The Small Lebowski:
West Coast Avengers annual #1
Issue(s): West Coast Avengers annual #1
The Avengers decide that their first act is to find out who has been lying to the government about them., and consider all active and inactive Avengers. They first rule out the current group, including Henry Pym despite his past mental problems. They then rule out the Hulk, the Avengers that are currently dead, those that were never fully members (which may be hairsplitting considering all Gyrich said was that the Avenger was "one of your own". Heck, that could have just meant a superhero.), and those that are off in space. See References for the complete list. That leaves Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, She-Hulk, Black Panther, Black Widow, the "alternate" Iron Man, Beast, and the Falcon. Rick Jones might have been someone else to consider.
The Avengers separate to check up on the inactive members that haven't been ruled out. Tigra checks with She-Hulk, and Mr. Fantastic offers to help them get to the bottom of things, but Tigra says the Avengers have to do it alone.
Hercules checks in on Thor.
The Beast, at X-Factor, is contacted by the Wasp. She seems to be aware of the X-Factor situation.
And Mockingbird checks with Black Widow. Apparently the two have never crossed paths before, despite moving in similar circles (which is fine, no need to retroactively add backstory).
Hawkeye also calls the Black Panther, Captain America visits the Falcon, and Wonder Man stops in on Vision and Scarlet Witch. And those last two start to suspect who the real culprit is.
Meanwhile, Captain Marvel can't locate Quicksilver on the moon.
I have to say that the Avengers' investigation is a little weak. So they talked to all the inactive members, but they don't exactly clear them. I mean, it could have been the Beast, trying to get in good with the government to help his new group. It could have been any of them, but the Avengers rule them out based on their say-so. I guess when confronted with the fact that Quicksilver can't be located, that makes him the prime suspect. And there's only so much space in the annual. But i'm not about to change the Avengers' tagline to "World's Greatest Detectives".
Thor, Black Widow, Black Panther, and Falcon come back with the Avengers to where the rest of the group is hiding out. And before they finally settle on Quicksilver, Thor turns on Henry Pym, calling him "the man who made us most ashamed", in a pretty surprising turn (i am also a little surprised by Iron Man's statement).
In fact, Thor's accusation gets the group so far off track that Quicksilver has to show up and explain that no, it's really him.
We know that Quicksilver is in a bad state of mind because Crystal has been cheating on him. But why is he not taking it out on Crystal or his sister Scarlet Witch, who didn't support him after that came out? The answer is that Quicksilver has a lot of pent up grievances. Starting with the fact that everybody apparently calls him paranoid without taking into account the fact that he had a rough adolescence thanks to Magneto. And the fact that the rest of the Avengers wouldn't support him when he opposed the Scarlet Witch's love for the Vision. And the fact that they left him to die after he sacrificed himself fighting Sentinels the Ant Hill base in Australia in Avengers #104.
This still isn't really an answer. Those events happened a long time ago. The real issue here is Crystal's infidelity. Even if he's not going to attack Scarlet Witch or Crystal, you'd think he'd have a more immediate problem with the other Inhumans. Or if he were looking for root cause, he might go for Magneto first - but the real explanation is basically that he's gone crazy.
This is about where the story breaks down into something mundane. It's by necessity, considering the number of Avengers involved, but Quicksilver sets up a scenario where the Avengers have to fight him at Avengers Mansion, the circus where they first formed, and the Australian Sentinel base where they abandoned him. And those "split up the team" plotlines always feel pretty old school, and the scenario also just feels arbitrary (what connection does Quicksilver have with that circus?) and nostalgic. There's also the fact that Freedom Force have been dropped as the villains...
...in favor of the robot versions of the Zodiac, as generic a set of villains as you could come up with, again with no connection to Quicksilver.
Englehart had Quicksilver training an Inhuman militia in the Vision and Scarlet Witch issues. That turned out to be a complete flop but maybe Englehart should have instead made them loyal to Quicksilver and used them here. Hell, i'd have preferred if Quicksilver teamed up with the Toad and used the robotic Brotherhood built from the Stranger's equipment.
It is cool that the Avengers don't get a rematch against Freedom Force, leaving them with a clear victory.
So we have our split up and fight scenes...
...which take place sequentially, with Quicksilver running from one location to the next as each group of Zodiacs are defeated.
The first two Avengers teams handle their Zodiacs with no problem, but the third group, which is made up of the non-active members, have some focus and coordination problems.
Nonetheless the group is defeated and soon all the Avengers show up at the Sentinel base. Quicksilver has one last threat, a particle beam weapon that the Australian government has been developing (holy crap, Australia! What are you up to?).
But the Vision shows up and shows Quicksilver an image of his nephews...
...and that causes Quicksilver to run away.
And that's basically it. No resolution for Quicksilver. And the fact that Gyrich had the team arrested and that they broke out isn't really settled, either. It's mentioned that the Zodiac LMDs "spilled the beans" to Gyrich and that's it.
I bought Avengers annual #15 in real time but it took me a few years to track down the follow-up here. And when i finally found it and read it, i really hated it. Totally a different story than the first part. Barely any connection at all. And a really uninteresting set of battles, with a nearly unrecognizable Quicksilver.
Reading it now, i will say that there is a lot of value in the first half of the issue. It's a nice review of the Avengers past and present, appropriate for an annual. And decent M.D. Bright art, and you get at least half a grade point just for Hercules' fried chicken scene. But despite Quicksilver's protests to the contrary...
...that really is an exercise in nostalgia. As for the actual plot here, it's unsatisfying. There's no depth to Quicksilver's transformation. If you are going to take a former hero, a man that was an Avenger from issue #16 through #104, and turn him into a villain, or worse a crazy person, you have to do it better than this.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continues directly from Avengers annual #15. See the Considerations for that issue. The only thing i'll add here is that while Black Widow is fighting the Zodiac, she is distracted by the fact that Matt Murdock is in his "hour of need". I'm nonetheless placing this after the Born Again arc; she may not be up on the exact state of affairs, and he's still had his life torn down. The Widow might even have heard about Daredevil from the Avengers during this arc. Otherwise you might wonder why she didn't actually show up to try to help Matt.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (13): show
My absolute favorite single comic as a kid. Lots of characters and action.
Posted by: Robert | January 4, 2014 5:33 PM
Natasha and Bobbi did meet previously in Avengers 239.
Posted by: Michael | January 4, 2014 5:37 PM
I think X-Factor annual 2, about a year from now, tries to undo some of the damage to Quicksilver by suggesting that the villain manipulating him in that issue has been doing it for a while. Engelhart uses Quicksilver again near the end of his West Coast Avengers run. I forget if Engelhart also tries to fix the mess he made. In any case, these stories are a low point for him.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 4, 2014 6:07 PM
Like Robert, I very much enjoyed this comic too despite the flaws that FNORD12 pointed out. It's a fun romp.
The Zodiac concept is a good one, but fails because as FNORD12 states they are generic and have no personalities. Especially the LMD versions whose "we're robots, but we're people!" is really outside the Zodiac theme.
An international cartel of crime is cool.
Having the members of that cartel be themed after the Zodiac is cool.
But we need real people with real powers. Instead, 90% of the time they are disposable villains simply meant to be defeated in a few panels. Only Van Lunt (Taurus) and Brandt (Libra) besides Fury (Scorpio) were ever given any personality.
I like the design of most of the LMDs though.
Posted by: Chris | January 4, 2014 6:43 PM
In your references section, the following link is inactive:
Posted by: clyde | January 4, 2014 7:17 PM
Clyde, your assumption is correct. I'll activate the link when i create the entry. It often works out that i don't add entries in exact chronological order and so that leads to temporary situations like this.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 4, 2014 11:28 PM
So, we come to the difficult issue... Beast seems to be free to help out if they need him which could place this either before or after Mutant Massacre crossover.
Thor's arm does not appear to be broken, which places it before the Mutant Massacre because that's where Blockbuster shatters it because of Hela's brittle bone spell.
Spider-Woman leaves during this story, and but she was still a team member at the beginning of the Mutant Massacre which suggests this takes place after it...
Yes as Walter mentions, we find out in X-Factor Annual #2 that Quicksilver (and Crystal) were being manipulated by Maximus the Inhuman.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | January 6, 2014 11:41 AM
An issue to be enjoyed greatly for what it is (good art, good battle, good character interactions, good use of the teams) and you have to focus on that to overcome all the over-arching flaws that fnord points out.
And the fried chicken scene really is pretty hilarious: "I need strength to deal with the events ahead." "I need strength to deal with thee!"
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 3, 2015 9:43 AM
Here was an interesting discussion of an alternative placement for these annuals which worked better for Beast's appearance so it didn't land in the middle of the Mutant Massacre. http://www.chronologyproject.com/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4913&hilit=Mutant+Massacre
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 4, 2015 4:59 AM
Definitely not as strong as part 1 but still enjoyable. The Zodiac were pretty lame and I wanted to see the Gyrich stuff explored further. Strange point in Quicksilver's career, that's for sure
Posted by: RikFenix | May 15, 2016 10:09 PM
You're either missing a lot of appearances here or have chosen to treat them all as flashbacks. The sequences at the start where the team are running through the past members show cutaways to what the characters are presently doing mostly. Usually, things the team actually don't know (such as Namor's mission involving Alpha Flight) and the Hulk's in particular makes reference to it as being concurrent. On the flipside, there are two that are definitely flashbacks (Jocasta and Swordsman) and one that must be (since Hellcat and Hellstorm are meant to be retired).
Posted by: AF | July 9, 2016 8:21 PM
Yes, i'm treating those scenes as conceptual/flashback. They're listed in the References, but i haven't tagged the characters. As you say, some are definitely flashbacks, and it doesn't make sense to mix and match. The Avengers knowing that the Hulk "is in no position to rat on anybody" seems more to suggest that this takes place after Hulk #324, not necessarily concurrently, or else the Avengers maybe shouldn't know that he was a prisoner. As for Namor, the Avengers just say that he's on a personal quest; i take the scene with Vindicator and Puck as the omniscient narrator showing the reader more about that quest than the Avengers might know, but it doesn't have to be taking place at the time of this story.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 18, 2016 11:13 AM
Really silly, with Quicksilver running across the Pacific, which is way beyond his powers at this time.
I do like Clint standing up for Whitey, though, and the "Kooky Quartet" days. Likewise, good consistency with Thor still being a dick to Pym, which is in line with his "yes, take his woman!" insane advice to Tony in #224, where Stark wants to make Jan a notch on his jock and Cap is like, "dude, grow up!" instead.
But yes, if you "eliminate suspects" just on their say-so and the villain has to actually show up to confess, not exactly great forensic skills on display here.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 21, 2016 6:33 PM
Cap always runs the Avengers on the honor system LOL!
Posted by: George Lochinski | November 21, 2016 12:15 PM
Really silly, with Quicksilver running across the Pacific, which is way beyond his powers at this time.---dan spector
Didn't he do the same in FF 240?
Posted by: a.lloyd | March 19, 2017 1:18 AM
I don't mind Quicksilver becoming a bad guy. It feels in character with his racial superiority schtcik. Inheriting his father's mantle so to speak.
And its so rare. We have umpteen villains becoming heroes but there are so few heroes who become villains. Him, Modred, the original Angel, Ghost Rider kind of, I can't think of any more.
Posted by: kveto from prague | March 20, 2017 3:44 PM
That's a great point Kveto. Warren Worthington - briefly when he was Death, does Cyclops count? Moondragon? Ultimate Reed Richards for sure, Scarlet Witch (briefly several times), Iron Man in the Crossing... it's not a great list or even one that has a lot of permanency.
Posted by: Mark Black | March 20, 2017 7:59 PM
There's heroic supporting characters like Madelyne Pryor.
Posted by: Michael | March 20, 2017 9:03 PM
Posted by: Jon Dubya | March 21, 2017 3:07 AM
Namor is a n interesting case. He started as an extreme antihero in the 1940s, was rounded off into more of a hero during the war (as reflected int he Invaders retcons, but also in the actual 1940s comics), and reverted to antiheroic status in the post-WWII comics and the 1950s. He was revived as a "noble villain" type in the 1960s, became a hero again by the end of that decade, and stayed that way (even when he was appearing in Super-Villain Team-Up) pretty much all the way until the 2000s, when he was made an increasingly edgy antiheroic type until, during the whole Hickman Avengers era, he crossed back over into "noble villain" status what with his war on Wakanda and working with guys like Thanos to blow up parallel Earths for "the greater good" (which turned out to be futile).
And one could argue that the retcons to the 1950s Cap showed someone who at least aspired to being a hero go from fighting actual villains to slowly going insane and becoming a villain.
Both Nomad (Jack Monroe) and D-Man ended up brainwashed into acting as a rather villainous version of Scourge, which was pretty much the end of them.
Angel went evil again when he was possessed by the Apocalypse Seed/Death Seed in Uncanny X-Force, and fixing that ended with his entire personality being wiped out for a wile.
Iron Man had a second round as something of a villain during the "Superior Iron Man" stuff around Axis, tough the less said about the whole "inversions" subplot the better.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 21, 2017 5:49 AM
Hasn't Odin also become more and more like a villain in recent years, starting with the Fear Itself crossover?
Posted by: Tuomas | March 21, 2017 8:28 AM
working with guys like Thanos to blow up parallel Earths for "the greater good" (which turned out to be futile).
It wasn't futile! If Namor hadn't joined the Cabal at the precise moment he did and helped them destroy the parallel Earth, the entire 616 universe would have been wiped out, since the other members of the Illuminati didn't have the guts to stop the incursion by destroying that Earth. They would've rather let their entire universe to be destroyed than to sacrifice their morality for the greater good. And if the 616 universe had died, the 616 FF wouldn't have been there to oppose Doom in Secret Wars... So Namor is really the unsung hero of Hickman's Avengers run.
Posted by: Tuomas | March 21, 2017 8:37 AM
@Jon Dubya - I want to pretend that remark is directed at me because you know how shit hot I was for Bishop as a twelve year old and you're like, "Mark you're forgetting someone else who did a heel turn, your ol buddy, Bishop!"
Posted by: Mark Black | March 21, 2017 3:09 PM
Another example of heroes switching sides would be Rusty and Skids of the New Mutants defecting to the Mutant Liberation Front. While they were minor characters, this would have been a good case of X-Factor's central mission (not going to weigh in on whether it was conductive to Xavier's dream) not holding up in the real world. Plus it's interesting how the actions of Freedom Force, a group of former terrorists-turned-bad-cop, drove a couple of kids into becoming terrorists themselves.
Of course that wasn't explored in anyway and was really a tactic to write them out of the book. The letter col at the time made it clear they weren't popular characters.
Feral also defected to the Reignfire-led MLF.
Posted by: iLegion | March 21, 2017 4:58 PM
@iLegion Did anyone from X-Factor ever even acknowledge their former charges after the demise of the X-Terminators?
Posted by: Mark Black | March 21, 2017 6:17 PM
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