Issue(s): Avengers #301, Avengers #302, Avengers #303
All that said, these issues are still a guilty kind of fun. It is, after all, a big guest star filled battle against a giant Nova (the Xandarian kind). And you can see the continuity loving, history respecting aspects of Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio shining through in the same way that made their Marvel Two-In-One run well remembered amongst a lot of fans. It's interesting to think that these Marvel fans that were just getting their start in those days are now running the show and basically without supervision (Gruenwald is also the editor of this book, and EiC Tom DeFalco was basically part of this same group).
In the way that connections are made and in the way that characters' dialogue is designed to reinforce aspects of their characters, these issues are a great example of what continuity-minded fans (like me) say they want out of their Marvel comics. The problem is that the characterization is delivered with a hammer. What fans like me really want is plotting like this but by someone who can also handle characterization and scripting much better. And we do get that on occasion - Roger Stern, John Byrne, and Kurt Busiek all come to mind - but we should acknowledge that the overlap between people who write well and people who know and love their Marvel history is not necessarily that large. So this is one extreme, where the continuity aspects are the driving force of the story.
We start with that set up of the new Avengers status quo. The idea here is that the Avengers are going to be run as a more structured organization. The Avengers have always been the most bureaucratic of Marvel's super-hero groups, with a charter and an official chairperson chosen by vote. And they've had an official connection with the US government (albeit a tenuous one, and they're currently without government clearance), and we've occasionally seen glimpses of an official hotline and other stuff like that. But that's all being taken to the next level now. Hydrobase has been moved closer to New York and renamed Avengers Island, and, as previewed in Avengers #300, they are hiring a support staff so it's not always Jarvis fielding their phone calls and doing everything else. To that end, Michael O'Brien (formerly the second Guardsman) has been hired as head of security, and he's just one of many to be hired as part of this more "business-like" approach.
The Avengers have also "normalized relations" with City Hall, and Mr. Fantastic is installing a "transport shuttle tube" from Battery Park to the island. Reed's involvement also gives us an opportunity to preview that other aspect of these issues, the idea that he's not really able to work under someone else's direction.
The idea that he's subconsciously using the Avengers to compete with the Thing, who is currently running the FF, is an interesting idea that isn't explored further here. And it's also interesting to see that Reed is making these decisions without any consultation with Sue. Note that it's "I" haven't decided how long we'll stay. This we will see again when Reed decides to rejoin the Fantastic Four; Sue is just expected to tag along with him wherever he goes. I'm not so sure this is intentional characterization.
The Avengers then see a giant flaming A in the sky (with Sue wondering if her brother the Human Torch is trying to contact them) and they arrive to find Starfox holding Firelord's staff.
It turns out that Starfox and Firelord were confronted by the "last survivor" of Xandar (i put it in quotes because Firelord is a Xandarian too) called Super-Nova, who has the combined power of the entire Nova Corps. It's not said why, exactly, but he attacked them, capturing Firelord and badly injuring Starfox. Starfox moans at the irony that while they were off searching for Nebula, she had been on Earth with the Avengers.
By the way, if i avoid transposing Starfox and Firelord into Starlord and Firefox throughout this entire entry, someone has to give me a dollar.
I talk about the care with which the writers address the connection points, but one thing that's not mentioned is Starfox and Firelord's recent appearance in Silver Surfer. It's not directly relevant but it's the sort of thing you'd expect to see a footnote for during this time period. It also makes me wonder if the reason Steve Englehart's Thanos plot was nixed was due to the mundane reason that Gruenwald and Macchio were using Starfox and Firelord here. Starfox is injured to the point where he doesn't participate in the rest of this story. Thor says that his alien physiology is such that it would confound a mortal doctor, and he flies him away. It's not said where he takes him, but the MCP give Dr. Keith Kincaid (Jane Foster's husband and another person listed on the staff sheet in issue #300) a behind-the-scenes appearance for this issue.
The Avengers go to Four Freedoms Plaza to get the FF's ICBM rocket to fly into space to get to where Super-Nova is holding Firelord. No negotiation is shown with the current members of the Fantastic Four.
When they arrive at Super-Nova's giant space-ship...
...Reed starts dishing out the ten dollar words, and Captain America's way of shutting him up is not nearly as satisfying as a "Can it, Stretcho!" from the Thing.
Reed stepping on Cap's shoes continues.
Inside the ship, the Avengers are attacked by giant floating brains.
These brains are actually the brains seen floating inside the Xandarian Worldmind in Fantastic Four #206. This story establishes that they aren't literally the brains of all the dead people from Xandar the way that was implied in that FF story.
The fight is used to hammer home the various characteristics of these Avengers. Thor is rash...
...Gilgamesh isn't exactly a team player...
...and Reed Richards is more scientist than super-hero.
And altogether, the group currently isn't strong on teamwork.
All great points; i especially like the stated characterization of Mr. Fantastic. But it is literally just stated characterization, like someone running through a list of bullet points, and, as we'll see, repeatedly. A true writer-writer would work this all in more naturally; this is more like the points that an editor might give to a writer to ask them to develop.
Anyway, they find Firelord and free him, but he's unconscious...
...and then they encounter Super-Nova.
And they are nearly destroyed by him. They are saved only by the Invisible Woman's forcefield, a fact she reminds us of about 16 times in issue #302 (again, i'm very happy to see the writer-editors reinforcing her increased power status, but the manner in which it's done is grating).
Meanwhile, Super-Nova travels to Chicago with the idea that he'll rampage around on Earth until someone delivers Nebula to him. The guy is clearly insane, so there's no questioning his characterization, but it's funny to see him creating various notes around the city.
And since our East Coast team and Firelord are busy dealing with re-entry to Earth, Super-Nova is occupied by a series of guest stars. First Quasar, who's got some signage of his own.
With Quasar, we also get a quick look at Eon, depicted as a floating pile of melted candle wax in his closet.
By the way, issue #301 was by Bob Hall and Don Heck and then #302-303 are Rich Buckler with finishes by Tom Palmer, and Palmer's work really shines through, occasionally feeling like the Buscema/Palmer art recently on the series. Palmer also inked a number of issues of the original Nova series.
Next up is the West Coast Avengers, after checking in with Peggy Carter that the East Coasters haven't already claimed the mission (since Chicago is in the middle of the country).
The West Coast team doesn't exactly attack as a unit. Wonder Man makes a solo attempt...
...but gets pounded into the pavement. The fact that it's an opportunity for both Henry Pym and Hawkeye to mention that they used to have growing powers is the sort of over-use of references that is cool on one hand but sort of bogs things down on the other.
Tigra and Pym make no attempt to engage Super-Nova. But Hawkeye tries a delaying tactic, which is very cool.
Quasar saves Hawkeye from a disintegration.
And then the next group to show up are the (three) current members of the Fantastic Four.
The connections continue (in a good way), with Quasar and the Thing having a quick moment...
...and then a reference to Quasar's upcoming team-up with the Torch.
Quasar is definitely no-nonsense, almost devoid of personality, though.
The East Coast team eventually makes their way back into their book, with the Mr. Fantastic/Captain America friction continuing.
And Reed eventually just kind of wanders away.
He wants help from Quasar, resulting in this hilarious panel.
While Quasar flies Mr. Fantastic back to Four Freedoms Plaza in New York, the Human Torch and Firelord drain away all of Super-Nova's energy and discharge it into space...
...allowing for a "Hey, we're both fire guys!" moment.
I would have liked to see Firelord trying to have an actual conversation with his fellow Xandarian, and he does try, but Super-Nova is too far gone.
And in the end, Mr. Fantastic comes back with his "Doctor Doom's" time machine.
And he convinces Super-Nova to use it to go into the timestream after Nebula.
I love that no one questions Reed on his actions here.
Cap: So, i mean, you sent him into the timestream. Does that mean he can alter the course of history? Wipe out all of reality?
Definitely a fun set of battle issues. In many ways, sort of my baseline idea of what a Marvel comic should be. Take this, add some realistic scripting and some long time plotting and character development and you've got a great book. In any event, not a bad way to fill three issues while waiting for the next real writer on the series.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Steve Rogers is back in his Captain America costume, and Peggy Carter is working for the Avengers, placing Captain America #350-351 prior to this arc. Tigra is back with the West Coast Avengers team (with no fanfare), placing this after West Coast Avengers #41. Henry Pym is also with the West Coast Avengers, suggesting placement after Solo Avengers #14-16. It's not said where the Vision and the Scarlet Witch are. Despite a comment that this is Quasar's first adventure back on Earth, this must take place after Quasar #3 because he is shown unpacking at his new office in Four Freedoms Plaza and because the Human Torch makes reference here to their meeting in Quasar #3 (this is despite this arc being published before Quasar #1). This should take place after Starfox and Firelord's appearance in Silver Surfer #19-20.
There's a conundrum here for both the Human Torch and Thor. For the Torch, he's shown here not stuck in his fire form, but he's not cured from that until Fantastic Four #326, which leads directly into Fantastic Four #327 where Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman rejoin the team. For Thor, the problem is the opening of Thor #402, which has a narration panel and footnote saying that Thor is departing from the Avengers after having recently completed his first adventure with them (the footnote specifies Avengers #300), and we see Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman among the other Avengers. But Thor #402 has a story that runs at least until #405, which shows Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman back with the FF (and the Thing as Ben Grimm, definitely placing it after FF #326-327). The MCP solves the Torch problem by ignoring it, probably with the idea that the Torch is having a temporary reprieve from his problems, which isn't unreasonable considering we saw him getting himself under control with great effort in FF #322 and #323. Regarding Thor, the MCP is inconsistent in the chronologies for Thor vs. Mr. Fantastic regarding Thor #402 vs. Avengers #301-303. But the gist of their solutions seems to be finding a gap after page #2 of Thor #402, with those two pages taking place before these issues and the rest afterwards. I'm going with the MCP on both solutions, placing this between Fantastic Four #325-326 and before Thor #402 (where i'll treat the first two pages like a flashback).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
I liked these issues. I had no idea at the time that this wasn't going to be the future avengers team. I liked the friction between Cap and Reed and the lack of teamwork with the others. It felt like a good starting point.
I love the way Hawk-eye is written in these issues. It helps show the more mellow attitude of his team and how he will endanger himself to keep Cap from stealing his thunder. I wished he'd been written like this in his solo series or AWC. His "teleporting in yoga class" joke captures his attitude perfectly. (his character will soon be mangled mercilessly in Byrne's upcoming AWC run so its good to see what a fun character he could be here)
Posted by: kveto from prague | September 15, 2014 4:06 PM
"...fly into space to get to where Super-Nova is holding Firestorm."
I got excited for a sec then I realized you meant Firelord. No crossover this time :/
Posted by: Robert | September 15, 2014 7:18 PM
Dammit, i tried so hard to avoid typing Firefox and Starlord that i missed the Firestorm.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 15, 2014 7:56 PM
I take it that the last picture was supposed to go two places earlier on?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 15, 2014 8:25 PM
Fnord, the reason why the MCP assumes it's Kincaid that Thor took Starfox to is because Thor refers to him as "my physician friend" and Cap tells Thor to ask his "doctor buddy" if he wants to be the Avengers' medic. In Captain America 352-353, we see that Kincaid has become the Avengers' physician. BTW, that means this arc has to take place before Captain America 352-353.
Posted by: Michael | September 15, 2014 8:55 PM
Thanks Luis, fixed the images.
Thanks, Michael. It's clear that from the sheet in Avengers #300 that it turns out to be Kincaid but there's nothing in this issue that says so. The way the scene is set up, without actually showing Kincaid or mentioning his name, it almost seems like they were teasing the possibility that Thor tended to Starfox himself with his old Donald Blake knowledge.
Starfox's use of the staff was questionable to me (but it could have been imbued with power by Firelord before Starfox went for help). Reed using it right in front of Firelord didn't seem like a problem at all.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 15, 2014 9:15 PM
It's interesting that you start off talking about continuity loving, because I wrote a letter complaining to Marvel about the lack of continuity - e.g. the Human Torch problem.
My complaint was not helped with the hyperbole of threatening to boycott Marvel over the issue. My brother had convinced me that if I did so, they might send me some free stuff, because that's what had happened with sunglasses in the film Summer School. And so I did (threaten), and they didn't (send anything). No surprise there.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | September 16, 2014 2:05 AM
In regard to the question about the other members not questioning Reed was the same question I asked myself when Reed came back with the time machine to give to Super-Nova.
I do love the art. It's quite realistic without being an too realistic that I'm looking more at the art than the reading the story.
Posted by: JSfan | September 16, 2014 4:44 AM
Say, these issues read a lot better than I first thought back in the day! You get a ton of diverse characters, spot on interactions, and some great work by Tom Palmer on the inks. Lots of stuff for continuity buffs to love here. These three comics combined would have made a cool annual or giant-size special.
I remember Cap being pissed off at Reed for not being a team player. Much as I love, Cap, he was way out of his league here. Reed resolves the whole affair in his usual stoic manner, much to nobody's surprise but Cap's. I would have liked to have seen more of their "scientist versus strategist" moments (Secret Wars also featured a few) but Reed will be gone once Byrne arrives, which is kinda ironic.
Posted by: Clutch | September 16, 2014 6:14 AM
After all the build-up to the new team in #300 and by #303 it was already clear that this team wouldn't last. I agree with you about editorial interference - if they were gonna do that, couldn't they have done it earlier so 300 wasn't such a fake big issue giving us a team that wouldn't last at all?
On the other hand, this is the Avengers, the team in which a founding member quit by the end of the second issue.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 25, 2015 7:13 AM
In a "Mark's Remarks" editorial in Marvel Age # -- -- Gruenwald wrote: "Good characters who should never have become Avengers: Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Moon Knight, Spider-Man, and Sandman."
I have to wonder why he even agreed to Mr. Fantastic, the Inivisible Woman, and Moon Knight in the first place, given the membership dictates he made of the writers he supervised (either directly or indirectly), such as adding Starfox, Quasar, U.S. Agent, and also requiring Iron Man to be on the West Coast team. Gruenwald clearly had no problem limiting the writer's ability to select their own Avengers line-up.
As much as I question his decision-making process here, I do agree with his assessments -- except for Quasar, who should have joined only a couple of years after headlining his own series.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 26, 2015 11:24 PM
Oops, forgot to mention that the "Mark's Remarks" editorial appeared in Marvel Age #122.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 26, 2015 11:26 PM
I disagree with Gru. Spider-Man and Sandman do belong with the Avengers.
Posted by: Steven | August 27, 2015 12:57 AM
It's not really come up on this entry (although there's a bit of it in Aaron's post) but I see it come up a LOT on the site - including being stated in fnord's entries as if fact - the idea that Gruenwald forced Quasar onto the Avengers much to the chagrin of John Byrne who either hated the character or didn't want to write him. Or some iteration of this same basic idea.
There's no evidence or even truth to this.
In Marvel Age (I don't have the issue number at hand but if someone seriously counters this I will dredge it up to prove it), when Byrne is interviewed about taking over the main Avengers book, he says he is looking forward to using the character and discusses his ideas for what Quasar will bring to the book (basically, he'll be the "Kitty Pryde" a.k.a the rookie hero).
Secondly, Gruenwald was not editor of either Avengers book during Byrne's run. Howard Mackie was. Gruenwald also did not edit any of the issues by Nicieza, Hama or Harras that continued to use the character as a member of the Avengers. In fact, Avengers #303 is the last Avengers issue for a long long while that is edited by Gruenwald. And when he does return to Avengers, Quasar doesn't follow him or even appear in the book again.
Even in this issue, one of the two issues of Avengers edited by Gruenwald featuring Quasar, the character isn't forced onto the team - he is a guest star. There's nothing in these issues even suggesting Quasar was intended to be a member.
Why did Quasar join the Avengers? Maybe Gruenwald suggested it but he certainly didn't abuse his power like is repeatedly brought up again and again on entries of Avengers/Quasar. He was a very respected presence in the Marvel offices, if he suggested an idea, a writer would probably listen and consider it.
And, honestly, if Gruenwald had badgered Byrne to include Quasar, I'd imagine Quasar's suddenly joining the team would be handled a LOT better than suddenly just being among the team in Avengers #305 and later need a (Gruenwald-penned) continuity insert to explain why he's a member now.
And actually, Byrne didn't even use Quasar that much. He didn't use She-Hulk or Namor much more either - and those are both characters at that point Byrne was invested in using. Although then we get onto the fact that Byrne didn't actually write Avengers for that long.
I'm sure you can probably find some John Byrne post on a forum where he's having a moan, but that's what John Byrne does now. If you went off of what John Byrne posts, you'd think him and Claremont were at each other's throats with knives for their entire partnership. The few posts I've seen from Byrne about his Avengers run DO feature dismissive references to "bonehead editors" but as noted these would refer to Mackie or DeFalco.
Posted by: AF | March 31, 2016 3:28 PM
Byrne and Mackie are friends and Howard Mackie posts from time to time on Byrne Robotics. I figure Byrne is avoiding referring to DeFalco and Gruenwald, who would be relaying orders through Mackie. This is an inference from Byrne's accounts, of course.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 31, 2016 4:00 PM
Yeah i should have cited a source when i said that Gruenwald forced Quasar on Cap, so i've added an "I suspect" to that line. I don't remember if i had a quote at the time that would have backed me up but i can't find one now.
I will say that Gruenwald was Executive Editor at this point, the #2 guy, so just because he wasn't editing a title directly doesn't mean he didn't have power. But i acknowledge that anything further is just speculation.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 31, 2016 4:01 PM
Byrne confirmed on his Byrne Robotics board that Gruenwald forced Quasar on him:
Posted by: Michael | March 31, 2016 7:55 PM
There's so many things I want to say to that comment of Byrne's.
Posted by: Thanos6 | March 31, 2016 9:46 PM
Well, I'm pretty reluctant to get out the Marvel Age so I'll play devil's advocate to myself and say Marvel Age would obviously be the equivalent of Byrne playing nice to try and sell what he's doing. But he DID talk a bit about Quasar and it came off as seeming like genuine enthusiasm for his plans for him.
But at the same time, as I said, Byrne's recollection seems to be one of mostly remembering things through his moaning. I don't know if he could really be considered that much of a reliable source nowadays. I've never seen him look back on anything without some moaning about someone else seeping through. We've seen Byrne leave books for far less than being forced to use a character, so I remain skeptical about the idea the character was literally mandated onto Byrne and he was forced to begrudgingly write him.
Posted by: AF | April 1, 2016 8:50 AM
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