Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Walking... Dead!?

With the introduction and scrutiny of special agent Henry Peter Gyrich of the National Security Council, the subtle plans of the deadly Korvac taking shape, the growing tension between Captain America and Iron Man, the arrival of the Guardians of the Galaxy who warn of a threat from the future, the brutal but behind-the-scenes murder and subsequent recreation of the Guardian known as Starhawk, and, last but not least, Ultron at large, the Avengers find themselves in pressing need of regrouping and putting their house in order. But in a low-key issue with designs to do just that, is it too late? Or have the Avengers finally reached their breaking point?

We can sure see why Gyrich is miffed at the sorry state of security at Avengers Mansion. A fifth grader could scramble over that wall!

The sight of Avenger vs. Avenger is nothing new for this team, but in this case there seems to be a twist: two Avengers are defending the metal construct created by Ultron to be his "bride," a creation given life by the essence of Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp. It's an excellent if slightly misleading cover by artist George Perez that capsulizes the main plot within--yet despite what we're seeing, there are a number of interesting pages to turn in this issue which writer Jim Shooter uses to put the Avengers back on track for readers like future Marvel staffer Peter Sanderson, who by the time this story saw print could probably add the Avengers' internal strife to their disappointing performance in the field.

And the Avengers appear to have another problem cropping up--the mysterious (and literal) disappearances of persons both in their company and in their ranks.

Can you imagine the shape the team would be in if the same thing happened to Jarvis? Despondent Avengers wandering the hallways, searching for coffee and pastry?

But the more immediate problem facing the team that Shooter realizes must be dealt with before the Avengers can move forward involves the situation with their Chairman, Iron Man, and Captain America, specifically the latter's growing insubordination and criticism of Iron Man's commitment to the team. Cap has already received a dressing-down from the Scarlet Witch after the explosive accusations he levied against Iron Man following Gyrich's assessment of their security (or lack thereof), a lecture which has him reassessing his own worth to the team. But while the Beast attempts to make an effort to reach Cap, there's really only one Avenger who can cut to the chase and get to the heart of the matter.

What follows between the two is a tense but productive meeting that mostly serves to let both men clear the air. It's to Shooter's credit that they don't simply snap back to normal; perhaps it's fair to say, rather, that their relationship is mended. Each man realizes that there's room for improvement, and they settle their differences to the point of moving forward. As Cap states at the end, "You lead... I'll follow... that's enough!" And it feels like it is.

Meanwhile, Wonder Man, returned to the fold, is settling into his role as an Avenger, though having difficulty believing that he has the makings of a hero--already ditching the new costume made for him by the Wasp in favor of more civilian attire.

(In hindsight, of course, we know that Henry Pym would eventually apply Simon's misgivings to himself.)

The high point of the visit of the Wasp and Yellowjacket, however, is the arrival of their delivery men, Meyer and Mack, who inject some delightful characterization into what would otherwise be an uncomfortable reminder of a past encounter for the Avengers--the lifeless body of Ultron's metal bride, whose infusion of the Wasp's life force was halted before the transfer could be completed.

You can probably guess that Meyer and Mack are going to find this particular delivery to be far from routine.

Elsewhere, in upstate New York, the Guardians proceed with their mission to keep an eye on their comrade, Vance Astro, who in this time period is a boy the Guardians fear will be targeted by Korvac. By this point, Starhawk has already been dealt with and created anew by his murderer (Korvac), who has made it so that Starhawk will subconsciously divert the Guardians from interfering with his true plans. Even so, their presence on the "sidelines" turns out to be fortuitous, when their strongest member, Charlie-27, prevents an accident that would have ended young Vance's life.

But now the story circles back to its main focus--the reawakening of the being that Ultron would name "Jocasta" but which Meyer has another name for at the moment.

We would learn later that the Vision is in error in thinking that Jocasta remains an unliving metal shell and is being animated by Ultron remotely. From her words and her actions, it's more accurate to say that Ultron controls her as part of a summons to return to his side. For now, however, she raises a good point: How is it that both she and the Wasp are alive at the same time?

As for the Vision, his power of disruption has a tendency to backfire on him--usually when it's inconvenient for a writer to deal in his power while still making sure the foe prevails.

The Beast has put his best foot forward, so to speak; but the real question you may be asking yourself is, "Why does that tune he's singing sound so familiar?" As it so happens, the PPC can help you out--but are you sure you want to know the answer?

Once the Avengers close ranks, however, it doesn't seem likely that Jocasta will be able to hold them off--until she receives help from a new, and very unexpected, pair of allies.

The battle that the Avengers are headed toward will bring them full circle with a nemesis that's proven to be near-invincible--and this time, there will be no escape for either the Avengers or the one they hunt. The events that Shooter has woven together in this story have culminated nicely to take us to a point of high drama, with the Avengers at last pulling together like the team they are and departing in force to have their final reckoning with Ultron. And should they survive, they'll find an even greater threat waiting in the wings.


GUEST-STARRING: Well, let's just say it probably won't be Meyer!

Avengers #170

Script: Jim Shooter
Pencils: George Perez
Inks: Pablo Marcos
Letterer: Denise Wohl

1 comment:

Warren JB said...

Ha! Okay, Hank can stay in the middleweights class...

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