BHOC: AVENGERS #173

Another month had gone by, and so the subsequent issue of AVENGERS arrived at the spinner rack at my local 7-11 where I bought my new comics. I picked it up on one of my weekly Thursday trips down there for that purpose, Thursday then being the day when new comics arrived in those days. This was the middle of writer and newly-anointed Editor in chief Jim Shooter’s well-remembered Korvac Saga. But it was also the point where that story went almost totally off the rails, the additional pull on Shooter’s time in his new position likely being a factor in things. Shooter’s artistic partner George Perez was only in evidence on the cover, and as in the prior issue, the artwork on this installment gives every indication of having been jammed out quickly and at the last minute. To add insult to injury, the same was true of the prior issue, #172–which gives a sense of a title in crisis.

The job was laid out by Sal Buscema, a creator valued both for his ability to break down a story Marvel style as well as for his speed in doing so. Based on the credits, Sal delivered only basic layouts for this issue, which were then finished by a number of inkers–enough so that Marvel’s new in-house gang-bang pseudonym of D. Hands was listed in the credits. The D stood for Diverse. According to the Grand Comic Database, finishers who worked on these pages included Win Mortimer, Bob McLeod, Joe Rubinstein, Dan Green, Rick Bryant, Klaus Janson and Pablo Marcos. That’s virtually as many finishers as there are pages, almost. Additionally, while he plotted the issue, Shooter himself didn’t do the dialogue this time out. That task was handed off to Shooter’s regular designated hitter David Michelinie, fresh from DC. I’m probably making this out to seem like a lousier comic than it was; it was perfectly fine. But it was a sign of things to come, as in solving the firm’s ongoing shipping woes, Shooter and his newly-assembled editorial team was perfectly willing to throw bodies at a job in order to get it done in time, regardless of whether the results would be all that aesthetically pleasing. This isn’t really Shooter’s fault, such steps were necessary in order to get Marvel functioning properly once again. But it did mean that the fear of an unexpected reprint was replaced with a fear of an unanticipated emergency art job (or even worse, an emergency fill-in issue.)

The issue picks up shortly after the prior one, with the Avengers facing two overlapping menaces, neither of which they are as yet fully aware of. What they do know is that fir a number of issues now, Avengers have gone spontaneously missing, occasionally in the middle of an ongoing adventure. With the team’s ranks becoming depleted, Avengers chairman Iron Man has called in the services of Avengers of the past in an all-hands-on-deck fashion. This wound up including two characters who had never ben made official Avengers before this point, Captain Marvel and the Whizzer. But Iron Man wasn’t about to be picky given that the team was facing a calamity. Making matters worse, the Avengers’ security clearance has been revoked by their new government liaison Henry Peter Gyrich, effectively cutting the group off from intelligence services that might have helped with their investigation, including SHIELD.

But even greater than all of these problems combined is the threat posed to the universe by Korvac, who is presently living an unassuming life in Forest Hills with his girlfriend Carina while carefully furthering his plans. He’d already wiped any awareness of his existence from the mind of Starhawk of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and presently, he’s probing the other great powers of the universe–the Watcher, Odin, Zeus, Mephisto and ultimately Eternity himself–to make certain that his presence and aspirations remain unknown. But right under his nose, Carina evidences cosmic powers of her own–but while she has been charged by a mysterious benefactor to report in on Korvac’s doings, she finds herself unable to follow through on that action. Her feelings for Michael Korvac, while initially just a ruse, have grown to be genuine, and she cannot find it within herself to betray him.

Back at Avengers Mansion, Iron Man’s efforts to get an investigation going are stymied at every turn. Mar-Vell soars off, promising to use his Cosmic Awareness to attempt to divine the source of the disappearances, and the Whizzer begs off, telling Iron Man that his recent brush with death has made him realize that the time has come for him to give up life as a super hero. Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch are still around, though, as are the Black Panther and Wonder Man. And Thor arrives in response to the summons–but he is strangely unfamiliar with Wonder Man, despite having fought side-by-side with Simon Williams on a number of occasions recently. But before that mystery can be resolved, the Black Panther and Yellowjacket suddenly blink out before the eyes of Iron Man and the Wasp–disappeared like the other Avengers before them with no apparent cause. Thor and Hawkeye race into the room to report that the same has happened to Wanda and Wonder Man. And now there are four.

But before his sudden disappearance, T’Challa had suggested that the Avengers contact Vance Astro, who is stationed aboard the Guardians’ future space station Drydock so that he won’t inadvertently come into contact with his younger self on Earth and cause a universe-ending paradox. Iron Man proceeds to do so, and the Guardians’ advanced technology is able to locate a trail from the energy used to teleport the Black Panther and Yellowjacket away. Iron Man prevails upon Vance to use Drydock’s teleporters to transport the four remaining Avengers to that same location, reasoning that they will find the party responsible for the abductions there, and be able to take them by surprise. Astro complies, and so the Avengers find themselves beamed to what amounts to a Tardis in orbit: a structure outwardly the size of a phone booth but which contains a vastly larger space within itself than its exterior would make it appear.

Arriving inside, the Avengers race to the attack–but are taken aback to discover that their foe is a longtime opponent of theirs: the Collector! At this point in his history, the Collector wasn’t yet categorized as one of the Elders of the Universe or the brother of the Grandmaster–that would come later. But he was an alien being who for undisclosed reasons had on a number of occasions attempted to “collect” the Avengers, adding them to his menagerie of exotic artifacts. He’s been the one behind the disappearance o the other Avengers, having surreptitiously abducted them one by one whenever somebody’s attention was diverted–we’ll learn for certain next month that this someone is Korvac, but that’s implied here as well. And he’s delighted to see the rest of the Avengers, and completely unbowed by their appearance. By coming here, they have completed his objective for him. He now has captured all of them. To Be Continued!

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