Sunday, September 24, 2006

Avengers #179-180: Earth's Least competent Heroes? Coldest Heroes?

Avengers #179 and #180 are a bit of a muddle: there's an assassination attempt on Captain America, there's the angry bird mutant Bloodhawk, there's Talky it's defense, it covers a lot of ground, and has most of the classic line up.

Narf. Starting on the wrong foot here, I was thinking of the Assassin issue, that's the one with the attempt on Cap, and everyone at his bedside in the hospital. This one's got the Stinger, who takes down Black Panther in like three panels. Shh! Don't tell Reginald Hudlin, unless you want to read three months of Black Panther comics explaining how he meant to lose the fight as part of his master plan or something, and how Panther built a stinger when he was six.

I thought by this time, Panther was back as king of Wakanda pretty much full time. Maybe this is his vacation, beating up coffee thieves on the dockside. What year is this...1978. If this had been an 80's comic, it would have been thugs unloading cocaine. As is, the thieves are dressed up in suits for the robbery, and one even blurts out mid-beating "I got a wife and kids--UGG!" A wife and kids with a serious caffeine habit, I guess.

Later, on a rooftop, Panther is attacked by the Stinger, who in three panels uses invisibility, his 'shocking touch!'...which is in fact a ray (?), and his 'scorching sting,' a drugged dart on a cord. Stinger must have sunk all his capital into the gadgets, because his costume is terrible, and the eyeholes on his mask look like a bad Kiss 'homage.' With Panther captured, Stinger takes an Avengers press clipping from his belt...well, that's where I keep all the press clippings I need...and has a little villain laugh for himself.

Meanwhile, at JFK Airport, two crabby passengers take a taxi to the Museum of Natural History. One is rocking the hat/trenchcoat look that only works for supervillains. No one ever notices that half those guys have bright green boots plainly visible, or maybe it's just not good form to point out that little fashion faux pas.

The Avengers are at the Museum already, for a benefit. This must be an old story, from back when you didn't need three different kinds of insurance for that kind of event. Yellowjacket and Vision are in full costume, as they're total stiffs. Scarlet Witch and Wasp are dressed up for the occasion ('since they're girls!' is probably the logic for that one) and Iron Man and Thor are there in their secret identities.
Stinger plans on attacking the Avengers on their way home, since they're usually a little sloppy by that point. No, because "They'll believe the danger has passed!"

The two passengers arrive at the museum, as a museum-type is dropping some exposition about the exhibit on Wanda. Actually, he's probably trying to work up the nerve to suggest she stop by for a drink, and bring her 'toy husband;' but thankfully trenchcoat guy attacks.

(In the Marvel U, trenchcoats are 100% disposable. No one has ever worn one twice, as it's either thrown off to dramatically reveal the costume underneath, or shredded as the hero 'Hulks out.' Conversely, anyone wearing a trenchcoat is completely disguised, regardless of unusual costuming, build, or goddamn giant beak.)

Yes, the Bloodhawk makes his triumphant debut, throwing around museum patrons on his way to retrieve "He who protects!" Honestly, for the time, it's not too bad of a design, except for his chest, which is horrible. Reminds me of the six-breasted dancer from Jabba's palace.

Wasp (who had to shrink down to a bra-panties combo) and Yellowjacket (who covers more skin then an Amish woman) attack first and are swatted away. When Scarlet Witch starts with the hexes, Bloodhawk summons pigeons to help. Look, if there were better birds around, I'm sure he would've got those, but you try and find a giant condor in NYC. On a weeknight.

Bloodhawk is a mouthy foe, as well, telling the Vision to "Spare me your impotent whinings!" Try using that the next time you go to the kid's basketball game.

Bloodhawk actually does pretty well for a minute, but his companion Teacher knows "The Madness has come!" Not 'One Step Beyond' either, Bloodhawk is getting crazier; but by now Thor and Iron Man have shown up to take him down. Teacher tells the Avengers that they came from the island Muara for the totem "He Who Protects." After the fight and the damage, the museum is happy to let the Avengers take the totem, Bloodhawk, and Teacher back to Avengers Mansion to continue the discussion there. Outside, Stinger decides to hold off on his attack. As most of the Avengers fly home, Wanda can be seen running in her evening dress.

Teacher starts the exposition with Bloodhawk's origin: his father was a geneticist...and we can stop right there, because no one in the Marvel Universe even remotely connected to a geneticist has turned out well. Spider-Woman's dad, the High Evolutionary, Arnim Zola, Mr. Sinister: 'geneticist' is Marvel U. shorthand for 'will experiment on whoever's handy.' Bloodhawk didn't even have to be the kid, he could have been the geneticist's paperboy...anyway, they need the totem to protect their island.

At the kitchen door, Jarvis answers a knock, wondering if Black Panther is returning...what, he uses the kitchen entrance? King of an African country can't use the front door? Oooh, boy. Stinger sneaks through invisibly, and security's seeming a little lax today. The Avengers are about to vote on this Bloodhawk business, and Wonder Man and Beast have quietly joined the meeting. Where they were, I can't say, nor why they weren't at the museum. Let's say...drunk. Hey, it's probably the most polite answer a blogger would give there. The vote goes 5 for, 3 against giving them the totem and helping out. Upon losing, Iron Man declares the matter "Ridiculous!" and boot-jets away in a huff.

Thor, Beast, and Vision end up taking Bloodhawk and Teacher in a quinjet. After they leave, Stinger takes down Wasp, Yellowjacket, Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, and Jarvis with his sting and his shock. In nine total panels. Jarvis lasts three, which indicates it took longer to beat him then Black Panther or Wonder Man.

The issue ends with the quinjet arriving at Muara just in time to see a giant stone Monolith rise out of the water and lurch to shore. For some reason, what appears to be a ladder falls off the Monolith's head, like kids had been using the inactive monster as a diving board.

That brings us to Avengers #180, the oddly named "Berzerker's Holiday" written by Tom Defalco, pencils by Jim Mooney, inks by Mike Esposito. It starts right where we left off, and Vision and Thor start fighting the big stone monster that I still think looks like a tiki head. Maybe. If you squint, or had a bright orange stone tiki. Bloodhawk freaks out again, steals the totem and takes off. Nowadays, we'd say he had anger management or impulse control issues, back then he just had the madness. Beast goes after him.

Meanwhile, although apparently a day has passed, Iron Man is returning to the mansion, wondering what could be keeping the team that left to the island. Stinger shocks him, explaining his weapon "was designed to penetrate even your armor!" Oh, well, if it was designed to, then sure.

Back at the island, Vision tries that trick where he flies up, makes himself "Diamond hard and immeasurably heavy!" and drops on the monolith, who promptly swats him into orbit. Vision, that trick's worked like once, and it was cool and all, but again, once. Bloodhawk is flying around with the totem, which I think we see for the first time here, and it looks like a manhole cover, or giant quarter. Beast wrestles it away from him, and gets back to Thor, who is being stepped on by the monolith. Thor throws Mjolnir with Beast holding the handle, lifting him to the monolith's head, where he replaces the totem like a coin in a slot. Interesting design choice, monolith. Thor refers to it as "blackest sorcery indeed!" but it got the giant rock monster off of you, didn't it? Returned to lifeless stone, the monolith is then sent via Mjolnir to "the farthest reaches of our galaxy!"

After yet another alien invasion repelled, Bloodhawk is now sane enough to snippily point out there wouldn't have been any trouble if the totem hadn't been removed in the first place. Beast finally lets him have it, pointing out a lot of mutants have it worse. Well, at least that's what he heard. He offers to take Bloodhawk to the X-Men for help, which is both really thoughtful and thoughtless: sure, Professor X might be able to help, but Bloodhawk is going to be the fugliest student there until the Grant Morrison run. That'll help the self esteem and rage issues.

"Meanwhile, at Avengers' Mansion" the Stinger has six captured Avengers chained to the the bondage room, apparently. Let's see, Iron Man and Wonder Man should be strong enough to break their chains, Yellowjacket and Wasp could shrink out, Scarlet Witch could use her hex power, and I guess Black Panther would get loose just by virtue of being the Black Panther. So the Avengers have a room specifically for hanging more than two super-strong or otherwise powered people up, because Stinger couldn't have brought and mounted the cuffs himself, and the wall is a nice unfurnished or decorated white, and looks clean. Who wants to be chained to a dirty, rough wall? Yeah, let's move on.

Stinger's motivation turns out to be merely cash, as he plans to auction off the captured Avengers with starting bids of a million each. Ahead of his time, that one. Probably stick you on the postage, though. He admits to being a speculator, and wrecking the comics Oh, fine: he's mad that playing by the rules never got him rich: "Men like Nixon became rich and powerful, while I struggled with the mortgage payments for my house!" That, and that all his Valiant backstock is now worthless...

Stinger sold everything to buy his weapons from the Tinkerer, and I hope it was spendy, because for being made by the genius that brought us the Big Wheel, these were actually pretty effective. When Vision and Beast arrive, they are knocked out just as fast as the rest of the team, but then Thor hits Stinger in the back with his hammer, which probably should have at least put him in a wheelchair. Thor says he restrained his anger, giving Stinger time to go invisible and crank up the setting on his shocker. Bloodhawk goes to help, and takes the hit meant for Thor.

Sensing that events are about to turn on him, or that it's the second-to-last page, Stinger invisibly makes a break for it; but Beast's "handy mutant metabolism," i.e. the secret healing factor every mutant has when the story needs it; had already woke him up to free the others. Thor creates a storm in the mansion, and the rather embarrassed Avengers beat the tar out of Stinger for bushwhacking them.

Bloodhawk, however, is no more, "The vibratory intensity intended for Thor was far too much for his avian body!" He dies in Teacher's arms, as Beast looks on in respect, and the rest of the Avengers leave for brunch or to sleep this one off. That's cold, man. Cold. Or, I suppose they could be leaving en masse to go to the bathroom after being chained up for 24 hours.

Yeah, tragic. Anyway, Jarvis has brunch ready, so...

I'm usually all for compressed tales like this, because I don't think anyone wants to see the sad tale of Bloodhawk as a twelve part epic (and three parts late...) but this one could maybe have used another issue. Check out the Grand Comics Database, though: these issues, and a Beast fill-in, fell between the Korvac saga and Byrne's start (restart?). Those are remembered to this day. Bloodhawk and Stinger? Not so much. Also, Bloodhawk just happened to live on an island that had a giant stone monolith?


Unknown said...

Hilarious, yet somehow still better than anything in the New Avengers.

Hawkeye isn't really mad at the time. It's all a ploy to sell his new super-kewl identity as Bloodhawk II!

Remember, Joey Q always asks "what would Stan do..."

Anonymous said...

I loved this era of the Avengers. Before too long, we visted Wanda and Pietro's homeland, and did battle with Red Ronin. AND THEN we got to see Immortus' son make Ms. Marvel a love slave. Hey! Kids! Stockholm syndrome!