Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Call To Arms Must Include--The Swordsman!

It's too bad prison stays don't have the equivalent of frequent flyer miles, since, during Swordsman Week here at the PPC, we've seen the Swordsman return to prison so often you'd think the place had a revolving door installed for him. But kudos to that lawyer of his--because when the Avengers are assembled for their 100th issue, the Swordsman is among them.

Though you'll have to squint to see him on this milestone issue's cover, since it seems his presence is being kept under wraps until he shows up in the story.

The Avengers are putting together the pieces of a plot by the Olympian war-god, Ares, which has prompted this emergency summons--when, true to form, the Swordsman drops in without warning, and without invitation.

The Swordsman would later claim that the Avengers gave him "the cold shoulder" during this crisis--but given what we've seen of the Swordsman's choices since he left them, that's hardly surprising. During his career, he's returned to attack the Avengers repeatedly, either by himself or in the company of villains out for blood; and through it all, he never showed an ounce of mercy or regret, nor did he ever express even a hint of any feeling of past association with them. So his decision to suddenly show up here and offer to fight with them is rightly met with skepticism--and as noteworthy as this "olive branch" is on the Swordsman's part, it would be unrealistic for either the Avengers or the reader to expect him to turn over a new leaf here and now, at least without a more thorough examination of his motivations.

Writer Roy Thomas only seems to be including the Swordsman here in order to have a full complement of "every man and woman who was ever an Avenger" for this issue; but even so, he appears to take the Swordsman's unapologetic past into account by writing him in a way that has the bladesman giving the other Avengers the impression that "a leopard doesn't change its spots":

We know that the Swordsman would go on to give further thought to turning his life around and finally return to the Avengers in earnest--but though Thomas only has him aboard for the short term, he seems to be taking his first uncertain steps toward that end with this appearance. (He would have no reason to show up otherwise; though whether he was monitoring their transmissions for nefarious purposes is anyone's guess.)

In this issue, Thomas has bitten off more than he can apparently chew in terms of giving all of these Avengers satisfactory exposure, even taking several of them (e.g., Iron Man, the Vision, the Hulk) out of play for the duration. As a result, the Swordsman doesn't see much action, at least on panel.

Given how the Swordsman would go on to redeem himself with this team, he would become living proof of their adage that he quotes here: "Once an Avenger, always an Avenger." And on that note, we wrap up this week's look at the early life and adventures of this once-villain, who went on to distinguish himself as one of Earth's mightiest heroes.

But, wait a minute!  Does that mean that the PPC's coverage of the Swordsman ends here? Heck, no! Here are some supplemental links that follow up on the Swordsman, who finally merited that Avengers I.D. he coveted but who proved himself ready to shoulder the responsibility that it imparts to its holder.

Warehouse To The Stars!
The Swordsman finally hits bottom, and, thanks to the mysterious Mantis, begins to rethink the course of his life.

The Dazzling Return of--The Swordsman!
At long last, the Swordsman rejoins the Avengers in good faith! But will he and his lover, Mantis, end up double-crossing them?

Swashbuckling School Is Now In Session
The Avengers/Defenders clash is on! And the Swordsman must clash swords with the Valkyrie to keep her from recovering a segment of the Evil Eye.

Bid The Swordsman Goodbye
Kang comes to collect the Celestial Madonna as well as the Avengers--and, by the way, start World War III! And a humiliated Swordsman is left to attempt their rescue.

The Future Is Now
The conflict with Kang and his deadly macrobots reaches its climax--and an Avenger will die!


Anonymous said...

I so associate Barry Smith with Conan it seems odd to see him on Avengers. Anyway, sterling work sir! I've thoroughly enjoyed Swordsman week.


renfield75 said...

I've always loved the Swordsman, and his tragic "loser-finds-redemption" saga. Thanks for spotlighting him this week!

Comicsfan said...

Gaz and renfield, thanks! It was a genuine pleasure, and time well spent.

david_b said...

LOVED this review as well, many thanks sir. I was gone for a few days late last week, so will catch up shortly.

As for Smith Avenger art, I loved him back on that Ultron attack in issues 66-67... sort of the Kirby-Steranko love-child thing going on there.

Distinctive and dramatic, especially on his brooding Vision.

Big Murr said...

It makes me smile to recall my young reaction to the cover and opening pages. "LOOK at all of them!! WOW, what an army of Avengers. Mind. Boggled!"

Skip forward thru the decades when stories require all (or almost all) of the Avengers to gather and there is a literal army.

The interior story was a letdown. Too cramped by far. Too many shortcuts in the action.