Characters Appearing: Araki, Bill Foster, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Black Widow, Captain America, Collector, Crystal, Deathcry, Dylon Cir, Galen Kor, Henry Pym, Hercules, Jarvis, Kona Lor, Lilandra, Luna, Magdalene, Marilla, Proctor, Sersi, Sloth, Swordsman, Tabula Rasa, Talla Ron, Uatu the Watcher, Ute, Vision, Vision (Gatherers)
Issue(s): Avengers #362, Avengers #363, Avengers #364, Avengers #365, Avengers #366
Arkon aside, it seems like Bob Harras has forgotten that the Avengers have any villains to fight. So we just get endless reiterations of the Gatherers, the Kree, and the Collector. And this arc has all three! Maybe the problem is that Mark Gruenwald is using like every other villain as background characters in his Captain America runs, but that hasn't stopped anyone else from using them.
The truth of course is that Harras is trying to do a more long term type of plotting on this book, i suspect borrowing from what he saw as a successful aspect of Claremont's X-Men. And i guess that i should be happy that, unlike Claremont, Harras is doing it in a way that doesn't leave years between plot iterations. The problem is it just feels like nothing is going on in the book, especially since each encounter (especially with the Gatherers) ends inconclusively. Well that and the fact that the villains are boring. Some of them, like Sloth, have fun designs, but EVERYONE in this book is overly angsty and serious. Harras' idea of characterization is to have people angrily shout at each other. This is a book with Hercules and Sersi in it, so it should be tons of fun. But instead it's depressing. I walk away from every issue wondering if life is really worth living.
The Avengers discover that the Vision that is with them is a creepy rapey alternate universe version...
...so Sersi flash-freezes him, and now that they have a "hostage" they can go after the Gatherers.
I noted last arc that Captain America seemed to be a bit sanctimonious when he returned, and it seems like maybe Harras is deliberately scripting him that way so that we won't like him, allowing him to serve as a stuffy old-schooler in contrast to the modern "the times have changed and we changed with them" grim Avengers.
The team does seem to becoming more and more like X-Force.
"Kinda corny, but we're stuck with it".
The Avengers rescue the Vision and fight the Gatherers.
Meanwhile, Henry Pym and Bill Foster have been called in to help the alternate universe Swordsman, who was injured by the alternate Vision before he was discovered. Sersi says that she knows that they're also here to see if she's insane or not. Pym says that he's been through some "difficult" times himself. Then the police show up as part of their investigation into the murders that Sersi seems to have committed. We later see the detectives turned to stone at the bottom of the river.
Seemingly parallel to that, the Black Knight suddenly goes crazy and attacks Cap.
The Black Widow zaps the Black Knight, knocking him out. The Avengers then stop and listen to Proctor, who tells them about what a danger Sersi is. He shows them Ute, a Watcher, the sole survivor of his timeline after his Sersi destroyed it.
"Our" Watcher shows up to observe events. Any further discussion is ended when Hercules brings up the fact that Proctor sent the alternate Vision to kill the Swordsman, which turns Magdalene against Proctor. In the resulting chaos, Proctor forces Black Knight to stab him. But both Proctor and Uatu say that it's not over.
The Gatherers' base in the Andes explodes, leaving the Avengers and Magdalene stranded.
As for the Kree threat, Lilandra, learns that some renegade Kree are seeking vengeance against the Avengers for killing the Supreme Intelligence. Against Araki's advice, Lilandra sends Deathcry, an agent of her sister, Deathbird, to help them. She arrives while the Avengers are stuck in the Andes.
I am now going to list what i see to be the differences between Deathbird and Deathcry:
The Avengers don't even get to debate whether or not to trust her when they are attacked by some Kree Sentries.
Remember when just one Sentry was almost more than the Fantastic Four could handle?
Meanwhile, some Kree show up in upstate New York and murder some hunters.
The leader is Galen Kor, who we've seen before. He contacts the Avengers and tells them that he's going to blow up Earth with a Nega-Bomb.
Meanwhile, the soapy romances continue. The Black Knight has to use his bond with Sersi to calm her rages, and Crystal tells Vision that she feels like she's repeating her past mistakes. We've seen hints that the Vision has a thing for Crystal, and now we add Deathcry to the mix.
What have we got here at this point? More than a triangle. A love pentagon?
The Avengers trace the Kree message, but the team sent after them, including Hercules, get defeated by the Kree soldiers. The Vision escapes and returns to Avengers Mansion and the rest of the Avengers head there, bolstered by Henry Pym, who goes back to his Giant Man persona.
Despite the Vision being in that panel, it's said that he's in no shape for battle and he stays behind to coordinate.
The Avengers attack.
And the captive group escapes.
The Epting/Palmer art continues to be a highlight, and having Pym back as Giant Man allows for a nice visual.
It's funny how Hawkeye as Goliath on the West Coast team doesn't have the same impact. I wonder if i would have liked Roy Thomas' writing more if he had Epting and Palmer illustrating his plots.
By this point even Cap agrees that it's time to become more savage and vicious.
The Kree are defeated, but escape. Sersi, with help from the Vision, manages to contain the Nega-Bomb explosion. The bomb still does explode, destroying the island that it was on, which i think was the island where the original Kree sentry from Fantastic Four #64 was found.
In the end we learn that Kor Galen was working with the (boss-form) Collector.
As threatened, issues #363 and #366 have embossed foil covers. Issue #363 has a slightly larger page count (31 pages plus pin-ups) and was $2.95. Issue #366 was $3.95, but it was more than double-sized. A 33 page main story and then a 22 page back-up (by an entirely different creative team and a story unrelated to the main plot in these issues). There's also an apology in issue #366 for it being "late... very late". The lateness is in fact blamed on the self-inflicted decision to do double-sized issues every four issues. So you pay more, and you wait longer, but at least you get an extra story by Glenn Herdling.
Issue #365's story is shortened and padded with pin-ups for the same reason. "We've had two successful double-sized issues... So we're hoping you'll understand why this issue's main feature is only 15 pages long: the deadlines have been killer!". And then of course the next issue was "very late".
There's also a back-up in #364, presumably also due to deadline stress. It's just got Sersi talking to Jarvis about her recent problems.
#366's back-up takes place further ahead in publication time, so i'll cover it in a separate entry.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Black Knight refers to his kiss with Crystal as "last night". Due to Henry Pym's return to being Giant Man in this arc, it should take place after Avengers West Coast annual #8. And that takes place after the return of Tony Stark as Iron Man in Iron Man #290-291.
A note regarding the Shi'ar Chancellor, Araki. The last we saw him for real was in Uncanny X-Men #157, when he was seemingly killed. "He" next "appeared" during Galactic Storm, but it turned out that he was a Skrull. However, no one seemed surprised to see him before he was revealed to be a Skrull, so i guess he was already back from the dead at that point. I bring this up because the MCP tag the Araki appearing here (and in Quasar #54) as the same Skrull that appeared in Galactic Storm, even though that Skrull seemingly died during Galactic Storm and i don't see anything here or in Quasar indicating that he's still a Skrull. It will eventually turn out that Araki has had a series of cloned bodies, so i'm assuming that the real Araki is in a new body here. The MCP actually have separate listings for each clone, but since as i understand it Araki's mind remains the same, i'm keeping just a single tag for him.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Not that I'm a big fan of Deathcry or something, but there's one thing that separates her from Deathbird: she has no wings.
Also, wasn't Deathcry supposed to be Deathbird's daughter?
Posted by: Piotr W | October 5, 2016 4:04 PM
@Piotr W, the identity of Deathcry's mother was, like so much else that appeared in the comic books written or edited by Bob Harras in the 1990s, a mystery that was teased at & left dangling for a long time... and eventually I think people just forgot about it once she was written out of the book.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 5, 2016 4:15 PM
Really? I thought she *was* Deathbird's daughter. That's the implication I got from her introductory scene...
Posted by: Piotr W | October 5, 2016 4:33 PM
It was heavily hinted that Deathcry was the daughter of Deathbird, but no one ever actually came out and confirmed it.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 5, 2016 4:38 PM
I thought the "difference" was that Deathcry=Deathbird+Wolverine/audience interest.
What have we got here at this point? More than a triangle. A love pentagon?
Especially once Quiksilver reenters the mix.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | October 5, 2016 4:41 PM
Yes they did:
Posted by: AF | October 5, 2016 4:43 PM
Not sure if that scene from Chaos War: Dead Avengers really confirms it, since Deathcry's really name is kinda sorta censored in that dialogue, and it only verifies that she is a member of Lilandra's family, not that she's specifically Deathbird's daughter. Maybe Deathcry could be another illegitimate offspring of D'Ken, or her mother could be an as-yet-unrevealed sibling, or a cousin, or something.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 5, 2016 4:50 PM
She says Deathcry is her niece, and they say the name uncensored by the end of the series is Sharra Neramani.
That's not exactly "left dangling".
Posted by: AF | October 5, 2016 4:59 PM
[sorry phrased that poorly, meant to say it has actually eventually basically been resolved - the last round of handbooks even updated Deathbird as her "apparent mother"]
Posted by: af | October 5, 2016 5:04 PM
Numerous reasons were complaining about how easy it was for Hank to become Giant-Man again, when as late as Avengers West Coast 74 Jan said that changing size again could kill Hank. Kurt Busiek eventually explained this in his Avengers run.
Posted by: Michael | October 5, 2016 7:54 PM
It's worth noting that in the Watcher page scan above Proctor refers to our Marvel universe as the "prime" universe, as compared to the more unremarkable 616 designation from Captain Britain. That happens a few more times in this saga, though nothing really comes of it (other than the suggestion that if our Earth is destroyed, all the others will be as well, maybe), and no other writers take it up as far as know. It's too "DC".
Posted by: Andrew | October 5, 2016 8:35 PM
This book was so 90s that even Giant-Man got a whole bunch of pouches on his new costume. I wonder just what Pym kept in them, and if the contents of his pouches grew along with everything else. Maybe he ended up with an enormous bag of trail mix, or a giant-sized deck of playing cards?
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 5, 2016 10:00 PM
Huh, weren't Black Light & White Noise supposed to be twin daughter & son of Deathbird too...?
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | October 5, 2016 10:17 PM
Andrew, I think even after the introduction of the 616 number, most other reality watchers do declare 616 to be the "prime" reality. Maybe the guy that started counting on Earth 1 didn't know he was in an alternate timeline (snark implied ;) )
For some reason, after this adventure that requires the Avengers to wear their funky space armor, Hercules keeps his as his costume until about Onslaught, and Black Knight keeps the boots. I know the real world reason for this artistic choice was "because Cable" but I'm not sure if there was ever an in-story reason stated.
Posted by: Jeff | October 6, 2016 9:47 AM
This may come off feeling like X-Force, but it is better drawn.
Posted by: Steven | October 6, 2016 12:37 PM
I walk away from every issue wondering if life is really worth living.
Yeah, but when you're reading this stuff for the first time as an angsty teen (as I did), man, does it make for some good catharsis. :)
I've been on record as saying that I love this era, but even the first time through, I rolled my eyes pretty hard at Deathcry. I already had something of a grasp of Avengers history at that point, and she just seemed to stick out. I got very irritated further down the line when she started getting plotlines and solo stories while stuff involving good characters was still dangling (now I just dislike those issues cuz they're not very good...).
Also, as much as I love the 90s jackets and am fairly indifferent to Hercules and Black Knight's adoption of armor pieces to their costumes, whatever the heck Cap's metal headband dealy during the Gatherer assault is supposed to be/do is beyond me, and easily the stupidest thing in the book.
Oh, and Giant-Man's new pocket-laden costume is actually less egregious than it seems, given that Pym's last consistent hero ID had him wearing a jumpsuit with a bunch of pockets, from which he'd pull various shrunken down weapons and tools and embiggen for use. So I just assume he's got all that stuff in his new costume's pouches.
Posted by: Austin Gorton | October 10, 2016 10:27 AM
There is a lot of stuff I want to like about these issues. The art is nice, the Avengers are being put in brand new situations instead of repeating old stories, and I even like the team members and how they interact.
But this just doesn't seem like the Avengers. If Harras was more respectful of the team and its members and not trying to go grim n' dark, this would be a lot more palatable. And get rid of those helmets and jackets!
However, my big problem is that Sersi should not be a member of the Avengers. As originally written, she is just way too powerful, and they need to ignore that and power her down so that she doesn't solve every problem by making their foes into pigs. If they had some other character in her role, it would make more sense.
Posted by: Chris | January 28, 2017 1:04 PM
Um...why were the Avengers wearing Liefield-ian head-wraps again?
Posted by: Jon Dubya | January 28, 2017 1:43 PM
Man, if ever there was a series of issues that could be more or less purely described as "Holy 90's!", it'd probably be these.
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | March 2, 2017 4:16 PM
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