Issue(s): Avengers #355, Avengers #356, Avengers #357
They seem relatively benign at first. They capture a survivor from this apocalyptic dimension, the Coal Tiger. Coal Tiger thinks they are responsible for the apocalypse, so they have to fight him, but they're not responsible and we don't yet know what they might have done if he hadn't attacked right away.
The Coal Tiger was the original intended name for the Black Panther. You can see Kirby's design for the character at the bottom of the entry for Fantastic Four #52-53.
But we later learn that the Gatherers have to eradicate the "template" for the people that they gather in our dimension. They aren't familiar with our Earth, so they have to raid Avengers Mansion to get data on who the Coal Tiger's counterpart might be.
Meanwhile, the drama between Crystal, Black Knight, and Sersi continues. We'll continue to get hints that something's wrong with Sersi.
Later, the Gatherers attack.
They defeat the Avengers, learn that Black Panther is the Coal Tiger's analogue, and teleport away. The Avengers warn Black Panther, and then teleport to Wakanda thanks to Lockjaw. Of course they blab about who provides the teleportation capabilities right away, but that's standard for super-heroes.
Black Knight doesn't go with the team because he's still recovering from injuries after getting stabbed by Raza. It's not said why Black Widow stayed with him.
We start to see that the Swordsman doesn't really know what's going on.
Proctor is aware of this, but doesn't seem to care.
For one brief second, i thought that Proctor was the Beyonder.
Coal Tiger tells Black Panther that the Gatherers are "evil incarnate".
Panther joins the fight just as Magdalene takes out the Vision.
Meanwhile, Coal Tiger appeals to Swordsman's sense of honor.
It's said that Swordsman was "never properly gathered", which explains his hesitation. Magdalene has knocked out the Black Panther, so they try to "gather" the Coal Tiger.
But Swordsman rebells, ending the gathering. This causes the Coal Tiger to die, but he says that he prefers that to being gathered. At this point Hercules pulls himself out of the rocks that Sloth buried him in, and Thor shows up with a contingent of Wakandan troops.
So the Gatherers flee. Vision stops the Swordsman from going with them.
Thanks to the Epting/Palmer art, i feel like i ought to like these issues. It's very much like the Buscema/Palmer art that i loved, not just in looks, but even in poses (i.e., so it's not just because of Palmer). And i can't help but like Sloth.
But the writing is very bland when it's not being overly dramatic. To be fair, this story involves alternate realities, so i'm already half out the door.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showBlack Knight (Dane Whitman), Black Panther, Black Widow, Crystal, Hercules, Jarvis, Lockjaw, Magdalene, Marilla, Proctor, Sersi, Sloth, Sprite, Swordsman (Gatherers), Taylor Madison, Thunderstrike, Ute, Vision
I like Steve Epting's art, but I don't care for the writing of Bob Harras. That is the new status quo for a while.
Posted by: Steven | April 26, 2016 12:02 PM
Never cared for Sersi's red costume. Shame she wears it for what consists of her biggest storylines.
Posted by: AF | April 27, 2016 6:43 AM
I thought the mystery here was interesting, and felt like it was going somewhere without that destination being obvious (though I never did read the conclusion to this arc). The Gatherers make good opponents for a lineup that lacks Cap/Iron Man/realThor, too. The dialogue could use some work, however, and it wouldn't hurt to replace Eric Masterson with someone who's less of a dunce.
Posted by: Mortificator | April 27, 2016 8:19 AM
Black Knight with a bomber jacket over his chain mail is hilariously stupid.
Posted by: Bob | April 27, 2016 11:02 AM
I stopped reading comics in the 90's, so I missed these issues the first time around. I'm reading them now, and so far I like them. Epting is easily the best artist working for Marvel in this period, which goes a long way with me. And alternate reality stories, when done right, give the writer the chance to explore big issues without messing up continuity. Coal Tiger's self-sacrifice, for example, is quite touching. It's what our T'Challa would do under the same circumstances, but will never have a chance to because no writer is going to kill him off, at least not in any permanent way.
Posted by: Andrew | September 9, 2016 7:14 AM
Epting's first few issues for Avengers were so hideous that I quit the title but I see that he has improved a lot to the point he is closely mimicking Paul Ryan. Come a long way.
Posted by: Grom | September 15, 2016 8:25 AM
Epting with Palmer does stand out artwise. It is interesting that Bob Harras did not try to get someone less solid for Avengers since lack of quality seemed to have been his focus on the X-Men? Sal Buscema, Steve Epting and Paul Ryan are definitely some of the better artists of the 90s. Same thing going on with Ryan on FF, DeFalco seemed to love him and Frenz so why not try to get artists that emulate those guys instead of Liefeld, Portacio and Lee?
To make this story related, to this day I do not really understand the Gatherers storyline. What were they gathering and why?
Liked the jackets on Sersi and Crystal but yeah, they are silly on Black Knight and Cap and Hercules. And when Black widow wore one, that really made no sense, spies do not want to be noisy, that is the point of a skintight suit to begin with...
Posted by: PeterA | September 17, 2016 4:28 AM
@PeterA, it's been years since I've read these issues, and I'm missing some of them but as I recall the Gatherers were "gathering" (i.e. killing) their numerous alternate-reality counterparts that they came across, because supposedly they couldn't co-exist at the same time in the same dimension. The whole reason why Proctor assembled the Gatherers together in the first place was so that every time he traveled to another parallel Earth he would have a team to fight off that world's Avengers while he was busy murdering that reality's Sersi.
Of course, in more recent years all the Gatherers have been gathering is dust :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 17, 2016 11:18 AM
The Black Widow also stayed behind because, like the Black Knight she was the most injured by Cassandra's attack. It's stated that even the others were not at "optimum levels" after the attack. Black Knight then says it's because he and the Widow are "Mere Humans."
Posted by: Urban Commando | April 30, 2017 6:37 AM
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