Monday, May 4, 2020

At World's End, There Come... The Gatherers!

Whatever we may think of the quality of Marvel's publications in the 1990s, which continued to be produced and released in the midst of the company's financial turmoil, some worthwhile reading could still be found in the early years of that decade before the uru hit the fan. For myself, I remain partial to the Bob Harris/Steve Epting run on Avengers, circa 1992-93--which includes eight issues celebrating the title's 30th anniversary (embossed covers and all) that comprise the story of the Gatherers, a saga which played out over a span of nearly two years.

I admittedly didn't have a high opinion of this storyline when encapsulating it as part of another post--and indeed, it still seems to me that it need not have lasted as long as it did, doling out bits and pieces of a mystery that would hopefully culminate in a memorable climax (while putting its faith in the assumption that readers by that point would recall the gist of a story that lasted over twenty months). Yet all things considered, it was arguably the last notable Avengers saga to take place before things went south for the book; in addition, and to their credit, writer Bob Harras, along with artists Steve Epting and Tom Palmer (with guest artists shuffled in), expended no small effort in bringing it to fruition, though I imagine mapping it all out must have been the mother of all staff conferences.

Today, of course, we all have the option of binge-reading overly lengthy storylines that, back in the day, strained our attention span with a thirty-day lag between issues. And so with today's post, I won't deprive you of the satisfaction of discovering for yourself the events of each issue in sequence, but, rather, offer a taste of where things stand with the Avengers at the point where the Gatherers have made their move on our world in force.

As the cover to issue #361 symbolically suggests, the story of the Gatherers revolves around three principal characters: Dane Whitman (the Black Knight), the Eternal named Sersi, and Proctor, leader of the Gatherers and, he insists, the husband (so to speak) of Sersi. For now, however, it's the Eternals who grab our attention, as they arrive to confront Sersi with a startling accusation--assuming they can put aside their disdain for the Avengers.

As is apparent, there is and will be a fair amount of posturing and threatening to wade through before we can finally reach the pertinent scene with Sersi--a hindrance which the arrogance of Ikaris and Arex (the brother of Ajak) has made unavoidable.

Though it may seem a minor name drop at this point in time, the term "Gann Josin" is nevertheless conspicuous, and will prove to be revealing as well--not only in Sersi's situation, but also where Proctor and his activities with the Gatherers are concerned.

Meanwhile, the Avengers are unaware that they have a viper in their midst--one of the Gatherers, actually, in the form of the Vision of an alternate world, put in place when our Vision was captured and detained by the rest of the Gatherers. This Vision is obviously more laid back in both manner and tone than the original, though he is careful to maintain his cover in mixed company. It's also clear that he's not necessarily interested in following Proctor's orders to the letter.

As for the Eternals, they fear that Sersi is afflicted with the Mahd W'yry, a type of progressive senility resulting from the few Eternals who remain* no longer being able to manifest their group consciousness known as the Uni-Mind, which among its benefits also helped to wash away their anxieties and fears in order to prevent the onset of the Mahd W'yry--anxieties brought on by immortals such as the Eternals being saddled with all-too-human brains which are not equipped to deal with several lifetimes' worth of experiences and consciousness.

*It's news to me that the Eternals ever dwindled in number--one of you alert readers can hopefully educate me on the whys and wherefores.

For her part, Sersi totally rejects the "archaic" fears of her cousins, though it seems a textbook case of denial--both herself and the Avengers could name a recent incident that saw Sersi experience a kind of "fit" that had her savagely attacking her team members without warning or explanation.  In addition, it's possible that Sersi may be unaware of acts of homicide that she's been committing throughout the city.  But there is another complication that her cousins have had no choice but to name: the necessity in such cases to invoke the Eternals' Rite of Cleansing, which mandates the elimination of the "mad one" from their race by molecular discorporation (i.e., death). And with Ikaris's insistence, however reluctantly, that the procedure be carried out, what do you think seems likely to happen now, if the pattern of behavior here holds?

Right--more posturing and threatening.

All of which leads to the peacemaker of this delegation, Sprite, to offer a compromise, at least for the time being, which will serve to monitor and confirm Sersi's symptoms should they ever rise to the fore as the Eternals fear.  (Pity they didn't show up in time for the earlier episode.)

Becoming Sersi's Gann Josin is not an ideal situation for Dane, on several levels, which will become clear as this story unfolds.

Meanwhile, we check in with the bona fide Vision, whose costume now reflects that of the Vision who stole his identity (and quite an improvement, I might add), where he remains a prisoner in the Gatherers' citadel--and who will become witness to a revelation which will bring us closer to the answer behind the mystery of Proctor and his reasons for seeking out Sersi. (But, in keeping with Harris's plot, not too close.)

As for Sersi's new Gann Josin, there is a development that has been brewing with the Knight and Crystal for some time which, in true soap opera fashion, is given the green light at the point when it can cause the most consternation for themselves as well as others--particularly evil-Vision, who has his own plans for Crystal, as well as an unidentified woman taking in the scene, whom we can likely assume is Sersi. Or did Dane not get that memo on the Gann Josin signifying "a mental union between two people" which "makes them lifelong soulmates"?

Fast-forward two issues later, where we find the Avengers approaching the Gatherers' citadel in the Andes mountains--thanks to intelligence, er, gathered from evil-Vision, whose subterfuge was finally uncovered by the Avengers and who was dealt with by Sersi's ability to molecularly transmute a form or object to whatever she wishes. Given that the Avengers are about to have a confrontation with the Gatherers at their stronghold, and the tone of the "next issue" blurb on the letters page:'d think that this story was about to reach its pinnacle, no?

Boy, are YOU living in a dream world.
Seven issues in, we're not even at the halfway point, folks.

The story that didn't really end this story, much less all stories.


Anonymous said...

I realize that the look of characters will change from decade to decade Comicsfan, but even so, having missed the 90s at Marvel I gotta ask - what is it with those matching Avengers tour jackets?
And why don't they all wear them? What have Cap and Herc done with theirs?


Comicsfan said...

If I'm not mistaken, sean, Sersi created them for warmth during a mission to the Kree empire, and they just caught on. I think Hercules began wearing one on occasion, though the Vision has abstained (probably because he's satisfied with his cape, though it looks like the Black Knight has ditched his in favor of the jacket), and Cap has declined as well, as you note.