Monday, December 15, 2008

A number of bloggers, myself included, took one look at Dark Reign's villain roundtable, and went "Cough! Acts of Vengeance! Cough!" There's some similarities, but that's not a fair comparison. Let's look a little.

For those who don't remember, or weren't reading comics around 1990, Acts of Vengeance was Marvel's big crossover event starting towards the end of 1989. You might not recognize it as a crossover, though: sure, there was the big (yet not very obtrusive, and I rather like the design) banner proclaiming it on the titles involved, but there wasn't a separate mini-series--no AoV: Frontline or AoV: X-Men. It ran in the regular books, but most of them weren't mandatory purchases for the story, either.

The basic plot was, a mysterious dark-haired man in a suit approaches a number of super-villains--the Mandarin, the Kingpin, Magneto, the Red Skull, Dr. Doom, and the Wizard--with teleportation doors, and a better meeting room than we've seen in Dark Reign so far, and a plan. If, for example, you're a B-list villain like the Controller, and you've been getting your ass handed to you by Iron Man for years, maybe you need to switch it up, and try taking out Captain America. Maybe Batroc can take Iron Man...

Actually, it was a better plan than it sounds there, and while there were some forgettable matches, like Iron Man versus long forgotten Power Man villain Chemistro; there were some great ones, like Daredevil against Ultron, Quasar versus the Absorbing Man, or the Fantastic Four against...Plantman, the Porcupine, and a bunch of other lame-o's. (That was Walt Simonson's first issues writing the book, and they are a ton of fun, even before he got going with the art!)

But, and this is going to seem dated and quaint now, the whole thing only ran for three months. (I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it was on time, too.) And it ended without setting up the next year's worth of stories, too, although the last issue, Avengers West Coast #55, still sets up the next storyline for that book, while the villain conspiracy starts to fall apart. For starters, in Captain America, Magneto asks the mysterious man if the Red Skull is the same one that was a Nazi that put him and his family in a concentration camp, and the mystery man says you betcha. That ends with Magneto burying the Skull in an underground cell (as opposed to giving him the dirt nap...) and Magneto seemingly wanders out of the conspiracy afterwards.

The Wizard is captured by the Avengers, and Doom is revealed to be a robot:

While the Wizard escapes, the mystery man is furious that he's probably led the Avengers back to their secret boardroom. Although Doom referred to him as "Lackey" and they treated him as such...even though they knew he could teleport, and masterminded this whole thing...the mystery man reveals himself to be Loki. Hey, without the big horned helmet, he was just a guy in a suit! The Kingpin decides he's out with that revelation, and sneaks off surprisingly well for a big fat guy.

(EDIT: I don't think I ever noticed before, but Thor is looking for the Kingpin, by name, there; so no wonder he bailed out!)

Thor is able to track the teleportation with his hammer, presumably because it was Asgardian magic as well; and he and a mess of Avengers arrive to kick ass. Loki reveals his secret base to be the Isle of Silence ("Or a perfect imitation!" Thor points out), where he was imprisoned after Avengers #1. Loki tries to take on the assembled heroes, and the villains bail out. On a later version--which I'm still looking for! It was a back-up in an Avengers annual, a postgame analysis with Cap, that revealed the Wizard was recaptured, and I think either the Mandarin or the Red Skull there at the time, was revealed as another robot, leaving the Wizard to lament, why didn't I think of that!
Byrne never really had a run on Thor, but I think this was probably the best art Thor would get for several years.
One more from this, since I want to say this panel is a tribute to something, but can't quite place it:

Thor takes most of the heavy lifting on this, imprisoning Loki...probably for about twenty minutes, sure, but it does give him a moment to reiterate while Loki and the villains may have tried to destroy them all, it's only strengthened the team and their resolve. Which probably sounds old-fashioned, since every crossover now has to end with the team a wreck or broken up or someone dead or crying or the bad guys in charge or some other damn thing that leads to another big ass crossover. And most of this issue is still taken up by two different storylines Byrne was building up for later, but he wasn't twisting your arm about it. Ahh, now I'm all pissed off.

Let's look at one more Act of Vengeance that you might not have expected:

Lincoln versus Booth! This time it's personal! From West Coast Avengers #55, "The Breaking Strain" Written and penciled by John Byrne, inks by Paul Ryan.

Incidentally, it is killing me that I don't have a Wizard action figure. He last had one in the 90's Fantastic Four cartoon line, and I'm pretty sure he was a total pegwarmer; but it would be nice to have one now, just to have sitting by the phone waiting for the call that's never going to come. I think the Wizard might have got in to Loki's conspiracy club, with the writers planning on him being the one to drop the ball in the end. After all, if you're handling the Iron Man book, you probably don't want the Mandarin to be the one to screw up and look like a jackass.

I don't have a Kingpin figure right now, either, now that I think about it, and the Loki I have doesn't look anything like the one in Norman's group. I'm ok with that, though...

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Oh, Loki always gets the blame for everything.


But yes, it does seem as though they are simply recycling plots nowadays...except streeeeeeetching them out for nine months or so.