It was a weekend, I remember that much. I had a little bit of cash in my pocket (no idea where I would have gotten it from) and so I made an extra trek down to my regular 7-11 haunt to look at the spinner rack and see if there might be anything worth picking up. And on it, I found copies of two successive issues of AVENGERS, this one and the next one, #171. I had already sampled AVENGERS a month or two before and found it not to my liking, but I had continued to read about the team in MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION. And I liked the artwork of George Perez, who drew both of these issues. So, with no better options available to me, I dropped my seventy cents and took them both home. And that’s where I started reading AVENGERS regularly.
These two issues were much more focused than the one I had read before, and while the size of the team was still daunting, it wasn’t as daunting as when the Guardians of the Galaxy were also hanging around in the same space. As it turned out, even though it had been three months since I had last sampled AVENGERS, I hadn’t missed anything–the issue that came out in-between #168 and #170 had been a stand-alone fill-in story. Still, these two issues functioned as a self-contained two-parter within the larger context of the ongoing building subplot featuring Korvac. So I was more readily able to enjoy it a lot more.
It’s also a comic book dense with incident. Just look at how many panels George Perez packs onto this page, and how many words writer Jim Shooter lays on top of them. The opening few pages resolves a situation that had been brewing in the title for a number of issues: Iron Man was then the Avengers chairman, and Captain America was having difficulties with his leadership style–so much so that he took a punch at Iron Man in the first issue I had read. (That punch, as much as anything, is the initial building block of what eventually became CIVIL WAR, as it cemented in my mind the notion that Captain America and Iron Man were characters whose ideological outlook was often in opposition to one another.) Here, though, the two men bury the hatchet, with a little bit of help from the Beast. The Beast was a great character in these days–fun, funny, witty. It’s a characterization that wound up shifting over time, becoming closer to his original studious bookworm X-Men persona. But this was teh Beast I liked best. And nobody ever drew this design better than Perez.
Shooter’s experiences writing the Legion of Super-Heroes served him in good stead here, as there are seemingly dozens of plotlines going on at once. The Scarlet Witch gets a frantic call from Hawkeye, who has been out west with the time-displaced Two-Gun Kid. But the Kid is missing, seemingly teleported away. Wanda assembles the Avengers to head off to investigate–and meanwhile, we cut to Attilan, where her brother Quicksilver lives with his wife, Crystal. Before Crystal’s eyes, Pietro vanishes as well, putting a pin on Hawkeye’s suspicions: there does seem to be somebody abducting Avengers. Back at Avengers Mansion, repair crews are rebuilding the section that was recently damaged by Count Nefaria, and are bringing the crate containing Jocasta, the would-be Bride of Ultron, back in for storage. But before the Scarlet Witch can tell the others about what’s going on with Hawkeye and about the Two-Gun Kid’s disappearance, Jocasta suddenly springs to life, bursting out of the crate that held her.
The reactivated Jocasta is confused about her sudden consciousness–even more so given that the Wasp is present, and it was Janet Van Dyne’s brain-engrams that were mean to be the basis for her life and personality. Nonetheless, she instinctively turns the repaired Avengers Mansion’s defenses back on the Avengers as she moves to make her escape from their custody. This turns into a running fight, one in which the Avengers are at least initially restrained by not wanting to knock the hell out of their just-repaired headquarters again. Perez is in fine form here, still jamming his pages with numerous panels but simultaneously keeping the action moving and giving the characters personality. Already, he was about my favorite artist at this time, and his skills were continuing to grow.
The fight progresses into the courtyard outside of the Mansion, where the Avengers feel a bit more free about unleashing the full scope of their powers. Unfortunately, Jocasta has been equipped by her creator Ultron with the means to defend herself–she’s powerful and dangerous. What’s more, Yellowjacket keeps urging the other Avengers not to destroy her if they can, as he wants to study her workings in depth. But eventually, as more and more Avengers are getting their heads handed to them, such restraint is no longer possible, and the team moves in for the kill–only to have their attack stymied by a last-minute arrival by Iron Man and Captain America, as the cover predicted.
Once again, the Avengers are momentarily at one another’s throats, a recurring motif in Shooter’s run as writer it would seem. But cooler heads prevail with the unexpected arrival of Thor. He’d been showing up in recent issues unexpectedly to serve as a last minute reprieve for the team, so his appearance here is almost par for the course. And when everybody calms down, Iron Man tells him the plan: Jocasta has clearly been reactivated by Ultron, so if they give her a lead, he can track her with his armor, and she will lead them right to their foe. And that’s where this issue was To Be Continued! I moved immediately into the subsequent issue in my reading, but you’re going to have to wait a day for me to write about that one tomorrow.
The letters page this time out included another correspondence from Peter Sanderson, who would go on to a career as a comics historian employed by both Marvel and DC, among others. Additionally, the Statement of Ownership for the year ran in this issue, which gives us some insight into how well AVENGERS was performing by 1978. It indicates that the book was selling 173,479 copies on a print run of 375,762, giving the book an Efficiency of 46%. That’s a pretty good number as compared to many of the other titles we’ve been looking at–an indicator that the Shooter and Perez team (along with John Byrne, who had drawn a string of recent issues as well) were moving the needle positively.