Issue(s): Avengers #314,Avengers #315, Avengers #316, Avengers #317, Avengers #318
John Byrne seems to have been more interested in the West Coast Avengers book. It's the one he penciled, and it was editorial changes to his plans for that series that caused him to quit those titles. It's also the book where he had a specific agenda, whereas for this book he seems content to have done more random and generic adventure stories. But i actually like his East Coast stories a little better, maybe because i don't really like his agenda for West Coast, but also because it mainly just features the Avengers being super-heroes and not getting all entangled in personal drama. Excluding Acts of Vengeance, this book has featured a battle with the Lava Men, the "Eternals in the Negative Zone" story (including a battle with Blastaar), and in this arc the return of Nebula, a villain from Roger Stern's run. Just fun, straightforward adventures.
The story starts with some of the Avengers helping to clear the wreckage around Avengers park to help clear the way for a construction team to start rebuilding their mansion. Iron Man makes several comments that lead Captain America to suspect that he is the original Iron Man and not the replacement that was supposed to have taken over after Armor Wars (e.g., talking about Thor to a construction worker, he says that he's something that you never get used to). This will continue throughout this arc and we'll see the Vision notice such comments as well (the cat already seemed like it was out of the bag in Avengers Spotlight #29, but McDuffie may have been overplaying it).
Captain America then takes a ride over to Sersi's apartment and invites her to join the Avengers.
And that's about it for the preliminaries before all hell breaks loose. The universe briefly blinks out of existence, causing both Sersi and Cap to get disoriented. Thor, carrying a huge chunk of debris, is also affected, and he drops his load, endangering a school yard full of children.
Luckily, Spider-Man is around.
Sersi agrees to join the Avengers, transforming her gown into an unusually frilly version of her costume as the two race back to the Avengers' current subbasement headquarters.
The inversion was caused by the device that we've seen built up in subplots in previous issues. It was built by a Professor Harker, who intended it to be a revolutionary power source. But Nebula found out about it and is now behind Harker's project.
Starfox has been trailing Nebula. He's intrigued to hear that Nebula and her Rigellian lackey Gunthar are concerned about a mysterious "he"...
...and he manages to get a call out to the Avengers before getting captured by another of Nebula's lackies.
Meanwhile, a call to Henry Pym on the West Coast leads to the idea that this may be an incursion from another universe. It's actually a little early for that storyline! And it's also not the return of the Beyonder, another possibility that is raised.
Iron Man and the Vision go to respond to Starfox's call while the rest stay behind to investigate the flux on earth.
The inversions start happening with regular frequency.
And Sersi uses her powers to keep all of the molecules in the room of the subbasement, including the people, from phasing out. The effort knocks her out...
...but it works.
Whether that's a good thing or not is yet to be determined. But Spider-Man does locate another building that has not been phased.
The company that owns this building is the one that we saw Professor Harker take his plans to previously. It's called PolyDyne.
Because of the capital D and Cap's recognition, i wonder if it's a holding of Janet Van Dyne, aka the Wasp.
Cap has Sersi scan the building. It causes her to curl up and scream again.
It's nice of Thor to briefly take off his pants to try to match Sersi's playboy bunny outfit.
Sersi's repeated fainting spells are annoying. I guess the idea is that she's very powerful and does things very necessary for the plot, but at the same time she can't be so overwhelmingly powerful that the other Avengers don't have a challenge. The net result makes her feel more like a plot device than a character, although Byrne adds a nice character touch by having her mutter in the ancient Eternal language as she's recovering this time.
Jarvis notes that the air supply is getting low, resulting in a 50+ word speech from Cap.
Dude, maybe stop burning up all the oxygen bragging about your super-efficient bio-system processes until we solve the running out of air problem?
Thor creates a magnetic field effect with his hammer, pulling the Avengers' subbasement room to the PolyDyne builing. And they burst out to find Nebula.
Spider-Man mistakes Nebula for Andromeda, the blue-skinned Atlantean Defender. Which is a cute joke, but the two characters have never met on panel. Someone please file that away for an Untold Tale prior to this story.
Speaking of characters who never met, Nebula is confused when the Avengers mention that she's supposed to be stuck out in a time vortex with Dr. Druid.
At the same time as these issues, the Nebula in the time vortex is appearing in Fantastic Four #337-341. Clearly something is going on, although neither story will provide an explanation. The simplest thing to assume would be time travel; the Nebula that appeared with Dr. Druid had been disguising herself as a Kang and wound up trapped in a time vortex. But the actual eventual explanation is more complicated than that.
Nebula does a tremendous job holding off Spider-Man, Captain America, and Thor all on her own...
...and she's also shown to be remarkably strong in addition to having powerful wrist blasters.
We never did see her get into a physical fight during Stern's Avengers run, so this is new information. I'll also note that everyone accepts it as true that she is the granddaughter of Thanos.
Professor Harker tells the heroes that there's a way to deactivate the device, but Nebula kills him before he can reveal it. However, Cap is able to get another lab worker to tell him where the power source is. The source is unfortunately protected by a dangerous magnetic field. Cap is about to sacrifice himself to disable it anyway...
...but no need to do that while Spider-Man is around.
Despite what Spider-Man says about not feeling useful, Byrne has definitely been deliberately playing him up. His scientific skills were important in locating the PolyDyne building, he held up well against Nebula, and he's the one that saves the day at the end. That's all building up to the biggest tease of 1990 that plays out later in this arc.
Nebula escapes while the heroes are congratulating themselves, but Cap notes that no time has passed in the real world while all of this was happening, so if Nebula is heading back to the ship that Starfox called from, the Vision and Iron Man are already on their way there.
Meanwhile, Gunthar is getting a bit... ranty.
Gunthar didn't do much in Stern's original Nebula story, but he was the first Rigellian i encountered, and his Buscema/Palmer look and cool emotions (compared to Nebula's other henchmen, Levan and Skunge, who do not appear in this story) really captured my imagination. In this story he's much more of a generic toady. It gets worse when Nicieza starts scripting, but even now Starfox is able to goad Gunthar into hitting him enough to knock loose the device that is blocking his pleasure power. Before Starfox makes use of that, though, he gets a visit from Nebula, who tells him that she's retrieved the Stones of Halkor.
Spider-Man opts to go with the Avengers up into space to back up Iron Man and the Vision.
Spoken like a man, Spider- ...man.
Iron Man and the Vision are already fighting through Nebula's hordes...
...and it's not too long before the other Avengers and Spidey show up.
Notice all the joking going on, which is attributed to Spider-Man's presence. It's this issue in particular (#316) that leaves me with fond memories of Byrne's short Avengers run.
I also enjoy the appearance of this mini-boss, Gron.
Cap's flag speech is interesting too; flag-burning was a hot issue at the time.
It's Sersi who deals with Gron, so she's not entirely useless during this arc.
Note that she's adjusted her costume to something closer to the original Kirby design as well.
When the Avengers make it to Nebula, they find that she's already been zonked by Starfox.
And then, what we've seemingly been building to. Spider-Man is invited to join the Avengers.
But the arc's not over yet. We find out who the "he" that Gunthar was worried about is: the Stranger.
Now i had issues #314-316 in realtime. It's just a coincidence that i stopped right when Byrne left the book; i wasn't yet that discerning and since Byrne still plotted issue #317 i would have picked it up anyway if i were basing it on that. But this arc is why i see Byrne's run as a nice successor to Stern's, especially with the Nebula plot. Around this time my comic reading was dwindling. But i always wondered why Spider-Man wasn't an Avenger. After all, i saw him accept the offer. Years later, after i was somewhat more aware of credits, i picked up the rest of this arc, and saw how quickly the membership situation was reversed. I still didn't have the firmest grasp on what all the credits meant or how comics really worked, so i gave the blame to Nicieza for reversing the awesome thing that Byrne had done in making Spider-Man an Avenger. In reality, it was probably never the case that Spider-Man was going to be an Avenger. He already had three books of his own and it was still generally the consensus that Spider-Man was a street level loner, probably even more so among writers and editors than the readership.
In fact, looking at the Statement of Ownership for the past three years, the Avengers could have used Spider-Man's membership. The book's sales had been declining since Roger Stern's run (probably more a reflection of the shift towards the X-, Spider-, and Punisher books than the loss of Stern). Much, much later, Marvel will make the decision to have the Avengers be more of a JLA style team composed of their most popular characters, but for now it was probably inevitable that Spider-Man's membership wasn't going to last the arc. However, see Tenzil's comment below; it seems that at least briefly the plan was that Spider-Man really was going to join the team.
All that said, i do blame Nicieza for how clumsily the reversal happens. The past two issues have been spent making Spider-Man a star. For the next two issues the gears are thrown into reverse without even applying the brakes first.
Before that, though, here's Nebula under the influence of Starfox's pleasure power talking to the Stranger.
The Stranger takes Nebula away with no explanation to the Avengers. And Sersi refuses to read the Stranger's mind, which is fair enough given her experiences so far in this story.
Before the Avengers go after the Stranger, he sends a robot to delay them, and then communicates with them telepathically, telling them that Nebula has stolen a device called the Infinity Union. Here's some scenes from the flashback that is shown while the Stranger is explaining, including a scene of Gunthar being even more of a toady...
...and some shots of the Infinity Union itself, which reminds me a bit of the bio-gem and energy natter-egg from the Questprobe series, i guess just because it's a glowing gem on a pedestal.
You may recall earlier that Nebula told Starfox that she found the Stones of Halkor, not the Infinity Union. If i understand things correctly, the Stones of Halkor are the tablets that Nebula was shown finding in Avengers West Coast #48, and they subsequently led her to the Infinity Union on the Stranger's planet. The "power source" that she was looking for in that issue is the Universal Compressor that Professor Harker invented. It seems that by activating the Compressor and causing the universe to blink in and out of existence a few times, she's powered up the Infinity Union. It all seems a bit roundabout, and you'd think Nebula would have led with the Infinity Union, not the Stones, when bragging to Starfox, but i guess it all makes sense. I'm not sure if this was Byrne's intention, but it does seem to fit with the drawn plot of the issue, as opposed to just being something that was inserted into the script.
Anyway, while interrogating Gunthar, Starfox and Iron Man learn some additional information about the Infinity Union: it's been rigged up with a trap in case anyone besides Nebula touches it.
Note also that Nebula's motivation in seeking "ultimate entropy -- the death of all there is" makes her sound a lot more like her grandfather Thanos than she has in the past, when she's been more of a space pirate out for personal gain.
The immediate problem is that despite being forthcoming with an explanation, the Stranger still won't listen to the Avengers, so if he found the device he'd set off the trap. So he heads off to grab the Infinity Union. The good news is that he seems very concerned with just taking it back into his custody for protection as opposed to using it for himself. He's not a villain.
But when the Stranger starts mentally probing Nebula's ship to find the device - a probe that causes pain to the Avengers - Captain America gets mad and decides that no one should have the device.
So the Avengers spread out to find it.
Spider-Man, continuing to have doubts...
...is the one who finds it. And, der, sets off the trap.
Ok, get this idiot off the team.
Triggering the device doesn't actually destroy the sector as Gunthar said, but it does transfer all the power to Nebula.
Meanwhile, Quasar returns home to the Avengers subbasement just in time for the computer that Jarvis was using to monitor the Avengers to explode.
That's pretty much it for Quasar's appearance in this story. Issue #318, which was not plotted by Byrne, is mostly about the Avengers fighting a super-powered giant Nebula.
As Spider-Man continues to whine, Gunthar seemingly has a change of heart.
Which sets him up for when the Stranger comes after him. Eep!
Gunthar reveals that a bio-receiver has been surgically implanted in Nebula's head, allowing her to absorb the energies of the Infinity Union.
Nebula is already blinking the universe in and out of existence again. There's really nothing left for the Avengers to do, so they wind up in a pointless chase around the ship, being attacked by stray weapons systems.
Having the villain gain supreme power always presents a storytelling challenge, but this story especially is not handled well. But we do get to the point where the Stranger tells the Avengers about the bio-receiver. This results in a brief debate about ethics...
...but in the end there's really no conflict.
The Avengers help the Stranger, who was badly injured during the battle, and then decide that they'll allow him to keep the Infinity Union after all. Starfox is also badly injured.
All that's left now is showing Spider-Man the road.
So there you go. Given what was probably short notice you can't blame Nicieza too much for the unsatisfying finish. I do find myself increasingly saying that you can't judge this or that John Byrne run because it ended abruptly, which probably signals a problem in its own right. In any event, after Byrne's departure we are in a serious dry spell for the Avengers until Kurt Busiek's run in 1998.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 201,600. Single issue closest to filing date = 203,800.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain America's private quinjet is repaired in #314 after having been damaged in #313, which is said to have been a "just a few days" ago. That's of course a relative phrase, and if Cap is seen using a quinjet elsewhere we can just assume it wasn't his private one. It seems that Quasar #7-10 were meant to take place during this arc, and in issue #10 it's said that the Avengers have been out in space for "over a week". I've had to rule out the possibility that issue #7 really took place at the same time of this arc since a cosmic powered Spider-Man appeared in that issue, but i'm still placing #8-10 just prior to these issues. The "over a week" comment is probably an exaggeration; Quasar was feeling excluded when he said that. The MCP place Spider-Man here during the gap in Spectacular Spider-Man #162. Based on decorations seen around New York and in Sersi's apartment in #314, it seems to be close to Christmas, but that's of course topical. Thor and Iron Man's appearance here probably takes place before the story beginning in Fantastic Four #337, since Thor says that the last time he saw Nebula was in Avengers #297.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showCaptain America, Guardsman II (Michael O'Brien), Gunthar, Henry Pym, Iron Man, Jarvis, Man-Wolf (John Jameson), Nebula, Peggy Carter, Professor Harker, Quasar, Sersi, Spider-Man, Starfox, Stranger, Thor, Vision, Wasp, Wonder Man
"Which is a cute joke, but the two characters have never met on panel. Someone please file that away for an Untold Tale prior to this story."
Posted by: clyde | April 28, 2015 1:40 PM
"good news is that he seems very concerned with just taking it back into his custody for protection as opposed to using it for himself. He's not a villain."
Posted by: clyde | April 28, 2015 1:52 PM
Not really. Andromeda resurfaced just in time to get kidnapped and be made a Bride Of Set, and Spider-Man wasn't involved in the end battle. And even if he did see her (off panel) in a crowd scene, it still wouldn't make a lot of sense for him to make this joke. "Hey, who's that blue-skinned woman fighting at the other end of the battlefield. Andromeda? Ok, better file that info away in case i ever run into another blue-skinned woman."
Like i said, still a cute joke, but more fourth wall breaking than probably intended.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 28, 2015 1:52 PM
You mention a battle with Annihilus, but I think you meant Blastaar.
Posted by: S | April 28, 2015 3:23 PM
Thor needs to buy a better belt. His pants keep falling off.
Posted by: Berend | April 28, 2015 3:23 PM
@S, whoops, they probably wouldn't like being confused. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 28, 2015 3:25 PM
i was basically gonna say the same thing about bryne, he's much better on the regular avengers since he doesn't have the agenda of getting Wonderman and Wanda together. So he can just write good stories.
Ok, his cap is bad but cap is often reduced to a caracature in team books.
I love the scene where he saves the kids from Thor's clumsiness (and irresposibility). Its just a cool little "thiwp" to save the day. and how can you not love him calling spidey "slinger of webs". Thor has always treated Spider-man the most respectfully of all the avengers.
I always hate the way they downplay spider-man's lack of world saving experience. just off the top of my head he was the one to defeat Thanos by freeing the avengers, he was a big part of secret wars, he helped defeat the serpent crown, etc. He's got as much cosmic experience as any hero.
Posted by: kveto | April 28, 2015 4:18 PM
As you mentioned, fnord, this officially begins the LONG stretch of years until the Busiek/Perez "Heroes Return" era of the Avengers. It was a dark time to be an Avengers fan...
Posted by: Bill | April 28, 2015 6:44 PM
This story take place before Silver Surfer 38 for Nebula.
Posted by: Michael | April 28, 2015 8:08 PM
At one point the plan really WAS for Spider-Man to join. All that set-up was no mistake. Someone reversed themselves, I believe it was the Spider-Man editor, as the arc was being plotted.
Posted by: Tenzil | April 28, 2015 8:51 PM
Interesting, Tenzil. If anyone has a link for that, it would be great to see it. In any event, makes me feel less cheated to know that Byrne wasn't doing all that build up just to reverse course in the end.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 28, 2015 9:02 PM
"Doomsday plus one" is the name of one of the very fist profesional works by Byrne, a 12-issue series for Charlton in 1975-1977. He even revisited the basic concept in 2013 for IDW as "Doomsday .1" - one his finest works in recent years, I might add.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 28, 2015 9:31 PM
I liked Sersi when she first joined the team, but when Bob Harras started writing her I came to hate her.
As a result of this story, Spider-Man is given a reserve membership in Avengers #329, but he proves to be an unreliable reservist. He had too much to do.
This book may be heading south, but Operation Galactic Storm is still ahead. Roy Thomas made the west coast book better.
Posted by: Steven | April 29, 2015 1:42 AM
Fabian Nicieza, the go-to guy when a talent left or was was driven off a Marvel book around this era.
This was a fun story, but I never bought Cap "firing" Spidey. Compared to some of the lesser B-list Avengers who made the cut over the years, it made no sense.
I might up the historical rating, as it was Spidey's first time on the team, even for a brief bit.
And now the dark ages of the book begin. Some dull stuff with the Soviet characters, followed by Hama's clumsy attempt at diversity with Rage. The the awful Harras era and the Crossing.
The early 90s were a bad time to be an Avengers fan.
Posted by: Bob | April 29, 2015 2:53 AM
I wanted Spider-Man to be an Avenger, but I guess the Spidey office didn't want him here.
Posted by: Steven | April 30, 2015 8:40 AM
This story basically happened due to spidey winning the "who would you most like to see as an avenger" poll (the same poll where people were confused whether hawkeye classed as having a solo book). My memory is when they announced the results, they said spidey was a solo guy who wouldnt fit the team, but maybe he'd appear in a future story. Haven't got the issues to hand, so my memory may be faulty. I think daredevil came next after spidey. I definitely remember reading these and being positive spidey wouldn't join in the end.
Posted by: Jonathan | April 30, 2015 2:21 PM
I'd never noticed sersi's costume was wrong before. I hadn't read any of the eternals comics at this point. I vaguely knew of them, but i was surprised when sersi suddenly started appearing in captain america and avengers, it seemed to young me that a minor character was suddenly appearing everywhere, and i didn't know why, and that being able to turn people into pigs felt too powerful for the team. Maybe Thena made Sersi this version of her costume as revenge for Thena having to wear an actual playboy bunny costume at Sersi's fancy dress party? (that issue is great, I love the scene of Hercules trying to chat Thena up.)
Posted by: Jonathan | April 30, 2015 2:45 PM
I love Nebula; between this arc and her introduction in Stern's run she really got a strong start as a great new female villain, which comics need more of. Femme fatales are great and certainly have their place for stories, but we should have some really strong, tough female villains that are capable of going toe to toe with the heroes as well.
Its a shame that Jim Starlin bringing Thanos back undermined Nebula so badly. Although her being the granddaughter of Thanos gave her a strong legacy that added to her sense of menace and importance, I don't think she ever truly NEEDED that connection to be a serious threat. The Stern and Byrne portrayals of Nebula would really work just as well with her simply being a new intergalactic warlord bent on destruction or conquest. But after Thanos came back and overthrew Nebula she never really regained this level of power again, which I think is a shame. Hopefully her inclusion in the GOTG movie will help her a bit. It has already prompted a few writers to rescue her from limbo and start using her again.
Posted by: Dermie | April 30, 2015 11:07 PM
I'm intrigued that Henry Pym would not suggest the M'Kraan Crystal was causing the universe to blink out of existence, when he reacted to it in Uncanny X-Men #108!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 1, 2015 3:59 AM
You don't have Starfox tagged.
Posted by: Thanos6 | June 20, 2015 7:44 AM
Posted by: fnord12 | June 20, 2015 10:59 AM
@micheal- carrying a giant load of metal over a city and schoolyard with no precautions in case you drop it (and there isn't a slinger of webs around to save them from you dropping it) is the very definition of irresponsibility. I likes me some Thor, but I doubt he got the proper paperwork for transporting rubble in that manner.
Its the same reason I don't transport my bowling ball over my daughter's cot. No matter how confidant you are in your own strength, you never know what might happen.
Posted by: kveto | June 26, 2015 6:18 AM
Dermie, Starlin allowed her in her weakened state to seize the infinity gauntlet from godlike Thanos and become a God herself (very similar to what happened when Doom was losing to Beyonder). How many characters can boast of that?
Posted by: Grom | August 14, 2015 9:28 AM
Given that Byrne has noted on his online forum that he intended to use ISAAC to help restore the Vision's personality, I wonder if this storyline -- besides wrapping up the Starfox/Nebula plot thread from Roger Stern's Avengers run -- was also intended to have the Vision and Starfox meet up again, to serve as a catalyst for restoring the Vision back to his pre-Avengers#233-238 personality.
I can imagine that once Starfox had an opportunity to thoroughly interact with the Vision, he would have learned how the Vision had been dismantled, and then Starfox would have the necessary access to ISAAC to help reclaim the Vision's orinigal personality.
That means at the same time that Wanda's storyline would have been resolved in Avengers West Coast Byrne could have done the same for the Vision in Avengers. What a difference a few more issues written by Byrne might have made.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 23, 2015 2:10 AM
@Aaron- where did Byrne say that?
Posted by: Michael | August 23, 2015 8:53 AM
Michael, I've seen the issue be mentioned on several places on his forum. One such place is at this link. My apologies for not including it in my previous post. I thought a similar link was posted elsewhere on SuperMegaMonkey, because it was the conversations here about Byrne's plans and a link to his forum that encouraged Meg to search his forum.
Not much in the way of details from his post, though. Just the note that the process for fixing the Vision involved ISAAC and the implicit acknowledgement that a copy of the Vision's personality was stored with ISAAC.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 23, 2015 10:32 AM
Meg = me
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 23, 2015 10:39 AM
From the start I thought this would be like when Spider-Man was in a couple of issues early in Stern's run - a tease, but no more.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 6, 2015 9:26 AM
As a Quasar devotee, I find his not participating in this story to be a bit frustrating. It seems whenever there's stories that seem as if they could benefit from Quasar, he gets ignored or sidelined fast (this, the Negative Zone one, Infinity Gauntlet).
Posted by: AF | April 19, 2016 4:00 PM
Quasar seems to be classic case of a character whose creator really pushed him, but one that other writers found both too powerful and too bland and so quickly sidelined or wrote out.
It's ironic, considering how Gruenwald and the writers in his editorial stable treated Roger Stern's character Monica Rambeau. (Now I'm imagining an alternate universe where Gruenwald launches Captain Marvel starring Monica Rambeau, has her become Eon's agent like the previous Captain Marvel, and so on.)
Posted by: Omar Karindu | April 20, 2016 6:02 AM
I don't know why everyone is so insistent on seeing it as an either/or option between Quasar and Monica.
I actually wrote a whole rant about it but let's talk it over to the forum...
Posted by: AF | April 20, 2016 6:36 AM
Wow. Cap absolutely climaxes over Spider-Man saving their lives, celebrating his courage and praising his manhood. But just moments earlier Sersi had also single-handedly saved all their lives, and Cap not only offers no gratitude or praise, but actually *snaps at her* and orders her (over her own objections!) to continue using her powers to the point where she passes out (which is exactly what she was trying to warn him about, before he interrupts and ignores her). Man, I know we're all supposed to worship John Byrne but.... ugh.
Posted by: Lyde1848 | April 24, 2018 5:47 PM
Comments are now closed.
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