Issue(s): Avengers #343, Avengers #344
Marilla's question, "Who else has looked after royal younglings...", has at least two answers: Maya (first seen in Fantastic Four #306, and possibly Iridia, who per Vision and the Scarlet Witch #10 (possibly) and X-Factor annual #2 may have also served as an occasional nanny.
Maya had the ability to manipulate the environment, which allowed Luna to reside on Earth despite the pollution that affects Inhumans. There's no mention of a solution for that problem in these issues.
Marilla seems to be here for comedic purposes. I just find her annoying.
When Vision sees Luna, he briefly has a hallucination thinking that he's looking at his two twins that were lost in John Byrne's West Coast Avengers run. Crystal is also very upset to see the current state of the Vision. The Vision says that what the government did to him was logical, but i thought it was interesting that he attributed his world takeover plans to ISAAC, with him just participating.
That's not really how things went down. ISAAC gave him the idea and acted as an adviser, but it was the Vision's plan. Is the Vision doing a little unconscious blame shifting, or is this a subtle retcon?
Another development is for the Black Knight, who has replaced his ebony blade with a lightsaber.
The way it's introduced (this is just a training session) is a little annoying. The Knight doesn't say why he's replacing his magical sword for this one, and since this book is light on footnotes (e.g. none of the Vision's history - the children, his dismantling, his world take over - are footnoted), i had to stop and wonder if i had forgotten that the Knight lost his sword or gave up using it or something. But that's not the case, and there's little explanation as to why the Knight has gotten rid of his old sword or where this one came from. It's worth noting that while the Swordsman (foreshadowing!) is an expert, er, swordsman, the Black Knight is probably more worthwhile because of his unique, unbreakable, cuts-through-anything magic sword than for his skill with it. I'm not saying he's a bad swordfighter. But, similar to my feelings about Hawkeye, you really shouldn't be an Avenger just because you're good with a sword. I assume more about the sword situation will eventually unfold, but you'd think right now another Avenger would ask, "...oh, you're not using your magic sword anymore? Why not...?".
We do get this, which implies that the Black Knight is, understandably, trying to avoid the contradiction of using a lethal bladed weapon while not fighting to kill (which is ironic, considering what's coming up in Operation Galactic Storm).
And i do love Cap's "I guess" reaction.
In what seems to be a reaction to complaints on the letter page, Captain America, in a private conversation with the Black Widow, brings up the fact that the Avengers' membership has been in constant rotation lately (Sandman and Rage are mentioned), and says "Being an Avenger used to mean something!", which i think might be a direct quote from one of the letters of complaint (and it's a perennial complaint continuing to this day). Cap continues by saying that the Avengers have "become an ill-defined group of strangers" but apologizes for sounding "elitist". Bob Harras does seem to be establishing a steady team, without explicitly dropping the rotating membership idea that was introduced in John Byrne's short run.
Captain America is the leader of the team, and Black Widow is the deputy leader. But neither of them are around when the Avengers get a distress call from (seemingly) the Human Torch. All of the Avengers currently in the mansion respond to the call.
But they are ambushed by (a) Swordsman along the way. Beyond him is someone that at first glance might be mistaken for the Swordsman's one time partner, Mantis.
His initial attack doesn't last very long, and he's soon collapsing, all while blaming the Avengers for things that seemed resolved by the time of "his" death..
His partner, named Magdalene (like Mary Magdalene, a famous prostitute like Mantis, or am i reading to much into that?) defends him.
And we do get our sword fight.
Sersi is going to be a member of the current team. Cap mentioned her earlier with Sandman and Rage as a member that didn't seem to be working out, but she does return to the mansion while the others are fighting Swordsman and Magdalene. However, something she sees in the mirror prevents her from going to join them.
Look, we all get pimples. It's not that big a deal. We shouldn't let it prevent us from going out.
Eventually Magdalene teleports away with Swordsman, returning to someone named Proctor.
The solar activity that Proctor is referring to is related to the upcoming Operation: Galactic Storm event.
Note that Talia Kruma, formerly a Stark employee that worked with Bill Foster's west coast division, has joined Peter Corbeau's Starcore One crew.
Not a bad start for Bob Harras. There are a few things that i don't like off the bat, like Marilla, and i'm not a big fan of the Swordsman so the mystery of him appearing here isn't all that interesting to me. There are also some minor continuity nitpicks that shouldn't bother me, but nonetheless do, like Marilla claiming she's been the only nanny to the Inhuman Royal Family, or Thor (Eric Masterson) saying that this is his first mission with the Avengers (which ignores Infinity Gauntlet and several team-ups in other books). But i think Harras is right to refocus the Avengers to a core team, and he is doing a good job building subplots and making distinctions in people's personalities. I like his use of Crystal here; she's as powerful as she ought to be, and i think her connection to the lost life of the Vision is interesting. The Steve Epting / Tom Palmer pairing continues to work. So it's a good start. With Galactic Storm coming up, things are... not put on hold, exactly, since that is clearly an Avengers storyline, but it will mean that we'll have to wait a bit before seeing what Harras will do with his regular issues, when there is more time for subplots and character development. Harras doesn't have the goodwill from fans that previous runs on this title have had, but it will be good to just have some stability after the multiple truncated creative teams going all the way back to Roger Stern.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Crystal has a video conversation with Quicksilver. Quicksilver says that X-Factor is extremely busy lately.
This is worth noting since all of the new X-Factor issues take place in relatively quick succession up to their tie-in with the Hulk's War and Pieces storyline, which will take place concurrently or after Operation Galactic Storm, which begins after this arc (in fact some of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard should be considered behind-the-scenes in this arc; the MCP lists Oracle specifically). Operation: Galactic Storm begins in Captain America #398 prior to next issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBlack Knight (Dane Whitman), Black Widow, Captain America, Crystal, Hercules, Jarvis, Lockjaw, Luna, Magdalene, Marilla, Mikhail Kutuzov, Peter Corbeau, Proctor, Quicksilver, Sersi, Swordsman (Gatherers), Talia Kruma, Thunderstrike, Uatu the Watcher, Valinor, Vision
"like Marilla claiming she's been the only nanny to the Inhuman Royal Family"
"or Thor (Eric Masterson) saying that this is his first mission with the Avengers (which ignores Infinity Gauntlet and several team-ups in other books)."
Posted by: clyde | January 20, 2016 1:20 PM
I don't care for the new Swordsman, Magdalene, or Marilla. I liked Sersi up to this point, but I think Bob Harras ruined the character in these issues.
Posted by: Steven | January 20, 2016 1:54 PM
Well, from what I remember, isn't Thor one of the few people still by Warlock's side at the very end of Infinity Gauntlet (him, Strange and Surfer). Every time the resets happened, Thor either was exempt or re-entered the fray afterwards.
And anyway, there's that whole Enchantress/Hercules/Quasar adventure and when Captain America called him to help investigate Red Skull's house. So, there's plenty of times he was acting as an Avenger prior.
Posted by: AF | January 20, 2016 1:58 PM
I suppose you could write it off as Eric being his typical buffoonish self.
Posted by: AF | January 20, 2016 2:04 PM
The confusion over who actually remembers Infinity Gauntlet is nothing compared to how Byzantine the plotting will get in Marvel's major books by the end of the decade, and we're still in early '92!
Posted by: Red Comet | January 20, 2016 3:24 PM
Dear God, did the whole Proctor thing REALLY start THIS early? I could have sworn it came much later in the 90s...
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 20, 2016 4:02 PM
Posted by: clyde | January 20, 2016 4:14 PM
Echoing Thanos6 here, but I was also surprised to see the Gatherers saga start this early. It doesn't wrap up until... 1995ish, does it?
Posted by: Berend | January 20, 2016 5:06 PM
@Berend- it wraps up in May of 1994.
Posted by: Michael | January 20, 2016 8:46 PM
Considering that Dane had somewhat recently been locked into his body due to the Ebony Sword's curse, it never struck me odd or sudden that he switched to not using the thing anymore.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | January 21, 2016 12:11 AM
@Erik Robbins -- exactly. Although a footnote about the Ebony Blade's curse would probably have been a good idea, I just assumed that it was meant to be self-explanatory that Dane switched weapons due to the dangers of the Ebony Blade and its curse.
Posted by: Dermie | January 21, 2016 12:16 AM
Posted by: Berend | January 21, 2016 3:32 AM
@Erik & Dermie, but remember they devoted an entire miniseries (and a follow-up in Avengers Spotlight) resolving the problem with the curse.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 21, 2016 6:59 AM
"The Steve Epting / Tom Palmer pairing continues to work" , but mr Palmer is a kind of Dracula for every penciller under his ink.
Posted by: CREPASCOLO | January 21, 2016 8:08 AM
Why the hate for the Proctor storyline? Personally, I think it was a good story.
BTW. Fnord, Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute... That's a common misconception. Although, of course, Harras might have been sharing it, so that might still be the right explanation for Magdalene.
Anyway, I wouldn't really confuse Magdalene for Mantis. If anything, she looks like Big Barda :)
Posted by: Piotr W | January 21, 2016 3:08 PM
@Fnord, its true, they did--but if I were Dane I'd still not want to risk it. That resolution seems to have mainly just solved the problem of Dane being a metal statue. As we'll see in later issues, the Blood Curse is still active (in fact, I think the Annuals that introduces Blood Wraith does explicitly state that the curse was the reason Dane switched swords).
@Piotr, I agree--I thought the Proctor storyline was a highlight of this era of the Avengers. Its true that Harras took the team in a different direction than is traditional with the Avengers (trying to duplicate some elements of what was popular in the X-books), but he still gave the book the most stability and strongest sense of direction it had since Stern left.
I think his choice of roster was great too--with Black Knight, Crystal, Hercules, Sersi, Vision and Black Widow he had interesting characters who weren't tied to solo books, so he had free reign with their storylines, and it made for a stronger book, imo. The only downside was that since he devoted so much time to building up Black Knight he let Black Widow slide to the sidelines for too long.
Posted by: Dermie | January 21, 2016 6:39 PM
I agree the Proctor story was good...at the end, when things were HAPPENING. Like many 90s stories/subplots, it went on too long.
Posted by: Thanos6 | January 21, 2016 8:06 PM
Marvel editorial, like Marvel's readers, must have overlooked Roy Thomas's Black Knight mini completely. The ebony blade is definitely still cursed throughout Harras's run and into the Busiek years, as I recall, and I don't think Thomas's fix is ever mentioned again, even to be explained away.
The Gatherers story turns out to be Harras's riff on Dark Phoenix, although it may also have been inspired in part by a desire to give Vision his old colors back without just having him change clothes. Harras's run has its flaws, but this is the first story since Simonson's Nebula arc that has a proper "Avengers epic" feel for me. And I give Harras credit for using a new fillain rather than just giving us another Kang or Ultron story. This is a poor run compared to Stern, but it's a good one compared to Simonson, Byrne, and Hama--which is a funny thing to say given the obvious talent of the latter three, but it's the case.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 23, 2016 4:45 AM
The names Proctor and Magdalene don't seem to have any in-story meaning--Magdalene's name may reference Mary Magdalene but no parallels seem to be drawn. And is "Proctor" overseeing a test if the Avengers? It's a lousy name for a villain.
Magdalene's appearance is based on DC's Big Barda, though.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 23, 2016 4:53 AM
I do think the Magdalene/Mantis parallel was intended, even though Magdalene wasn't intended to be an alternate Mantis. Harras just wanted to have the Swordsman's lover share some similarities to the 616 version.
Also, am I alone in thinking that Harras intended for Magdalene to be an alternate Sersi at this point? I believe in her next appearance we find that's not the case (and obviously given the Gatherers' ultimate origin, having an alternate Sersi on the team would be problematic). But here, Proctor's ambivalence about the Swordsman's condition and his taunt towards Magdalene about "old loves" really suggests that he's projecting his experience with his own version of Sersi onto Magdalene (even though that relationship is something we don't learn about for a while). I'm not sure that taunt toward Magdalene makes much sense when she's revealed to not be an alternate of the woman Proctor loved.
I feel like the interruption of Galactic Storm may have caused Harras to modify his plans for the Gatherers and caused him to realize that the team as he now envisioned it wouldn't tolerate an alternate Sersi in their midst... and in fact, an alternate Sersi wouldn't have the same motivation that the rest of the team shared, unless he was thinking of pursuing a "redemption" angle with her, which would tie back to her name.
Posted by: Dan H. | January 23, 2016 4:38 PM
Honestly, I had never thought of the Mantis/Magdalene parallel.
But, sorta related, it's later revealed that on Swordsman's reality, Moondragon become the Celestial Madonna/Mantis and he loved her.
Posted by: AF | January 23, 2016 4:57 PM
The first step in Harras's restoration of the true Vision is when he's clearly pissssssed about somebody impersonating the Swordsman, which is ironic considering how far they were from being buds.
But, of course, it can't be Jacques! No mustache! (Did they ever explain why Phillippe and Jacques look identical, aside from that, thought?)
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 26, 2016 7:05 AM
Magdalene's could also refer to the Magdalene Asylums, a repressive religious (primarily Catholic) institution that served as a workhouse for "fallen" women, not all of whom were prostitutes. Indeed, some were just considered "unruly" by their families or were women who'd had premarital sex or illegitimate children. Magdalene is bound to Proctor's service much as Magdalene inmates were bound to service.
However, Harras wouldn't have been aware of the gross abuses at the Irish Magdalen Laundries, as these did not come to global attention until the discovery of a mass grave at one of the laundries in 1993, spawning a series of investigations that finally led to a major state compensation package and apology in 2013.
More likely, though, it's standard 1990s pseudo-religious non-symbolism to denote a character who's something of a zealot, like Exodus, the Acolytes, and Bishop from X-Men or Lord Moses and Zarathustra later on in Fantastic Force.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 10, 2018 6:49 AM
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