he gave up on his plans for her. In the end, it was Immortus's technology that made her decision for her, a fact that neither the Avengers nor Avengers readers at the time blinked an eye at. Had Marcus decided to switch off that machinery completely, and from the time of Carol's arrival, Carol might well have escaped both Marcus and Limbo. We'll never know.

But, it's Carol's present state of mind that concerns us--and with Marcus now forced to return to Limbo, she makes the decision to accompany him, both certain and uncertain about her choice at the same time. That's one way to look at it; the other is that we've seen this kind of resolution applied to other characters at other times, and Michelinie's scenes here could simply be the most expeditious way to sweep the character of Ms. Marvel out the door, a character who never quite worked but who's nevertheless been provided a graceful exit. (And you can't help but note that Marvel is putting this character in limbo by actually sending her to Limbo.)

Cut to 1981, when this story is followed up on in that year's Avengers Annual by Chris Claremont--on whose watch the Ms. Marvel title spiraled down to eventual cancellation, and who now provides a different (and more dignified) resolution for the character. Carol Danvers resurfaces in San Francisco, where she's ultimately attacked by Rogue and left for dead. Rescued by Spider-Woman, Carol comes under the care of Charles Xavier--while the Avengers, having dealt with Rogue and the rest of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, have learned of Carol's situation and travel to Xavier's school to reconnect and extend their best wishes. They're also curious as to why Carol didn't contact them upon her return.

Up to now, Claremont has kept Carol and her decision to remain incommunicado under wraps, while in the Avengers story restricting the topic of Carol's return to unanswered questions. But as the Avengers arrive at Xavier's, Claremont foreshadows the reunion with a certain level of tension. The Avengers feel as if they're walking on egg shells, and no one really knows why.

Once the subject of Marcus is broached, however, the floodgates open wide--and both Carol and the Avengers must relive the mistakes of the past.

As we've seen, Michelinie had provided Claremont with ample means to make it possible for the closing pages of Avengers #200 to veer in this direction--a different take on Carol's decision to accompany Marcus that Michelinie, along with co-plotters Jim Shooter, George Perez, and Bob Layton, in their possible haste to resolve the character of Ms. Marvel, likely never gave a passing thought to at the time. Claremont's version of events falls more in line with the character we recognize Ms. Marvel to be; yet it also can't help but lay bare the flaws in the Avengers' almost casual handling of the situation with Carol's pregnancy and her situation with Marcus.

Where Claremont perhaps goes a step too far is to tut-tut the Avengers with his "a role far greater than yourselves" speech that he'll occasionally trot out for his characters to use in order to remind either themselves or others of the responsibility their powers convey on them. Carol, as Ms. Marvel, with more than her share of lapses in judgment and instances where she's made the wrong call, is hardly the one to bring the Avengers or anyone else to task for making a mistake. That said, it allows the character to segue to a more memorable exit this time around, as well as the promise of a new beginning.

As for the Avengers, it's to Claremont's credit that he doesn't overly twist the knife in this epilogue. What's done is done--and the Avengers must go on to greater things. We only hear from two of them in this closing scene--but you can only wonder what's going through the heads of those who sit or stand in silence.

The Avengers #200

Script: David Michelinie
Pencils: George Perez
Inks: Dan Green
Letterer: John Costanza

1 comment:

david_b said...

Nice retrospect, but DAMN those stoooopid banners. Ruined soooo many good covers.