Issue(s): Avengers #281, Avengers #282, Avengers #283, Avengers #284, Avengers #285
This arc is simpler than past stories. The entire team is spirited away to Olympus where they have to fight through the Greek pantheon and their minions.
The team is largely always in the same place at the same time, so there's only a minimal amount of breaks switching from one group to another. The main adversary is a mad-with-grief Zeus (or as Thor puts it, he's got the Warrior Madness), so there's not a lot of intrigue switching to the villains' point of view the way there was with the Masters story. There are no subplots, and no set-ups for the future storylines (until the last page of the final issue). It's just a straightforward set of battle issues.
We do get to see the new roster in action. One thing i looked for is examples of Captain Marvel's leadership. There isn't really a lot to say about that. She does have her moments...
...but the team operates relatively smoothly without any need for specific leadership. There's also the fact that Captain America is on the team, and since he naturally takes command in tactical situations...
...there's potentially conflict there, similar to what the Wasp had to deal with earlier in Stern's run. But we're not yet at the point where, due to Mark Gruenwald's edict, Captain Marvel is shown to be an ineffective leader (more on that below). There's really nothing explicit about leadership in these issues.
As for Dr. Druid, his mental tricks are largely not useful against gods, and he's not a major player in this storyline.
Which is probably damaging for the long term credibility of the character - here he is a new and offbeat Avenger and he's not doing much in a five issue storyline (he's much more effective in the X-Men vs. the Avengers miniseries that was published just prior to this). He also doesn't display that weird sense of humor we saw in issue #279.
She-Hulk, meanwhile, is her great old self. Her gruff and boastful self gets the team in trouble a few times, especially towards the end where it seems like the Avengers have nearly talked some sense into Zeus.
Thor is still afflicted by Hela's curse in this storyline and he's operating at diminished capacity despite his new armor.
The fact that the curse prevents him from dying does help when he goes one on one against Zeus, though.
This story pits the Avengers against nearly undefeatable foes. Having defeated the largest and most powerful group of Masters of Evil ever and then allowing a break for some downtime, it's only logical that Stern would pit the group against literal gods. It's also a logical place to go after the brain damage that Hercules received in the fight with the Masters, and allows Stern to reach a resolution on the Herc/Wasp conflict. Despite having left the group for her vacation, the Wasp is also brought to Olympus to be punished since Hercules' delirious rantings made her seem responsible for his injuries.
But the battle with the gods is ended when Hercules is woken up and he convinces Zeus that his injuries were his own fault, not the Wasp's or the Avengers'.
The Avengers actually do quite well against the Greek gods. They are able to fight their way out of Hades...
...and they take down the automatons of Hephaestus rather well.
The majority of the Greek gods are difficult, but defeat-able.
The biggest problem is Zeus, who is shown to be as omnipotent as Odin. And he does break Captain America's legs and give Dr. Druid a concussion. But even against him they manage to do ok.
Along with the Wasp, the Sub-Mariner is also brought in. He was pulled out of his Atlantean outpost by Poseidon/Neptune himself. After the Avengers return to Earth, Marrina arrives to tell Namor that those Atlanteans that were loyal to him have now abandoned him, due to the fact that their god seemed to reject him.
In truth, Neptune was only acting out of duty towards Zeus, and did not enjoy turning over what he considers a "noble man". At the end of the arc, when Zeus has realized that he's made a mistake and dons the "Robes of Penance", he decrees that none of the Greek gods shall ever walk the Earth again. This angers Neptune who along with Pluto considers himself an equal of Zeus (it also angers Ares).
Despite Neptune's sympathy's towards Namor, he is not among the gods that the Avengers turn to for help. They are first met by Prometheus (who i know is not a god but at this point he's an immortal living in Olympus, so...).
Namor then turns to Venus for help, since he's helped her against Ares in the past (i should also note that i'm still confused about the Olympian/Agents of Atlas Venus versions and i'm only using a single Character tag; see AF's comment).
The Avengers later convince more of the gods to help and have some success thanks to Hera, who knows that her husband is currently nuts.
Ares, of course, is more than happy to encourage Zeus' rampage.
Despite being very linear and somewhat long (at 5 issues, it's the equivalent of the core Masters of Evil storyline, which had many more twists and characters to focus on), it's a fun story with the team struggling against impossible odds. And Stern (and/or editor Mark Gruenwald) utilize past history well, as with the Namor/Venus connection. The Greek pantheon hasn't had that many appearances, but Stern looks at their past interactions with the Avengers and answers the objections one might have about how they could think that the group that has helped them in the past might have hurt Hercules now.
I enjoyed these scenes of Hephaestus examining Thor's hammer.
And Buscema and Palmer have nice art throughout.
An interesting Mark's Remarks column in issue #283. Gruenwald writes about a conflict of interest; he had been using his Remarks for discussing general topics about the comics trade, and didn't want to sully it by promoting his own stories in Captain America, but with the big storyline wherein Steve Rogers gives up being Cap, he wanted to break that rule. The column is followed up by a note from Jim Shooter to not worry about the conflict and just promote the storyline. I don't know that anyone would really have a problem with Gruenwald using the spot for promotions. The letters pages have always included plugs. The bigger conflict is happening behind the scenes, and if Roger Stern's version of events is true, Gruenwald's dithering about a conflict of interest on his Remarks column seems insincere. The reason it's said that Stern left the Avengers title was because Gruenwald wanted to use the books' stories to promote Cap. He was unhappy with the fact that Captain America sold at a much lower rate than the Avengers book. And so he wanted Stern to write a story where Captain Marvel started failing in her role as chairperson of the Avengers, so that Captain America would have to step in. There's nothing wrong with a story where someone fails in their leadership role, but Stern had been developing the character arc for Captain Marvel for years, and having it end in failure was surely not what he had in mind, let alone the problems around having your sole Avengers leadership failure to date be the black female character. So Stern was fired, and soon followed his friend John Byrne over to DC.
As for where Stern might have gone next, we only know that as the Avengers were leaving Olympus he warned them that "there are many serious challenges" awaiting them and they "will be sorely tested". We also see Captain Marvel debriefing the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Druid on the Fixer. The Fixer will be part of the next storyline, sort of, which begins off of a Stern plot. But this scene is also possibly in response to a letter in issue #284 that complained that Captain Marvel was such a goodie-goodie, especially regarding how she seemed to always be studying the Avengers' files. I like the idea that now that she's leader, she's also requiring the newer teammates to similarly get familiar with their past enemies. It's the sort of thing that makes me sad to see Stern go. But i am happy to have gotten this one last "bonus" story out of him.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's said that Hercules' disappearance in Avengers #279 happened "yesterday" (and of course it was Hermes, not Thor, that took him). Thor explicitly says that he's still under the effects of Hela's curse, placing this before events that begin in Thor #379. The scene at the end of #285 takes place "a week later", after Captain America #332 when Steve Rogers gives up being Captain America, so other Avengers appearances, including Mephisto vs... #4, the Avengers annuals, and the Avengers vs. X-Men series take place in between.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showApollo, Ares, Athena, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Cerberus (Greek myth), Cupid, Dionysius, Dr. Druid, Eros, Hephaestus, Hera, Hercules, Hermes, Marrina, Neptune, Pluto, Prometheus, She-Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Thor, Venus, Wasp, Zeus
To be fair to Druid, he's very useful in that he helps to restore Hercules to sanity after he's revived by Prometheus.
Posted by: Michael | March 16, 2014 6:01 PM
Fun storyline. I was looking forward for many more stories from Stern on Avengers to come, but I think he does only one, maybe two, more issues when he was pulled off.
I generally liked Gruenwald's editing, but he made a major mistake here for greedy reasons. Quality on Avengers begins to decline dramatically after Stern leaves. Despite some occasional good issues, it doesn't recover until a decade later when Busiek and Perez rescue the title.
Posted by: Chris | March 16, 2014 6:28 PM
The Simonson run was a lot of fun, but it was a shorter run.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 16, 2014 6:40 PM
Simonson's run did great damage to the title (it wasn't until Harras's run that they had a consistent lineup) and to the individual characters (Druid most of all but also Monica, Marrina and Dane). But let's wait until fnord gets up to that to discuss it in more detail.
Posted by: Michael | March 16, 2014 7:59 PM
I think sometimes knowing too much about behind the scenes details can hurt the enjoyment of stories. I mean sometimes stories end up so bad that you know something happened to really mess it up....
I forgot to mention before that the Avengers traveling through the realms of Greek myth was my favourite Roger Stern Avengers story.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 16, 2014 9:12 PM
I had the opposite reaction to these issues: having picked up the last part of the siege storyline and the Jarvis issue, I thought Avengers must always pack that kind of emotional punch, and I was bored senseless when I flipped through these brawls with bland toga-clad adversaries who seemed to have very little in the way of motives. I didn't start reading Avengers regularly until the next arc--the robots at least seemed more visually interesting than Marvel's generic Greco-Roman pantheon. (At least the Asgardians have awesome hats.)
In Gru's defense, I'm not sure he was asking for a persistent focus on Cap but one storyline, which we get from Ralph Macchio, where Cap could shine. Cap isn't around at all during most of Simonson's run and doesn't get much more attention thereafter than he got from Stern, although he is chairman. But maybe Stetn had already tried to give Gru what he was asking for with the Under Siege storyline, which is one of Cap's best moments.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 17, 2014 6:13 PM
I think that the idea was to make Cap leader for the forseeable future, like he was from issues 298 to 347.
Posted by: Michael | March 17, 2014 10:23 PM
Venus's son in these issues actually later refers to himself as Cupid, I reckon to avoid confusion with Starfox/Eros. Cupis will later show up in a Marvel Summer Special with the WCA in which he thinks Mockingbird is his long lost love. A fun story but if you incorporate it, it will probably cause a big headache as it doesnt fit in well with WCA chonology
Posted by: kveto from prague | March 18, 2014 2:50 PM
And here you've caught up with where I actually started buying comics. (Of course, it's the last issue of a long arc that has been pushed forward for other dependencies, so it's well ahead of the other issues of its time.)
Posted by: Erik Robbins | March 26, 2014 1:33 AM
Amazing Heroes #115 joke listing for #282:"Dr. Strange, Zabu, and Emma Peel join the Avengers as The Order Changeth...Again"---Stern/Buscema/Palmer
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 13, 2014 5:01 PM
For me this was a fantastic follow-up to Under Siege. It had Greek Mythology (which I had grown up loving - thank you D'Aulaire). It had some truly epic fights. It had the return of Namor to the Avengers. It had some fantastic splash pages - especially the transition from 284 to 285, with that last panel you show ending 284 and the splash page of 285, with Dane just standing there with his sword and Cap's shield. Dane's stand against Zeus is my all-time favorite moment for one of my favorite characters.
Reading these each month at the age of 12 was simply awesome.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 15, 2015 7:09 AM
Okay, with regards to Venus...
Parker initially wanted to retain all the old Venus appearances, or as much of them as he could. I don't think he really thought much on it when he made that reveal. It wasn't until after the initial mini-series that he had to work out what was and what wasn't actually Venus.
When he introduced Aphrodite, the true Olympian Goddess of Love, I think the idea was that whenever this name had been used it was the real Goddess vs. whenever Venus was used.
But then he sorta clarified/complicated that in the Atlas back-ups in Incredible Hercules that whenever the character appears with her Cestus it is the true goddess. (Venus was then given it at the end of the story)
"Venus" wears and specifically refers to it in the Sub-Mariner appearance, so therefore any issue (like this story) where she refers to having met Namor is also the real Aphrodite.
The problem is, almost all the old Venus appearances have either the Cestus or a reference to Namor. And he later went on to contradict this in Atlas with Venus referring to adventures that under this idea were now Aphrodite. I believe, What If #9 even fits the bill.
I asked him about it on Twitter a few years ago (shortly after Atlas had finished) and he said it's easier to just say Aphrodite had never really appeared before and it was always Venus doing a darn good job of impersonating her.
Under that idea, you can also write of the appearance of a Cestus as part of the impersonation. I do think the appearance in Marvel Super-Heroes #8, where she's depicted as the villain, is the most easiest one to write off as real Aphrodite.
Keep it as a single tag, I think. Make an Aphrodite one when it becomes relevant. Marvel wikia for example have Venus first appearing in Agents of Atlas #1 (!) which is absurd since she refers to some of her past appearances throughout Agents of Atlas.
Posted by: AF | January 7, 2016 5:50 AM
Classically, Dionysus was the last and youngest of the Olympian Gods. There's something depressing about Marvel making him fat, bald and middle-aged.
Posted by: Oliver_C | January 7, 2016 6:09 AM
Ironically, given Marvel's current ownership you can blame Disney for that representation.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 7, 2016 9:26 AM
AF, thanks for the breakdowns of the Venus/Aphrodite appearances. As you suggest, for now i'll continue with the single tag.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 7, 2016 3:40 PM
The closest we have to knowing where Stern would go is a preview from 1987's Marvel Age Annual: https://67.media.tumblr.com/3f634292b3c47a9ac8ea0712910183dd/tumblr_oaer629idx1tms107o1_1280.jpg
It's pretty well known that he intended to add Power Man and resolve the character's fugitive status as of the end of Power Man and Iron Fist. From the looks of things, he also may have intended to restore the Wasp to the team and intended to do a story involving the Fixer and Captain America (Stern has been pretty firm saying that the Heavy Metal story we got has virtually no relation to his idea, other than the use of "Fixer"). He also intended to continue to feature Marrina, be it as a member or just a supporting cast member, as well as bringing Wyatt across from FF with She-Hulk. Also the tease of possible romances between Monica and Luke/Monica and Dane or Wasp and Dane/Wasp and Luke. Or Dane and Luke.
Posted by: AF | July 16, 2016 8:44 AM
AF, Monica and Dane could have been cool. A scientist with a magic sword and an energy being!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | June 29, 2017 11:00 AM
I'm in the minority, but this entire thing was ruined by a horrible premise. The old "whoops, my bad for attacking you" storyline is both annoying, and done to death by this point.
Posted by: Vancelot | February 11, 2018 7:03 PM
Comments are now closed.
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