Bought this issue of MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION featuring the Avengers at my regular 7-11. This cover has always amused me–Hawkeye somehow swinging in with a rope wrapped loosely around his leg so that he can take an upside-down arrow-shot–it’s truly a bizarre choice. In this instance, the choice wasn’t directly Ernie Chan’s, who drew this piece. No, he was mimicking the original cover to the issue being reprinted, AVENGERS #50 as drawn by John Buscema. But either because they couldn’t lay hands on a copy of the original or because the addition of the larger logo and different trade dress (including UPC) made it too difficult to work with the original, Ernie was called upon to produce a new version for this reprint.
It was plain to see that both writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema were very much into the story this time out–so much so that Buscema made one of his infrequent forays into inking his own work on this issue, one of the earliest on which he did so for Marvel. John always preferred his own inks to anybody else’s, but he was so fast as a penciler/breakdown artist that it wasn’t usually financially feasible for him to ink his own work regularly. Plus, when he did so for any length of time, he’d get bored with the process, tired of “drawing the same drawing twice.” So that push-and-pull led to a cycle where he’d grow frustrated with the inking he was getting and say that he wanted to ink his own work, then getting tired of inking is own work and asking to be relieved of the burden.
What excited Thomas and Buscema about this story is that, as opposed to the average super hero adventure, this tale was a full-blown fantasy epic, set largely within the realm of Olympus which Hercules returned to an issue or two ago. It’s well known that Buscema often bristled while drawing super heroes, and he didn’t love doing modern cityscapes or cars or pedestrians, though he drew all of them wonderfully. But this was a fantasy realm that he could create whole cloth, and one whose look and style hadn’t been so definitively defined by Jack Kirby as Asgard had been. In a very real way, this issue of AVENGERS functioned as a sort of dry run for the work that Thomas and Buscema would go on to do with Conan the Barbarian in later years.
The story opens with the Avengers down to a membership of three: Hawkeye, the Wasp, and Goliath, who has lost his growth powers and not can only shrink and command ants. Not exactly Earth’s Mightiest Heroes we’re talking about at the moment. This is due to the fact that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have cast their lot with Magneto once more, and Hercules left the team to return to Olypmus. In Olympus, Herc discovered that Typhon the Titan had taken over the place, banishing his fellow Greek gods to an otherworldly limbo, and he proceeds to do the same to Hercules himself. But because Herc is himself only half a god, Big Daddy Zeus is able to transport his son back to Earth, the mortal sphere. Which is good timing, because Typhon has taken it upon himself to descend from Olympus, and the three underweight Avengers can’t seem to do much to slow him down.
After a few preliminaries in which Typhon knocks Hawkeye and Goliath/Ant-Man around like nothing (while the Wasp mostly frets, because she’s just a girl, you know) Hercules finally puts in an appearance, and he is quick to leap to the attach, walloping Typhon full-on in the face. What follows is a full-on multi-page dust-up throughout which Hercules never truly loses the upper hand–a fight the other Avengers don’t really have any opportunity to help out with. This is the Hercules show, through and through, and despite Typhon having absorbed the power of the Promethean Flames from Olympus, Hercules cleans his clock but good.
But this outcome is a mixed result for the Avengers themselves, as Hercules tells them that not only does he need to return to Olympus to restore the Promethean Flames and his fellow Olympian Gods, but that his time of exile will now be at an end, so he’s going to be leaving the fields of mortals for the time being. Not that they were much help in this bout, but the Avengers understand and bid Hercules a good journey, even though this leaves them severely underpowered. Herc does take Typhon back to Olympus and does succeed in opening up the Land of Shades and bringing the other Gods home–and they waste no time imprisoning Typhon within the Vanishing Abyss, never to be seen again (until some later creative team had need of a villain, which they would.)
There’s an awful lot of denouement in this adventure, and one gets the sense that Buscema was enjoying drawing the scenes with the Olympian Gods so much that he went a bit overboard with them. In any case, Zeus does rescind Hercules’ period of exile and the man-god returns to his father’s side in Olympus. And back on Earth, the remaining Avengers promise to fight their utmost, regardless of what may come, despite their limited power. And on that note, the story ends. As a reader, I can’t say that this one particularly enthralled me. I wasn’t as enamored of this sort of fantasy as Thomas and Buscema were–i wanted super hero action, and this issue really had very little of it. It wasn’t enough to put me off of the series or anything, it just means that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I otherwise might.