Issue(s): Avengers #265
As we saw in Secret Wars II #8, the Beyonder has taken Captain America captive and tossed the rest of the Avengers away with a tornado.
The story starts with the other Avengers escaping the tornado (thanks to a big clap from Hercules) and getting dumped on a farm somewhere in the American "heartland". One little thing i like, even if it's not entirely plausible, is the farmer saying that he didn't really believe the Avengers existed; he thought it was just the TV news "pullin' my leg".
Ok, saying it now i can see how that might sound offensive or snobbish, that people in the midwest or whatever don't believe the librul media and are dumb enough to think someone is pulling an elaborate hoax on them about super-heroes existing. But that's surely not the intention; the idea is that most super-hero activity concentrates around New York and most of America doesn't get to see all of this unbelievable stuff happening on a daily basis, and so they don't really believe it. And the point of that is to preserve the "world outside your window" aspect of the Marvel universe; most of the world can go about its daily business and doesn't deviate from the real world thanks to the huge influx of super-heroes. And people can still be amazed when they see someone flying (or dropping down on top of their barn and destroying it).
Stern also uses this scene to continue the growth of Captain Marvel. Hercules is upset because the Sub-Mariner let him drop, but of course Hercules could survive the fall and the Black Knight couldn't. Captain Marvel again breaks up a fight between them...
...and in the process also takes a leadership role in the absence of the Wasp and Captain America, and excels at it.
I've seen people call Monica Rambeau Roger Stern's Mary Sue, but i think that's not quite what this is. I'll acknowledge what i'll call affirmative action in her introduction and development, but affirmative action was (and is) arguably even more necessary in a world where all the iconic characters were introduced at a time when non-white and female characters were mostly non-existent or at least delegated to sidekick roles (i'm including the Wasp and Invisible Girl there), and where those iconic characters just don't go away or get replaced. And even in cases where they can get replaced, like Iron Man, it doesn't stick. But i do see Iron Man's temporary replacement as part of the same admirable effort at Marvel at this time that also introduced Monica and improved the characterization and powers of the Invisible Woman, and the Wasp (as we saw last issue). And Chris Claremont has of course been in a class by himself with his work on X-Men and New Mutants. But for the most part there's still a white male power structure in the Marvel universe that is difficult to change, because the classic iconic characters are popular! So books about Spider-Man continue to sell but the Black Panther and the Cat don't.
So how to introduce a new character that is not white or male and give her any staying power? Well, giving her the company's namesake is a start, and giving her enough power to put her in Thor's class helps too. And making her out to be a competent hero (unlike, say, poor Black Goliath, who spent the first few years of his superherodom losing to Stilt-Man). But what Stern also does is truly show us the development of the character. He starts her off as a newbie and shows her first grow to be just a full fledged member of the team (something which was rarely done), and now growing towards a leadership role. Note it's been 4 years since her first appearance and 3 since she joined the Avengers; it's no meteoric rise.
It's fair to argue that her personality is too flawless; she doesn't have the feet of clay that was a trademark of Marvel's earlier waves of characters. But i'm not sure that would have added anything for her (it's not like Captain America's flaws have been a prominent part of this book or his own lately), and Stern definitely depicts her as human, not perfect (for example, the past few issues have made sure to show us that she distrusts Namor, something that would be a natural thing to do but which we readers know is wrong).
The other argument is that she's just too powerful, and that's also fair. But i don't see people complaining that Thor is too powerful. I know it's not an apples to apples comparison, but it never is. These are the Avengers; they are Earth's Mightiest Heroes. We've had enough black Avengers with no powers, it's time to tip the scales in the other direction.
Besides, when i was a little white boy growing up, i didn't think about any of the above, but she had awesome powers so i thought she was cool as hell.
Anyway, that's my belated response to the comments here (the non-toxic ones, anyway). Away from identity politics and back to this issue!
The Avengers get back in the air and try to find help from other super-teams, to no avail.
And Hercules tells a story about one time when he beat a tough giant named Antaeus, and so they should do the same thing with the Beyonder.
Good old Hercules. Everything's so simple.
Meanwhile, Captain America wakes up to find himself chained to a wall. Anyone looking for a further expansion on the observation in Avengers #261 that the Beyonder looks a little like Captain America will be disappointed; Cap takes the revelation that the Beyonder has copied his body in stride.
Cap manages to escape his bonds while the Beyonder is (or appears to be) sleeping, and he attacks him. The Beyonder, who wasn't really sleeping, takes this as further confirmation that the universe needs to be destroyed.
The rest of the Avengers show up with a plan that has Namor pretending to betray the team while they rescue Cap, but the Beyonder is not fooled, and pretty soon he takes down the team and then heads off to destroy the universe.
In retrospect, this issue actually looks a lot like the Bendis-era water-treading tie-ins with modern crossovers where there's a lot of sitting around talking about how terrible everything is but little that adds to the larger event. And i actually like many of those issues, too! But a big difference here is that the Avengers actually get to confront the Beyonder in this issue and it feels like there is some movement in the plot. That may be an illusion considering the little impact that this issue really has on Secret Wars II #9, but it feels less skippable. And also has always had me wish that Roger Stern had wrote Secret Wars II.
My fond memories of this issue and several other Secret Wars II tie-ins eventually lead me to the philosophy that when dealing with crossovers in realtime, you should just stick to the creators you like and the books that you're already getting. It's a philosophy that's i've probably failed to adhere to every single time, but at least it's an ethos.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This continues directly from Secret Wars II #8. The Wasp is not with the team, and Captain Marvel is unable to locate her (or anyone else). As Michael notes, the Wasp (and the FF) are currently dealing with the return of Dr. Doom at this time, and have their own encounter with the Beyonder (shortly after this, the way i place it). The Avengers are defeated in this issue, and next appear in Secret Wars II #9.
Crossover: Secret Wars II
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBeyonder, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Hercules, Sub-Mariner
I think that the idea is that Jan is absent because she's appearing in Fantastic Four 287-288.
Posted by: Michael | November 12, 2013 8:07 PM
This is one of the few Stern-Buscema-Palmer issues I missed.
I generally agree with your comments on Captain Marvel. She already WAS an Avenger when I started reading, so I never questioned her legitimacy to be one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. That she has a very good costume helps. She is very powerful, but I think the main reason for complaints is that she had few villains actually gave her a hard time. It takes a bit more effort to threaten an energy transformer than someone super strong. Stern, however, handled it very well in the upcoming Masters of Evil story.
I love this team. To a large degree, this is "my" Avengers. Cap, Wasp, Black Knight, Hercules, Captain Marvel, and the other guy (Starfox, Namor, Dr Druid, whatever). I think it's a classic team equal to the more traditional ones (the original team, Cap's Kooky Quartet, and the popular Bronze Age teams which included Vision, Scarlet Witch, Beast, and Wonder Man).
Posted by: Chris | November 12, 2013 10:44 PM
Regarding minority characters, the problem is that if you make them relatively flawless, like Monica, people complain they're too perfect. But Storm has the opposite problem- as we'll see when you get deeper into 1986-1989, she acts ruthlessly, her mistakes endanger innocent people and she never really pays for it. It's difficult to strike the right balance.
Posted by: Michael | November 12, 2013 11:04 PM
I just wanted to say I agree with your comments of Monica. She has always been one of my favourite Avengers--one of my favourite Marvel characters period. I've been delighted to see her FINALLY return to active duty in the new Mighty Avengers series.
Posted by: Dermie | November 13, 2013 12:08 AM
But Black Goliath clobbered the Stilt-Man in Champions!
"Mr. Brannum" probably refers to Lumpy Brannum, who played Mr. Green Jeans on Captain Kangaroo for a few decades.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 13, 2013 7:08 PM
It was very sharp of Marvel UK to change the Beyonder's final statement to "a mere five" in their SWII reprint!
Posted by: Buffy | March 7, 2014 3:56 PM
@ Buffy - I don't know how sharp it was. They had a lot of letters about how the Beyonder miscounted.
I mentioned previously about Monica's background - she comes from law enforcement and clearly was in a leadership position (and should have been in a higher leadership position but was held back by a glass ceiling). Certain characters are looked to as leaders because of their intelligence (Reed Richards being the obvious example), but Monica's career prepared her well for this. This was the issue where I really began to appreciate her more - she has the power to keep Namor and Hercules in line and the leadership to make it work. Dane certainly knows it. And yet, I was also irritated at her distrust of Namor, but that's because I know his character more from reading comics than she would, so it's understandable.
In fact, this whole issue really does a good job balancing the personalities. The only bummer was that this issue, following on Wasp dressing for dinner at the end of the previous issue kind of truncated the idea of a Jan / Dane relationship.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 9, 2015 9:49 PM
God, this entire issue makes the Beyonder and his quest (if I can call it that) so much more rounded out and sensible than all of Secret Wars II put together. Roger Stern can write anything, I swear... and it's always nice to see real, organic character growth like what he shows with Prince Namor. It's seriously one of the tragedies of modern comics than Stern was pushed off his books at Marvel.
Posted by: Wis | October 22, 2017 6:55 PM
The story's title is also the title to the classic 1965 protest song sung by Barry McGuire.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | March 23, 2018 8:55 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|