Issue(s): Avengers #291, Avengers #292, Avengers #293, Avengers #294
...but Simonson goes further than that and starts tearing down the entire team with the aim of having the group completely fall apart by issue #300. That starts with Dr. Druid having some weird dreams, and we also notice the Black Knight acting more regressively, like suddenly the time spent during the Crusades is catching up with him (although he sounds more like someone from the 1950s).
But things get really weird when Captain Marvel arranges for the Avengers to attend a black tie gala for some positive publicity...
...and Marrina starts eating the goldfish.
It gets worse from there.
Marrina causes a wave that threatens to capsize a boat while she flees, so most of the Avengers help with that while Captain Marvel looks for Marrina. Entirely unprompted, Captain Marvel starts questioning her own leadership again, and we also get a hint/warning about how being in water can potentially affect her powers (not that this is the first time she's been underwater).
When she returns, the pissing match between her and Dr. Druid continues.
Reports of a giant sea monsters start to come in, and the Avengers eventually find it in the Bermuda Triangle.
No one puts two and two together until Namor comes running up screaming Noooooo!
As you can see above, issue #291 ends with the Avengers having stopped to listen to Namor, but issue #292 starts with a a punching match while Marrina is tearing up the coastline.
Captain Marvel is able to get past Namor and use her powers to deter Marrina from attacking Miami, but Marrina and Namor then flee to the depths again and the Avengers are unable to follow. On the drive home, Dr. Druid starts having his weird dreams, about being crowned ruler of some ancient civilization by a beautiful woman, while piloting the Quinjet. Thor, flying separately, has to bang on the Quinjet's window to wake him up. As soon as he awakens, Dr. Druid starts thinking about how "this is not a matter for the faint of heart nor the weak-minded" and that's why Captain Marvel shouldn't be leader. Meanwhile, She-Hulk notices that the Black Knight is talking "stiff" lately, and that's an apt choice of words, as we'll see later.
The underlying conflict for leadership continues, with She-Hulk taking Captain Marvel's side. It's also noteworthy that Marrina is considered to be an Avenger at this point. The previous Ralph Macchio arc took pains to assure us that she wasn't officially a member of the team yet.
When Captain Marvel asks Thor for his opinion, his response is that the Avengers were never a democracy and it's up to the chairperson. But he does suggest giving Hank Pym a call to see if he can whip up a cure for Marrina. While they're waiting for that, though, Marrina attacks again, and the US Navy sends a fleet of ships to attack her. Namor tries to get them to hold back, but they don't, and neither does Marrina.
The Avengers show up in the aftermath.
They help the sailors get to shore (with Captain Marvel holding rope in her light form even though it was a pretty important plot point in Avengers #279 that she couldn't affect solid objects. If the complaint about Captain Marvel is that she's too powerful, you should at least get her limitations right.).
The Navy and the Avengers get into a little back and forth about Namor and whether or not he may have actually be directing Marrina. And of course that isn't the case, but he is definitely holding back on attacking her and keeping her location secret from the other Avengers. Dr. Druid has a plan for that, though. He mentally locates Marrina and creates an illusion of a ship that he gets her to chase down to Atlantis...
...which she subsequently rampages through.
This duplicity gets Namor back on board with the Avengers, where he's willing to use harpoons to administer the cure that Henry Pym has created.
The harpoons are actually unable to pierce Marrina's thick hide, but they manage to get one in her mouth, and it does temporarily turn her back into her human form.
Only temporarily though. She soon turns back into the sea monster and the Avengers resolve that they are going to have to kill her. Thor and Captain Marvel take the lead, hitting her with lightning. When Captain Marvel hits the water in lightning form, she seems to disappear.
With the lightning having failed, the Black Knight decides that his sword's ability to cut through anything is the only way to do it, despite the fact that lately we've been hearing about the curse that comes into effect when the sword draws blood. It's actually Namor who takes the sword, with the idea that it's his wife.
That doesn't stop the curse, though, and it still affects Dane, not Namor.
After Marrina is killed, we find out that the reason behind her actions is that she was pregnant (and Black Panther was apparently the father).
Ladies, i'm not normally qualified to give out advice to you. But one thing i'm pretty sure of: if you're ever in the Marvel universe, do not get pregnant.
The Avengers' battle with Marrina ends with Namor having left as well. And Captain Marvel is missing and the Black Knight is a mess.
Meanwhile, it turns out that a Kang has survived the purging from the Kang Council in Roger Stern's earlier story. He emerges from the rubble, only to be attacked by a Kanglet...
...and a Lady Kang.
The female Kang then brings him to a council of Kangs. He uses some hidden technology to reveal that he's actually in more like an arena full of weird Kangs, and they are pleased with the speed at which he figured it out.
This Kang is invited to join the "Council of Cross-Time Kangs". The inter-Kang battle that we saw in the previous Roger Stern story was only a "local council war"; this is a much larger organization.
Also note that the female Kang has chosen the name Nebula to identify herself. The Kang we have been focusing on decides to call himself "Fred" after Fred Flintstone, because he comes from a "backward" universe, specifically the main Marvel universe reality. Nebula tells Fred that the council is on the hunt for "the deadliest weapon in the omniverse", but that's all we learn so far on that subject. We do learn that it's "Nebula" that is controlling Dr. Druid through his dreams.
When the Avengers get home from their battle with Marrina, Dr. Druid wastes no time getting back to his dreams. But this time "Nebula" forgets to un-Kang herself.
Note the cursing of Starfox above. I mention this because "Nebula" will later turn out to actually be Ravonna, not Nebula. Anyway, to distract him from what he thought he saw, KangNebuVonna fully indulges Dr. Druid in his little adolescent power fantasy, giving him a giant Toho monster to fight...
...a super-hero costume...
...proper super-powers instead of that lame mental stuff...
...and a "hero's reward" when it's all over.
This all gets him amped up to take charge in real life, too. Which, at this point isn't too hard. Black Knight has taken to wearing an exo-skeleton because his limbs are becoming stiff and numb (and Jarvis is running around without his eyepatch on, freaking people out).
And Captain Marvel reappears, although having lost a ton of mass.
Nebula ditches the Kangs...
...and travels to earth in Willie Wonka's glass elevator, pushing the "Far Out" button.
"Fred" is able to monitor her...
..while preventing the Kang Council from monitoring him.
Captain Marvel is taken to the hospital, and her parents are brought in to take her home.
But first, Dr. Druid needs her to pass on the chairpersonship to him. With Nebula manipulating him...
...he manipulates CM and the other Avengers to make him leader.
So the issue ends with Dr. Druid having taken over the Avengers and secretly a pawn of (seemingly) Nebula.
There's a lot to like here in terms of basic craft. Walt Simonson does well building the intrigue-upon-intrigue at the Kang Council, and he's got a pretty good handle on some of the characters, particularly, of all people, She-Hulk (sometimes i think the scripting is weak, especially in the scenes where Captain Marvel says to Dr. Druid "Yeah, i though of that too". But i'm attributing my dislike of that at least in part to the general treatment of Captain Marvel.). And i continue to enjoy the Buscema/Palmer art, of course; their giant monster rampages - in real life and in dreams - are appropriately big scale, but they're also great with facial expressions and postures and they'll just always be one of the top art teams for me.
But there's a lot of weirdness here, too. One thing i don't love about the art is Marrina's monster form. It's a cool enough sea monster, but nothing about it really says "Plodex" to me. Granted they are supposed to be highly adaptable but when they don't have a specific encoding we've seen that they become monstrous amorphous blobs, and there's nothing in-story to explain why Marrina would become a hard shelled giant serpent.
But the weirdness is mainly on the story side. I'm not sure why such a terrible fate was inflicted on Marrina. I'll happily grant that she isn't the most developed character, but she did well in, say, her Power Pack guest appearance, and impregnating her so that she could be turned into a monster and then killed seems too cruel. There must have been an easier way of getting rid of her (she wasn't even formally an Avenger) and Namor, if desired. On top of that, it's weird that the Black Knight was speaking archaically, referring to "Saracens" and the like, way before the curse was triggered. Did Walt Simonson just think it would be cool to write him that way since he spent so much time in the past, in disregard for the way he'd been written on this book since issue #252? Or is this leading to an intended revelation that never manifested? If the latter, it still seems weird to afflict him with both this and the blood curse.
It's probably not a surprise that i'm sad to see Captain Marvel depowered and leaving, essentially in disgrace after all the comments about her leadership and her nearly unforced error that caused her downfall. One thing that makes me feel less bad about that is it could potentially be attributed to Dr. Druid subconsciously messing with her. But that's at his own expense. Roger Stern rescued Dr. Druid from C-list limbo but wasn't on the book long enough to do anything with him, so now the character's only memorable accomplishment while being an Avenger is being the patsy of... well, someone.
This is all leading to a Disassembling that might have been interesting except that Walt Simonson doesn't remain on the title long enough to see it past that. And that shows the higher level problems with this series that started when Roger Stern was fired. I can't think of a better person at Marvel at this time to replace Stern, but Walt Simonson didn't get to come in clean and so he builds up an arc that allows him to shake up the cast and bring in a team that he wants to write. But then his plans get nixed and he leaves too. I believe something similar happens with John Byrne's run. It's the heavy hand of editorial overriding some of Marvel's top writers. Eventually, editor Mark Gruenwald just takes over the title himself (as well as writing some in-betweeners, including the plotting of the Super-Adaptoid story prior to these issues and then the Super-Nova story between Simonson and Byrne). I'm getting ahead of myself but just wanted to set what i see as the context for these issues and the state of the Avengers book at this time.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 216,841. Single issue closest to filing date = 218,993.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: These issues end with Captain Marvel depowered and off the team, the Black Knight wearing an exoskeleton to prevent stiffening of his body, and the entire team under a subtle mind control. Notice that i am tracking a few of the named or titled Kang variants that, per the MCP, appear in future issues. I'm also listing the "real" Kang, though it's becoming increasingly difficult to determine who that is.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (18): show
The ad tagline for this was "They were Earth's mightiest heroes. Nothing lasts forever." How sad, especially given how it would be over a decade before the book would approach anything near its former glory and, IMO, it would never be as good as when Stern wrote it again. Also, while the Avengers being disassembled and reassembled had long been part of its routine, doing so in such a destructive and cheap manner would set a precedent that continues to this day.
Posted by: Robert | July 1, 2014 3:38 PM
This story really ruined several characters for years. Monica was depowered, and for years after this, the writers couldn't keep her power straight. Druid never lived this down and ended up dying as a villain. Dane never had a consistent characterization after this until Harras. The Council of Kangs turned Kang into a joke. Moreover, the title itself turned into a revolving door of characters without development for years. This deserves way worse than a B-, fnord- it ruined the title for years.
Posted by: Michael | July 1, 2014 9:56 PM
Even though I'm a Monica Rambeau critic--mostly because I think Stern set her up in such a way that she wouldn't be much fun for anyone else to write--what happens to her is ludicrous overkill: first she's made out to be incompetent, in contradiction to her previous portrayal as near perfect, then she's semi-depowered and nearly killed off. Just a waste, as it what happens to Marrina and even Dr. Druid. Over the years, I came around to thinking Monica ought to be prominently brought back, since a story of rebuilding after this fall from grace would be welcome, but it never really happens. And it's stupid that she keeps having to change her name once Genis-Vell debuts.
These issues are a botch on every level. I have to disagree with your benign take on the Kang Council: it was bad enough when Stern did it and both diluted Kang's identity and complicated his already screwed up backstory/future--by this point, an A-level Avengers foe was best known for his convoluted origin/destiny--but now Kang is about as commonplace as an AIM "canary yellow." He doesn't really recover as a threat for a full decade.
But I think there's another dilution here: given the up availability of Cap, the upcoming in availability of Thor, and the loss of the book's long-time writer, Avengers is becoming second fiddle to the West Coast team, which ain't great but at least feels like a real team and a book with a direction. The very existence of the West Coast team is a problem for the mother book, since it removes most of the longest-serving Avengers who don't have their own books. Stern may have known what to do with CM, Shulkie, Druid, etc., but no one else does. And once they're gone, it's not obvious for years just who this team is meant to be and why: it becomes almost as I'll-defined as the Defenders--and arguably worse.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 1, 2014 11:22 PM
The Council of Cross-Time Kangs is one of my favorite concepts ever, let alone in comics.
When I was in college (some years later!) a friend drew me a birthday card featuring "The Council of Cross-Time Cullens" - that's how notorious my fandom was. I love time paradoxes, people teaming up with themselves, ridiculous variations that make no sense ("So every other aspect of their society and history up until that point was the same... But everybody has five heads"). This is one of the first times in comics I saw the "team of variants of the same individual" trope.(I hadn't yet been made aware of Alan Moore's Captain Britain though...)
If I recall correctly, a lot of Simonson's plotlines begun here didn't receive resolution til his Fantastic Four run. (which also brought in Death's Head - something to look forward to!)
Posted by: Cullen | July 2, 2014 4:47 AM
I like the fact that Alpha Kang wears his beard outside the Mask
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | July 2, 2014 7:17 AM
They should have called this arc "Roger Stern Disassembled."
What Gru and Walt did to Monica was preposterous. Everything that follows lowers the book to a Defenders-like level for most of the 90's. The big guns only show up around the time of Galactic Storm and Cap's disbanding of the West Coast branch. Even Druid deserved a better fate than what he eventually received.
The only positive factor is Buscema and Palmer's art. If only all Alpha male dreams were made like Druid's. I never understood if the blonde babe was Thanos' grandchild or Kang's main squeeze but I loved how she played every male around her like utter tools.
Posted by: Clutch | July 3, 2014 11:16 AM
Simonson has proven on multiple occassions that he can be a great writer, but this is terrible. The title goes into the dumpster and doesn't recover for a decade. I didn't mind the Stern Kang storyline because it was different and unique, and it ended with only one Kang remaining. Now this is ridiculous and really lowers his stature.
Walter and Michael sum up my feelings very well. Irreperrable harm is done to the title and its characters in short order for NO benefit.
Posted by: Chris | July 3, 2014 7:35 PM
Just a note since Michael asked about my grade here. I agree with most of the comments. But i don't know if it's the fault of these issues specifically. I think the killing of Marrina was a waste, and the use of Dr. Druid this way was probably the end of him as a credible Avenger. But the rest of it, even the depowering of Captain Marvel, is something the group and the characters could have recovered from. Simonson could have built the team back up, and cleaned up the Kang stuff like Stern did at the end of his story, and he or someone else could have let Captain Marvel recover and done something with her. So i don't judge these issues in isolation as badly as you guys mostly are. Knowing where we're going, i agree. But in isolation, i think the stories are done pretty well, with the Kang and "Nebula" intrigue all being interesting and the dilemma of how to handle Marrina done *relatively* well allowing for the editorial decree to make CM look bad. As a matter of craft, these issues are pretty decent.
All that said, the next part of this arc up to 300, especially with adding the ex-Fantastics, shows that my faith in Walt Simonson may be misplaced (i do think Walter makes a great point about the West Coast team having poached a lot of the classic Avengers). But i still wouldn't heap all the blame on him for what happens to the Avengers for the next decade.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 3, 2014 8:23 PM
Whose version of Disassembled do you think is the best one, Roy Thomas (Avengers #47-50), Walt Simonson (Avengers #291-297), or Brian Michael Bendis (Avengers #500-503)?
Posted by: Steven Printz | July 4, 2014 1:18 AM
"How sad, especially given how it would be over a decade before the book would approach anything near its former glory and, IMO, it would never be as good as when Stern wrote it again"
Sadly, I feel that way about a lot of 80's creative teams/storylines. Simonson's Thor, Michelinie/Layton Iron Man, Claremont's New Mutants (and a number of others, too numerous to list here) - still feel like the "definitive" take on their respective characters to me, and with many/most of them, it feels like they've never managed to achieve those same heights since (some titles have certainly managed to come closer than others, though).
I've always attributed that to Jim Shooter. No matter what the truth of all the backstage politics were, I think it's unquestionable fact that Marvel storytelling peaked under his leadership and has faltered ever since.
I wouldn't even say it's simply a nostalgia thing, considering even as a kid I felt a dramatic drop-off in multiple titles around the time Shooter was forced out and DeFalco took over (though I wouldn't have attributed it to THAT at the time). My own disillusionment with Marvel as a whole followed a few years later.
Ironically enough, the next time I felt the same sort of excited about any comics as I did 80's Marvel was early Valiant under Shooter... and the next disillusionment came after THEY forced him out and the line as a whole took a relatively immediate dip into mediocrity (and then an even steeper drop-off once Acclaim took over).
A shame Shooter never really managed to recover from those two political tangles, and that the comics medium as a whole moved on in ways that realistically made it impossible for him to ever really make another comeback. I think comics as a whole could really benefit from his style of EiC leadership again (even if a lot of the more prima donna creative types would loathe it).
Maybe then the top-selling titles could actually start breaking 100k issues again, and people wouldn't constantly be talking about how print comics are a dying medium.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 13, 2014 9:37 PM
In a similar vein to Captain Marvel being brought home to "Atlanta," Mr. Rambeau is mistakenly identified as a former cop instead of a fireman.
Minor mistakes, but it's funny they happen to Captain Marvel of all people on top of all the disrespect she receives in this arc.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | October 12, 2014 2:14 AM
I don't think we can give Shooter that much credit, PO. He did a great job of helping Marvel mature, for example by reacting the way he did to the abysmal Avengers 150. On the other hand, he also empowered editors over creators, and you could argue that this led to Roger Stern's firing as much as anything. And it's not as if Shooter knew what good writing looked like -- after all the money Secret Wars made, he seemed to think he knew something about writing, but then he did Secret Wars 2, not to mention the New Universe, plus some of Avengers low points (ie the rape of Ms. Marvel). And there's no reason to believe that Shooter wouldn't have gone after the money in the post Spider-Man #1 bubble era.
I think the mid-80s were just the ideal time for comics. The goofiness of the 60s and the experimentation of the 70s were in the rear view, and creators basically knew what worked, and you couldn't yet print money just by coming up with a cover gimmick. Print comics are dying for a lot of reasons -- so are all print media. I don't think Shooter could have done much to stop that.
Posted by: Andrew | October 24, 2014 8:55 PM
Yeah, like pretty much everyone else, I was massively disappointed in this run. It was clear that they were going to tear down the team only to reassemble them for #300. But it was obvious that was going to be hampered by Captain America #350 - they had already missed using Cap in #250 because he was tied up in the events of his own #300. So, instead we move towards Steve reassembling the team, but still as "The Captain", and then immediately afterwards he becomes Captain America again as it was fairly obvious was going to happen. Just unfortunate timing.
For all the problems with these issues (the art is not one of them - it still looks great), I think the one that bothered me the most at the time was the sudden change in Dane's personality. Last we saw him he got dumped by Jan, but still, that suddenly makes your style of speaking archaic?
As for the retcon of Nebula? Didn't learn about that until reading it here. Just a stupid idea. No reason to do it.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 5, 2015 7:49 AM
Here's the house ad Robert mentioned: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-orz4_oV8oIM/UnolQmzM5sI/AAAAAAAAKnM/OeRgGXW17UY/s1600/She-Hulk+Avengers+Marvel+House+Ad+%2528Avengers+291%2529.jpg
I quite like it (as an image). And hey, it's nice to have a team shot with Marrina on.
Posted by: AF | January 6, 2016 4:27 PM
My theory about the Council of Cross-Time Kangs is that while the original membership of the organization was made up of Kangs who had survived assassination attempts from smaller Kang Councils, the majority of the membership ultimately ended up being composed of beings who had defeated/killed Kang and took over his identity.
Posted by: D09 | May 14, 2016 11:22 PM
Isn't that pretty much confirmed by the fact that several of the Kangs we see are clearly not human? I don't think there are too many parallel Earths where some other species than humans are the dominant one, so this would imply that the non-human Kangs at least were not the original Kangs of their respective timelines.
Posted by: Tuomas | May 16, 2016 7:35 AM
This is explicitly stated in the Kang saga back-ups by Peter Sanderson in the backs of the Citizen Kang annuals. See the final scan in Avengers annual #21.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 16, 2016 7:55 AM
I loved these issues. That advert was great, and very fitting for the story arc. Thanks for posting AF.
Posted by: Urban Commando | April 19, 2017 5:27 AM
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