Monday, September 14, 2020

The Mission Within The Mission

With Avengers writer Roger Stern establishing his own pace for the book in 1983 as he redefined the characterization and chemistry of the team (while of course providing the adventure and action necessary for it to thrive), there was often ample time to slow that pace occasionally and allow us to peek behind the doors of the team's Fifth Avenue mansion to see the Avengers concept at work as its members conducted day-to-day business, training, and other routine matters--something we've seen to an extent in other team books, but a rare privilege in a loose-knit group such as the Avengers who lead their own lives (and, in some cases, in their own homes) while off the clock.

Yet even personal and/or private matters can draw the Avengers together, as was the case in an issue from September of that year which sees two of their members preoccupied with a sense of loss--and, as it turns out, only a villain can make things right.

By the time of this particular story, we've seen the Avengers perform their duties while attempting to cope with certain events which continue to weigh on their thoughts in one form or another. One of those episodes involves Anthony Stark, who as Iron Man has abruptly left the team without warning or explanation--though readers of Invincible Iron Man know that the reason stems from Stark's losing struggle with alcoholism. And when Captain America and the Avengers' chairwoman, the Wasp, decide to pay a call on Stark in order to get to the bottom of his recent erratic behavior, they learn first-hand the extent of Stark's difficulties--or, more to the point, his downward spiral.

With nothing left to say (at least on Stark's part), Cap and the Wasp are forced to finally accept Stark's decision and leave it at that, though seeing their friend and one of their founding members slowly destroying himself through alcohol addiction no doubt leaves them feeling despondent and helpless (as it does with many people in their position).

The Scarlet Witch is also experiencing such feelings, due to a situation created when she and the Vision, as Avengers reservists, were called in to help with a crisis involving the Fantastic Four and a strange null field emanating from the Baxter Building. If not stopped, the danger the growing field presents to the entire city is clear--but for the Vision, his own encounter with it has an immediate effect on himself, and on his wife.

Regrettably, injuries suffered by the FF and those they care for have been devastating and require all of Reed Richards' attention, forcing Wanda to keep a bedside... er, tubeside vigil as she monitors the Vision for signs of life. But each of these instances continues to have profound effect on both Cap and Wanda; and in the aftermath of damage caused by a mysterious force that would prove to be responsible for the disappearance of Reed, it's becoming apparent that something will need to be done.

But before focusing our attention in that direction, let's pivot briefly to the She-Hulk, an Avenger who is experiencing her own share of uneasiness--in her case, having difficulty acclimating to life in New York City after migrating from southern California. Nor is her mood improved when a careless driver cuts her off in a crosswalk (and getting his car hood smashed by a green fist in response)--but fortunately, a web-spinning mediator comes to her assistance when the driver contests the issue. (Fortunately for the driver, that is.)

There's also the Avengers' newest member, Starfox, to look in on, who finds that he's picked the wrong day to show up on Captain America's radar.

As we've learned, Cap's mood has also been affected by a stop at the med-lab and seeing Wanda depressed about the state of the Vision. Still, when the Avengers are alerted to the escape of the Wizard from a federal penitentiary, Cap bucks up and does his job--though as keen as he tends to be, even Captain America doesn't realize that there's one Avenger whose decisions are being made in his best interests.

As for the Wizard, he's holed up in his futuristic estate on Long Island where he believes he can hold off any law officers who might think to look for him there. Or, in this case, three Avengers, who arrive and decide to split up in order to search the massive home more quickly--a questionable decision that's fraught with repercussions, if their foe is indeed in residence and all too aware of their presence.

Then again, taking the opportunity to amuse oneself at the futile struggles of those you're toying with has been the downfall of more than a few villains throughout comic book history.

With each Avenger vulnerable on their own, the Wizard was at liberty to capture them in any number of ways (the quickest route to victory being, for example, something quick and effective like tranquilizer darts, but what do I know). Yet the Wizard, for all his brilliance, remains a vain villain; already he's chosen to disregard what may be the golden rule that any escaped prisoner would follow (i.e., lie low until the heat is off). Instead, he practically invites a manhunt and settles on a strategy of digging in (at his residence, no less) and using his inventions to fend off attempts to bring him in. The Sandman once remarked that the Wizard was "as dangerous as they come," which has often proven to be true; but Stern's story here will prove to be a disappointment in that regard.

Subsequently, the Avengers, one by one, proceed to break free of the Wizard's traps before he can move to dispose of them--and with his master control panel fried, the Wizard feels he has no recourse but to flee. (He certainly could have made a fight of it with those wonder gloves of his, even if only to secure his escape--but again, what do I know.)

With the Wizard on his way to hopefully a more secure facility, we're left to wrap up Stern's main theme that has opened and now closes this story--and in terms of both their mission, as well as for those Avengers who needed their spirits lifted, the decisions of the Wasp this day have borne fruit.


Big Murr said...

How many times have writers stuck a damaged Vision in a tube? I feel it's a number like guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar. A very large jar.

I guess in a more civilized (or at least "restrained") comic book time period, writers were not allowed to willy-nilly dismember human heroes. For a dose cheap shock value, kick the android in the teeth. It's only a machine, so the censors won't care.

Comicsfan said...

The Vision does seem to end up in a tube every now and then, doesn't he? Since he started out that way as the Human Torch (back when Marvel was saying he was the Human Torch), maybe those incidents are all just nostalgic nods to his Golden Age days. He should count his blessings that the Avengers didn't go for authenticity and expel all the oxygen from the tube--probably wouldn't go over well in Wanda's current mood.