Avengers annual #1
Issue(s): Avengers annual #1
You know the good guys are going to be at a disadvantage because the Scarlet Witch is apparently too tired to stand up straight for the opening splash panel.
There are a lot of characters in this issue, with Iron Man and Thor appearing in addition to the entire regular team. So i guess it's excusable that this issue follows the Golden Age format of splitting the team into smaller groups and sending them around the world to face off against similar units of the Mandarin's bad guys.
In addition to the super-villains, the Mandarin commands a large army, making his world takeover attempt here extra credible.
Enchantress and Executioner also seem to have supplied an army of trolls.
There's also something to do with collecting diamonds but it wasn't all that clear and i'm not too interested.
The coolest part of the annual is when the Executioner finds himself facing Hercules, and he decides to disobey orders so the two immortals can fight properly. The Mandarin starts yelling at the Executioner, so the Asgardian just hands in his notice and tosses away the communicator.
He then teleports himself, Hercules, and their companions Enchantress and Scarlet Wtich to a dimension designed just for fighting. Wanda wonders where they have been transported to, but Hercules says "'Tis of little consequence" and gets down to fighting. Awesome, fun stuff, about the best you could ask for of the first meeting between these two fighting Gods.
Of course that leaves poor Scarlet Witch facing off against the Enchantress, and while "the sorceress does not understand mortal science", which is how Wanda characterizes her powers, the Enchantress' magic has the edge...
...so it's lucky that Hercules ultimately is able to defeat Executioner and help her out.
Hercules is depicted as possibly having feelings for the Scarlet Witch. And the Enchantress is apparently in love with Hercules. I'm putting it all down to fleeting godly lust.
Coming up a close second in the awesome-sauce department is the return of Ultimo, in a battle with Thor.
All i'll say is that Ultimo needs to stop standing so close to volcanoes.
On the question of whether the Mandarin built or found Ultimo, he says here of the revitalized robot, "How fortunate that day when I did find his mammoth form -- and study ways to make it more powerful than before!". That's slightly ambiguous but i think it just refers to the Mandarin re-finding his lost robot and beefing it up. However, it is possibly the foundation for the revelation that Mandarin did not built Ultimo but only discovered it.
While it has those two really cool moments, this annual has its weak points as well. The art by Don Heck is stiff (although i almost feel like he's deliberately drawing in Kirby style in the scenes with Executioner and the trolls, and just a bit like Colan in the scenes with Ultimo) and there are plenty of "Roy Thomas moments" as well, like when Quicksilver is fighting the Mandarin and, after getting nearly blasted by a freeze ray, thinks to himself, "Now I recall hearing that each of his rings is a mighty weapon!". Oh, now you recall hearing that? Maybe everyone should have read a briefing on the guy before going into battle with him, instead of just relying on things they may or may not have heard?
Similarly, at the end, the Mandarin has the Avengers fighting each other thanks to a hate-ray. But the Wasp attacks the Mandarin, shutting down the ray. "Aha!", i think to myself. A great way to make use of a shrinking character, by having her overlooked by the Mandarin and his ray. And how nice to see the underutilized Janet be the one who saves the day." But no, it turns out that it was complete random chance. The Wasp was affected by the ray, but she was closest to the Mandarin so he's the one she attacked.
Oh well. Still a fun super-romp.
When Iron Man first arrives at Avengers Mansion, he's attacked by Hercules, who assumes he is an intruder. Police outside hear the sounds of the battle, but are unable to investigate, because the Mansion is "off limits -- like the U.N. and the Baxter Building!".
SHIELD is unable to help the Avengers because, according to Nick Fury, "SHIELD's an American combo - not a blamed international police force!". A lot of what we've seen to date seems to contradict that, but that's the story here.
This issue does a lot to solidify Captain America's leadership role. Cap is considered the leader of this larger group of Avengers because he "was a member of both the original Avengers -- and of today's group". A little later, Iron Man thinks, "Cap's handing out team assignments -- and mapping strategy -- like he was born for it. Sometimes I think he's the mightiest Avenger of us all!". This was sort of implied as early as the Kooky Quartet days but saying it here outright is an important part of Cap's development into the default team leader. That said, maybe in the future he could work harder at making sure that the Avengers read up on the villains they're about to go face.
The beginning of this issue has Tony Stark delivering a new prison riot suppression device called a stun-ulator to the prison that the Living Laser is coincidentally being freed from.
Among the bonus pin-ups is a cutaway of the Avengers Mansion.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place while the Black Widow is in the hospital, between Avengers #44-45. Looking at the characters with solo books, the MCP places this between Tales of Suspense #94-95 for Cap, between Tales of Suspense #91-92 for Iron Man, and between Thor #141-142. However, a footnote in Avengers #45 implies that Thor will soon be involved in the story that runs from Thor #143-145 so i prefer to have Thor #142 (a standalone issue) take place earlier, so i have this between Thor #142-143.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
This annual would be a lot better if someone else had drawn it.
Posted by: Steven Printz | August 4, 2013 3:09 PM
There's actually a bit of Kirby art on the next to last page of the story. You'll see a panel that has the Kooky Quartet drawing from the cover of Avengers #25 (a paste-up job, I assume). Wonder what the original Heck panel looked like.
Posted by: Shar | August 6, 2013 10:51 PM
To have this back-to-back with the Daredevil Annual just shows how pathetic the Daredevil villains are. This is so much a better group.
Fnord - on a side note, have you ever considered doing tags for various villain groups? Or is it too much of a hassle, especially deciding if it's really a named group, and if various versions of the same named group (Masters of Evil, say) should be tagged the same.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 20, 2015 6:47 AM
I've thought about adding alternate types of tags, although i hadn't considered villain teams, which is a good idea. I was thinking having a separate type of tag for artifacts like the Infinity Gems and the Wand of Watoomb and stuff like that. But i don't want to just mix it in with the Characters, and there's currently no easy way to set up a different category of tags, so it would have to be something that's only available in the Advanced Search, same is if you were searching for Writers or Artists. Something to think about for one day, but since it would be kind of clunky it's probably not worth the effort. One day i imagine i'll have to do a rehaul of the system and it'll be something to think about for then.
In the meantime i imagine a plain text search would probably work pretty well.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 20, 2015 9:35 AM
Was that an asbestos loincloth on Ultimo? Mmmm Ultimo, imagine him teaming up with Modok: UltiModok!
Posted by: PeterA | July 15, 2015 1:06 PM
Don Heck just makes everything less fun. Imagine this story done with halfway passable art.
Posted by: kveto | August 7, 2015 5:16 PM
Regardless of Heck's drawing, this book is an Iconic nugget in the Comic world, offering readers all original stories and an All A-Lister Cast! Sure John Buscema artwork would have solidified this as an Annual Masterpiece, but it still gets a sacred seat in the Comic ring of honor.
Posted by: RocknRollguitarplayer | June 9, 2016 12:57 AM
I loved this one because except for the Hulk and Wonderman everyone who been a member was present. That doesn't actually happen often. Roy was a huge JSA fan so I'm not surprised that he used something similar to their format for this story.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 12, 2016 9:13 PM
Just read this one again. Its such a great opportunity for a classic. We have the Mandarin, who Ive always thought should be taking on teams of heroes. A golden age "split the heroes" mission scenario. Some great match-ups of heroes that dont usually fight each other: Hercules vs Executioner, Scarlet witch vs Enchantress, Thor vs Ultimo, etc. Such a missed opportunity. Darn you to Heck, Don.
Posted by: kveto | February 16, 2018 3:38 PM
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