The Small Lebowski:
Issue(s): Avengers #54, Avengers #55
The Masters of Evil have been reformed, lead by the mysterious Crimson Cowl.
The Cowl got the Melter and Radioactive Man out of prison. They seem to be more interested in fighting Thor and Iron Man, who aren't currently members of the Avengers, but they're willing to take on the current group first. Whirlwind has joined for reasons of his own (he's obsessed with the Wasp), and Klaw signed up to take on the Black Panther.
Additionally, Dane Whitman, the second Black Knight, has been accidentally included, since the Cowl doesn't know that he's not the original (and Dane doesn't even bother to wear his uncle's version of the helmet to keep up appearances).
Jarvis, who has been having problems with his mother's medical bills, tries to sell the Avengers Mansion security plans to the Masters (he says at the end that he did it thinking that the Avengers would be able to handle them, but there's also some hypnotism involved so we can blame it on that as well), but they double cross him and knock him out. The Black Knight tries to warn the Avengers but the Masters figure him out in time and stop him. They don't, you know, kill him or tie him up or anything, though, leaving him free to come to the rescue later. They do melt his sword, however, although he still clearly prefers using a tricked-up lance at this point anyway.
They then attack the Avengers and do a pretty damn good job of beating them, although considering the current roster that's not too hard.
The Cowl is revealed to be Jarvis (YeahbuhWHAT?)...
...and then, somewhat more sensibly, a mean looking robot calling himself Ultron-5, the Living Automation.
The whole Jarvis thing seems to have just been a way to have a 'good' cliffhanger at the end of issue #54; i guess having your mystery villain revealed as a previously unknown robot wasn't deemed intriguing enough, but the whole Jarvis/Ultron switcharoo reads very awkwardly.
At one point Klaw has the Wasp (who has been wearing the weirdest mod miniskirt and boots outfit) in a little test tube, and he considers out loud that maybe he'll hang on to her for his amusement.
You'd think this would be a good time to get some kind of reaction from Whirlwind considering he's supposed to be obsessed with her, but no.
Jarvis manages to escape and runs into the Black Knight...
...who rescues the Avengers...
...before doing the "Lone Ranger bit" and leaving without giving the Avengers a chance to thank him.
The Avengers also don't seem to remember that the Black Knight told them that he isn't the original Black Knight, but this is kind of a dumb group (Panther excepted, and he wasn't there at the Knight's debut).
Ultron is left at-large.
The trade reprint has two pages in the wrong place. That seems to happen fairly often in trades.
There are some clever things (the Black Knight accidentally being invited to join the Masters of Evil) and some bizarre things (the whole Jarvis thing), but overall it is enjoyable in a wacky sort of way.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Greatest Battles of the Avengers TPB
Inbound References (10): show
With the 2nd issue, George Klein starts his late Silver Age run at Marvel. For most of the 1960s and late 1950s he was the main inker on Superman. DC had some kind of artist purge on the Superman titles where they got rid of everyone who had a style that was deemed outdated, which could explain why Klein shows up at Marvel for the first time since 1961.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 6, 2011 8:55 PM
The characterization here is pretty poor among the super-villains. All of them read pretty interchangably. I have kind of a soft spot for the Radioactive Man, but you'd never know that he was a Communist Chinese super-scientist.
I'm probably unfair to Roy Thomas, but this whole thing reads like he's got to fill pages every month, hitting the obligatory plot beats.
Posted by: James N. | August 26, 2011 11:32 AM
Roy based the initial version of Ultron on Makino, a robot villain in a 1951 edition of Captain Video.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 16, 2013 6:39 PM
You know it would have been hilarious if they just kept the "Jarvis was the leader" bit in this story. Yeah that would mean no Ultron but seriously, having "the butler did it" in comic book form would have been fun.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 6, 2013 11:24 AM
Ironically in the Ultimate universe, Ultron would be repurposed into a butler before he turned villainous.
Posted by: Max_Spider | November 9, 2013 10:14 PM
Really great art here.
I love that Crimson Cowl simply sends the Black Knight a letter to invite him into the Masters of Evil. That new Masters of Evil is interesting - at least it has some holdovers from the original. But unlike say, The Lethal Legion, which always seemed to have the Grim Reaper, the Masters come around a lot with a lot of leaders.
It was always fascinating that Ultron debuted as Ultron-5. He's a home run right off the bat and is probably the definitive Avengers villain.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 24, 2015 8:50 AM
In the Black Knight's first appearance he called his horse Pegasus. For this appearance, Roy Thomas decided that was too obvious, so he picked a name at random out of Tolkien.
Posted by: Andrew | February 8, 2015 1:46 PM
The TPB reprint in Greatest Battles has the pages int he right order. The problem is that they left in a caption added in the 12970s reprint that was meant to cover for the pages that were cut out to keep the reprint inside the 17-page limit.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | February 7, 2016 4:46 PM
I first I felt it weird that neither the Melter nor the Radioactive Man realize that Dane Whitman is not the original Black Knight, but I guess they may have never saw Nathan Garrett out of his costume, Garrett's helmet might muffle any vocal differences, and they also might not even care if he is a different guy.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | March 3, 2016 1:44 PM
if John Buscema is the artist, the plots are almost just along for the ride. The amount of electron power coursing through the bodies of both hero and foe alike fills each turned page with the anticipation of potential nuclear explosion...
Posted by: rocknrollguitarplayer | July 26, 2016 12:39 AM
In the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon, Pym says he designed Ultron's face to resemble that of an ant. It's a bit of a stretch, but it's the best explanation I've heard yet of why he would give his robot such a creepy look. Also, it nicely expresses Pym's detachment from normal human emotion. In the EMH universe, he's a radical pacifist, not a borderline schizophrenic.
Posted by: Andrew | October 9, 2016 7:26 AM
No such explanation is needed in the comics, since the original-model Ultron we see in Avengers #58 isn't even humanoid; it looks more like a cylinder on wheels with a very loose approximation of a face. The scary-faced Ultron is Ultron's design after it starts hating all humans and begins remodeling itself.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 9, 2016 9:30 AM
Was #54 where Aragorn was first named?
I looked up "Aragorn" and "Valinor" at Wikipedia. Apparently both names come from Tolkien's works.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 29, 2017 8:54 PM
I wonder if Karl Lykos would appreciate them?
Posted by: Mortificator | January 29, 2017 10:18 PM
MikeCheyene: You're probably right. Radioactive Man probably never saw BK out of costume back in Avengers 6, and Avengers 15 actually showed BK and the Melter were locked up together, but while still wearing their costumes, which seems really weird for the prison officials to allow. And of course, by issue 54, BK has a different costume, but so does the Melter, so he probably didn't realize it was a different guy (or as you said, he didn't care).
And of course, no one noticed the cowled dude was a robot until he unmasked himself, so I guess in the Marvel Universe, costumed criminals tend to mind their own business.
Posted by: mikrolik | February 3, 2017 9:00 PM
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