The Transparent Fox:
Avengers West Coast #60-62
Issue(s): Avengers West Coast #60, Avengers West Coast #61, Avengers West Coast #62
One thing i will say, and i guess this credit goes to editor Howard Mackie, is that despite the creative team shake-up, this book managed to remain coherent and stay focused on the plot regarding the Scarlet Witch. It's true that the last two issues were fill-ins, but issue #58's earthquake worked in a plausible reason for a delay in the Scarlet Witch story, and last issue's weird story fit perfectly with what Immortus has been up to. And the conclusion to the story, in these issues, well, i assume it wasn't what John Byrne had in mind, but it doesn't feel like anything is coming out of left field.
Another thing to mention is that these issues are pretty dense. There aren't any subplots, but the Thomases have a lot to say about the Avengers, dropping various asides into various scenes, and a lot to say about the nature of Immortus and other things. So we are definitely starting off their run for real and not just wrapping up the looses ends of the previous writer to get it out of the way.
Issue #60 begins with Immortus doing another timeline clean-up, this one where Lee Harvey Oswald is stopped by the FBI before the Kennedy assassination, and yet Kennedy is shot anyway, from a grassy knoll. "This time, however," says Immortus, "the whole world will know that the fatal shot was not fired from the sixth floor of the Texas school book depository. This time, the 'single assassin theory' will receive deservedly short shrift... and no frenzied rush to judgment can possibly ignore credible reports of gunmen firing from a 'grassy knoll'". The way Immortus talks, it sounds like Roy Thomas was harboring some theories about Kennedy's death. Sure, this is an alternate reality, but the phrases like "This time" suggest that Immortus is comparing it to our reality. The deviation in the timeline is that Oswald was stopped, not that there was another shooter.
Anyway, after that we get into our actual story. The Avengers are still dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake from a few issues back. Remember how i said that the Thomases had a lot of little asides for the Avengers? Here are two for the Wasp: 1) she has to "transfer to speaker mode" to talk to full sized people and 2) something's going on with her stings.
Hawkeye returns to the team, although he's left Mockingbird behind with the Great Lakes Avengers. Hawkeye makes the first of many quips in this arc about how everyone suspects that Iron Man is really Tony Stark, but they're keeping it a secret especially around USAgent.
We've been seeing a lot of this already, and it's become a bit tedious in part just because each new writer has made sure to hit the same point. But Thomas will hammer it into the ground all on his own.
Also interesting that the Wasp and/or Thomas thinks that the group needs some "East coast credibility", and that Iron Man provides it. (An) Iron Man has been on the team from the very beginning.
Another point that comes up a lot in these issues is the fact that the West Coast Team doesn't have a leader right now. Thomas seems to be leaning heavily towards Henry Pym being a natural fit for that role, although we see USAgent and Hawkeye both contending for the role.
While the Avengers are heading home from the earthquake clean-up, we learn that Magneto is wise to Quicksilver's ruse of pretending to be on board with him and Scarlet Witch. So Quicksilver pulls out a shrunken Lockjaw, and has them teleported to an abandoned amusement park where the Avengers are waiting.
The Avengers focus their attack on Magneto, not Scarlet Witch...
...and send him running after an attack by a piece of wood painted to look like some metal machinery.
At least it wasn't a wooden gun. Iron Man pursues the fleeing Magneto, and the two go into a smokestack.
A little fourth-wall breaking when Iron Man, but not Magneto, emerges from the smokestack.
Magneto has been dispatched a little quickly, but that's because the Thomases want to get to the Immortus part of the story.
During the battle, Scarlet Witch has gone catatonic again. She also develops a kind of forcefield around her, that actually makes it impossible for her to be touched. But somehow they get her back to the compound (maybe thanks to Lockjaw?).
And then Immortus shows up.
Here's one of those "Hank Pym should be leader" moments.
A debate springs up about whether to attack Immortus outright or wait and find out what he wants from Wanda first.
Wasp tries to get Lockjaw to teleport Scarlet Witch away, but Immortus puts the Inhuman (Thomas is very careful to not call Lockjaw a "dog" throughout these issues) in a kind of stasis, and then teleports everyone to Limbo. Lurking in the background, though, is Agatha Harkness, and as Immortus is teleporting away she casts a spell to keep a shade of him behind.
In Limbo, the real Immortus summons up a Legion of the Unliving to fight the Avengers.
This Legion is particularly unusual for featuring characters that aren't really dead (like what appears to be Human Torch Sr., who is just deactivated), and a character from the future, Iron Man 2020. But it does include an appearance by one of my favorite characters, Oort the Living Comet. I'm really glad to see Thomas bring him back.
The Wasp tells the Avengers that the Legion characters are really "just some sort of simulcra" and so they shouldn't hold back. But the connection that the Avengers have with these characters does work against them and they ignore the Wasp's advice.
Quicksilver and Oort reprise their classic battle from the 50th Century. Odd that Quicksilver doesn't remember it.
The Human Torch turns out to really be Toro. In fact, it seems previous Legion of the Unliving Human Torch appearances were actually Toro as well. Someone should tell the guy currently appearing in Power Pack that he's dead.
Meanwhile, Agatha begins to interrogate the shade of Immortus that she's captured.
The gist of it is that he's been behind everything that's been going on with the Scarlet Witch lately, starting with the Vision's attempted takeover of the world's computer systems, all the way through the Scarlet Witch's power increase and the situation with her husband and children.
When the Avengers finish up with the Legion, Immortus gives them the executive summary version of what he's up to.
Then they have to fight Tempus.
I bet Tempus thinks calling people "inmates of a three-dimensional prison" is a sick burn. Also more "Hank is a natural leader" stuff above.
Getting touched by Tempus causes Wonder Man to age. But Quicksilver figures out that the rubble from Immortus' castle can hurt Tempus.
...and that earns him a not-at-all-patronizing ""Nice going, mutant!" from Iron Man.
But then Tempus swings his club, causing all of the Avengers to experience flashbacks of depressing memories. The sequence disables all the Avengers, and Immortus contemplates playing the role of "villain" and killing them.
But Agatha Harkness has arrived in Limbo in astral form, and she's able to reach out to the still catatonic Scarlet Witch, telling her that it's true that she's lived for her husband and her offspring, but now she has to live for those that are still alive, her friends, the Avengers. She tells her to reject the extra powers that she's received. Wanda wakes up and does reject her powers, but not before causing the flashbacks that the Avengers were experiencing to become alternate realities. Some new realities are just as depressing as the original sequences, and some are more positive (i've listed the flashbacks and the alternate outcomes in the References below). But what's important is that she's creating new divergent realities, exactly the opposite of what Immortus was trying to accomplish. Then, the Time-Keepers show up.
It seems they are not pleased with the work that Immortus has done as custodian of the little 7,000 year period that they've entrusted to him.
After an appeal from Immortus, they agree to allow him to continue to be a custodian, of sorts. But not the way he was hoping. Instead of using the Scarlet Witch as the nexus being that will keep reality in check, Immortus becomes that himself.
But that leaves him catatonic the way the Scarlet Witch was.
The Time-Keepers then send the Avengers home. An effort is made to assure us that we didn't just read one of those stories where a bunch of cosmic entities stand around and decide things in a story that really had nothing to do with our protagonists.
The issue ends with Hawkeye passed out on the couch, and Pym thinking to himself that things aren't really settled until the situations with the Human Torch and Tigra are taken care of. But this does go a long way to re-establishing a normal status quo to a book that had been in disruption since John Byrne's run started.
I'm a bit exhausted by all the ping ponging of the retcons and revelations regarding the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, so i'm more than happy to write the whole thing as "Ok, Immortus did some stuff but it's over now" and not examine any of it too deeply. Nor do i really want to think too hard about all this "nexus being" stuff.
The denseness of the writing combined with the delving into the nature of Immortus and a return appearance of the Time Keepers, combined with the brute force characterization (and copious references!), makes this feel a lot like a return to Steve Englehart's run. That's not necessarily a bad thing. This book has been something more like the Avengers book for 1970s fans for longer than it hasn't, and if the main Avengers book were doing something more modern, it would have offered fans a nice choice similar to the split between Amazing Spider-Man and the other Spidey books. The Avengers book is actually in kind of water treading mode at the moment, but in the long run this book will be marginally better than the main book once Bob Harras takes over there. In any event, i'm happy to see movement towards restoring Scarlet Witch to normal and Immortus taking the blame for the stuff that's been done to her (and of course since Immortus admits he's a liar in this story, we can take it with a grain of salt if we want; i personally don't like him being behind Vision's takeover of the world's computers). This book isn't great but it isn't terrible. When artist Paul Ryan was on the main Avengers book, he was inked by Tom Palmer and the book retained a lot of the look from the John Buscema period. Without Palmer on inks, Ryan's art isn't looking at good, but Ryan is capable of handling Thomas' dense writing. Lots of smaller panels handling a large cast of characters (including the Legion of the Unliving) and good storytelling on the fight sequences. Overall this book is shaping up to have a feel somewhere between "classic" and "nostalgic", and that's not a bad thing.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #58 is said to have happened "a few hours back". As Michael notes in the comments, the Time-Keepers appearing here will be revealed to really be the Time-Twisters in What If? #39.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
I must admit that I was intrigued who exactly Oort the Living Comet is all those years ago. Now that I've read Avengers Giant Sized Super Special it all makes sense.
The Ryan-Bulanadi team is good. Not great, but it looks nice and the storytelling is competent.
I wasn't as big a fan as the portrayal of Immortus. Byrne was handling the character with some kind of gravitas, but Thomas portrays him much less magnificent.
Thomas's run on WCA is like most of his output in the early nineties - some intriguing ideas not well executed with all the annoying Thomas writing quirks.
Posted by: Chris | June 5, 2015 7:31 PM
I think Oort is the only character at Marvel to make his first (and, as yet, only) appearance as a dead guy. One day we might see this awesome 50th century battle...
Posted by: Bill | June 5, 2015 8:14 PM
Fnord, one thing to note regarding the placement of the Battlestar/US Agent stories in Captain America 372-378. In those stories, US Agent seems to know his parents are dead- he remembers putting Left- and Right- Winger in a coma, he doesn't react when Left- and Right- Winger talk about the deaths of his parents and of course, Tempus torments him with the memory of his parents' deaths. In the stories in Cap 372-378, US Agent doesn't remember his parents' deaths and reacts violently when Battle Star informs him of that. Also, are there any scenes in these issues that suggest that the Avengers know who US Agent is? They definitely didn't during the backup stories in Cap 372-378. (And they don't seem to figure it out either when they see Battlestar talking with US Agent, which would make them pretty dense after the Left- and Right- Winger incident.)
Posted by: Michael | June 5, 2015 10:52 PM
Thanks on the FF Annual #4 / Sub-Mariner #14 correction, Michael. And for the heads up on the USAgent back-ups.
There doesn't seem to be any indication that the Avengers know USAgent's identity in these issues. If anything, the opposite, since i posted the scan towards the top of them saying that he's someone they barely know. And there's no time after the fight with the Legion of the Unliving for anyone to ask, "So who were those Winger guys?".
Posted by: fnord12 | June 5, 2015 11:10 PM
I'm still amazed that the Thomases were able to pick up the threads of Bryne's storyline (I doubt he told them where he was headed before leaving) and deliver a somewhat coherent conclusion.
But man the dialouge is awful "Spoken like a true leader and founding father, Hank." Who talks like that? honestly.
Posted by: kveto | June 6, 2015 6:23 AM
Damn, Fnord totally rickrolled me there. It did sound a bit suspect, but I didn't see it coming... :)
Posted by: Jonathan | June 6, 2015 10:56 AM
R.J.M. Lofficier refers to Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier, Dr. Who fans and friends of Roy Thomas. Based on their work with Roy at DC during the 1980s, I'm guessing they helped with the plot.
Strange that Roy is retconning the Legion of the Unliving-Torch as Toro, considering that he actually wrote part of that Limbo sequence to begin with. He's now retconning his own writing?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 6, 2015 3:12 PM
I'm glad that Hawkeye has returned to the team. Now only if US Agent would leave.
Posted by: Steven | June 6, 2015 7:38 PM
Fnord, regarding the Avengers and US Agent's identity- on page 8, Hawkeye says in front of Iron Man "Just when you think you know what makes a guy like John Walters tick". So that would seem to imply that the Avengers know Hawkeye is John Walker and Clint just botched the last name. But in the backup in Captain America 373, Iron Man doesn't seem to know US Agent is John Walker. So does that mean the backup takes place before this issue?
Posted by: Michael | June 7, 2015 10:48 PM
Editorial left a mess running Byrne off, but Thomas cleaned it up as best as anyone could.
Though I felt Wanda reverted back to "good" a little too easily, considering the train wreck she'd been for the past year or so leading into this.
Posted by: Bob | June 8, 2015 6:36 AM
@Michael, thanks, guess i missed that. I'll wait until i get to the Cap back-ups and see how to handle the placement.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 8, 2015 9:48 AM
Ryan always had a weird habit of drawing teeth in the mouth of Iron Man's armor.
Posted by: Bob | June 8, 2015 9:04 PM
Whenever magneto is around, the avengers automatically become idiots!
Posted by: lee winters | June 10, 2015 9:41 PM
When Roy Thomas was interviewed in Amazing Heroes #184, he called some of Byrne's stories "strange" and admitted that he was "assigned" to get Magneto out of the book as fast as possible. Oort was a new throwaway character(Thomas claimed he'd never appeared before). Left- and Right-Winger were definitely dead when the issue was written and drawn, but a last-minute editorial decision reversed that and Thomas had to write around it. He stated he never wanted to use the Legion of the Unliving again.
An unused page from #60 was printed there, and it showed what appeared to be Clea wearing Dr. Strange's shirt.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 16, 2015 10:33 AM
Mark, that's interesting. Left- and Right-Winger are dead in the backup story in Captain America 383- in fact, their deaths are what drive the plot. I always assumed that Gruenwald just didn't read Avengers West Coast 62 carefully. But now I wonder what went on behind the scenes.
Posted by: Michael | June 16, 2015 10:32 PM
Roy Thomas had a letter in Amazing Heroes #185 that stated that the L'Officer's contribution was just helping him research all the prior Avengers issues; they didn't contribute to the writing.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 23, 2015 10:31 AM
Toro can't be the Torch from the earlier Legion in Avengers #131-132, since that story revolved around the Torch being able to repair the Vision thanks to their shared android construction. Weirdly, Roy Thomas edited and scripted Steve Engelhart's plot there; presumably this is just Immortus messing with everyone.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 8, 2015 7:09 PM
Always been boggled by Oort. He was created so Pietro could have someone in the Legion BUT surely the most obvious choice for this would have been his one-time "father" Whizzer?
Posted by: Scott | November 28, 2015 3:20 PM
I have always pushed this back a bit in chronology. They were responding to structural damage caused by the earthquake - rather than continuing from where we left off in #58.
This also gives USAgent team to heal and time for Hawkeye to show up. It's gives a little breathing room for others.
Posted by: Scott | November 28, 2015 3:35 PM
But the footnote says that the earthquake in issue #58 happened "a few hours back", so i prefer to keep it directly after that story. I could see letting the temporal reference slide but since there aren't any other dependencies it might as well go here.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 28, 2015 6:58 PM
Since the Time Keepers are in the present, shouldn't they be listed in characters appearing?
Posted by: Andrew | December 24, 2015 8:06 AM
Posted by: fnord12 | December 24, 2015 8:17 AM
But ARE those the Time Keepers? The Time Quake arc in What If calls that into question.
Posted by: Michael | December 24, 2015 8:20 AM
The MCP and the Appendix both list them as appearing here. I'll adjust or make a note when i get to Time Quake (relatively soon) if merited but if it's just called into question without being definitive it's probably better to leave them tagged.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 24, 2015 8:23 AM
I'll be interested to see what you make of Time Quake. Personally I consider Avengers Forever to be the definitive take on anything concerning Immortus or the Time Keepers.
Posted by: Andrew | December 25, 2015 12:30 PM
Melania Trump just quoted Avengers Giant-Size Super Special 1 last night. :)
Posted by: Michael | July 19, 2016 8:58 PM
Hey, now that Songbird is at long last an official member of the Avengers, maybe we will finally see the battle with Oort the Living Comet that she alluded to in Avengers Forever #3.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 28, 2017 3:55 PM
Now that's an odd bit of retroactive continuity, because, if memory serves me right, Michelle Obama also mentioned Avengers Giant-Sized Super Special #1 in one of her old interviews!
Posted by: Holt | October 30, 2017 3:41 AM
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