Issue(s): Avengers #295, Avengers #296, Avengers #297
Lady Kang/Nebula/Ravonna (who i will refer to as "Nebula" for the rest of the entry unless specifically commenting on the later retcon) brings one of these Dinodroids, who are battling soldiers in some insane future, to the present and has Dr. Druid send Thor after it alone. Nebula is trying to get rid of Thor since he was the one Avenger that resisted Dr. Druid's mental manipulations during the vote for Druid as chairperson.
While Thor is fighting the robotic T. Rex...
...Dr. Druid, under Nebula's influence, is consolidating his hold on the other two Avengers, She-Hulk and Black Knight. Black Knight is still suffering from the newly triggered curse of his ebony blade, which is manifesting as a stiffness of limbs that requires him to wear an exoskeleton to move. But while Druid is busy binding She-Hulk to a chair, the Black Knight manages to get into a Quinjet and escape, going to help Thor. That failure forces Nebula to physically appear at the Avengers Mansion.
The Black Knight shows up to help Thor against the T. Rex, which was proving to be indestructible. But the Knight's curse reaches the next stage, weirdly turning him "sharp" in addition to stiff. It does allow him to slice through the robotic dinosaur.
Thor takes the Black Knight to the hospital but there's nothing to be done for him there, so they head back to Hydrobase to take care of Dr. Druid. And they're easily waylaid and implanted with mind control devices by Nebula.
Meanwhile, we see more of the Council of Kangs. The Kang from the Avengers' timestream (who is named Fred, after Fred Flinstone, because he is considered to come from a primitive reality), is invited to join the inner council because they saw last issue that he had access to knowledge that was hidden from the rest of them.
They tell him that they are searching for an ultimate weapon, and he in turn tells them that Nebula is consorting with their enemies, the Avengers. The Kangs search Nebula's room and find evidence that Nebula has been seducing a lot of the Kang councilmembers and that they've in turn been giving her gifts of various technological wonders. As for the weapon, it was built by a renegade Celestial and can destroy the omniverse, and it's being held in a time bubble. By observing the bubble, the Kangs know that it will be penetrated by the Avengers, but they don't know which Avengers.
This is why Nebula is mind-controlling the Avengers, though; by joining them she can go through the bubble and get the weapon.
So she takes off with the Avengers in a Quinjet to travel in space-time.
One of the coolest things in this arc is that the inner council of Kangs head out to stop Nebula, but arrive at Hydrobase too late.
And instead of just chasing the Quinjet, they go back in time so that they're there when the Quinjet takes off, and they sneak aboard.
You rarely see (the) Kang(s) doing stuff like this. I vaguely recall reading an interview once where i think one of the older Avengers writers, possibly Roy Thomas or Steve Englehart, said that Kang was one of their favorite villains because he could get defeated, time travel back to his own time, rest up and get new weapons, and then appear back in the present the second after he'd left, now facing a tired and weakened Avengers team. And i agree that that would be cool, but nothing like that ever actually happened. I've occasionally wondered if my Kang appearances are even in correct chronological order, since there's no reason why he would have to be appearing in the present in a linear fashion. And i'd love to see a story where, like, a classic 1960s era Kang appears in, say, a 2014 comic and discovers something that adds a new layer to, say, one of his 1970s appearances. The idea that every time Kang time jumps he creates an alternate reality actually makes all of that kind of difficult, i guess, but in any event it's nice to see (the) Kang(s) using their time travel powers for actual time travel for once; usually they might as well be from another dimension or planet for all it matters when they arrive somewhere.
Issue #296 has Nebula colored with blue skin and hair, as per her previous appearances. But she reverts back to a pink-skinned blond for issue #297, which is how she was colored in Dr. Druid's fantasies. Not sure if that's a deliberate choice or a coloring error.
The opening splash of issue #297 also refers to her as a "woman of questionable virtue", which seems to be putting it mildly.
The presence of the Avengers creates a lot of alternate reality versions in the time bubble...
...and Nebula soon realizes that the reason they may be having trouble penetrating the bubble is because she isn't an Avenger. So she has Dr. Druid force the others to vote her in. She also makes him use his precognitive abilities to figure out if they are the Avengers that make it into the bubble, and when his powers tell him that the Black Knight is not part of the successful team, she has She-Hulk toss him off the ship. But he's rescued by the Kangs hanging onto the Quinjet, who scoff at the accuracy of precognitives, and also know that as long as they remain on the Quinjet, Nebula will never penetrate the bubble.
At this point the Mesozoic Kang has already slipped off, leaving only two of them. But they manage to disable Nebula's mind control devices, and that's enough to let the Avengers start fighting back against Nebula and Dr. Druid.
She-Hulk is particularly upset about having been controlled.
This was pretty funny.
Nebula tries to use her Kang armor to teleport away while frying the Quinjet and all on it in the process, but the suit malfunctions. She's instead torn from the Quinjet, and Dr. Druid jumps after her. The two disappear into the time vortex, and the rest of the Avengers turn around and go home. The two remaining Kangs also get tossed off the Quinjet during the fight.
When they get back, She-Hulk quits the team, upset over what she did while mind controlled...
...and Thor basically declares the team dismantled after that.
It's hard for me to evaluate how much of a mess these issues are creating due to later revelations. I don't really love the idea of Nebula as a seductress based on her no-nonsense strongwoman attitude in her Roger Stern appearances. But it seems like she sort of stumbled on the idea when she realized how easy the Kangs were to seduce ("It was like they'd never seen a woman before"). And i don't care at all about Ravonna being a seductress, since we've seen a total of about 6 panels of page time for her while conscious prior to these issues. But looking at these issues in isolation, the idea that Nebula is really Ravonna seems like a dumb one. She refers frequently to Thanos and her story is that her first encounter with a Kang was initially an incidental thing. So the idea that this is really a revenge scheme against Kang isn't supported by anything here. And there doesn't seem to be any reason for Ravonna to be pretending to be Nebula. It's a double-fake out: she's a Kang, no she's Nebula, no she's Ravonna. And i get that if she's really Ravonna she'd have to hide it while infiltrating the Kang Council, since Kang knows Ravonna (also it does explain why she'd be able to seduce them so easily). But there's no reason for her to pretend to be Nebula specifically, out of all the women in the universe. It's been a while since i read the retcon for this and i don't remember it at all, so it's possible there's a good explanation and we'll get there in good time. For now i'm just saying my knowledge that the Nebula here eventually turns out to be Ravonna colors my reading of these issues. I think i'm actually giving Simonson more leeway than i should, in the sense that from what i've known of Nebula, she's not the "ultimate cosmic weapon" seeking type. She's a space pirate. If she's more thoroughly embracing her heritage as Thanos' granddaughter, Simonson should show that (she does at one point say that the weapon is her birthright, but doesn't expand on that), and if this really was intended to be Nebula it might have been nice to check in on Starfox and Firelord, who are searching for her. The fact that i "know" that Nebula is really Ravonna, who's a blank slate as far as i'm concerned, makes all of that moot, but those are the types of questions i would otherwise be asking.
As for the Kang Council, i'm of two minds. It's arguably a rehash of the Stern (and Gruenwald?) idea just on a larger scale, but Simonson handles the Council well and has fun with them, and they're a logical extension of the alternate-universe-forming theory of time travel. That said, it definitely does diminish the threat of Kang as an individual. One Kang should be a Dr. Doom level threat. An entire council of Kangs, if united in purpose, should be unstoppable, and even the primary three working together here should be much more than three guys hanging on for dear life to a Quinjet. And yes, Roger Stern opened the door for this with his original, much smaller, Kang council storyline, but the whole point of that story was to address the alternate-universe-forming problem of Kang's time travel and ended with Immortus having cleaned up all the divergent Kangs. It turns out he did a really poor job. It might have been interesting to go in the opposite direction and have a one true Kang that learns how to travel the timestream without creating divergences. But of course that's not the story Simonson wanted to tell, and i still do like the Council's scheming and the fact that they eventually do manage to stop Nebula.
The Council situation is also confusing. I kind of glossed over this in the previous Simonson issues, but i did mention that the revelation there was that the council of Kangs from the previous Stern story was just a "local" council. But they were all divergent Kangs from different timestreams. All just, i guess, from a narrow set of related timelines, and those are the ones that Immortus cleaned up. Whereas the larger Kang Council is made up of all the Kangs that survived their local council wars. Does that imply that there are also multiple Immortuses? And note that the Kang that survived the Stern issues council wars, "Fred", is not, i think, the "real" Kang that we've known from all the stories prior to Stern's issues. So what's the "real" Kang's relationship with all these Kang's? Or should we assume that any random appearance of Kang prior to the council was actually any one of these Kangs, or perhaps just Fred or another member of the "local" council before it was cleaned up? I'm not really even interested in the answers to these questions. It's all a bit of a headache for me. And that's why my preference is just to gloss over it and not worry about it too much and just enjoy the council in the context of this story, but there's no doubt it adds unnecessary complication to Kang. I've tagged the "real" Kang as a character appearing in this story since i imagine anyone clicking on his character link would want to see this story, but as far as i understand it he's not one of the Kangs that appears here.
The one thing i can evaluate is the completion of the disassembling of the Avengers in these issues. She-Hulk's resignation comes way too quickly; it's especially funny the way she gives her resignation speech and jumps into a Quinjet while the others just wave at her in a matter of two panels.
The situation with the Black Knight feels equally forced. He constantly talks about how it's getting harder and harder to move, but we never see any evidence of that. He just keeps pushing up the power on his exoskeleton. And the reason he has to leave with Thor isn't shown here; it's left for Thor #396. Thor's quick dismissal that "none of the reserve members are available and there is no time to field and train a new team" and the lack of interest shown with his comment that he "notified the West Coast Avengers of our dissolution. If any can be spared, perhaps... who can say?" just feels like a breezy convenience for the purposes of setting up the next story. I'm amazed there isn't some protocol in place for this given the team's normally very formalized process of chairpeople and bylaws. I'd at least like to see Jarvis sitting by the monitor waiting for a response from Hawkeye instead of locking up and walking away. It's not that this isn't an interesting scenario, it's just that it feels like rushed wrap-up.
The basic craft here continues to be pretty good, but it's limited by the plot. Simonson unfortunately doesn't give Buscema and Palmer a lot to work with after the Dinodroids. It's a lot of sitting in a Quinjet in a big colorful blob of a time bubble, and the end fight with Nebula is far from spectacular. And with the characters mind-controlled for the most part and the Kangs pretty staid, there isn't a lot of room for character work. Simonson does still manage to work in some humor, and the characters' personalities do shine through even when mind-controlled (there's a funny scene where the controlled She-Hulk demands that Nebula confess that she has no idea what the weapon in the bubble actually is). So there's a lot of fun stuff along the way but it still feels like a relatively insignificant story that just happens to result in the Avengers breaking up.
Someone writing in to the lettercol in issue #297 asks about the Black Knight's arcane speech patterns prior to the ebony sword's curse taking effect, and the response is that Simonson does indeed have an explanation coming for that. But of course the Knight is off the team now and Simonson will soon be off the book, so we'll never see what that was. The lettercol also has a relatively insightful Mark's Remarks wondering why more women don't read superhero comics.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thor and Black Knight appear in Thor #396 after this story. This story should appear before She-Hulk's appearance in Fantastic Four #321.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (20): show
Things get complicated with the West Coast Avengers. In West Coast Avengers 39, Bobbi calls the East Coast Avengers and warns them about the bomb. Then, when Clint calls the East Coast Avengers, he finds out they've already spoken to Bobbi. West Coast Avengers 39 has to take place before Thor rejoins the Avengers in Inferno, since West Coast Avengers 41 takes place before Seth's defeat.
Posted by: Michael | August 2, 2014 5:35 PM
Walt Simonson clearly had plans for this series but the way She-Hulk and the Black Knight were written out seemed rushed, in particular since Jen's departure was reminiscent of Tigra's during Shooter's second run: The lone female character basically wimps out and quits. (And this, after that hilarious and very Jen-like scene with her decking Druid inside the Quinjet.)
I remember Simonson was pretty much burnt out at the time he left the book. CBG quoted him as simply wanting a break from it all. I'm not sure if this meant there were differences of opinion with editorial (Gru and/or Tom) or if Walt simply felt he had taken on the wrong assignment. In any case, I wish he had stayed longer but gone in a different direction than the stuff we'll be seeing during the Inferno crossovers.
Posted by: Clutch | August 2, 2014 7:38 PM
Druid did predict that Thor was definitely one of the Avengers that made it through the time bubble, and when the FF succeed in piercing the bubble, Thor was with them.
But though Reed, Sue and Ben had been Avengers (though each VERY shortly), Johnny and Sharon had as much claim to being Avengers as Nebula and the Kangs.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | August 2, 2014 7:58 PM
It's pretty much a Great Moment In Stupid, though, isn't it? A group including Thor is known to have penetrated the time bubble, so Nebula and the Kangs think whether everyone present is a member of the Avengers will affect the success of the entry attempt. That's magical thinking, and does not compute.
Posted by: BU | August 2, 2014 8:39 PM
Byrne will be doing more with Immortus in Avengers West Coast - been a minute, but I think it addresses the 'multiple Immortus' question. And as I mentioned before, Simonson will pick this time-bubble plotline in his FF run, which will feature not only Simonson art, but the U.S. debut of Death's Head (!).
Posted by: cullen | August 2, 2014 8:51 PM
FNORD - you have the same scan of Black Knight slicing through the Quinjet twice.
Posted by: CLYDE | August 2, 2014 11:12 PM
In regards to FNORD's comments about by-laws for the dissolution of the Avengers, let's fact it, Thor was the only original member left at this point. And, IMO, he's not exactly the smartest of the original bunch. He probably wouldn't even have thought much about the rules in this situation,. Also, I would think Iron Man would not have been susceptible to Nebula's mind-control & Captain America would have found the will to overcome it in the first place. So, this team wasn't exactly at their strongest even before this crisis. It reminds me of what happened to the JLA during the horrible "Detroit JLA" over at DC.
Posted by: clyde | August 2, 2014 11:26 PM
One of the problems with this run is the mismatch between Simonson's sensibility and John Buscema's. Imagine this story with Simonson's art: suddenly, the multiple Kangs and "Fred" seem cool and postmodern. Now imagine Simonson's Thor run drawn by John Buscema. Those magic French fries, talking frogs, and Titanium Man playing cards now seem bizarre rather than whimsical yet still epic. Simonson as artist could combine epic and fantastical comedy better than anyone. Buscema has a more realistic style; he's not screwball at all. He does heartbreak and epic tragedy, not, if you will, epic comedy.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | August 2, 2014 11:42 PM
Fnord, you wrote: "The two remaining Kangs also get tossed of the Quinjet during the fight." You might want to add an "F" to "OF" so they are tossed "OFF" the Quinjet.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | October 8, 2014 5:16 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | October 8, 2014 6:20 PM
"usually they might as well be from another dimension or planet for all it matters when they arrive somewhere."
Having just read "The Celestial Madonna" TPB, I would have to say that Kang made great use of his time-jumping abilities in that arc.
Posted by: clyde | June 28, 2015 12:57 AM
"relatively insightful Mark's Remarks wondering why more women don't read superhero comics."
Perhaps because of the issues with women characters being raped that FNORD brings up in the entry for Uncanny X-Men 235-238.
Posted by: clyde | June 28, 2015 1:07 AM
1 - As a longtime Avengers reader, this arc was quite disappointing. It was clear that the team was being broken down only to reform with a new team for #300, but while I was okay with this team breaking up (Dane had gone off the deep end and Druid had been destroyed as a character), I wouldn't exactly love (or even much like) the team Simonson would bring in (not that they would last long).
2 - At times, there seems to be a disconnect between the art and the dialogue. Look at Dane talking about his hand cutting open the hatch, when it's clearly his sword that's doing it. That bothered me even at the time.
3 - This is where Kang starts to become a bit of a joke (the kind of joke who goes back in time to do a good deed only to get run over by a car in TTT). The Kang council seems like it could have been a good idea, but it's just too much, especially this soon after the big wrap-up of the Kang timelines.
4 - Hate, hate, hate the Nebula retcon. She was clearly meant to be Nebula ("Curse Starfox!").
5 - Yeah, everything is very rushed at the end - two and a half issues of bizarre build-up only to rush everything that happens in the last couple of pages. And poor Jennifer runs off in tears when is no more culpable than anyone else on the team. (and where the hell is she going with that Quinjet? You know she can't park it in New York anymore.)
6 - All that being said, if you are going to tear down the team to have one person emerge and rebuild it, Steve is the person to do it, and that is handled very well, especially the way he is gradually revealed next issue.
7 - And I absolutely love Jenn's takedown of Druid.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 12, 2015 7:40 AM
It could just be that a robo-Tyrannosaur will always look something like that, but that's ZOIDzilla, isn't it?
Posted by: Dave77 | April 15, 2016 9:45 PM
I pretty much agree with everything fnord said. The Nebula stuff doesn't work as either Nebula or Ravonna. I suppose there's still ways to fix that and the retcon but they'd both be a wasted effort. And Thor disbanding the team makes no sense considering a) there's already two members, b) they could pop next door and ask Stingray, c) as Annual #17 and #305 proves there's PLENTY of reserves ready to respond to summons, d) there's plenty of potential members they could track down (like Machine Man who they just had worked with), e) over in issues of Thor, the two remaining Avengers go on a mission anyway and f) team-up with Earth Force immediately making a viable (if terrible to read) Avengers team.
If I may offer another thing that I think hurts Simonson's short/aborted run; it's the art. Buscema/Palmer are amazing. But they were so linked to Stern's run. Simonson's run definitely comes off as toeing the line of being a Simonson comic and being a follow-up to Stern's run. I don't blame Simonson for wanting to keep Buscema/Palmer on the book but it always feels like stuff like the Council of Kangs, the Time-Bubble, Dinobots, Leviathan... all seem to play greater to Simonson's strengths as an artist. Had he drawn his run (or even had Mark Bright from the Annual drawn his run), it would've made it have a better voice than just being "the Avengers after Roger Stern".
Posted by: AF | July 17, 2016 1:55 PM
@AF... Agreed about the artwork on these issues. Simonson's big storyline involving the Time Bubble, Dreaming Celestial, Council of Kangs, and Nebula was very much improved after it shifted over to Fantastic Four, where Simonson was both writing and drawing the series.
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 18, 2016 12:07 AM
I agree, Dave77. Fnord, that appears to be more modeled on a Zoid than a Dinobot: http://zoids.wikia.com/wiki/Gojulas
Zoids were also licensed by Marvel, though maybe only in the UK? They split a weekly comic with Spider-Man, and it featured some of Grant Morrison's earliest Marvel work.
Posted by: cullen | August 16, 2016 12:29 PM
I guess the "disassembly" was so thourough that Jarvis even quit tbe "appearing" links. That wasn't nice of him.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 20, 2016 9:33 PM
I don't get this story. It's like they are overreacting so hard and there's no reason to disband... I mean it would have made more sense if the death of Marrina were the tragic event that cause the Avengers demise as a group.
Posted by: will | November 12, 2017 7:00 AM
Marrina's death is what started it all--it was a snowball effect. Marrina died, causing Namor to leave the group in mourning, and Captain Marvel and Black Knight were also both casualties of the battle. Monica was nearly killed and forced to step down from active duty. Dane is still active for now--but its only a matter of time since the Blood Curse is increasingly affecting his mind and body.
So, in a single battle they lost half the active roster and their leader. And then immediately after that the new leader is seduced and corrupted by a villain. By the time they've got that situation dealt with they have now lost Dr. Druid, and Dane can't really carry on now either, leaving them down to just Thor and She-Hulk, and without a leader again.
I agree Jen's departure is an out-of-character reaction for her but the team is pretty well disassembled at this point even if she did stay.
It wasn't any ONE thing that led to the team's disbanding here--it was so many things happening to them all back-to-back like that, picking them off one by one.
The main part that really doesn't make sense is how Thor and Jarvis say that none of the reserve members could be contacted to return to duty--but then in the Annual just a few days later, a whole temporary roster worth of them show up in response to an automated distress signal. That felt false.
Posted by: Dermie | November 12, 2017 4:46 PM
To be fair, of the reservists that show up, Cap had been held prisoner by the Commission, Yellowjacket was a super-villain, Hulk was believed to be dead and Hercules was in Olympus recovering from brain damage and had been forbidden by Zeus from leaving. The only ones that Thor and Jarvis knew were available were Beast and Falcon, and Beast was a member of X-Factor.
Posted by: Michael | November 12, 2017 5:08 PM
True enough, Thor and Jarvis would not have tried some of the people who got the automated signal like Hulk, Rita and maybe Herc.
But that still doesn't account for Falcon. Or some of the other reserve members who don't turn up in the Annual--like Wasp, Black Widow, Hellcat, etc. I can maybe see some of them saying they aren't available to come back...but Jan? I can't say her saying no if they need her. Even if she just returned to duty long enough to get a new roster in place, I can't see her turning them down.
It kind of feels like Thor made a few calls--and if the person didn't pick up the phone on the first try, he just wrote them off and didn't leave a message. lol.
I wonder if it was some weird leftover effect of Druid and Terminatrix's mind control, preventing them from really trying to get help?
Posted by: Dermie | November 12, 2017 5:23 PM
Wasp was hanging around the West Coast at the time.
It's also worth noting that despite disbanding, Thor and Black Knight straight away go off to Asgard and remain together, effectively, acting as a two-man Avengers team for a whole bunch of those Thor issues. If there was a full team, I imagine, Thor would've invited them all along to help him. When Thor and Dane return, Steve is in the midst of forming a new team.
Posted by: AF | November 13, 2017 6:04 AM
I didn't blame Simonson for this, I blamed the increasing tendency for editorial over-management, or "micro-management" if one prefers that term. It's a problem which has continued right up to the present day IMO, and it's not limited to Marvel only. In this particular case, too many plot elements were being dictated to Simonson, by the same editor who had recently fired Stern in fact. Nobody likes to step on his grave including me but honestly that's just how I see it. It not really just Gruenwald's fault in particular, he was just trying to do his job, but it's a major bureaucratic problem across the board. The disruption of long-running storylines by yearly or more frequent company-wide crossover events is another manifestation of the same problem. Too many cooks spoil the broth-- to over-simplify the problem with an old chestnut. Just let Simonson write his own stories and he shines much more brightly.
Posted by: Holt | November 17, 2017 1:38 AM
As always, i feel the need to bat for Gru on this... what people always fail to acknowledge is that Mark Gruenwald had been editing most of Stern's run prior to Stern leaving and he had no problems with Stern's ideas beforehand (including Monica being made leader in #279). The "problems" that led to Stern leaving interestingly surfaced almost immediately when Jim Shooter was replaced at Editor-in-Chief by Tom DeFalco. There is only a single issue of Avengers (#285) written by Roger Stern with Tom DeFalco listed as Editor-in-Chief. We already know DeFalco had two major agendas: undo what Shooter had done and reset things to Silver Age nostalgia status quos - whereas if it was specifically Mark who had these major issues with the direction of the book and Monica being leader, to the point of losing the writer, they surely would've surfaced much earlier on - like when she was made leader in #279. I've also pointed out several times that Captain America couldn't be made leader because, as Gruenwald would definitely know, Steve Rogers wasn't Captain America at the time. It's clear, imo, that it wasn't Mark's agenda but he took the blame for it. He spent a lot of time trying to redeem and fix both Doctor Druid and Monica years later and there was no real "bad blood" between Mark and Roger - Mark immediately got Rog on-board to write a couple of Solo Avengers stories after he left the main book.
Posted by: AF | November 17, 2017 5:57 AM
Thanks AF. A lot of this info is still relatively new to me, & a lot of it I've only recently learned from reading stuff on this site right here. I can appreciate your wish to defend Mark, and to put all of this into a wider context. I was aware of DeFalco's move to EiC & was not really a big fan, either of him or his immediate predecessor Jim Shooter. I've backed off quite a bit from blaming everything on Shooter insofar as he's become such a popular target. Likewise I hesitate to beat up on either DeFalco or Gruenwald too much, because, as I tried to convey in my previous comment, I really see it as being part of a larger bureaucratic problem which empowers editors w/ one hand while taking independence away from the writers w/ the other hand. Middle & lower management people are put in positions where they have to do something or it looks like they aren't doing anything. It's in the nature of their jobs & they become targets for complaints, sometimes whether or not they actually deserve it. I'm not an expert on the subject by any means but I saw what appeared to be symptoms of it all through the eighties. Symptoms included writers moving back and forth between companies, interference in major title-oriented storylines, increased inter-company in-fighting, & the movement of writers & other professionals to the alternative comics market. IMO it's not so much the individual editors who are to blame, but has more to do with the empowerment of management over creative talent.
Posted by: Holt | November 17, 2017 7:31 AM
Also, if it's the case that throwing Captain Marvel under the bus was DeFalco's idea rather than Gruenwald's idea, I apologize. My main point was to defend Simonson who seemed to be caught between rocks and hard places.
Posted by: Holt | November 17, 2017 7:48 AM
I honestly think Simonson was in a no-win situation writing Avengers. Simonson had to come in immediately on the heels of the previous writer, the very popular Roger Stern, being unceremoniously fired. Simonson then had to carry out Mark Gruenwald's very questionable editorial directive that Stern had been fired for refusing to write, namely having Captain Marvel / Monica Rambeau totally screw up as Avengers leader so Captain America could replace her. Simonson was then told he couldn't use such-and-such characters because they were busy in their own solo books. He attempted to put together a team made up mostly of characters no one else was using, just so he could avoid that interference, only for that to be pulled out from under him at the last minute. Add to that the fact that John Buscema was clearly unenthusiastic about Avengers by this point, giving Tom Palmer some very loose layouts to finish, and it's not surprising that this period was so underwhelming.
I think it says quite a lot that as soon as Simonson jumped over to Fantastic Four, bringing with him the plots he'd originally intended for Avengers, but now with a stable cast of characters, a lot less editorial interference, and the chance to also do the artwork, the quality of his work absolutely skyrocketed.
Honestly, I don't think anyone could have done a better job on Avengers at this point, because no matter who was writing it, they would have had to execute Gruenwald's plans.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 17, 2017 10:20 AM
Stern has said that there was an Avengers conference discussing the direction of the titles. Gruenwald ordered Stern to remove Captain Marvel from leadership so Cap could take over. Stern said he tried to make it work, but sometimes afterwards he wrote that he couldn't. He was then fired immediately from the title.
Here's Roger's quote from http://www.marvelessentials.com/features/int_stern_1006_3.html:
"I’d disagreed with one editorial suggestion about the Avengers line-up. My editor wanted a change that I thought distasteful, and I sent him a memo to that effect. I would have liked to have discussed the matter further, but I was never given a chance. Instead, I received a message that I was fired."
Steve Rogers may not have been Captain America at the time, but Gruenwald knew he had plans for him to resume the title, and wanted the Avengers to be "ready" for him once he did. I also remember a quote from Gruenwald at some point (but I can't find it) where he referred to firing a writer because he renged from an agreement he had already made, and he couldn't work with someone like that. It was an obvious reference to this, and the two viewing the same incident quite differently.
I don't think Gru was a company hatchet man for DeFalco reluctantly carrying out orders in this case. I think he knew exactly what he wanted and removed Stern because he was an obstacle. I don't see DeFalco's hand at all. It's too bad Gru isn't around to give his side of the story though.
Posted by: Chris | November 17, 2017 1:21 PM
The lettercol also has a relatively insightful Mark's Remarks wondering why more women don't read superhero comics.
Mark Gruenwald fires one of the best writers to ever work on Avengers because he refused to depict the team's first African-American female leader as an incompetent moron, and then he wonders why more women don't read superhero comics? Oy vey!
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 17, 2017 1:45 PM
"I hate this character and don't want her leading the Avengers instead of Captain America... so what I'll do is at the first possible opportunity I will be totally okay with Roger writing a comic where Captain America personally nominates her for the leadership position, which she accepts with outstanding support and faith from the rest of the team and then I will let the this new direction play out for 6 issues until suspiciously the Editor-in-Chief changes when I can finally get my own way and have her removed from the book and Captain America lead the team again when Captain America is finally back to being Captain America about a year from now!"
Posted by: AF | November 17, 2017 1:57 PM
Stern did such a great job of transitioning the Avengers away from an almost over reliance on the core four of Wasp, Cap, Thor, and Iron Man to new members that were starting to feel like new cornerstones (Namor, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk). It was a really fun era that seems like a classic era in retrospect. The main Avengers title struggled for a long time and there was very little from the period post Stern's departure until Heroes Return that was can't miss. I really wish there had been more Stern penned Avengers issues. I have a feeling the 300th issue would have been a lot better than a disappointing Inferno tie-in.
Posted by: Mark Black | November 17, 2017 2:40 PM
I just read Avengers #298 for the first time ever, and I also skimmed over the entries here for Captain America #323-348. I don't think Jarvis cared, or any Avenger would really care, whether Steve Rogers had a star on his shield, or was wearing a different but similar costume. Likewise I as a reader don't really care all that much. It seems that Steve Rogers, "the Captain," is still the Captain no matter what people are calling him. Next I'm looking forward to reading Avengers #299, which has the Captain plus my favorite jackass, Reed Richards, and his wife on the cover. I think I have a pretty good idea where it's going. I'll soon see for myself. I can hardly wait.
I can't remember now just why I skipped over these Avengers issues when they were published, but I'm enjoying reading them now, even tho' I already know from the comments here that Sue's and Reed's membership won't last, and nothing will ever really console me for too long regarding the unfortunate circumstances that befell Monica Rambeau, whatever the reasons for it were.
Posted by: Holt | November 17, 2017 4:29 PM
Not sure if this is the same thing Chris is referring to, but Fnord has quoted some of Gruenwald's version of events before:
"Issue #288 has a Mark's Remarks column announcing Roger Stern's departure. In Gruenwald's telling, Stern had agreed to a storyline and then once he got into the details he said he couldn't do it without "doing injustices to some of the characters involved. The bottom line was that he didn't want to proceed with the story line that we all discussed" (we all being the writers and editors of Avengers, Captain America, and Thor, although when you think about it, the relevant roles would be the Avengers' editor and Captain America's writer, both of whom were the same person). Gruenwald continues, "I was not interested in doing any injustice to any characters either, but I also believed that the story line could be done without hurting any characters" and also that he didn't want to force a writer to do something he didn't want to, so he fired Stern instead. Gruenwald also says that while he's gotten Stern to write some Solo Avengers stories, "I imagine that we're both a bit gun-shy""
I'm agnostic on whether it was Gruenwald or DeFalco's idea to ditch Monica, but it's worth noting that Macchio/Gruenwald's issues tend to have other characters thinking how great Cap is compared to Monica, while DeFalco's Thor 390 actually has Monica thinking that herself, and also Cap picking up Thor's hammer too. So whoever thought of it, DeFalco was certainly on board.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | November 17, 2017 4:53 PM
This kind of stuff is hard to reverse-engineer, because we'd expect a coordinated storyline's writers to be, well, coordinated on this. If Stern was the odd man out, then we'[d expect DeFalco and Gruenwald to portray Monica and Cap similarly regardless of which of them was a primary driver for the storyline.
The argument for Gruenwald is that he and Stern portray him that way. the argument for DeFalco is that DeFalco definitely mucked around with Engelhart's West Coast Avengers run around this time. In either situation we'd expect Gruenwald to write what he wrote, and we wouldn't know how much Stern knew.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 17, 2017 5:06 PM
Also, I don't know whose idea it was to depower Monica, but since Walt basically injures/depowers her in a way to take her off the team entirely, I don't know why it's needed to make her look incompetent anyway? She could just be a competent leader who was injured in battle & so Cap returns as team leader because he's the only one who can lift the team's spirits after this tragedy. (Not sure whether anyone at the time knew that Monica would never really be coming back in the same form.)
As Fnord's review points out, there are some flaws with Walt's run, though I do like some elements of it enough that I'm glad it happened, even though it could have been better. In the end, whatever editorial meddling he suffered here was for the best, because it ended up leading to his FF run which is Walt at the top of his game. I can't imagine that whatever Nebula/Dreaming Celestial resolution he originally intended would have been half as good an Avengers story as it became an FF story.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | November 17, 2017 5:18 PM
I first got the idea that it was Gru's idea to have Captain Marvel fail from fnord12's review of Avengers #281-285:
His sources are unclear, but Monica starts to fail in these issues, written by Stern, then again in Macchio's issues #286-290. Simonson doesn't start writing until #291.
Posted by: Holt | November 17, 2017 6:18 PM
I was definitely mistaken on at least one point in my last comment: Monica didn't start failing until Ralph Macchio started scripting with Avengers #286, which was credited to Stern on plot only. Sorry, my mistake. Stern stuck to his guns and was as good as his word.
Now I'm just guessing, but I don't believe it was originally part of the long-range plan to have Monica be de-powered. Rather, the original idea appears to have been limited to having her show a failure of leadership abilities. At some later point, the idea of her be de-powered seemed to have been added.
Starting with #291, the plot takes on other new directions, having the entire team fail as well. Was that Simonson's idea? I tend to doubt that, too. Was it Simonson's idea to turn Marrina into a monster? Poor Marrina! I was so busy mourning Monica's fate that I almost forgot about Marrina. Namor winds up looking like a bit of a fool-- who's idea was that? Who's idea was it to have Dr. Druid so easily enthralled by Nebula-Kang? Who's idea was it to have She-Hulk quit the team, overwhelmed by her own self-doubt? Wait, what? She-Hulk having doubts about herself? Has that ever happened before, or to such a degree, or in so few panels?
All of this is happening during Simonson's run, but now I find it all enshrouded by the same cloud of doubt as to whether these were Simonson's own ideas, insofar as all of this serves a greater purpose of dissolving the old team in preparation for bringing in a new one.
Posted by: Holt | November 17, 2017 7:09 PM
Mark Black and Jonathan both raise good points about Tom DeFalco. At the very least, it appears that he took Gruenwald's side over Stern's (although that could be because he felt as EIC he shouldn't undermine one of his editors) but it is possible he might have played some role in suggesting the direction of the Avengers book. I don't recall if he's ever offered his perspective on these events in any interviews. It's regrettable that Gruenwald is no longer around to present his side of the story.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 17, 2017 10:16 PM
I agree. To be fair, what I've read of Gruenwald's work on Captain America in the entries here looks pretty enjoyable, and I'll probably take my next opportunity at the comic book store to see if I can acquire some of it to read it for myself. I'd love to read DeFalco's side of the story, too.
Posted by: Holt | November 17, 2017 10:38 PM
Steve Rogers as The Captain was considered a fugitive, he couldn't be on the team without crippling their ability to act with government approval. He even says so in the issue where he quits.
Another thing I feel people overlook is that Roger was also writing Avengers vs. X-Men which he quit before it finished too (for different reasons - the X-Offices didn't approve of the direction for Magneto). I'd consider that an obvious but unacknowledged reason for his decision to leave Avengers too.
What's interesting about that is it is DeFalco who ends up scripting the final issue. But Rog had actually written the script for the whole thing (you can read it in the recent hardcover and subsequent paperback collected edition)... in it he had a whole subplot with Monica witnessing anti-mutant protests and becoming aware of the bigotry towards mutants and whatnot. But if Rog had already written the script, surely all DeFalco really had to do was re-word or re-script or re-do the Magneto bits? But no he rewrote the whole thing, notably dumping Monica's entire role (she doesn't have so much as even a line in DeFalco's issue).
Posted by: AF | November 18, 2017 5:08 AM
The way I see it, both DeFalco and Gruenwald agreed with the idea that ultimately Captain America makes sense as the Avengers traditional leader and that the team, at least without Stern, should be reconfigured to a more traditional roster (rather than trying to continue telling stories about the Stern team without Stern). This is also why Simonson ultimately didn't work out after having set up a point for the team to return to a more traditional roster.
The fact there was absolutely no bad blood between Mark and Rog is testament that it was just a big disagreement as opposed to some huge unprofessional fight over a character. Likewise, Rog and Tom didn't seem to have any personal animosity for each other (even when you also take Spider-Man into consideration). Rog is such a great guy, I agree it's a shame he never got to continue or finish his Avengers run, but I also disagree with a lot of the unanimous blame (and at times basically slander) that Gruenwald gets regarding Monica or Wendell.
Posted by: AF | November 18, 2017 5:22 AM
It does seem pretty fair to say that Stern quit, as opposed to saying that he was fired. The difference between "quit" and "fired," (or "terminated,") can be a bit of a mere technicality, especially when the situation is friendly, as it seems it was in this case, according to all the accounts I've read so far at least. I can imagine these guys sitting down and having a reasonably friendly discussion, which ended with somebody saying something like, "Okay, Roger, do you want us to write 'quit' or 'terminated' on this form?"
It mainly makes a difference regarding how it looks on one's resume or future job applications. Also, unless I'm mistaken, if someone "quits," that someone might not be able to draw unemployment compensation. However, if someone is "fired" or "terminated," the employer can't withhold compensation.
By all accounts, Stern had the option of staying on the job; all he had to do was follow some orders he didn't want to follow regarding the direction of his writing. Technically, it would be fair to say that he was "fired" for "insubordination," but they were all apparently friendly enough that nobody wanted to put it quite that way.
Posted by: Holt | November 18, 2017 7:44 AM
@AF- Monica does have some lines in DeFalco's issue- Magneto asks her to find out if the judge is a mutant racist and she finds out he's a human racist.
Posted by: Michael | November 18, 2017 9:07 AM
Couldn't Stern get to also written West Coast Avengers where I am sure he could had makes Captain Marvel the leader without problem?
Posted by: Gaston | November 18, 2017 9:14 AM
Again, WCA was going through an ugly fight over Steve Engelhart's use of his Mantis character, it was a fight with editorial. Stern wouldn't have wanted to hop from one book where editorial was stepping on his toes to a book where they were doing the same to someone else.
It's notable that both the main Avengers title and WCA were subjected to changes designed to a) remove a female character a writer liked but the editor's seemingly didn't and b) were given over to "star" creators (Byrne and Simonson) who combined a "back to basics" approach to some characters with radical changes to others...and who both left not too long after because editorial retracted their approval of stories that had already been extensively planned out.\
Shooter's onerous directives tended to be about storytelling style rather than character-specific content: the "must...can't" moment, the "every issue is someone's first " and "no three-parters" rules, and even the argument that a mass murderer couldn't be a hero could be seen as linewide policies, however capriciously decided. DeFalco's tenure does seem to bring a lot more direct micromanagement of specific plot and character directions., which will eventually turn into marketing and corporate dictating stories and characterization.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 18, 2017 10:46 AM
It's an interesting parallel, on paper, they are very similar cases, but in practice, they couldn't be further apart.
Mark & Tom & anyone else should've put faith in Roger, he had been writing the book for years & was producing some of the most consistent & best output for the company. His approach with Monica definitely sounds fishy but he executed it with absolute faultless grace.
While Mark & Tom & everyone else absolutely did need to stop Englehart from ever writing Mantis. He was irrational & obsessed with this character. A character that he overwrote & made stories and books hinge on. He'd already taken her to DC & then Eclipse (no, really, he did & with the subtlety of a brick, she maintains her "this one" shtick & everything). He'd already been pressured to stop doing Mantis stories in Silver Surfer (by editors Mike Higgins & Craig Anderson, under both Jim Shooter & Tom DeFalco as EiCs) & his solution was "I'll just do them in West Coast Avengers instead". Then when they were halted (by Gruenwald under DeFalco), his solution was "I'll just do them in Fantastic Four instead". Then when they were halted (by Macchio under DeFalco), he left Marvel in a mood. Go on his website, he sounds actually insane - the amount of bitterness all over the site about Marvel not letting him tell all his Mantis stories & his seriously deluded claims that they would've been the best comics ever & how he was responsible for "the greatest Cosmic epic ever written" with Mantis' origin.
Posted by: AF | November 18, 2017 1:55 PM
Just garbage; basically the end of the title, really.
Posted by: Phill | May 28, 2018 11:21 PM
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