Monday, November 20, 2017

Avengers vs. Avengers!

It's Avengers Day in October of 1967, as the city of New York honors the super-team for its victory over the Mandarin (which readers also had cause to celebrate, since the battle took place in the brand new Avengers Annual, published in the same year). Writer Roy Thomas and artist Don Heck were riding high, having raised the Avengers' profile substantially in the past as well as turning in stellar work on the team's very first king-sized special. But the Avengers won't be allowed to rest on their laurels--because even on this day of honor, danger waits in the wings. While the ceremony was to include Thor and Iron Man in the festivities, the two were forced to depart (due to the late arrival of Captain America) in order to tend to other matters. But, unknown to anyone present, there is one among the crowd who also waits impatiently for Cap--a deadly foe who failed to end the life of the star-spangled Avenger once before, but who returns even more formidable, thanks to Iron Man and Thor being in attendance just long enough for their powers and abilities to be imprinted on the one who waits to strike.

But before that moment comes, the Avengers have time to bestow a singular honor on an ally--the second immortal ever to accept Avengers membership, just in time to join ranks against an enemy who has now become virtually invincible.

Yes, the Super-Adaptoid once more moves against Captain America, who survived the construct's first assault but faces more deadly odds with the strength and powers of Thor, Hercules, and Iron Man now pitted against him, as well as those of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Yet today, Cap will meet this threat with his own assembly of Avengers.

Yikes!  It's Avengers vs. ... Avengers!?

Naturally, the Avengers aren't the types to stand by while an enemy targets one of their own--and with the Adaptoid utilizing his power of growth, Goliath leaps into the fray to offset that advantage. But Goliath, and the rest of the team, will find that the Adaptoid represents an enormous threat to them--and that his outer covering's amalgam design isn't for show, but truly symbolizes the reality of what they face.

Heck's art is an acquired taste for many, including myself, and is probably a challenge for any scripter who must make sense of the direction he charts for the story. But once the Adaptoid makes his move, I found Heck's instincts for the battle to be nicely executed, and even displaying some clever surprises. For instance, an incredible five pages are devoted to the Adaptoid pitting his might against first Goliath, and then Ant-Man and the Wasp, a conflict which the Avengers are forced to wait out because of the diminutive sizes of the combatants--an expenditure of valuable story space which sounds ridiculous on paper, but which plays out well and holds the reader's attention. And check out the tactic the Wasp comes up with, a move which might have even turned the tide in this battle if it involved anyone but a powerhouse like the Adaptoid.

As to those confusing aspects to Heck's art which can be difficult to translate in words for the reader, sometimes the scripter can be as much to blame for adding to the confusion. For instance, Heck provides a few panels for Hawkeye to try his luck against the Adaptoid--but while it seems that the Adaptoid attacks with a shock arrow, with Cap stopping a second attack while Hawkeye attempts to disorient the Adaptoid with smoke arrows, Thomas attempts to add more strategy on the Avengers' part but only makes it more difficult for the reader to apply the dialog to what our eyes see actually happening in the panels.

(Judging by the final panel, even Thomas ends up confused by his own efforts--Hawkeye hadn't fired any blast arrows up to that point.)

With the exception of some token panels that amount to mostly flair, Heck has Quicksilver on the sidelines in this fight, which deprives the Avengers of the advantages their super-speedster might bring to their efforts--for example, off the top of my head, Pietro whisking away with the Adaptoid's shield, bow, and quiver of arrows in the blink of an eye, a tactic that would remove the Adaptoid's offensives involving weaponry as well as the abilities of Thor's hammer. (Let's hope the Adaptoid is unenlightened about Thor's use of incantations.)

But while this story is an Avengers effort, Heck does give Cap his due, considering that he's the prime target--though even Cap is forced to realize the Adaptoid is even further out of his league than before.

If you're wondering where Hercules, the Wasp, and the Scarlet Witch are while Cap is getting his head handed to him and aren't really buying the hex power excuse (Wanda is helpless against her own power?), join the club. The Avengers often seem reluctant to act as a team, though we frequently see them train as one; instead, even though they face a single foe, one who doesn't hesitate to combine their own powers in its attacks against them, their fights at times take the form of one-on-one contests that leave you wondering what their *ahem* teammates are doing off-panel.

It's Quicksilver who launches the plan which finally meets with success, a plan that offers no guarantee of success but which is the Avengers' only hope considering the odds against them. And succeed it does, ironically because it employs the very concept the other Avengers weren't allowed to use until now--teamwork.

With the Adaptoid secured, the Avengers are finally able to drink in the adoration of the crowds that gathered for Avengers Day, the story serving as a smooth transition following the annual--and with the power of Hercules formally added to their ranks (albeit briefly), the team would seem well equipped to be even more a force to be reckoned with. Both the annual and the Adaptoid story would cap Heck's long run on The Avengers (having already been replaced by John Buscema on the title), with the artist taking a nearly six-year hiatus from the book until 1973 when he would fill in for five issues, paving the way for artist Bob Brown to begin his own run as regular penciler.

The Avengers #45

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Don Heck
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Sam Rosen

1 comment:

Haydn said...

Maybe the Super-Adaptoid meant to ask Hawkeye: "What! Do you think to use MERE blast arrows against me"?