West Coast Avengers #6
Issue(s): West Coast Avengers #6
First of all, that splash is just awfully laid-out or staged or whatever you want to call it. But the thing that caught my attention was Englehart's text:
In the sixties, a lot of Californians got into magick! In the seventies, even some residents of ultra-exclusive Palos Verdes tried it out once or twice! But in the eighties, you hardly ever find a former living vampire leading a crew of super heroes in a chant to draw down demons.
But of course, in the dope-smoking 70s, this was a regular thing! And everything in this story has its roots in some wild 70s stories, specifically the two groups of Cat People from two unrelated and relatively obscure stories. Which... personally, i don't need any Cat People, but one group is better than two.
But i do think Englehart's text dovetails nicely with Howe. Surely i'm reading too much into all of this, hence the disclaimer at the top. But here you have a writer from the 70s, taking some of the madness of the 70s, and quantifying and cataloging it in the 80s. Now, the connection between these two groups of Cat People was first established in an Untold Tales of the Marvel Universe feature by Roger Stern and Steve Ditko from What If? #35 (Oct 82). But it's Englehart that's working it into a regular story. Possibly this is really editor Mark Gruenwald's influence. He was also editor of the What If? issue, and this is his sort of thing anyway. But Englehart has always had a continuity-minded side to him, although what's happening here is different than the freewheeling sprawl of the Celestial Madonna storyline.
Well, i promised a pointless ramble and that's what you got. Onto this plot synopsis.
What you see in that splash above is not actually Morbius taking the West Coast Avengers to the Cat People dimension. To cast the actual spell, he needs to take them to the mansion of Daemond, the sorcerer that he fought back when he first encountered the cat people.
Wonder Man has gotten a part in Arnold Schwarzburger's film, Arkon IV (between this and the Devil Dinosaur movie in the Thing series, are all movies in the Marvel universe actually documentaries?).
To make up for the lack of Wonder Man, Mockingbird suggests that Firebird, who is not yet an Avenger, accompany the team. And Hawkeye recruits the Thing, by telling him that Tigra's interested in him. Because that's what Tigra's good for, being sexy bait.
When they reach Daemond's mansion, they perform the ritual and summon the Balkatar, the guardian cat that Morbius fought.
When he sees Tigra, he agrees to take the team to his dimension.
Tigra tells the Cat King that she's not sure if she wants to keep her human or cat half, which outrages the King, who says that if she were an actual Cat Person saying that, he would have destroyed her. Instead, he needs to think about it, and so she's sent off with the Balkatar, and soon Tigra's in heat again.
After that, there's a lengthy recap of the Cap People histories from Fear, What If?, and Tigra's origin stories, and some new information. We learn that almost like the Balkatar, Tigra is more of a title than a name.
I want to pause here and say that even ignoring the silliness of the Cat People and the horror that Englehart is putting Tigra through with regard to her sexuality, seeing the big origin of Tigra laid out here reminds me that it is revealing that Dr. Joanne Tumolo (who is called Marie Tumolo in this story. The lettercol in issue #12 confirms that Englehart forgot that Tumolo's first name had been given and tried to name her Marie as a tribute to Marie Severin, who drew the first two issues of the Cat series) was a Cat Person. Because the Cat's original origin story was a human scientist literally empowering a woman to be a super-hero, which, as an accomplished female scientist in 1972, made Tumolo as affirming a character as Greer Nelson was. Mixing in all this mystic mumbo jumbo dilutes that.
But anyway, Englehart seems to run out of room with all the recapping. When we're down to just the last two pages, the Avengers, who had agreed to wait patiently in a cell to avoid upsetting the King while he was figuring out what to do about Tigra, suddenly burst out and start fighting.
It's really abrupt. And just as quickly, Tigra calls off the fight. It comes out of nowhere.
Despite what Tigra says, there are strings attached. The King actually wants Tigra to kill Master Pandemonium for him, since he "is extremely bothersome to us, since he considers us to be demons". But Tigra knows the Avengers don't kill, so she doesn't tell them that.
In a subplot scene, Henry Pym agrees to meet with Ultron, who has been prank calling him for the past few issues. And Ultron tells him that now that he's reached Mark Twelve, he's matured and wants to have a relationship with his "father".
I keep thinking about this issue and saying to myself that i should like it. I read it first years ago and didn't know what the heck was going on with the Cat People, and had totally forgotten about it when i read Morbius' Fear story more recently. And any time anyone says Cat People i'm immediately going to react poorly. But knowing more about where this story is coming from, in theory i should like it better. And i kind of do. But at the same time it feels like the main purpose is to cement some stuff established in an obscure What If? feature. And i'm not sure there's really enough to hang a full story on. Tying it in with Master Pandemonium feels too convenient, too. But i still want to like it.
As usual, execution may be part of the problem. Englehart and Milgrom continue to be clunky. Kyle Baker's contribution to the art changes the equation a bit, but he's adding depth and realism to what are still very stiff figures. And of course on top of all that, there's Tigra. Hawkeye using her to lure the Thing back to the team might have gone over my head if i hadn't already seen last issue how, in addition to Tigra sleeping with both Pym and Wonder Man, that Tony Stark and the Werewolf were attracted to her. And now the Thing. Plus Tigra's "wild, savage" desire for the Balkatar. I'm past the point where i can be outraged by it. But it's still a detriment, preventing me from fully appreciating the continuity-minded things that Englehart is trying to do.
I should say that the Cat People king is not referred to as Gerark in this story, and the Balkatar may also not be the same champion that we saw in Morbius' Fear story. But for simplicities' sake i'm assuming they are the same characters. There's also potentially a problem with the way i'm tracking Ultron. Ultron Mark Twelve, who's been appearing in this series from the beginning, is really a separate character from the one that was in Secret Wars. More on that next issue, though.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've placed a large gap between the end of last issue and the beginning of this one. This is due to a number of considerations, including especially the need to fit the Emperor Doom graphic novel somewhere. This also gives the Thing more time to establish a relationship with Sharon Ventura, since he references having a "girl" in this story, and their relationship was pretty tentative at the time i placed the earlier Thing issues in relation to WCA (and note that the Thing can't appear here between Thing #31-32 and that even after #32 the Thing's relationship with Sharon is iffy). You may ask why it took so long for the Avengers to decide to travel to the Cat Dimension after learning that Morbius knew about them last issue, but it's possible that he required that certain celestial bodies be lined up in order for his spell to work, or something like that. And then things got derailed further when Doom took over the world. It's also worth noting that while Tigra had a pressing need to go to the Cat Dimension, she also was having immediate second thoughts about it, and only Mockingbird really understood the urgency. So it's possible that Tigra was putting things off.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): show
The problem with placing Emperor Doom in between WCA 5 and 6 is that Tony is stated this issue to be absent because he's still recovering from the wounds he received in issue 5. But Tony is present in Emperor Doom. It's really problematic to place any Iron Man stories in between WCA 5 and 6. We even see Tony's face in Emperor Doom and he doesn't appear to be injured.
Posted by: Michael | November 9, 2013 10:26 AM
Thanks, Michael, i meant to mention Tony's injury. We've played the "recovery then re-injured" card before and that's what my intention is here. As you make clear, something has to give for Emperor Doom to fit somewhere. I'm assuming Tony's injury is an eye injury given the nature of the Werewolf's attack, and it might be a ruptured cornea or something that might not have shown in the art of other issues he appears in and/or the wound could have re-opened. (Or he's been taking belladonna treatments to prevent himself from turning into a werewolf, and it was only with the next full moon that he realized he wasn't fully cured!)
Posted by: fnord12 | November 9, 2013 1:10 PM
You know with all the Tigra talk you forgot to add her as a character appearing in this book.
Regarding all the Cat People stuff: honestly it just confuses me. I wouldn't mind Turmurlo as one, though, but maybe if somehow her work ended up banished from her realm and then having her brought in to ultimately create Greer as the Cat. This is mostly just clean-up for the Cat People aspects I guess and the 70s writers are better at it since they like connecting dots but I'm with you that something just is confusing about the whole thing.
Posted by: Ataru320 | November 9, 2013 9:13 PM
Thanks, Ataru. Added Tigra back.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 9, 2013 10:39 PM
You have to love Hank's pose on the splash page, as if to say "Okay, this is all ridiculous."
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 9, 2015 11:45 AM
I get the feeling that Kyle Baker was drafted to ink this issue specifically because of the Tigra tongue scene with the Balkatar. There's no way Joe Sinnott could have pulled that off.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | July 1, 2015 7:38 AM
"You have to love Hank's pose on the splash page, as if to say 'Okay, this is all ridiculous.'"
He can't be that thrilled with the chant about "the false god, science", either. Good thing Tony isn't there; he'd totally flip over that.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 21, 2016 8:55 PM
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