Issue(s): Avengers #256, Avengers #257
Beginning with this issue, Buscema is credited with breakdowns and Palmer with finishes. The art doesn't look substantially different from the last issue, but any way you look at it, it's a winning combination.
This is an arc dealing with the return of Terminus (see the caveat at the end of this post)...
...but before we get there, Roger Stern starts us off with some nice character moments. The Black Knight is adjusting to all the changes that have happened in the Avengers since he got stuck in the past way back circa Avengers #118, especially the fact that the Vision and the Scarlet Witch have gotten married and the Wasp and Yellowjacket got divorced.
I'm of two minds regarding the way the Wasp poses in these scenes.
On the one hand, it could just be pure (80s style, which is pretty tame) cheesecake. On the other hand, it could represent Jan sub-consciously flirting with Dan, which will have implications in later issues. And it also serves as a nice contrast when Jan runs into Starfox, since she's still freaked out after learning about his "pleasure power". It's a clear shift in body language.
But Jan and Starfox start to work things out. Starfox says he'd never use his powers on an ally ("...unless they want me to!").
Then they bump into Hercules, who has a new costume, created by Hephaestus and delivered by Apollo.
I prefer the skirt. He-Man was popular around the time this comic was published (i had plenty of the toys), and you can't tell me that wasn't an influence here. The lettercol says the costume was designed by John Byrne (who also earlier created Black Goliath and Valkyrie's stinkers).
Then the team gets into a meeting. The Wasp is restored to chairwoman, on the grounds that the Vision's mental manipulations interrupted her term. Hercules agrees with the move but looks a little doubtful.
Hercules never really seemed to have a problem with the Black Widow's leadership of the Champions, so it must be Jan specifically that has him concerned, although a chauvinistic attitude wouldn't be all that out of character for him. It's going to be a problem in the future.
While the Avengers are meeting, a pair of men who got their idea of how to dress like a government agent by watching the original Untouchables TV show case the mansion.
When the Avengers first get called in by SHIELD to investigate the shipwreck that Terminus causes, there's a comment about SHIELD being "unusually close-mouthed about this affair". That's most probably just due to the impending fallout related to the Vision's attempt at taking over the Pentagon's computer systems, but there's also the slight possibility that it was related to the much delayed SHIELD mini-series, like we saw with the references in Hulk #297-300.
Terminus goes on a disastrous tear through the Savage Land, killing the entire crew of the ship that was transporting his staff, and exterminating all the races of Pangea.
Let's face it. Mr. Fantastic really dropped the ball here. After sending Terminus to the center of the Earth, he just left him there and did nothing to prepare for his inevitable escape. So from a certain point of view, all the deaths in these issues are on his head. This is why you never call in a team of "imaginauts" to do the work of super-heroes.
Anyway, all the deaths give the Avengers the opportunity to live up their name for once.
I believe this is the first time any of these Avengers have been to the Savage Land. They have to be informed by a scientist about what's in the "mists beyond the mountains", and they have to formally introduce themselves to Ka-Zar.
John Buscema had apparently never been to the Museum of Natural History. His dinosaurs are vaguely weird. They're cool, though.
When Terminus makes his way from the Savage Land to Pangea, his reaction is "Yet another tropical jungle within this polar region?!".
I know i'm kind of splitting hairs and this is something i probably should have raised in an entry for Ka-Zar the Savage, but i never really got the big deal about Pangea. For all intents and purposes, it just turned out the Savage Land was bigger than initially thought, right? I mean, it's just more jungle, not another jungle.
Anyway, Terminus is searching for technology. He first finds a device in the Savage Land...
...and then is disappointed with the "elementary climate control equipment" he finds in Pangea. "There's nothing more on the order of the Celestial artifact I uncovered earlier."
By the time the Avengers catch up with him, he's turned the land into an inferno.
The Black Knight is able to sever Terminus' arm, separating him from his staff.
Then, as the removal of the Atlantean climate control devices turn Pangea back into an arctic wasteland, Starfox delivers Hercules to Terminus 'fastball special' style.
Hercules alone witness the "truth" about Terminus...
...which may have been a deliberate choice. Despite the call for vengeance, the Avengers aren't really killers. Hercules specifically, however, has slain his share of monsters.
Despite everything you've just read, due to a later retcon in the very bad Terminus Factor annual event, the actual Terminus does not appear in this series. The MCP gives the real one a "behind the scenes" appearance and i'm listing him as a character appearing, but whatever it looks like in any of the screenshots above, that's not actually him. It's really a Deviant called Jorro.
Starfox was aware of Terminus. "A loathsome scavenger of worlds!" "For decades in my travels among the stars, I have heard rumors of this world-pillaging creature..." Worth noting the singular noun and the descriptions, considering the Terminus Factor retcon (which i'll get to one day, i promise).
I've always wondered if Terminus was actually supposed to be the same species as the slave creature he was carrying around in his first appearance, but i guess the retcon makes that a moot point.
Really an epic battle and a significant event (we'll learn in issue #258 that Terminus' actions have completely destroyed the Savage Land; of course, nothing is forever). Buscema & Palmer live up to the challenge of John Byrne's Terminus. And as always, Roger Stern blends great characterization with cool super-heroics. We also get to see a little of Ka-Zar and Shanna, who we of course miss since Bruce Jone's run on Ka-Zar the Savage ended.
I do want to say that despite the fact that some people, mainly Marvel editors, like to say things like "No one's coming to your house and taking away your old comics" while defending a sweeping (and often bad) retcon, there is definitely an additional unwanted layer while you're reading a story like this (or, to take another example, knowing that every appearance of Alicia Masters for the next seven years is actually a Skrull) that kind of spoils your enjoyment to a degree. Just a degree, though. These issues are strong enough that they can withstand the future attacks of Roy & Dann Thomas.
While all of this is going on, Captain Marvel is stuck in deep space with the "Interstellar Bowery Boys", as she puts it. She meets their leader, Nebula, in issue #257.
Monica had been pretending that she was still powerless, but Nebula calls her bluff.
Trapped with no way to get home, she plays along with the offer to join Nebula's crew, and does it convincingly enough...
...although anyone who has heard of the Avengers (and Nebula has) is bound to be suspicious.
The Stern/Buscema/Palmer Avengers, people! And it's just getting started.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain America remembers that the Vision was upset that the President called in the Fantastic Four instead of the Avengers to deal with Terminus' first appearance, but when the Wasp tries to reach the FF or access their data files, she finds that there's no response. "It's like their Baxter Building headquarters had vanished off the face of the Earth". So this arc takes place concurrently with Fantastic Four #278-279. Most likely the launch of the Baxter Building hadn't happened while the Avengers were still in New York, or they would have heard about it. Avengers #258 takes place soon after the end of this arc, so this group of Avengers shouldn't appear anywhere else in the meantime.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
As you'll find out when you review Secret Wars II 2, Web of Spider-Man 6, Amazing 268 and Amazing 269-270, all those issues take place after FF 279 in rapid succession and Amazing 270 is a crossover with Avengers 258. So if this issue takes place before the Avengers learn about the Baxter Building being blown up, all those issues have to take place during Avengers 256-258. When did Peter find time to sleep?
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