Monday, January 11, 2021

Something Evil Falls To Earth!


Heading into 1980, artist John Byrne's brief eleven-issue run on The Avengers reached its end with a two-part story plotted by Roger Stern and almost seamlessly split between scripters Steven Grant and David Michelinie, while featuring the return of an old "foe"--Henry Peter Gyrich. Actually, Gyrich is not the principle foe of the story, though to the Avengers he might as well be. Acting as the watchdog of the National Security Council, the agency which is responsible for granting the Avengers their priority clearance, Gyrich has been on the Avengers' case for their lax security standards which not only have failed to prevent unauthorized access to their mansion and its computers' cache of federal government data, but also extend to their constantly shifting membership lineup changes that take place at the drop of a hat while at times failing to keep their total of active members down to a reasonable number.  For their part, the Avengers maintain that Gyrich has saddled them with too many restrictions which hamper their ability to carry out their operations.

And so the assemblers have requested a federal hearing before a three-person senatorial committee to finally settle this matter once and for all.

Meanwhile, in space, a meteor has plummeted toward Earth--only to change course and crash into Brooklyn's Jamaica Bay, where it then "hatches" into something more mobile and rises from the marsh. And so, ponderously but determinedly, the Avengers' more deadly foe in this issue is now on the move toward Manhattan. But what is the nature of this... creature? And why is it attacking Earth's mightiest heroes?


As for why Daredevil has presumably joined with the Avengers in fending off this being's attack, we've already seen that Matt Murdock has signed onto the Avengers' legal team of Emerson Bale and Jeryn Hogarth (who looks nothing like Carrie-Anne Moss here) to represent the team--and so while our monstrous construct begins to generate news coverage as to its purpose or destination, let's catch the opening moments of this hearing and see what Gyrich has up his sleeve.

On the Manhattan side of the East River, however, the hulking threat of stone and what appears to be salvaged fuselage has used the subway tunnels to travel unimpeded thus far--only to emerge in the midst of a S.W.A.T. that has assembled to intercept it. Their assault proves ineffectual--and the decision is made to request help from either the Fantastic Four or the Avengers (or both). Well, we know we can count on the fact that one of those groups is going to be out of town when that call comes in--so if you guess correctly as to which team that leaves us with, there's a free comic book in it for you! (Not really!) Here's a hint: It presents a golden opportunity to bear witness to a certain federal pain in the you-know-what being put in the position of scraping the egg off of his face.

And with Matt Murdock in the room, we know that DD can't be far behind--but talk about disturbing overtones of "the Superhuman Registration Act" twenty-six years before the fact (and ten years preceding another such hearing where our friend Gyrich was a key witness).

It isn't long before Daredevil encounters the Avengers having engaged the unstoppable stone creature which has been ravaging Manhattan--yet we now learn that powerful individuals such as the Avengers are precisely the kind of beings that it has been seeking, though its purpose in doing so is yet to be revealed. But when the Avengers coordinate and deal decisively with the "monster," it becomes clear that they have set free the real monster within--a foe who means to repay them for their efforts in bloodshed.

Yes, the Grey Gargoyle has returned--but from where? And why the odd deception? Don't expect our heroes to clue us in--because in a few minutes, this street is going to be littered with defeated Avengers. (No lie!)





Big Murr said...

I've reread this story a couple-three times in recent years and the observation you make has gives me a foreboding chill. This moment embarrassing Gyrich is so very much the seed from which grew Superhuman Registration Acts and Government-sanctioned/controlled responses (in the spirit of Sentinels) to fight "big bad monsters".

I haven't read all the appearances of Gyrich thru the years, so I don't know if this moment in his career is specifically cited again (and again?)

Anonymous said...

In the Moore/Davis Captain Britain run Gyrich turned up as a US ally (with the Hellfire Club's Sebastian Shaw) of Jim Jaspers, a sort of 80s Boris Johnson able to warp reality who rounded up superheroes, mutants and whatnot into camps.

So ok, he's not a nice guy.
But even so, I don't think he's being unreasonable here in the Avengers - if they want security clearance its not unfair that they're required to meet some conditions and be accountable.
No-one likes the government of course, but would you really rather have some super-powered geezers in a mask on your case instead?


Anonymous said...

PS Actually, the government do wear masks these days - or maybe from Jan 20th where you are Comicsfan - but you know what I mean.


Anonymous said...

Y'know, the Grey Gargoyle is sort of a weird villain, and I'd almost think he'd be kind of a lame one, too. He has three powers: some super-strength and durability, the bizarre ability to temporarily turn people into stone, and the apparent propensity for getting accidently shot off into outer space.
There are a couple of low cards in that hand.
But for some reason I enjoy his appearances. I dunno why. He's definitely well written in the issue following this one, and it's surprising how much menace he brings to bear, even against the Avengers. Looking forward to it!


Sharper13x said...

If you are made of stone, why wear a mask?

(Asking for a friend)

Comicsfan said...

Murray, it's not a bad train of thought, but I imagine this particular moment of humiliation is one that Gyrich would rather see everyone (including himself) forget! ;)

sean, in this instance I think the Avengers simply want to rein in Gyrich's excessive restrictions to a reasonable degree. It's one thing to insist that the Avengers not be so cavalier about seeing to the security of their mansion--but it's another to assume an authoritative posture of dictating how many active members they can have, which members are acceptable in that lineup, and so forth. As we'll see, the committee will outline recommendations that both Gyrich and the Avengers will agree to--and the team will go on to prove that they can function reasonably smoothly with a NSC liaison.

M.P., don't forget to include the Gargoyle's capability of limited flight! (If you can call it that--I don't recall ever seeing him soar over New York City, but I could be wrong.)

Sharper13x, it's possible that by now every law enforcement agency knows the Gargoyle is actually Paul/Pierre Duval (and if they don't, they certainly will after this story's conclusion)--but in the beginning, Duval went to lengths to ensure that his identity as the Gargoyle remained a secret. And considering that even stone statues can bear a strong likeness to the model, he likely donned a mask to ensure no one was able to put two and two together. So we can reach one of two conclusions: either his identity is still secret, in which case the mask is explained, or it's not, and he continues to wear it to, say, project a more fearsome aspect to himself.

Sharper13x said...

That is an excellent answer. Thank you.

Also... why are there ambiguous choices on the “I am not a robot” tests? There was a picture on this last one that may or may not have had a chimney. I’m pretty sure I got it wrong. But... with all that uncertainty, how can I really know that I’m not a robot?