Avengers annual #15
Issue(s): Avengers annual #15
We start off in a very lighthearted manner, with a baseball game between the East and West Coast Avengers teams.
Then, one of my favorite lines: the wind up... the pitch... the Blob!
Freedom Force are here to arrest the Avengers, for treason. There is a lot of debate about whether or not Freedom Force are legitimate, but the debate is ended when Hercules throws a truck.
What follows is a really long and fun battle. Steve Ditko isn't one for big flashy splash panels, so we get typically more than 6 panels per page and that provides plenty of room for all combinations of characters engaged in the fight.
Spiral starts by neutralizing Captain Marvel's powers.
The Wasp does her ear-sting trick.
Spiral's powers are a big part of the reason why her much smaller group is able to keep the Avengers on the ropes.
You can see Pyro and Mystique (that's her masquerading as the Wasp below) working to keep her protected.
Destiny's precognitive abilities are also important, and there's the fact that Pyro sets the baseball stadium's stands on fire, endangering the groundskeepers, and saving them occupies some of the Avengers' time.
The Blob's invulnerability seems to have been increased for this fight.
The Black Knight's sword is an effective answer to Spiral's spells, but he is knocked out by Spider-Woman, whose membership on the team of not-quite-reformed villains will be explored in this issue.
Hercules, the strongest member of the Avengers, is also taken out by Spiral, with some help from the Blob.
Iron Man's thermocouplers that used to convert fire to energy seem to have been left out of his newest armor.
Eventually the Avengers are down to just Wonder Man, and the non-powered Henry Pym and Captain Marvel, and Wonder Man is defeated thanks to a tranquilizing blast from Destiny and then knocked out by Spider-Woman.
The Avengers are utterly defeated by Freedom Force, which is pretty incredible. Spiral's magic is of course a big wildcard factor, but the X-Men have fared better against the Freedom Force/Brotherhood even when she's been involved. Another factor is that the Avengers are demoralized since Freedom Force claim to be, and are, working on the orders of the government. Metaphorically speaking, the Avengers, unlike the X-Men, derive their powers from their authority, and they are much less effective when fighting against authority.
The morale factor is made explicit when Mystique says that despite his lack of powers, she considers Captain America one of the most dangerous Avengers, and then realizes that he's not even on the battlefield because he is instead calling the President to confirm that Freedom Force are legit. Cap's leadership might have united the East and West Coast teams and allowed for a more coordinated attack, but he's unable to provide that.
Cap surrenders, and the Avengers are taken to a facility under the Rocky Mountains populated with troops wearing replicas of the armor worn by the Guardsman.
They are confronted by Henry Gyrich, Valerie Cooper, and Raymond Sikorski. Say what you want about Steve Ditko's art, he does overbearing government authorities very well (i never heard the phrase raccoon lodge court, though. Were they all out of kangaroos?).
The treason accusation comes from the fact that Gyrich has been given sworn testimony from an Avenger that the team has conspired against the government on multiple occasions. This includes the time the Vision took over the world's computer systems, which the testimony says was a deliberate conspiracy by multiple Avengers, and other instances. "The worst of the crimes" are not revealed. The Avengers are to be held without counsel while Gyrich waits for corroboration from a second party that he believes will soon come forward. This could be a bluff, hoping that one of the captive Avengers will volunteer additional information. But of course the charges are completely false and none of the Avengers are going to be tempted to squeal, especially after Cap's speech.
It's worth noting that while the government agents are all drawn in a sinister fashion, Valerie Cooper seems less invested in the witch hunt and just wants to make sure the charges are cleared up, and Sikorski is actually actively on the Avengers' side, and even ensures that the team is not unmasked while they are being held.
Even Gyrich is arguably acting on evidence provided by the traitorous Avenger, although he of course is all to happy to believe it. Nonetheless, all three are engaged in highly questionable acts, sending Freedom Force to arrest all the active Avengers instead of just sending subpoenas to the ones that have been implicated (the Vision hasn't even been picked up yet, although Gyrich says they're about to round up all the inactive Avengers as well), and of course imprisoning them indefinitely without access to lawyers.
The Avengers are imprisoned in a new top secret facility for holding super-villains, called the Vault.
Each Avenger is put in a special cell designed to counter-act their abilities.
The Black Knight should be able to magically summon his sword; it may be that he's unsure if he should be trying to break out.
During the fight with the Avengers, the good guys were wondering why the new Spider-Woman was working with the former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and it's a question readers had also surely been asking themselves since her appearances in X-Men and X-Factor. We saw in the fight that she was reluctant to attack the Avengers...
...and after the fight she continues to get chewed out by Mystique.
She eventually decides that she's going to free the Avengers. She intended to do it stealthily, possibly so she could retain her membership in Freedom Force, but things don't work out that way.
All of Spider-Woman's disruptions only have the effect of opening the Wasp's feeding panel, but it's enough to let her escape and free the other Avengers. There's still some debate about whether the Avengers ought to be escaping, but the Wasp convinces Cap to leave due to the fact that the law is being perverted.
The Avengers still have to fight their way past the Guardsmen, but that turns out to not be a problem since Tony Stark designed the armor.
And so this issue ends with the Avengers hiding out in a cave, preparing to seek, er, vengeance.
Steve Ditko's artwork would probably turn away people that don't know what to expect from it. Klaus Janson's inks enhance it but don't obscure the fact that people tend to get a little... extreme looking, which raises the debates here to histrionic levels. But i like it, because it adds to the air of paranoia that comes with this story.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continues directly in West Coast Avengers annual #1 and this Considerations cover dependencies from both issues. For the East Coast Avengers, this takes place after Sub-Mariner requests a leave of absence in Avengers #272. For the West Coasters, it's after Wonder Man gets his new costume but before Tigra is "cured" and grows a tail, so between West Coast Avengers #13-14. As we'll see in the WCA annual, this story also takes place after the birth of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch's twins in the final issue of their series. This story is also the last where Spider-Woman is a member of Freedom Force, so it takes place after her appearance in X-Factor #8-9. That causes some complications for the Beast's appearance in the WCA annual, and the MCP has him there during X-Factor #9. Hulk #324 is also referenced as the reason why the Hulk is in no position to rat anybody out, although that's debatable; the Hulk was a captive of SHIELD and was transforming into Banner so he could have been talking. I think it's better to say that he neither had relevant information or, as Banner, motivation. In any event, i've placed this prior to Hulk #324 since the scene shows the Hulk captured on the big slab, which isn't his status by the end of that issue. Of the non-active Avengers that appear in these annuals, only Thor is appearing anywhere else, and his appearance can fit between Thor #372-373 (his appearance contributes to the problems with the Beast; it all relates to the tight chronology of the Mutant Massacre). A brief appearance by She-Hulk and Mr. Fantastic is context free and can fit between Fantastic Four #295-296.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
Fnord, She-Hulk's and Mr.Fantastic's appearance isn't exactly context-free. In Power Pack 25, the FF, including She-Hulk and Mr.Fantastic, realize that Franklin is missing. They take off into outer space in issue 26 and return in issue 28. Unfortunately, Power Pack 27 is the Mutant Massacre issue. Further complicating placement is that the FF appear to be staying in Four Freedoms Plaza during WCA Annual 1 (although it seems to be still under construction) but in Power Pack 28, the FF seem to be staying at Avengers Mansion.
Posted by: Michael | January 4, 2014 4:55 PM
You have Kyle Baker listed in the review, but Klaus Janson credited as inker.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 4, 2014 5:41 PM
Michael, you're right. Maybe i'll just wrap things up after i finish the Jim Shooter years. ;-)
Actually if the only dependency is around where the FF are living, i don't think there's a problem here. As you note, the building is still under construction and just because the FF are in the building doesn't mean they are living there. We saw them inspecting progress in FF #289 and this could be another inspection, or they could have agreed to meet here instead of Avengers Mansion so that Tigra could avoid anyone searching for them after the jailbreak. So i was going to put the Power Pack issues after this but i'll see when i add those.
In all sincerity, my work is made much easier thanks to the "better men" that have already gone mad working a lot of this out, especially those at the MCP, and your continued help here has been invaluable.
Mark, thanks for that. It's Janson and i've updated the review.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 4, 2014 11:24 PM
When you get to X-Factor #9, you'll discover there is no possible way Beast could appear here during that issue. Like the problems in ROM 65-66, Thor's unbroken arm may have to be written off as an "art error" and place this story after Thor gets the metal cast for his arm from Tony Stark and before Val Cooper sends Iron Man after Spider-Woman. That places this right after the Mutant Massacre.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | January 7, 2014 1:03 PM
The counterargument is that Natasha feels like she's abandoning Matt in his hour of need in the WCA Annual- Natasha already offered Matt a job in DD 237 and he refused and the DD issue of the Mutant Massacre is DD 238. If this takes place after DD 237, then there's less reason for Natasha to feel guilty.
Posted by: Michael | January 7, 2014 7:52 PM
I believe there is already a hole punched in Thor 375 to accommodate the Mansion Siege storyline. If this story takes place right before the Siege...?
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | January 8, 2014 1:41 PM
Does Iron Man's thought bubble about Blob count as a so big so fast alert?
Posted by: Alex F | August 7, 2014 5:36 PM
Alex, Iron Man doesn't say why he didn't expect the Blob to move so fast, so i can't count it. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | August 8, 2014 8:11 AM
I knew I should have trusted your judgement.
Posted by: Alex F | August 10, 2014 3:35 PM
So glad you mentioned "The wind up . . . the pitch . . . The Blob?" Still makes me laugh after almost 30 years. Oh my god, it's been almost 30 years! I'm old!
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 3, 2015 9:32 AM
Wasn't familiar with this story, really enjoyed it. Massive cast with an epic feel to it. Interesting Freedom Force defeated a combined Avengers team.
Ditko's faces are very weird in this but not enough to detract too much though.
Posted by: RikFenix | May 15, 2016 9:59 PM
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