West Coast Avengers #33-36
Issue(s): West Coast Avengers #33, West Coast Avengers #34, West Coast Avengers #35, West Coast Avengers #36
Unrelated to all of that, but in on the general topic of Englehart in the 80s, i do think his pairing with Al Milgrom here is part of the problem. Englehart's runs on FF and especially Silver Surfer are at a different level of quality than the West Coast Avengers, and i think some of that has to be attributed to the artist. Something seems to have happened to Milgrom's art. I was looking back at Al Milgrom's older work and while he's never been a superstar, his work on Roger Stern's Avengers and his own Peter Parker runs are much less stiff and sketchy looking that this. It seems like during Secret Wars II and his Hulk run (with the huge Avengers battle), Milgrom simplified his style to concentrate on fitting as many characters on page as possible at the expense of making the scenes distinct and dynamic and that carries over to his WCA run. The issue could also be that he's just doing layouts but i would think that would actually improve things, allowing him to do the panel layouts and fight choreography and the finisher to embellish and make the characters look like human beings.
But back to this Tales to Astonish story. While the rest of the West Coast Avengers, and an observing Wasp, are formalizing Moon Knight's membership, Henry Pym bursts into the room. He was "just having some fun" by trying to start an international incident hacking into the Soviet Union's computer systems (isn't that what got the Vision in trouble?) when he found out that his first wife, Maria is still alive.
With Khonshu now vested in the idea of him becoming an Avenger, Moon Knight wastes no time closing the deal on his membership, making the pitch that as a former mercenary he is used to fighting governments. So Pym casts the final vote to include him, and all of the West Coast Avengers agree to help Pym. The Wasp goes along as well, and there's basically a full retelling of her origin story while they are on the Quinjet.
When they arrive in Hungary, they meet the US Ambassador, but are quickly accosted by The People's Security Forces, which includes a whole lot of Communist Apes (aka the Beasts of Berlin).
And also El Toro, Madam X, and other Communist villains from Henry Pym's early days as Ant-Man and Giant-Man.
Despite having valid visas, the Avengers are under arrest, so they are attacked by the Security Forces. Since (aside from the gorillas!) these guys were mostly normal humans, they have now taken to using poison to increase their chances against the Avengers.
But seriously, Pym was able to handle these guys on his own back in the day, so you'd think they're not really a match for a team of Avengers, especially one that includes Wonder Man.
But the poison manages to take everyone out except for Wonder Man. And also Pym and the Wasp, since Pym ran away from the fight to get into the country to start looking for Maria, and Jan followed him. He wants her to use her antennae to contact the insect world and get the ants to look for Maria. What antennae? The ones that have secretly been a part of her all along (either that or Pym is messing with Jan's biology again).
Her connection with the ants is fuzzy, but she does get a hit and leads Pym to a prison that turns out to contain not Maria, but the Vision and the Scarlet Witch.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Avengers have recovered from their poison. Madam X says that they can all leave except Mockingbird and Moon Knight, who are considered criminals due to their past SHIELD and mercenary roles. Which, of course, the other Avengers don't agree to so they get back to fighting. And they avoid getting poisoned this time and the gorillas have such a bad showing that i'm not even going to include a scan. But they find out that Mockingbird and Moon Knight have already been shipped away somewhere. The American Ambassador convinces the remaining Avengers to come back to the US embassy, where he's got Phantom Rider waiting.
Phantom Rider just happened to be in Budapest on business and he heard about Mockingbird being captured, and says that he feels like he owes her a debt because of his Old West ancestor.
Meanwhile, the Communiapes are transporting Mockingbird and Moon Knight, and one of the apes lets it slip that he knows that Mockingbird spent some time at the Vault in the US.
The apes dump the heroes in the same prison that was holding Vision and Scarlet Witch, and we find that Hank and Jan wound up getting stuck in there too. There is an anti-super power beam in the prison.
The comparison to the Vault brings up a contrast. The point of the Vault is that it takes pains to find a way to counteract each individual prisoner's powers. There isn't just a simplistic anti-power beam. But the Communist Vault here is just a quick hand-waving plot device.
Anyway, Vision and the Scarlet Witch say that they were lured to Eastern Europe by a note purportedly from their cow-nanny, Bova. And it's soon revealed that this whole thing is another scheme by Quicksilver.
Quicksilver's plan is to help the Communists develop super-powered soldiers by experimenting with mutants, and also to take up his father Magneto's mantle as "King of the Evil Mutants". Those two goals seem somewhat at cross purposes.
The Avengers try to fight Quicksilver for a bit but they're unable to and he runs out of the cell again. Scarlet Witch worries that she too might go mad one day, but the Vision says that won't happen as long as they are together.
The Vision's speech gets Pym feeling romantically nostalgic.
And also breaks the camel's back for Mockingbird, and she confesses that she killed the Phantom Rider in the past.
The ghost of the Phantom Rider had been lurking in the room during the discussion. And he wants Mockingbird to suffer for letting him die ("She must not be happy") so when he sees that the other Avengers are accepting of what Mockingbird did, he goes back and tells Hawkeye about how he died, spinning it his own way. We nonetheless see Hawkeye and company busting in to rescue the other Avengers, and before any discussion can happen, they find themselves facing a swarm of Scarlet Beetles.
It's during what should be this goofy fun fight that the "murderess" stuff comes out.
The conversation is deferred as they escape into a quinjet, which is blasted out of the sky by a missile from the People's Security Forces. And the Avengers crash land in Latveria.
Hawkeye and Mockingbird wake up in bed together in the castle of Doctor Doom. The castle is currently occupied by Kristoff, who thinks he's Dr. Doom.
Kristoff is looking for allies against Doom. The Hungarian Ministry of Defense has agreed to ally with him if he'll turn over the Avengers, but Kristoff would prefer to have the Avengers as allies. Hawkeye and Mockingbird will be kept prisoners in the bedroom until midnight while they make a decision. Of the other Avengers, some are held prisoner elsewhere in the castle, and unlike the Communists, Kristoff has come up with power-cancelling devices with a little more individual flair.
The Wasp tries her new antennae again...
...but finds that Kristoff has been keeping up with his payments to the exterminator and the castle is bug free. Kristoff shows up and makes the appeal to them as well. Then he goes to where Tigra and Moon Knight are being held. Since they are (relatively) new to the Avengers, Kristoff is not aware of their capabilities, so he puts them to the test in a Danger Room.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye and Mockingbird have it out. For Hawkeye, it's a trust issue; the fact that Mockingbird hadn't told him about it already.
The conversation goes downhill from there.
I guess this is all in character. Hawkeye is far from the most sensitive person. Mockingbird has always seemed aware of that and usually knows how to push his buttons the right way but she isn't having much luck here, i guess because this has all been stressful for her, too. But it's pretty frustrating to watch these two fight over what should be a situation that Hawkeye should understand very quickly and not condemn his wife for.
Phantom Rider is certainly enjoying the fight.
Speaking of divorce, these two:
Pym is in the middle of a quest to find out if his first wife is still alive, don't forget.
Moon Knight eventually gets tired of being tested by Kristoff, so he tells Tigra to keep fighting no matter what happens, and then he lets himself get knocked out. What happens next i guess dispels any doubt over whether the guy in Moon Knight's head was really Khonshu or just another voice in his head.
Khonshu faces off against Kristoff.
Their fight actually ends when Khonshu addresses Krisfoff as Doom. Hearing that a god believes he's the real deal is enough to get him to agree to release the Avengers. That decision is furthered when Hungary sends an emissary that turns out to be Quicksilver, who had previously insulted Kristoff when they were both held captive by the Fantastic Four. Kristoff tries to kill Qucksilver, but the Avengers stop them and Kristoff just kicks everyone out.
The West Coast Avengers head back to Hungary. They face Quicksilver again, who is now allied with The Voice.
And the problem with reconstructing and enhancing the vocal chords of a guy that can make you do whatever he says is, well, you're not really in charge any more.
The Voice forces Henry Pym to run through a gauntlet at Hungary's Super Human Research Complex, hunted by the other Avengers. Since it's his Tales To Astonish arc, Pym does well against the other Avengers with his miniaturized arsenal. Best KO: enlarging a floating video camera to crush the Scarlet Witch.
Another good move is shrinking the braces that hold Mockingbird's staves.
Pym is aided by Khonshu, who has become dominant in Moon Knight's body. He isn't actively helping since he doesn't want to give away the fact that he's an actual god living in Moon Knight, but he does misdirect Tigra.
Pym is lucky enough to not bump into Wonder Man before getting to his end goal, which is his thought-to-be-dead first wife, Maria. She's got a big brain now.
She says that after her father's death, the Hungarian Communists tried to force her to continue his work. When she refused, they used the device that makes the Beasts of Berlin into super-smart apes on her. But they've kept her heavily drugged to avoid a repeat of what happened when AIM created MODOK (he took over their organization). It's said that her super-brain was used in the creation of the Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, and the Red Guardian.
At that point, the Avengers close in on Pym, but he appeals to Maria and gets her to use her super-brain to stop the Voice from controlling them. All the bad guys are rounded up...
...although it's not clear what happens to them since they're still in Communist Hungary. And Pym decides to quit the Avengers to work full time on restoring his wife. Hank and Janet also come to the conclusion that since Hank's first wife was never really dead, they were never really married and so they never got divorced. That's one way to do it! But it will turn out that this woman isn't really Maria (and she'll go the full MODOK at that time).
But for now, that sort of settles things between Jan and Hank (although it's not like it erases the history between them!). And Vision and Scarlet Witch remind us that they are still lovey dovey. But Mockingbird announces that she and Hawkeye are splitting up.
It's great crazy stupid cool fun to see all the dregs of Pym's rogue's gallery return. In particular you can use the Beasts of Berlin and the Scarlet Beetles (one of whom, per the MCP, is the Scarlet Beetle; presumably that's confirmed in a later reference) as often as you like. But the detour to Latveria was pointless; no development of the Kristoff/Doom plot, just "Hey, don't forget that this is still going on!". Actually the same could be said for the Quicksilver plot since nothing is really resolved here (one thing that does happen is his powers are cancelled by Trovaya and we'll learn in his next appearance that it was semi-permanent). Or i may just be having a hard time accepting him as a villain.
The revelations about Moon Knight and Khonshu are also ill-advised; it's pretty hard to bring him back to being a street level hero if he releases an actual god every time he gets knocked out. But i understand the desire to bring him up to an Avengers power level and give him a distinction on a team that already has Mockingbird and Hawkeye and Tigra.
But the biggest problem for me is the Hawkeye/Mockingbird relationship. I really don't see Hawkeye having such a stick up his ass. He's riding the "Avengers don't kill" thing a bit hard, especially given the circumstances, and more importantly i don't see him being so hurt about Mockingbird holding off on telling him. I'd like to see more internal conflict and development from him, some thought bubbles, but Englehart avoids that and the normally casual and flippant Hawkeye is coming off way too intense and angry. I get that the idea is that he's got the weight of leadership on him but that should be a factor in his reaction, not the whole of it. Similarly, Mockingbird angrily rises to his reaction instead of acting like the calm and composed super-spy that she should be. Again, i get that the circumstances are pulling the characters out of their normal personalities but it's developed poorly. And the whole thing is a downer in a story with super-apes and giant googley eyed beetles.
Mark Gruenwald says his goodbyes in the lettercol for issue #36. His time is being taken up by his new Executive Editor role, and he's turning over the editorial reins to Howard Mackie.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 205,792. Single issue closest to filing date = 187,057.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #35, with the Avengers in Latveria, takes place concurrently with Fantastic Four #316. The Scarlet Witch and Vision rejoin the team in this arc (not officially), which the MCP uses as a consideration when placing this vis a vis Nick Fury vs. SHIELD #2. There are some problems with that placement that relate to the Fantastic Four issue; and see the comments on that entry for more. It's said in issue #34 here that they haven't been leaving the house much, with "Only an occasional visit from someone like Uncle Simon", but that is specifically in the context of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch being super-heroes and i'm saying that it doesn't rule out the Viz and Wanda going to the West Coast for a visit prior to this arc. Separately, note that Dr. Doom's "Boris" appears in this story, working for Kristoff, but per a later retcon he's really Zarrko the Tomorrow Man.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
All the images are upside-down!
Posted by: Midnighter | June 17, 2014 7:31 PM
Englehart completely ignored the revelations about Quicksilver in X-Factor Annual 2.
Posted by: Michael | June 17, 2014 8:41 PM
Midnighter, are you using Safari and/or an iOS device? After the comments on this Eye of the Camera post, i did a little Googling and found that Safari reads some Photo EXIF metadata that other browsers ignore and that i'm not deliberately putting in the images or have any way to edit, but Safari reads it as orientation data and apparently rotates the images accordingly. I don't know why it happens to some images but not others. My process is the same for all the scans. Not sure what i can do about it but can anyone seeing the images here upside-down let me know what browser they are using?
Posted by: fnord12 | June 17, 2014 9:27 PM
So then this must mean only one thing:
(puts on ludicrous Kirby-esque Norse-God thinking hat)
MARIA IS IN ACTUALITY A HYPER-EVOLVED GORILLA AKIN TO THE GOLDEN AGE GIGANTA, MUTATED INTO A WOMAN BY THE COMMIES WHO HAPPENED TO FALL IN LOVE WITH HANK PYM, BUT SOMEHOW FAKED HER DEATH TO EVENTUALLY EVOLVE INTO MODAM, WITH HER ALREADY EVOLVED BRAIN EVOLVING FURTHER BEING A GORILLA FROM THE START!!!!!
(takes off cap)
Seriously, that probably is the only way I can think of for that to work.
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 17, 2014 9:49 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | June 17, 2014 10:03 PM
Yes, I was using Safari on the iPad. Now, with Chrome on my PC, the images are right.
Posted by: Midnighter | June 18, 2014 2:41 AM
I don't understand how Hawkeye could not believe Mockingbird. He's going to believe the Phantom Rider over his own wife? Really? I don't blame her being mad at him. I think it's bad writing and just an excuse to create conflict between them. The whole rape storyline has been badly mishandled.
Posted by: JSfan | June 18, 2014 8:33 AM
The reason Clint is having some trouble believing her is that she has already been lying to him about the subject. She lied flat out when he asked her if the Phantom Rider had raped her, and then she's been hiding the truth from him ever since about the ghost haunting her, etc.
Ultimately, Clint does end up believing her side of the story...but by that point the damage has already been done.
Posted by: Dermie | June 19, 2014 12:22 AM
Dermie, fair enough. I'd have thought the fact she let him die was an indicator that she was raped. I'd have also thought that she was ashamed about what happened so that's why she hid the truth. Personally, I think the story is still a little bit wonky but, like you said, there is more context than I previously inferred.
Posted by: JSfan | June 19, 2014 3:22 AM
@Dermie- the problem is that by the time we get to West Coast Avengers 37, Clint seems to think that Bobbi WAS telling the truth, since he says something like "I hate what the Phantom Rider did to her" but he still seems angry she lied to him.
Posted by: Michael | June 19, 2014 7:42 AM
Yes, exactly. Like I said, he did eventually realize she was telling the truth--but by that point, the damage had been done. By that point they had both already said things that couldn't be taken back, and the situation had escalated into a bigger mess. The problem is that they both were too stubborn, and had too much wounded pride and anger, to back down and admit that they had both screwed up.
Its uncomfortable for us to witness, as the readers, since we know that this SHOULD bring them closer together if they'd just drop the stubborn attitude and be there for each other. But with Phantom Rider's manipulations--and some bad decisions on both their parts--they end up bringing out the worst in each other instead.
Posted by: Dermie | June 19, 2014 8:19 PM
There is a kernel of a good idea of bringing back Pym's old foes to tell an important story with the character, but this isn't it. Englehart is doing his best to steer the Titanic into an iceberg.
The happy relationship between Hawkeye and Mockingbird is one of the strengths of the book, and this just ruins it.
Moon Knight is ill used as an Avenger and has become a completely different character with the same name.
The rivalry between the two Dooms has already gotten tedious, and it showing up in both FF and WCA is just too much.
The revelation about Maria Trovaya is just awful.
Englehart's run on WCA has had its ups and downs. Even when it's not been good, there has generally been something fun or redeemable about it. But at this point it's just becoming an awful mess.
Posted by: Chris | June 19, 2014 9:48 PM
I'm glad that Scarlet Witch is joining the couple. TIgra and Mockingbird aren't cutting it as members.
Posted by: Steven Printz | July 1, 2014 7:34 PM
As someone who was always a fan of Hank (I was drawn in to reading Avengers by his fall), it was nice to see several issues based around him, but then disappointing when he left at the end. Of course, all the people leaving the Avengers in #36 and #37 will be basically wiped away when Byrne comes on board and the art suddenly goes from passable to awesome.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 3, 2015 6:03 PM
This Hawkeye Mockingbird story is just terrible. Is there any president for Hawkeye's position on killing? I can't think of any, it just comes out of left field. And of course it's just completely ignored by Bendis who turns Clint into a kill crazy madman. How hard is it to get Hawkeye right?
Posted by: OrangeDuke | December 30, 2017 10:22 PM
Being trained by Captain America, when he accidentally killed Egghead, the death of his brother, him being team leader, it being a testament to him not really knowing the woman he married... there's absolutely plenty of reasons why Hawkeye is anti-killing with regards to Mockingbird and is again very firmly anti-killing until Bendis came along and did what Bendis does.
Posted by: AF | December 31, 2017 2:01 AM
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