Issue(s): Avengers #286, Avengers #287
I've read these before, but for my most recent read i thought i would try to clear my mind of any behind-the-scenes knowledge and just try to enjoy the story. After all, it's still a Roger Stern plot, i love John Bucema and Tom Palmer's art, and while i don't think Ralph Macchio is the greatest writer i don't have a problem with him.
I made it to the bottom of page three before the mewling Marrina and overly difficult Sub-Mariner got to me.
Obviously the plot called for Namor to get angry here, but Sub-Mariner is the one that asked for the chance to defend himself in court and i don't see him taking his frustrations out on a mere mortal like that. Instead of giving this subplot any progress at all, the dialogue is all just devoted to repeating what we already know and then having Namor stomp away just because the lawyer asked him to sign some papers. I have to imagine that Roger Stern would have given us a new development in the lawsuit for Namor to be upset about; instead this plot doesn't move forward.
Meanwhile, Captain Marvel, who was helping oversee the construction of a new Avengers Mansion on Hydrobase, decides to take a break and check in with her love interest FBI agent Derek Freeman to see if he knows anything about the disappearance of Captain America. She seems to know less than she should (see References) but in any event Freeman doesn't have any new information. But he does let her know that something weird is going on with the Fixer. One of the research scientists that have been going through the Masters of Evil's equipment wound up getting possessed by the Fixer's helmet, and as Captain Marvel and Derek Freeman are talking, the scientist breaks the real (?) Fixer out of jail...
...and the Fixer thanks the scientist by blasting him.
Or is it the real Fixer? After the scientist is dead, the Fixer starts thinking about being imprisoned for "months" while scheming against his "human enemies".
But the Avengers don't know about that yet. And they have a more actionable call to arms. Good old Bobby Hutchinson, who was charged in Gruenwald's Captain America run with keeping an eye on the Awesome Android that's in a neighboring barn, has called the number Cap gave him, which turns out to be an Avengers priority line (it was Bobby that inspired Captain America to create his personal hotline, but i guess he never went back and gave him the number or else this call would have been picked up by D-Man, who inherited the responsibility of monitoring that hotline when Steve Rogers gave up being Cap).
On the way to Bobby, we start to see strife between Dr. Druid and Captain Marvel.
The reason Bobby called is because a truck has pulled up at the barn.
It's the "Fixer", come to acquire the Android.
Captain Marvel takes out the Fixer, but even unconscious he manages to launch a gas grenade at her.
And then the Android, having absorbed CM's powers, blasts the Sub-Mariner. Then the rest of the group gets in on the action.
You can see that Marrina is with the group (and that She-Hulk is apparently not happy about that), but she's not officially an Avenger and she's been told not to get directly involved. She continues to be written in a wimpy and eager to please way and my beloved art team doesn't have a good handle on her either.
Beyond the dispute with Dr. Druid, here's the first little snipe at Captain Marvel.
By itself that would just be a funny quip, but it's followed up with this.
The Black Knight used to be one of Captain Marvel's biggest boosters (see Avengers #265, for example), so this is a real about-face.
Her failures continue to get hammered home...
...while She-Hulk continues to express interest in Namor.
It's Dr. Druid who figures out how to beat the Awesome Android, by detecting a weak point in its armpit that he directs She-Hulk to exploit. And he continues to needle Captain Marvel as well.
The guy in the Fixer costume turns out to be the research scientist again. The "real" Fixer was in the truck, and he's driven off. Marrina, seeking to prove herself, has chased after him. She is captured...
...and then escapes only to be immediately captured again.
She's dumped out of the truck and rescued by Namor just before a different truck accidentally runs her over.
The art in issue #287 gets a lot sketchier.
Perhaps John Buscema is leaving more for Tom Palmer since Buscema is also handling layouts for Fantastic Four at this time, or perhaps there were revisions to the plot as we get further away from Roger Stern's involvement.
As you can see, the big defeat of the Android last issue turns out to be short-lived, but they manage to beat it down again.
Meanwhile, in a scene that goes nowhere, Marrina's boyfriend from the earliest issues of Alpha Flight, Dan Smallwood, hears about Marrina on television. This will go absolutely nowhere and we'll never see Dan again (or Cathy and Randy, whoever they were).
Meanwhile, Mentallo shows up at the Fixer's base and tries to get the old band back together.
However, he's not interested. The Avengers receive a mental plea from Mentallo.
At least Namor is still accepting CM as leader, but i don't see him imploring anybody (he wants to go after the Fixer because he hurt Marrina), and her own need to randomly assert herself is pretty awful too.
Captain Marvel's powers were weakened by the Fixer's gas grenade, so she's not at full strength while the Avengers fight through the Fixer's traps...
...and there's a weird association between her power levels and her leadership ability.
Even Namor doesn't think she is "yet up to the task".
The Avengers fight their way through the traps and find a tortured Mentallo, who tells them that the Fixer's mind was "huge" and "alien".
Back at Hydrobase, while securing the Awesome Android, Dr. Druid notices that a different containment tube was recently tampered with. And it turns out that the Fixer is inside.
The tube used to hold the Super-Adaptoid. So now we know who our villain is.
Meanwhile, still in his Fixer form, the Super-Adaptoid shows up to recruit Machine Man.
These are the last issues to have Roger Stern in the credits, but this story will continue on for another three issues. So far it's at least an interesting story, with a lot of continuity-mining connections that i could equally attribute to Roger Stern or Mark Gruenwald (which is why they worked well together on Stern's Avengers before the Captain Marvel dispute). The script is unfortunately very heavy handed in bringing down Captain Marvel. The good news is that since this story was already plotted, we don't just have an immediate reversal of CM's abilities; Macchio and Gruenwald are forced to insert lines into a story that for the most part has the team operating as usual. And i guess in a way that actually helps make CM's downfall a little more "developed". In theory, there's nothing wrong with a story where someone can't cut it as leader of the Avengers, but aside from the ramifications of doing that to a female minority character (which i've already discussed elsewhere and won't get into again) and reversing Roger Stern's build-up of the character, it's just done very clumsily thanks to Macchio's less than elegant scripting. In any event we pause here because time passes before the beginning of next issue.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: There's a break between Avengers #287-288, with the Avengers having taken some time to officially move their headquarters to Hydrobase, so i'm splitting this story into two parts, which allows for a couple of Solo Avengers appearances.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAwesome Android, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Bobby Hutchinson, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Dan Smallwood, Derek Freeman, Dr. Druid, Fixer, Machine Man, Marrina, Mentallo, She-Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Super-Adaptoid
Has Stern ever said how far ahead he had plotted before he was fired? I'd be interested to know what his original plans were with the big 300th issue about a year away.
Posted by: Robert | June 4, 2014 12:04 PM
Robert, you may want to poke around on this archive of the old SternTalk message board, but generally speaking i think he's said that he wouldn't reveal any unrealized plans in case he ever gets the opportunity to use them.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 4, 2014 10:46 PM
One notable thing is that Stern has said that he planned on making Luke Cage an Avenger before he was fired:
Posted by: Michael | June 4, 2014 11:03 PM
Michael, thanks for the link. It would have been really interesting to see how Stern would've handled Cage.
fnord, I was afraid it would be something like that. Obviously he was okay with revealing the Cage thing since it's already happened now. Well, I admire his optimism I guess. Maybe Marvel could let him do a digital series to follow up like they did with Layton/Michelinie for Armor Wars II so we could see what Stern would have done. Frankly I would be much more interested in seeing him handle the characters he was working with then rather than adapt his ideas to fit a more current roster.
Posted by: Robert | June 5, 2014 12:28 PM
Per the link fnord provided, it seems most of what Stern had planned has been done already. The Iron Fist stuff was used by Byrne in Namor and Cage became an Avenger under Bendis. Beyond knowing that he wanted to use Loki in the 300th issue, Stern said that's as far as he got with planning. So I guess giving him a series to pick up where he left off, at least using the old ideas, would be pointless since it's doubtful he wants to write stuff that other writers have already tackled. Bummer.
Posted by: Robert | June 5, 2014 12:38 PM
The same image was repeated twice. "..and there's a weird association between her power levels and her leadership ability." and "Even Namor doesn't think she is "yet up to the task"."
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | June 5, 2014 2:50 PM
Thanks, Jay. Fixed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 5, 2014 3:02 PM
I like what Gruenwald did, he put a somewhat overused pet character it its place. Way to go!!!
Posted by: doomsday | June 24, 2014 8:05 PM
Wrong on so many levels.
Posted by: Robert | June 24, 2014 8:23 PM
On what levels?
Posted by: doomsday | June 24, 2014 8:26 PM
It's amazing how much baggage has been attached to the title of "chairperson" in the Avengers. In the early Stan Lee issues, it's barely more than a footnote. It was little more than a revolving door of who had the responsibility to conduct official meetings and deal with government officials.
However, by the time of Cap's Kooky Quartet, Captain America was established as the "leader" and I'm not sure if it was ever codified that he was sole chairman during that time.
Then it seemed to slip into abeyance again, and the issue of who leads the Avengers doesn't come into play until Iron Man's run as Avengers chairman in the 1970s under Shooter. By the eighties it is an institution and assumes much more importance.
I never saw any problem with Captain Marvel serving as the chairperson, even with its inflated status. She's been an Avenger for five years of real time by this point. It is a natural progression and no reason why she shouldn't serve for a while until someone else takes over.
She is a powerful character, but the Avengers are supposed to be a team of powerful characters. She's not out of a place with Thor, Iron Man, Wonder Man, and the Vision. Nor for that matter is electromagnetic manipulation particularly hard to beat. There are plenty of powers and situations that could beat her, and Stern did "eliminate" her from affecting events several times during his run.
One can easily tell that she's a favorite character of his, but it's not out of line. Considering how great Stern's run was, and the obvious decline in quality that came after him, it was a small price to pay.
Posted by: Chris | June 24, 2014 9:46 PM
"In theory, there's nothing wrong with a story where someone can't cut it as leader of the Avengers... ...it's just done very clumsily thanks to Macchio's less than elegant scripting."
I think, for me, the problem isn't that they felt the need to do it, or how bluntly it's handled per se, as much as how quickly it happens. It's not a slow build-up over time - as you mention, it's repeatedly hammered at the reader with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer multiple times right from the beginning of the creative team switchover - but it's abrupt. The entire shift from competent leader to inept screw-up to "injury" removing her from the team is like 6 issues, tops.
If anything, I like the way Simonson goes with the story later on, with the entire team screwed over and torn apart due to Nebula's plotting, because in my head-canon I've always extended that backwards to assuming she secretly manipulated CM's fall as well. It works much better than simply taking everything in those issues at face value.
Especially when you consider who else is on the team at the time. She-Hulk and Black Knight had both joined the Avengers earlier than her, but both had also had extended periods of absence when they weren't on the team. Namor and Druid didn't join until after Captain Marvel, so she has seniority over both (even if both technically pre-date her as solo heroes). Until Thor shows up again, Captain Marvel easily has the longest active streak of any member on the team (and apart from possibly Black Knight, NONE of the others are even remotely leadership material).
It's not really a case of "I guess she's okay as chairperson" as much as "She's about the ONLY person on the entire team qualified to hold the position in any real way."
The irony with demonizing her to get her to vacate the position being that, if the goal was to bring Captain America back in to take her place, they easily could have just had him rejoin the team and she likely would have just abdicated the position back to him out of respect. There was no real reason to vilify her as a character to the point where she arguably still hasn't really recovered.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 13, 2014 9:19 PM
Black Knight does have a leadership role in the Avengers in the 90's. Of course, that didn't end well either. Actually, now that I think about it, that position might be cursed. Captain America had it and had his costume taken away from him. We see what happened to Captain Marvel. And The Black Knight had his issues with Sersi later on.
Posted by: clyde | July 13, 2014 9:40 PM
The dreaded brown jacket period. I shudder just thinking about it.
Posted by: Robert | July 13, 2014 9:50 PM
Yup, the 90's - where superheroes had to fight crime & look cool doing it. :)
Posted by: clyde | July 13, 2014 10:06 PM
"Actually, now that I think about it, that position might be cursed."
Clearly, it's a consequence of being part of a team originally created to thwart Loki. He obviously put a curse on the team afterwards.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 14, 2014 5:07 PM
The biggest problem in how this was all handled was that they decided to give all the doubting thoughts to Dane. I remember reading this at the time and wondering what the hell had happened - Dane clearly thought she was the best choice to lead and now, all of a sudden, he has all these doubts? Of course, I didn't know anything about the behind-the-scenes stuff at the time.
One of the things I really liked about Monica is that she does what I would have done as an Avenger - has read up on all the files and knows all about everyone they fight. That's part of what made her such good leadership material.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 23, 2015 6:55 AM
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