The Small Lebowski:
West Coast Avengers annual #3
Issue(s): West Coast Avengers annual #3
What i like about it is the way Englehart fits the story here into what's going on in the main West Coast Avengers book while bringing in elements from his Fantastic Four run and also, for pretty much the first time in the Evolutionary War, building on what happened in a previous part of the crossover ("pretty much" because of the drug shortage that's been running through the Punisher and Spider-Man parts, but that's incidental to the plot of the event), by having the High Evolutionary operating out of the Savage Land.
Englehart is at his best when he's bringing in elements from all over the Marvel universe, and in that regard he's at his best here.
Since the team was recently split in half thanks to Mockingbird leaving and taking Tigra and Moon Knight with her, the main story in this annual is split in half, too. So unlike most of the annuals this year that have a main story and then a shorter back up feature not necessarily related to the Evolutionary War, this book has two nearly equal length stories that are occurring simultaneously (in addition to pin-ups and the Saga of the High Evolutionary feature).
We learn that Bill Foster has infiltrated the High Evolutionary's Savage Land compound. The use of Foster is another nice example of Englehart playing with Marvel's toys. It's not yet said explicitly how Foster wound up here by himself, but the Evolutionary does say that while his Gathererers (and presumably Purifiers and Eliminators) were "made... to specification", he's had to recruit his technicians for their "recondite knowledge". So i suppose Foster was contacted among other former Project Pegasus or Stark employees. He'll later say that he joined to get resources to develop something to revive his growth serum, "because when I grow, I gain mass from another dimension -- pure mass, untainted by cancer -- and if I stay at this size long enough, the pure mass will cleanse the tainted mass in me!". He's not Giant-Man again yet, though. But he's obviously found out that something fishy's going on, and he drops a little capsule on one of his comrades in the hope that someone will find the message inside.
Since the Evolutionary is in the Savage Land, we see him observing the weird BEYONDER monument that the Fantastic Four recently found there. And that's not a completely gratuitous reference; we're reminded that the Beyonders were responsible for the towing away of Counter-Earth. Since the FF are currently searching for the Beyonders, the High Evolutionary is moving up his time table in case the investigation triggers them to act again.
The final piece that the Evolutionary needs for his bomb ins Wakandan Vibranium, so that's where he's sent his Gatherers. Englehart acknowledges the high tech aspects of Wakanda...
...in part by using the THROB robots that he introduced in Fantastic Four #311.
The Black Panther and the Wakandans are able to stop the Gatherers, and the note from Foster is found.
The Panther contacts the West Coast Avengers. Henry Pym is no longer with the group, but Hawkeye shows up with his current team. And this is where the editorial interference comes in. For some reason, the editors (i assume Mark Gruenwald, who until recently was editor on WCA and is editor here, but Gruenwald was replaced by Howard Mackie on the most recent issues of the regular series) decided they didn't want Englehart using Mantis. So Mantis will soon be shuffled off the team. In the meantime, for this issue, all of her dialogue had been erased.
Yeah, that's completely unobtrusive. Could they not just change her dialogue to not be anything significant, instead of just having her gesticulating in front of the camera, trying to speak, but with no words coming out?
Here's a real tangent, but my third favorite shared universe (Marvel, then Godzilla) is the Universal Horror movies from the 1930s and 40s. And one of the sadder aspects of that is that Bela Lugosi had regretted not playing Frankenstein's monster since it turned out to be a big hit for Boris Karloff. But he still refused to play the Monster in later films unless he would be allowed to have a speaking role. So in Ghost of Frankenstein they go through a lot of effort to put the brain of Igor (played by Lugosi) into the Monster's head. And then for the next movie in the series, Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man, Frankenstein was meant to talk. But test audiences found the talking Monster to be funny, so all of Lugosi's lines were deleted. Also as a result of the end of Ghost of, the Monster was supposed to be blind, but the explanation for that also got dropped. So in meets the Wolf Man, you have this Frankenstein's Monster whose lips are moving and who is blindly flailing around, but there's no explanation for it. And that's what i think of when i see poor Mantis up there.
Things continue to go downhill when, as the Black Panther and the Avengers are talking (or not talking, in Mantis' case), the High Evoutionary sends in some super-villains to do what the Gatherers couldn't. And, similar to the new villains Englehart created in West Coast Avengers #12-13 that were based on the four fundamental forces, this group is based on the five senses (plus the "sixth sense", intuition).
I'll tell you right now, people. If you ever find yourself writing dialogue like "I am Smell", i need you to check your driver's license. If you're Steve Gerber and you're writing a parody comic, please proceed. Otherwise, it's time to think very hard about what you've done and how you're going to fix it.
The Panther's super-senses apparently make him vulnerable to intense odors...
...but he's right, he's not alone. We're all vulnerable to intense odors. That still doesn't make it a super-power.
The Avengers actually take these guys seriously.
"It's covering Sight." "Robbing him of his sight!" Great banter!
Mantis does get some dialogue.
While the "Sensors" are keeping the Avengers busy, Dr. Stack teleports in and grabs a big chunk of vibranium.
The Avengers then head off to the Savage Land (the Panther declines to come along, but all they find is a big hole in the ground.
To find out why, we have to go back in time and see what Mockingbird's group is up to. We saw in West Coast Avengers #37 that she was interested in tracking down Master Pandemonium, who came back to Earth with the Fantastic Four via the Savage Land in Fantastic Four #315, so her group is already headed there. When they get there, they are surprised to find out that the Savage Land has been restored. Ka-Zar gives them the scoop (and Al Milgrom gives us some sad looking dinosaurs; art was better on the first half with Gerry Talaoc inks).
Steve Englehart has already shown us that he remembers Mockingbird's days as a SHIELD agent in the Savage Land, but it's nice to see it acknowledged here in the team's non-generic interaction with Ka-zar and family...
...and in how Mockingbird asserts herself after the subject of her marriage comes up.
It also works out that none of these Avengers know anything about the High Evolutionary (Mockingbird notes that none of the Avengers have reported meeting him since she's joined, and "I'm not the information freak Hawk is". So that allows them to enter the High Evolutionary's lair unaware of what to expect.
Now's a good time to mention that earlier, the High Evolutionary was comparing Dr. Stack to the Man-Beast.
And here, Tigra thinks that he smells like a fox.
The High Evolutionary later addresses him as Foks.
The implication seems to be that Stack is hyper-evolved from an animal like the High Evolutionary's New Men, although perhaps he's just been mixed with some animal DNA instead of just being a Fox Man. I've been noting all along that Stack and his partner Major Purge (who does not appear in this issue) have an ethos at odds with the High Evolutionary's purported goals, and saying it was because the Evolutionary may not have realized the sort of people he was attracting with his "genetic purity" message. But if Stack was created by the Evolutionary and not simply recruited, that's a different problem. If Stack is immoral thanks to his evolutionary roots, like the Man-Beast, then it seems like the High Evolutionary is not learning from his past mistakes (albeit it's to a lesser degree here). We've also seen the grunts engaging in some questionable missions, and we saw earlier here that the Gatherers, at least, were also genetically designed in some way. So it seems like the High Evolutionary is creating goons that don't share his altruism. It's also worth noting that even though we're still in the Savage Land, we don't see a hint of Zaladane or the Mutates in this issue.
When the Avengers meet the High Evolutionary, he tells them that he's building a bomb that will mutate everyone on Earth, and then he puts them in a silly death-trap maze and waits to see who will make it out first. Whoever gets out first gets to be the guinea pig for his evolutionary format. Mockingbird is the one who gets out first...
...because Tigra and Moon Knight pause to make-out (it's funny because Moon Knight actually got knocked out due to gas so it's Khonshu controlling the body).
Mockingbird is joined by Bill Foster, who tries a new growing serum on himself to fight the Evolutionary.
He manages to toss the Evolutionary around.
The Evolutionary is impressed with Foster's interest in evolving himself, and he's then notified by Stack that the vibranium has been acquired. So he disengages, and escapes, blowing up his base as he leaves.
I guess this mostly counts as a win for the High Evolutionary. He doesn't get to test his formula and he is forced to abandon his Savage Land base, but he does get the vibranium he needed and escape. All in all, this is the most consequential part of the Evolutionary War since the first X-Factor annual. I'm putting the X-Men annual in a separate category since he wasn't really opposed there and we didn't see his restoration of the Savage Land as being part of a larger plan (and honestly, even here it's just said that it was done because it's relatively close to Wakanda, but i'll have to assume there's more to it than that). It's here that we explicitly learn his end goal and see him getting the final components of the evolutionary bomb. So this feels like an important part of the story, and it's also great the way Englehart works that plot into the various elements of his own books. There are still the usual Englehart and Milgrom flaws, but this is one of the better parts of their WCA run, despite the lame Sensors and the weird edits.
And here's some silly pin-ups.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place between West Coast Avengers #37-38. This is part nine of The Evolutionary War; Spectacular Spider-Man annual #8 is next. The High Evolutionary says that the Fantastic Four are currently in the Negative Zone investigating the Beyonders, so i'm keeping this concurrent with Fantastic Four #318-319 (and Silver Surfer #15-18). The events of Uncanny X-Men annual #12 are said to have taken place "a few weeks back" but of course we'll take that with a temporal grain of salt.
Crossover: The Evolutionary War
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAdam Plunder, Bill Foster, Black Panther, Dr. Stack, Hawkeye, High Evolutionary, Ka-Zar, Khonshu, Mantis, Moon Knight, Scarlet Witch, Shanna the She-Devil, Tigra, Vision, Wonder Man, Zabu
I'm also a fan of the Universal horror films so I appreciate the comparison. I didn't care for the Evolutionary War crossover overall but I like this one because it ties back into the stuff Englehart was already doing that I mostly enjoyed.
Posted by: Robert | August 1, 2014 1:11 PM
I enjoyed it based on the fact that it was a nice way to tie in all the annuals. As far as a meaningful story.......not so much. Especially after it was continued in Thor later on. That really ruined it IMO.
Posted by: clyde | August 1, 2014 1:39 PM
As we'll see in Avengers Annual 17, some of the High Evolutionary's servants are evolved animals but many are recruited humans.
Posted by: Michael | August 1, 2014 5:58 PM
DC Green Arrow reference!
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 1, 2014 9:20 PM
I liked the Green Arrow reference. The fact that Clint has apparently been shooting arrows at Bobbi's picture is a bit creepy though.
Posted by: Berend | August 4, 2014 5:46 AM
One of my favorites - Englehart brought back a stronger Giant Man, only to have Clor burn a lightning bolt through his chest in Civil War.
Posted by: Vin the Comic Guy | January 27, 2015 5:07 PM
Ah, you already noted Mantis' obvious rewrites in this issue. Quite frankly I find them hilarious.
Posted by: AF | January 6, 2016 4:01 PM
I know Mantis has memory problems, but she remembers that three people have dodged her and forgotten that Dr. Strange was the fourth?
Posted by: ChrisW | March 28, 2016 9:00 PM
This was an enjoyable story. The silly villains based on the senses were very bronze age and almost entertainingly bad. The rift between Mockingbird and Hawkeye is certainly funny."That creep?" Mockingbird says at one point, "We're through!"
Posted by: RikFenix | June 6, 2016 6:17 PM
"Listen to the Mockingbird" is an old song.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | September 6, 2016 5:57 AM
Just to be pedantic, if we're talking about senses, shouldn't "Sound" be "Hearing"? Also, with all respect to Aristotle, there is at least one more non-metaphysical sense: equilibrium.
Posted by: Andrew | September 6, 2016 9:22 AM
Sadly the Mockingbird stuff takes on a disturbing tone given Chelsea Cain's retcon that it was a 100% consensual relationship and Bobbi murdering Phantom Rider/crying rape to cover up the adultery she committed.....
Posted by: Jesse Baker | May 15, 2017 3:22 PM
Posted by: JP! | May 15, 2017 3:27 PM
Agreed. That sounds worse than the original. Wish I hadn't read that at all. #moderncomicssuck
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 15, 2017 4:44 PM
That "retcon" should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt. Even Chelsea Cain herself said online that it might not be true--that it is just the story Bobbi was telling at that moment. And Cain had already suggested in interviews prior to that issue that Bobbi may have a bit of an 'unreliable narrator' thing going on in some of the issues (which explains some of the bizarre and improbable news feed headlines in issue #3, for example).
Personally, I would go with the notion that Bobbi was just playing along with Phantom Rider's delusions there as a manipulation tactic.
Posted by: Dermie | May 16, 2017 9:29 PM
From my understanding, the retcon was not that Bobbi had made a false claim, but that Clint had insisted it was rape because he couldn't handle that Bobbi had cheated on him consensually, and Rider is merely her idiot ex rather than her rapist.
When asked if that was the case, Chelsea Cain responded "Yep. Wanted to draw attention to the fact that we've only heard these stories from a male POV. Which is really the problem." So while there is some "unreliable narrator" comedy in the series, it does not seem she intended it to apply to this.
Chelsea Cain seems to be arguing that what we all read in WCA was in fact only Clint's interpretation and not what really happened, though I'm sure it would not be difficult to find thought bubbles and direct speech from Bobbi that contradicts this. So this was apparently done from a feminist perspective, and I see the argument that too many female comics characters have been rape victims, but this does seem the wrong one to try to retcon, even if some of Englehart's writing on WCA could be classified as anti-feminist which perhaps makes it an interesting candidate for a feminist retcon.
While well-meaning, I don't think it was a good idea as I am in general bored of modern comics writers re-writing decades old stories, it will only irritate old fans while the new fans will not care about this ancient history which is never mentioned otherwise.
Further discussion of the comic here: https://retcon-punch.com/2016/10/24/mockingbird-8/
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | May 17, 2017 8:26 AM
Yes, Cain did say that she put that in there as a counter-point to these stories having been told from the male perspective...but she did also later suggest that just because Bobbi said it here doesn't make it true. She may have simply been trying to walk back the retcon at that point though, since she got a LOT of flak for it.
Although I agree that it was well-meaning she made a huge mis-step with this retcon. Mockingbird wasn't just made a rape victim in this arc--it showed her taking back her agency by avenging herself and defeating her attacker herself. And there have been too many stories dealing with the fallout of the Phantom Rider incident (where Bobbi herself referenced what the Rider did to her) for a retcon of this nature to work. It would require unravelling far too many strands of continuity.
On top of that, if Cain's retcon were to be accepted it would do terrible damage to the character of Bobbi Morse. As the story stands, Bobbi is a woman who was assaulted--and then fought back, and overcame her attacker. In the retcon version...Bobbi is an adulterer who cheated on her husband, and apparently murdered her lover to try and cover it up? Seriously, how she ever thought that this would be an improvement for the story is beyond me. Speaking as a feminist, the notion of Bobbi's rape being retconned into a consensual relationship is deeply offensive. So I am grateful that it is not likely to be accepted into canon.
Posted by: Dermie | May 17, 2017 11:53 PM
Yes I could see the reasoning more if it was a storyline where Clint had to come in & rescue Bobbi etc, or if it had just been introduced into someone's backstory for no reason, but this is a storyline where Bobbi rescues herself, & as you say it's too involved with the whole team, not just Clint & Bobbi, for over a year's storylines.
Also, I normally find Hawkeye a kind of "lovable asshole" character, he can be cocky, he can be sexist (his early interactions with She-Hulk & Deathbird), he can be kind of a dick but usually he's charming enough that I sort of think "Hawkeye's a dick but that's why he's a great character". But I always saw this storyline, where he thinks Avengers rules are more important than backing his wife, as being his worst moment of being an asshole & I think it went too far in making him a bad husband. I guess Englehart saw it as Hawkeye being poacher-turned-gamekeeper, or maybe Clint felt he couldn't be seen as making an exception of the rules for his wife, but I think it went too far in Clint being unsympathetic to what she went through.
So for me, the retcon is also damaging to Clint where a storyline where he is already portrayed as a bad husband becomes a storyline where he is such a dick that he refuses to accept reality because it would damage his ego.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | May 18, 2017 8:05 AM
Since the planet was destroyed due to the final incursion at the beginning of SECRET WARS and then was subsequently recreated, histories of all the characters have been changed in one way or another to produce new ones. In this case, the stuff between Mockingbird and the Phantom Rider went another way, and the results ended up as shown in MOCKINGBIRD #8. The original way still happened, but that was in the previous universe and no longer applies.
I wish they would do a "History of the Marvel Universe" kind of book to give us a map of how things are now in this new reality.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | December 11, 2017 9:23 AM
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