Back at my usual weekly trips to the local 7-11 on Thursday afternoons after school to pick up the new comics, I came across this latest issue of AVENGERS. The title was then in the midst of the well-remembered Korvac Saga, and while it had hit some speed bumps in terms of artist retention, this was still an exciting period to be coming into. The storyline featured every character who had been an Avengers up to that point, and then some. Writer Jim Shooter had begun the tale at he prompting of artist George Perez, who typically for him, wanted to draw everybody. Unfortunately, George ran into some life difficulties at this point and had to step away from the series–meaning that other hands, a bunch of them, would have to deal with the madness he had spawned in terms of the size of the cast.
Additionally, Shooter’s new role as Editor in Chief meant that the time available to him for doing freelance writing had shrunk dramatically, and so he was more and more often forced to hand off the dialoguing to other people. David Michelinie, a recent emigree from DC, was the one who most often stepped into the breach. But this does mean that much of the Korvac Saga wound up being crafted by people other than those who’d initiated it in the first place. That it holds together as well as it does is a testament to the talents of all involved.
So picking up where events left off last issue, the Avengers are now aware that they’re facing a dire threat from an unknown foe that they’ve dubbed The Enemy. But they don’t really know much more about their hidden quarry than that. So a bevy of Avengers, all of whom posses either enhanced senses or awareness or access to realms beyond the normal, try to get a bead on the Enemy, while the rest of the massive team waits around at Avengers Mansion for something to break. As you’d expect, this results in certain Avengers getting on one another’s nerves a bit. In a famous moment, confronted by Quicksilver’s raging prejudice against the Vision, the android that has dared to marry his sister the Scarlet Witch, Moondragon takes it upon herself to simply wipe that hatred away with her telepathic powers. This would be foreshadowing for stories to come in later years, in which Moondragon would become more and more haughty and imperious. But those were still far in the future at this moment. This did resolve the Quicksilver/Vision situation for the time being, though it would still crop up here and there afterwards–it was simply too fertile an area for conflict to brush away in this manner.
At her patience’s end, Moondragon telepathically summons the away Avengers to return to the Mansion and report their findings. The idea here is that Iron Man will plug their information into the Avengers’ computer, which will cross-correlate them and perhaps be able to give the team the location of the Enemy. Everybody has a little bit of something to contribute–all except Starhawk of the Guardians of the galaxy. This is because Starhawk had encountered Michael Korvac several issues ago, and after Korvac wiped the floor with Starhawk, he used his cosmic powers to prevent Starhawk from thereafter being able to detect him in any way. Starhawk has no knowledge that any of this happened, of course, so he needs to sheepishly report that he’s come back with nothing, despite his cosmic senses.
The other threat the Avengers have been facing the past few months is their new government security advisor Henry Peter Gyrich. Gyrich has revoked the team’s special permits, meaning that they cannot launch a Quinjet legally. So when the Avengers Computer is able to correlate the data and indicate a location in Forest Hills, the Avengers head outside to a nearby streetcorner, where Iron Man commandeers a passing bus to convey them to their destination, putting off all of the passengers. This too is one of the best-remembered scenes in this storyline, and a good example of the sort of down-to-Earth humor that Stan Lee and his compatriots tried to infuse their super hero sagas with.
So the team trucks out to the suburbs, and is an incongruous sight to everybody they encounter there. They knock on the door to Michael and Carina’s home. Michael lets them in, claiming to know nothing about this Enemy they’re looking for, and the Avengers quickly toss the place, finding no evidence of their quarry present. Iron man goes to apologize to their host for the intrusion when suddenly Starhawk has an outburst. You see, he still can’t detect Michael in any way, and so from his point of view, the Avengers have been carrying on a conversation with empty space for several minutes. It’s a very clever way to turn Starhawk’s deficit into a decided advantage.
So the Enemy is discovered–and what’s more, now that he’s been revealed, he knows that the other great powers of the universe will similarly detect him. His plan to remake the universe into a paradise required subterfuge, but now he’s been inadvertently brought out into the open. And he is pissed about it–so pissed that he drops his suburban human façade, manifests his cosmic-empowered form, and prepares to wipe the Avengers from the face of the Earth. To Be Continued! After so many months of build-up, this felt like a truly epic moment of confrontation, and made me excited to see what was going to happen next!
The Avengers Assemble letters page in this issue includes a lengthy correspondence from Peter Sanderson, Marvel historian and future contributor to the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe. Peter had a reputation for writing long, complex, thoughtful reactions to the books he was reading–I have little doubt that what is printed here was cut down from a longer letter that simply wouldn’t all fit in the available space.
4 thoughts on “BHOC: AVENGERS #176”
Even if dialoguing was passed off and the art was just plain good instead of Perez good, I think this is the best long term story Shooter ever did. There were so many moving parts and yet they stuck the landing hard.
Is this the same David Wenzel that went on to do the fully painted artwork on that Hobbit mini-series from Eclipse?
And he did the WIZARD’S TALE graphic novel with me, as well.
Thanks for letting me know, Kurt. I’ll have to track down a copy. I also have the Warlords GN he did with Steve Skeates at DC. Love his artwork.