Issue(s): Avengers #352, Avengers #353, Avengers #354
If nothing else, Wyman gives us a giant hand with eyes on the fingers and a mouth in the palm.
That thing is Lloigoroth, an elder god, or i guess it's just Lloigoroth's
Sticking with just the art for a minute, issue #352 is inked by Tom Palmer, and as usual he tends to dominate (which i don't find to be a bad thing).
I mean, i still cringe when i see Hercules without his beard, but that's not the artists' fault.
Anyway, Grim Reaper causes a plane to crash, which attracts the attention of the Avengers. He also disappears a subway train, and then he tells the Avengers to meet him in the cavern where he was killed.
They have to fight their way through a bunch of creepy-crawlies...
...before getting to the Grim Reaper himself, who creates an interdimensional vortex and sucks them into it.
They then have to fight their way through some skeletons.
And then they just have to walk through a long cavern. Without Palmer on inks, the art is different looking. It's much more cartoony, although the backgrounds sometimes have a much more textured look.
When they make it to the Grim Reaper, he makes them fight a Legion of the Unliving.
This Legion of the Unliving is much more zombified than previous versions.
It's said in a later lettercol that Len Kaminski is a big fan of horror movies, and there are nods to Evil Dead and The Return of the Living Dead in these issues.
Eventually the Vision reminds the Grim Reaper that he wasn't killed by the Avengers; he deliberately killed himself out of guilt over his crimes.
That causes the Reaper to lose control of his zombies.
Then the big hand returns and eats him up. Om nom nom nom.
There are some fun and creepy moments, but as a whole these issues really do feel like a fill-in. Not much at all happens in the first part, and in the second issue it's a lot of just walking around in caves. And then it's basically a Legion of the Unliving fight, always fun, but never meaningful. Big thumbs up (ha ha!) for the giant hand, though.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's never a good bet to count the members of the Legion of the Unliving as actual characters.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showBlack Knight (Dane Whitman), Crystal, Grim Reaper, Hercules, Sersi, Vision
I actually really like this arc. There's a good sense of atmosphere in several parts of the story and it is completely perfunctory in what it does. I do wish we got to see a bit more of the Legion and the Avengers fighting them as a team, rather than as individuals.
Interesting that quite a few of the Legion are farmed from Englehart's Avengers run (Necrodamus, Amenhotep, Star-Stalker). As a team it's insanely over-powered (Count Nefaria and Nebulon alone), so this Avengers squad were lucky they were busy trying to eat flesh. It is also nice for the Legion line-up to not just be the same faces we always see in the Legion (no Swordsman) and really dig deep to bring in some forgotten characters to make it more exciting. Would've liked to see them do a bit more though.
I like the Grim Reaper's power-ups (him summoning bats from his cape is basically Myotismon) - makes him a legitimate threat. Although it does make him a bit over-powered, it's much better than the enormously underpowered bloke he usually is. The design is a bit bland but honestly his old design isn't particularly great. Maybe if they included purple on the inside of his cape. Anyway, Busiek and Brevoort of course just ignored all this and set him back to the old one because any development past 1977 they have no fondness for.
Posted by: AF | April 22, 2016 7:29 PM
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 22, 2016 9:09 PM
Count Nefaria and Red Guardian both eventually were revealed to be alive, so these must not be their actual ghosts. I'm not sure if any of the other Legion members later showed up among the living, but since no one stays dead in comic books, it's a genuine possibility.
So, any guesses as to who or what the members of this particular Legion of the Unliving actually were? Dire Wraiths, Space Phantoms, other-dimensional counterparts, shape-shifting demons? I suppose there are several options available if you really want them.
M.C. Wyman does some decent penciling on this story, but I really feel that Steve Alexandrov & Ariane Lenshoek's inking on the second and third chapters doesn't do him too many favors. I'd much rather have seen Wyman inked Charles Barnett, Mike DeCarlo or Keith Williams, all of whom did nice work over his pencils elsewhere.
Just goes to show how important the inker is to the finished look of the artwork.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 22, 2016 10:52 PM
Terrible story. Why is Black Widow missing?
Posted by: Steven | April 23, 2016 1:05 AM
@Ben, you actually see in #353; Grim Reaper captures several regular people and uses his new demon skillz to transform them into necrotic facsimiles of the dead.
@Steven; and Thor! Even if he's a goofball, he'd have been pretty handy to have around.
Posted by: AF | April 23, 2016 5:12 AM
Llooigoroth is drawn as a right hand and seems to be considering Grim Reaper for the role of left hand.
His appearance is an obviously shout-out to Y'Golonac, who had mouth openings in his palms. The Lloigor in Cthulhu Mythos are either a tentacled monstrosity (Derleth, I think) or an invisible race of mind controllers (Colin Wilson).
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 23, 2016 7:20 AM
Shouldn't the Star-Stalker be, like, 30 feet tall, not be mention shiny?
Posted by: Oliver_C | April 23, 2016 9:14 AM
Well, they were created using corpses (or bodies at least?) of regular humans, so maybe they were limited by that.
Posted by: AF | April 23, 2016 9:22 AM
@AF, thanks, it's been quite a while since I've looked at these issues, so I completely forgot about that. So I guess this "Legion of the Unliving" is basically a group of cosplaying zombies.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 23, 2016 2:25 PM
Thor was often drifting in and out of the book around this time--presumably due to him being busy with things in his own solo book.
Black Widow's absence is harder to explain--but it was equally common around this period. Even in issues where she actually made an on-panel appearance she would sometimes not actually go out on the mission with the team, and instead stayed at the Mansion while Black Knight took over as field leader. They never actually bothered to provide an on-panel explanation for why Natasha was staying at the Mansion so much.
Posted by: Dermie | April 24, 2016 10:47 AM
Was Bob Harras being forced to use Black Widow? He doesn't incorporate her well into his stories.
Posted by: Steven | April 25, 2016 9:44 AM
Well this one wasn't by him.
Maybe he wanted Cap in that role but Gruenwald fully wrote him out so Black Widow was an easy substitute.
I wonder if she was even considered part of the line-up in the offices. I mean, look at Black Widow's role (or complete lack of one) in Operation Galactic Storm for example. And then fill-ins like this she's not even mentioned.
Posted by: AF | April 25, 2016 1:36 PM
Harras wasn't forced to use her--but he inherited her from the previous writer since Larry Hama had made her part of the official roster during his run. Since Harras was writing Cap out for a while in the fallout of Galactic Storm, I think he wanted to keep Tasha in place as a stable authority figure--but keep her in the background while other characters' storylines (particularly the Sersi/Black Knight/Crystal triangle) took center stage.
Harras does eventually start to do more with the Widow in the later half of his run.
Posted by: Dermie | April 26, 2016 4:35 PM
I just thought that another weird thing about Widow's lack of inclusion in this arc is that they resurrected Red Guardian.
I wonder if early on they planned to include her, with Red Guardian as her obvious sparring partner, but then couldn't really make it work and dropped her but kept the Red Guardian to help bolster the ranks of the Legion.
I understand why she'd be pretty useless in this story. At least Black Knight has a lightsaber, Black Widow wouldn't be consumed pretty fast by the zombies. Having TWO under-powered heroes on the team when they are fighting magic and demons and zombies would be silly.
Posted by: AF | April 28, 2016 1:16 PM
Also, don't forget that in both Harras and Hama's runs, early on they had Captain America staying behind at the Headquarters and directing the rest of the team from there (in Collection Obsession and in Avengers #331). That seems to be the role that Black Widow wound up playing once Cap was gone.
Posted by: AF | April 28, 2016 1:28 PM
I'm glad I had left by this time. Going back and reading it now, this just seems like a team of second-stringers, in spite of how much I like Dane and how much power this team has with Vision, Hercules and Sersi. This is the first time in Avengers history that the team doesn't either have Cap or one of the founders. It kind of reminds me of the JLA Detroit period - yes, they had two founding members, but all the heavy hitters, the real primary heroes that made them the JLA were gone, which is why they brought Batman back before too long. It just doesn't feel like the Avengers without Cap, but with Cap gone, Jan, Hank and Tony on the West Coast and even the fake Thor not around, this just feels like a fake team of Avengers.
Also, I find it odd that so many of the villains are described as dying when facing the Avengers. Several of them died facing individual members of the Avengers yes, but a lot of them didn't actually die facing the team.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 9, 2016 8:06 AM
Well, Hank returns very very soon and Cap appears almost every chance he gets.
Personally, I think the Heavy Metal/early Simonson era is closer to Justice League Detroit.
Posted by: AF | May 9, 2016 10:19 AM
Practically calling it out here: http://33.media.tumblr.com/88c52094660772c64269e5b8e8291178/tumblr_inline_n2x8dkPQa41sqpgg0.png
Posted by: AF | May 9, 2016 10:20 AM
@AF - That panel was as 90's as 90's gets. Leather jacket, headsets, bulging muscles, skimpy costumes, a brokeback pose from Natasha.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 9, 2016 10:59 AM
@Erik - That pic could have used more pouches :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 9, 2016 1:48 PM
@Erik Beck - oh, come on. This panel is really not that bad. For once, it's Epting, a talented artist - not Liefeld.
Even Tasha's 90s pose doesn't look as bad as it could under a different artist.
Posted by: Piotr W | May 9, 2016 3:21 PM
@Piotr W - Oh, I'm not suggesting the art is bad at all. It's just very much of its time.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 9, 2016 3:32 PM
Really? I've honestly seen much worse...
Posted by: Piotr W | May 9, 2016 3:34 PM
Erik- those costumes aren't skimpy by '90s standards- look at Sue's boob window costume, Psylocke's costume, Black Cat's ridiculously plunging neckline or Sif's Mephistoized costume. Crystal and Sersi are conservative dressers by those standards.
Posted by: Michael | May 10, 2016 7:58 AM
Also, note that Hank is actually the only person with pouches :)
Posted by: Piotr W | May 10, 2016 9:55 AM
Other than Hercules and the Vision, who is in skimpy costumes?
Posted by: Bill | May 10, 2016 10:48 AM
"I'm glad I had left by this time. Going back and reading it now, this just seems like a team of second-stringers..."
That's why I always find so funny. Around this period, The Black Widow WAS considered a "second stringer". Certainly not someone who was considered as "crucial" to the Avengers mythos as Iron Man or Thor (more comparable to Spider-Woman II or Moondragon.) This "also-ran" status cumulated in the Avengers debanding under her watch.
Yet fast-forward to "now", and she's considered MORE essential to the Avengers universe than it's long-running members (including some of it's founders) to the point that there are probably fans who don't even know that she only came into prominence on the team around this time.
It would be like if they suddenly decied that Sersi was now a major Avenger player over, say Wonder Man (Uh-oh, I think I just some dimwitted executive An Idea for the next Avengers movie.)
Posted by: Jon Dubya | May 10, 2016 9:00 PM
@Jon Dubya - Reading fnord's profiles of these Avengers issues from the early 1990s, I was thinking the exact same thing about the Black Widow. She was a non-member ally in the mid-1960s, mostly by virtue of the fact that she was dating Hawkeye. Natasha finally joined in #111, only to quit one issue later. Over the next two hundred issues the Widow then made about dozen appearances all told. Until she was added to the line-up during Larry Hama's run, the Widow had really spent very little time as an active Avenger.
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 10, 2016 10:59 PM
While a rather unconventional choice considering all the other potential heroines that could have been used for the MCU Avengers, I suppose that Black Widow was just in the right place at the right time. She's a "classic Marvel character" introduced in the 60s, doesn't need much back-story (Russian spy who is now working for SHIELD), plus has an easy enough power and skill set that doesn't require an origin story or a ton of CGI that the big boys would require. If you look at all the other bigger or more prominent Avenger females that probably are more well known and the situations they required to even be established (Wasp: need Ant-Man first; Scarlet Witch: the whole thing with Fox, etc), I think Natasha just worked to the advantage of the MCU even if she really wasn't a "key Avenger" until the 1990s.
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 11, 2016 9:39 AM
Or rather she was in Ultimates.
Posted by: AF | May 11, 2016 9:51 AM
She just works well for the MCU. Want to introduce an undercover/future Avenger in Iron Man 2? Black Widow works. Need a SHIELD agent character in Cap 2? There she is.
Posted by: Dave77 | May 13, 2016 7:28 PM
Erik Beck wrote: "This is the first time in Avengers history that the team doesn't either have Cap or one of the founders."
That actually dates much further back. All the way to 1970. In issue #75, the Pyms leave for Alaska and while the big three pop in and out, the official team was Black Panther, Goliath (Clint Barton), Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision. A classic team by my lights. Their first outing without any of the big three was Hulk #128 and the first Avengers issue with only them was #77.
Posted by: Ubersicht | November 22, 2016 10:17 PM
A clarification: the team that was disbanded by Skrull imposters in #92 was already without T'Challa, who'd recently returned to Wakanda. Avengers #92 also featured the Thing knocking them - "The Avengers? What Avengers?" - as not being the Avengers HE knew.
Posted by: Ubersicht | November 22, 2016 10:31 PM
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