BHOC: AVENGERS #172

Here’s another new comic that I picked up during that first trip to The Batcave, the first true comic book specialty shop that I ever patronized. As I mentioned last week, while I was more interested and attracted by the enormous number of back issues, also of note was the fact that the Batcave had new comics ahead of time, getting them through the early Direct Sales system rather than the mainstream distributors. This meant that I was going to grab all of these new titles first before even turning my attention to what gems might lay among the back issues. The Batcave, sadly, was way too far away from home for me to shop there with any regularity, but any time we happened to be in the neighborhood (which happened infrequently, but still happened) I would always make sure that I got some time to make a quick shopping expedition.

This issue came out right in the midst of writer Jim Shooter’s excellent and enthralling Korvac storyline. Unfortunately, despite delivering a really cool cover for this issue, regular artist George Perez was once again absent. In point of fact, he wouldn’t return for the rest of the storyline. As I understand things, George was going through some personal difficulties at this point in his life and trying to juggle his many assignments proved to be too much–one by one, he was falling off of every title that he’d been drawing regularly. It seems likely that the pinch-hit came relatively late in the game, in that replacement artist Sal Buscema only delivered breakdowns, very loose layouts that told the story and broke down the action but left the detail and the spotting of blacks to the inker/finisher. Sal, though, was the most reliable hand in the business when it came to laying out a story in the Marvel style of the time. And Klaus Janson produced the finishes over Sal’s breakdowns. I tend to think of Klaus as an inker with a darker and grittier/rougher style, but in an instance such as this one, he was a very good option to be able to adeptly fill in the missing detail in what Sal had put down.

The story opens with Hawkeye, who hadn’t been a regular member of teh group for some time, entering Avengers Mansion. he had been roaming around the midwest with the time-displaced Two-Gun Kid. But when the Kid suddenly vanished, Hawkeye made a bee-line for the Avengers and help. This business concerning the disappearing Avengers had been going on over the past couple of issues–just last month Jocasta vanished at the conclusion of that adventure, and in this one, as the Avengers get their bearings, Captain America similarly blinks away. What is causing these happenings, nobody knows, but the Avengers hasten to their headquarters to try to figure it out–and are surprised to find Hawkeye there. They’re even more surprised to learn that Clint Barton had found the Avengers’ recurring government nemesis Henry Peter Gyrich poking around the place, and clonked him. Gyrich had been giving the Avengers grief about their loosey-goosey behavior for a while, and this humiliation is the final straw for him. He cancels the Avengers’ government clearance, preventing them from launching their Quinjets legally and cutting off their access to law-enforcement databases and the like.

Before the Avengers can really do anything about their myriad problems, Jarvis lets them know that he heard on a news report that the team’s old enemy Tyrak is attacking the mainland. Like Attuma before him, Tyrak was an undersea barbarian with superhuman strength. Despite the fact that they have other important matters to cope with, the Avengers can’t let lives be lost in Tyrak’s assault. So Iron Man splits the team’s forces, sending Hawkeye, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man and guest-star heroine Ms Marvel to take on Tyrak while the rest of the team attempts to contact all of the previous Avengers to bolster their ranks–calling them on the telephone rather than using their high-tech communicators since their access has been revoked. So it’s down to the harbor for the Avengers away team, where they find Tyrak rather randomly tearing the place up. Tyrak’s appearance in this story seems like an excuse for some action–he isn’t really connected to any of the ongoing plots, and his rampage is just that: a senseless rampage.

Now, you would think that these five super heroes could make easy work of a single quasi-Sub-Mariner like Tyrak. But he starts the fight by knocking them around like tenpins. Part of the problem here is that not only aren’t the Avengers using any teamwork, but they’re actively getting in each others’ way. Ms Marvel wades into the fight in an uncharacteristic manner for a female character in 1978–very much in the spirit of the way Chris Claremont handled her in her own title. And she knocks Tyrak around some. But Wonder Man, who at this time was being played a bit more like a man out of time, given that he’d been believed dead for a number of years, exercising some chauvinism, tries to jump in to Ms M’s “rescue” and instead gets the two of them clonked by Tyrak. Oops. Wonder Man was kind of a fun klutz in these days, an uncertain super hero (he didn’t even wear a typical costume) which is one of the things I liked about him.

Eventually, though, the twin attacks of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision dehydrate Tyrak completely, and he falls to the ground. The Avengers attempt to contact the authorities to place him into custody and make sure that he doesn’t die from his dehydration–but Gyrich has already turned off their communicator access. With no other option left to them, Wonder Man picks up Tyrak and hurls him back out into the sea, where the water will revive him. For a few tense minutes the Avengers wait for him to emerge and attack again–but no additional attack is forthcoming. Ms Marvel picks this moment to depart–she had a solo series to get back to, after all. She briefly flirts with Wonder Man as she goes–the dynamic between these two characters was a fun bit of business during this run. But then, as the team catches its breath, the Vision suddenly disappears from right in their midst. Whatever is going on, the Avengers are truly in the bullseye at this point.

Back at Avengers Mansion, Iron Man has been putting Tony Stark’s brain to the problem of the disappearing Avengers–and while he’s been able to detect a mysterious burst of energy that matches when each Avenger vanished, he hasn’t yet been able to act on these findings. Yellowjacket and the Wasp report in that they’ve contacted the remaining Avengers of old and called them to assemble for an emergency meeting–but that the Beast and Thor have gone off to deal with situations that were playing out in MARVEL TEAM-UP and X-MEN, in a bit of tight continuity coordination that isn’t easy to pull off, especially on an emergency fill-in job like this. Anyway, the issue ends with a pullback to the secretive abductor observing Iron Man’s every move, and with the missing Avengers all stuck in tubes behind him. His identity was relatively obvious to long-time Avengers readers–but I won’t spoil it here yet, as it didn’t get revealed until the following issue, and so that’s when I learned who he was. To Be Continued!

One thought on “BHOC: AVENGERS #172

  1. I SO remember buying this issue.
    Hawkeye had long been a favourite character and the beautiful cover immediately grabbed my attention. It was so colourful and the head shots were reminiscent of John Buscema’s classic covers of years before.
    Then, I opened the comic and was immediately let down. I’d been anticipating something crisp and bright; what I got was, to my eyes dark and, well, sort of “smudgy”. As a non-artist, I don’t get to criticise and that is as it should be. By any reasonable yardstick this issue was a tribute to the talents of Sal Buscema and Klaus Janson and their ability to produce a professional product in difficult circumstances. However, it wasn’t what I’d hoped for when I picked this issue up from the newagent’s shelf… and I can’t deny that I was disappointed with Avengers #172.

    Like

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