Retro Review: Marvel Comics’ (The Mighty) Avengers #240-254

Editor’s Note: Marvel Comics’ Avengers volume 1 was renamed The Mighty Avengers with issue #241. It dropped “Mighty” shortly thereafter with The Avengers #256.

Avengers #240-254 (February 1984 – April 1985)

Written by Roger Stern with Ann Nocenti (#240-241)

Pencils by Al Milgrom (#240-250), Brett Breeding (#242), Carmine Infantino (#244), and Bob Hall (#251-254)

Inks by Joe Sinnott (#240- 241, 243-252), Andy Mushynsky (#241), Joe Rubinstein (#242, 254), Jack Abel (#246,248-249), Kim DeMulder (#246,248), Ian Akin (#251), Brian Garvey (#251), and Joe Delbeato (#254)

With perhaps a little too much time on my hands, I recently and rather randomly decided to reread these fifteen issues of The Avengers.  These issues are notable in that somewhere within this realm, I first started regularly reading this title (I would have turned nine somewhere through this batch), and am able, by looking at price tags on bags, and the presence of UPC symbols or Spider-Man heads in the bottom left corner, able to figure out when I stopped buying comics on the newstand, and instead started getting them at the local comic store of my far-off youth (it’s long since closed, but it’s flagship store is still considered “the” store to shop at in my city).

Lots of stuff happened over the course of this year and a bit.  I’ll recap in bullet points, because these are very decompressed comics, and any one issue had more plot movement than a six-issue arc does today.

  • The team, aided by Dr. Strange, Tigra, and The Shroud help Spider-Woman’s spirit back into her body, fighting Morgan Le Fay in the process.
  • The team hang out a little bit, and spend a lot of time talking about their six-member limit, sometimes creating new categories for members, so that they don’t have to get kicked off the team, but basically leave anyway.
  • The Vision gets weird (and trust me, there’s little creepier than Al Milgrom drawing Smiling Vision).
  • Most of the Avengers go off to fight the Secret War, and then come back the next issue.
  • The team get involved in some drama involving the two types of Dire Wraiths, but Rom never shows up.
  • Starfox and the Wasp get kidnapped by some Eternal servant types who are trying to abduct Sersi from a party in her apartment.
  • The whole team gets involved in some drama involving the Eternals and Maelstrom, a particularly poorly designed villain.
  • Quicksilver spends many issues looking for Bova, the mutated cow that helped raise him, only to find her, in a subplot that basically disappears after a bunch of issues, perhaps never to be picked up again.
  • Thor gets the team to help him fight Surtur’s army in a tie-in to the wonderfulness that was Walt Simonson’s Thor at that time (and the reason why I started reading that title).
  • Vision creates the West Coast Avengers, perhaps just because Hawkeye showing up with new wife Mockingbird messed with his precious 6-member limit.
  • Both East and West teams unite to fight Maelstrom again.
  • The Wasp goes on vacation, where she is surprised to learn that the creepy guy in a red beard, monocle, and cape that her friend was flirting with is actually a supervillain who likes to rob island resorts.  She is less surprised to learn that the fit guy she’s been flirting with is actually Paladin.
  • The Vision subtly starts manipulating everyone in a bid to take over the world, but for good reasons (even though he has nightmares about this).
  • The team teleports a couple of Thanos’s old allies, the Blood Brothers, into Thanos’s old base and fight them.  Later, luckily, Starfox realizes that Thanos has an eight-ton machine designed to de-power the Blood Brothers, and is able to use it.
  • Hercules loses his skirt in battle, which is something I thought never happened until Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak wrote the character.
  • The Vision fights a villain in cyber-space while taking over the world.
  • Wonder Man gets rid of the seventies red leisure suit jacket.
  • The team convinces the Vision to not take over the world, and to come back to his body, at which point he sticks his hand into his head to pull out a control crystal that Ultron put there years before, which he has always known about, but only now decides to remove.

Like I said, a lot of stuff happened.

These were pretty enjoyable comics.  This represents only a small fraction of Roger Stern’s time on the title, which I remember as lasting for many years.  He does a good job of giving almost every character a moment or two in every issue, and took time to work on building up some of the lesser-known characters who didn’t have their own books (more on that in a moment).  It’s also a time where continuity mattered, so Captain America and Thor kept disappearing whenever they were busy in their own books, and those events were referenced in conversation between the teammates.

It was also a time where Roger Stern seemed interested in using the book to fix and address continuity issues from elsewhere (aside from stranding Quicksilver in a subplot to nowhere).  The Spider-Woman issues were used to resolve plot threads left hanging when her own book was cancelled.  Many of the villains that we saw (Maelstrom, the Blood Brothers, Quasimodo) were just left in limbo by other books, sometimes years before.  The Eternals storyline felt like it was being used to move the lesser-known members of that race out of the picture, although I don’t know why.

One thing that I remember most strongly from reading this books as a kid was how much I liked Captain Marvel.  This is the Monica Rambeau iteration of the character, a new hero who is still sometimes surprised by who she gets to hang out with while getting the hang of her powers and of being a pretty big hero.  Stern steadily built the character up (having her overcome her externally-induced fear in the battle with Maelstrom’s minions) and eventually placing her in charge of the team a few years after these issues.  I like that her race was never made an issue, and that Stern had her regularly checking in with her parents, who were just normal people.  I remember her being my go-to point-of-view character when I originally read these books, and am sad that the character was never used as well again (I like the way Al Ewing writes her in Mighty Avengers now, but Greg Land’s tracing of old Halle Berry pictures do not make her look or act like my Monica).

Another thing I loved about these old comics is the way in which the upper right hand corner was used to spotlight which characters were in each comic.  It changed from month to month, and I remember always getting excited to see that some of my favourites were going to be in the issue.

I had a lot of fun reading through these old issues, which I’ve owned for thirty years.  Some of them have yellowed more than I would have expected, but the ones I bought from a direct market store were in very good shape, and they all smelled wonderful.  I remembered a lot of the ads, and found it a trip to reflect on what was considered cutting edge in the world of video games.  I found myself wondering, yet again, why the people who made the home version of Star Wars: The Arcade Game didn’t get the dude in the ad to blow his nose first.  That used to drive me nuts as a kid.

 

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