Friday, May 17, 2019

No Ringers... No Cheaters... No (Proficient) Women

No doubt the Bar With No Name has gained a reputation in criminal circles for being a watering hole where super-villains can hang out with each other, swap war stories, and toss back a few without being hounded by the law, a fight breaking out, or being attacked. (Though there have been exceptions.) But a more exclusive gathering has built its own reputation over time for providing super-heroes with some down time, while offering them the opportunity to take their fellow guests to the cleaners--a night of business and relaxation hosted by one of the Fantastic Four, who is as serious about cards as he is about giving a villain a one-way ticket to the slammer.

So if you get the word that there's a game going down tonight, be ready to have a seat and ante up, because you've been invited to

By the time you and I are given the privilege to be bystanders at this game, it's evident that they've been held for awhile, though it's not really clear if Mr. Grimm was the chief organizer of these get-togethers. But given how much he looks forward to taking the pot being in attendance, it wouldn't be surprising if he had been their instigator--particularly since, if memory serves, the first one takes place in his own team-up mag, Marvel Two-In-One.

Of course, being stopped at the starting gate doesn't put him in the best of moods.

Fortunately, Nick Fury knows a crisis when he sees one--and he races to expedite the night's final player to the dimly-lit room of Avengers Mansion where his friends await his arrival.

As we can see by Nick's call, there might be trouble brewing at a S.H.I.E.L.D. arsenal, where an armed contingent of men have broken into the installation. But while Fury continues to monitor the situation, the Thing has bigger worries:

By now, however, the SHIELD situation has become a bona fide emergency, with the invaders making off with a massive ship that had been stored at the arsenal. The next thing he knows, Fury is being notified by fellow agent Dum Dum Dugan that the SHIELD helicarrier has come under attack; and so Fury is joined by his fellow card players who volunteer to help out. And on approach, it becomes clear what has been stolen from the arsenal, though not at all clear who the mastermind is who planned the operation.

(Have another look at the Yellow Claw's "sky dragon," in all its Steranko glory.)

It's a fierce struggle, to be sure, though there's always time for a little good-natured ribbing from Ben's fellow card players:

It turns out our culprit is Gen. Pollock, a renegade army officer who was once involved with the Living Laser in a subversive plot to secure both the Serpent Crown and the mutant known as Nuklo to overthrow the U.S. government. But the general finds that capturing the Sky Dragon and holding onto it are two different matters when it comes to this team.

Regrettably, however, the incident leaves our heroes too wiped to pick up where they left off this evening--er, the prior evening.

Better luck next time, gentlemen (and lady).


Big Murr said...

A Marvel tradition I've always enjoyed reading! Was this the first time the game was portrayed? Seems there must be previous moments, but I can't bring the story to mind.

I can think of subsequent poker games over the years, though: in the Thing mini-series where just about every hero congregated in a big party-tournament and the Great Lakes Avengers cleaned everyone out.

One with Spider-Man absolutely tickled to be invited, but speculating on why it was the first time...until he was told it was because it was the first time he had actual money.

Most recently at Ben Grimm's stag party where the first stop was Ben having a guest appearance in the Unlimited Class Wrestling ring, but then a poker game! A game where Thundra played the "What is this game? How do you play?" ruse and then really cleaned everybody out (ie: down to their underwear).

Odd that many superhero gatherings are often prime targets for villain attacks, but none of those scofflaws ever attack a poker game...maybe they do have a sense of self-preservation?

Tiboldt said...

I have to say something about Ms. Marvel's inclusion in the game.

Superheroes have superpowers and some of those superpowers may not be compatible with a fair game of poker. Off the top of my head, I'd say mind-reading, precognition, x-ray vision and being Daredevil should preclude someone from playing. Ms. Marvel had precog powers at this time (maybe she still does?)

Would they have let Eric O'Grady, the Irredeemable Ant-Man, join?

Comicsfan said...

Tiboldt, I'd say those at the game probably have an informal understanding going in that everybody at the table plays on the honor system, which in their case would mean that compromising powers would have to lay idle for the duration (if possible). After all, it's a fair bet (heh, get it?) that nobody wants to look up and see the Thing looking at you like he thinks you're up to something.

And Murray--tsk tsk, no fair reading ahead, guy. ;)

Killdumpster said...

Since you brought-up Nuklo, I only remember the first and second time he was in an Avengers story.

Was he ever utilized again, anyone? Not that he's a favorite antagonist or anything, just curious.

Anonymous said...

Murray, in MTIO 75#, I believe, there was a poker game with Ben and assorted super types. And I do think it's been referenced elsewhere.
Usually a cosmic crises of some sort breaks out just when Ben has a really good hand and is about to take the pot.
Much swearing ensues.