Avengers annual #16
Issue(s): Avengers annual #16
I said in the entry for West Coast Avengers annual #2 that there was a mistake in the original Contest of Champions, with the Grandmaster winning what should have been a tie with death. But even though the Grandmaster "won", he still had to give up his own lifeforce to resurrect his brother, the Collector. We learn at the beginning of this issue that this was his plan all along; he says that he "intentionally lost" the Contest of Champions so that he could enter the realm of Death and steal her powers...
...which he finally did by using the West Coast Annual's Avengers battle to distract her. That doesn't really constitute a fix for the mistake in Contest, since the Grandmaster "won" thanks to the mistake. If it was said that Death had intentionally lost, that would have worked (although it would have called for an entirely different story) or some sort of "tie goes to the runner" rule could have been established, maybe with the idea that the Grandmaster only sort-of having won meant that he had to give up his own life, whereas if he had won straight out he could have resurrected the Collector free and clear. I don't demand that these annuals get bogged down trying to correct a five year old mistake that was already acknowledged as such in various lettercols and fanzines, but the introduction in my Contest of Champions trade seemed to imply that the purpose of the Contest sequel was designed to do just that, so i'm trying to reason out if there's something i'm missing here.
Instead, the plot here just sets up an incoherent power grab from the Grandmaster, wherein he plants five life-bombs throughout the universe, with the idea that either he'll have a fun game watching the Avengers try to disarm them or the universe will explode and start over and he'll have all sorts of new opportunities for games.
What follows is another pointless series of small fights, this time between all of the Avengers and a new Legion of the Unliving.
Can't promise i'll always do this for jam issues, but there's the breakdown (with Bob Hall & Tom Palmer doing the framing sequences).
John Romita Jr. / Bill Sienkiewicz:
Keith Pollard / Al Williamson:
Marshall Rogers / Bob Layton:
Butch Guice / Kevin Knowlan:
Ron Frenz / Bob Wiacek:
I have to admit that it's possible to just enjoy the weird pairings; who wouldn't want to see a She-Hulk vs. Drax or Iron Man vs. Terrax fight? Also fun seeing Mockingbird truly living up to the Mocking part of her name, and interesting to see Cap call Bucky "son"; i would have thought "brother". But storywise there's nothing here; it's just filler.
Most of the Avengers lose their contests, but Captain America and Hawkeye stop their bombs. However, they find that the Grandmaster is just going to make them keep playing forever.
Instead, Hawkeye offers to play a game of chance with the Grandmaster. And Hawkeye cheats.
This is literally the same ending as Giant-Size Defenders #3, except that unlike there and in Contest of Champions, there's no error and the good guys "legitimately" win.
It's not part of this story, but in Steve Engelhart's Silver Surfer we'll learn that the Grandmaster was really scheming here to force Death into granting immortality to the Elders of the Universe. Again, there's no hint of that in this issue, but that's where Englehart takes it after the fact. It does put a better spin on this story in retrospect.
In the trade intro, Tom DeFalco says that fan reaction wasn't positive to the idea of Hawkeye cheating or to Captain America's final comment on it.
These Avengers annuals were really poor. It's fine to just be an excuse for some cool battles, but you want to hang it on some kind of story that makes sense, and if you're just going to do battles, you're going to want spectacular art to go with it, and that wasn't the case with the Al Milgrom West Coast issue or any of the fights here. I had highest hopes for the JRJR/Sienkiewicz pairing but i don't feel like that worked at all. On top of that, neither Englehart nor DeFalco are at all good at scripting, so there's really not much to recommend here.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Continues directly from West Coast Avengrs annual #2. Considering that many of the Legion of the Unliving will turn out to not really be dead, i'm assuming all of them are, as Thor says of the Executioner, nameless shades in their guise. The MCP does list some of the Unliving as actually appearing in this issue (Drax, Hyperion, & Terrax), and if i come across any of the "dead" characters making reference to appearing here, i'll include them as well with the assumption that some portion of their souls were compelled to participate here. But until then i'm leaving them out. Silver Surfer #3 takes place soon after the end of this annual, showing us the fate of Firebird and the Collector.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Contest of Champions TPB
Inbound References (8): show
I couldn't believe that Steve was angry that Clint cheated a psycho to prevent genocide. Fnord, you've been complaining that Gruenwald portrays Steve as too much of a boy scout but this is beyond belief.
Posted by: Michael | April 11, 2014 7:55 PM
I think it was just supposed to be a punch line. I don't think he was really angry.
Posted by: Robert | April 11, 2014 8:09 PM
To clarify, what I mean is that while in the story he seems to say the line seriously, I believe DeFalco just included it as a joke. Not something meant to be analyzed.
Posted by: Robert | April 11, 2014 8:11 PM
Also, note that one fifth of the universe is destroyed in this issue and that's never mentioned again.
Posted by: Michael | April 11, 2014 9:47 PM
Story is very weak, and I've never liked the Legion of the Unliving concept. Still, this issue is a guilty pleasure. I really like some of the match ups and there is some very nice art.
The ending is total crap, but I love it. Hawkeye's cheating is perfect. Cap's one liner is perfect comedy.
I believe Annuals should be important in some way. I agree that the annuals this year were totally forgettable. No reason for them at all. Enjoyable nonetheless.
Posted by: Chris | April 11, 2014 10:13 PM
It was a perfectly fun story, yeah.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 11, 2014 10:21 PM
I remember enjoying these stories when they are new, but being unpleasantly surprised at how poor they were when I recently re-read them.
Posted by: Damiano | April 11, 2014 11:39 PM
Green Goblin? Bucky!? What are you guys doing there?
Posted by: davidbanes | April 12, 2014 12:01 AM
Do you just mean DeFalco for the annual? Because DeFalco didn't take over the Avengers title, Walt Simonson did.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 12, 2014 12:06 AM
Davidbanes, I just realized that too! Some of these Unliving members are actually alive due to retcons! This concept has always had that problem. The first one had a Hercules which couldn't be the real Hercules who would be introduced shortly as a real character.
The real secret must be these are not resurrected characters, but artificial composites created by ultrapowerful plot device characters to screw with people's minds.
Posted by: Chris | April 12, 2014 1:49 PM
Perhaps the concept is fine. It's the retcons that are the problem.
Posted by: Robert | April 12, 2014 3:01 PM
Yeah, but then again some retcons worked out really either. Just got to go with 'that's how it was when this was made.'
Posted by: david banes | April 12, 2014 3:34 PM
Unless the Legion of the Unliving is made up of Captain Mar-Vell, Uncle Ben, and Gwen Stacey, I won't believe it.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 12, 2014 3:49 PM
The original Thunderbird... the Changeling...um... wow... not a huge number of people have stayed dead...
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | April 12, 2014 7:38 PM
Wait did the Executioner come back then?
Posted by: david banes | April 12, 2014 8:00 PM
Yeah, I'm pretty sure he was back alive in the 1990s, but that he's now dead again.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 12, 2014 9:29 PM
It sounds like Goblin and another in that picture have certainly had second golden ages since coming back at least.
Yeah I know that spoiler is over eight years old but still...
Posted by: david banes | April 12, 2014 9:55 PM
ChrisKafka you might be thinking of Bloodaxe from the '90s, who wielded Skurge's axe. I think Skurge was "brought back" to help fight Bloodaxe but, to my knowledge, he is still dead currently. Either way, he was dead at the time of this story.
Posted by: Robert | April 12, 2014 9:58 PM
Maybe this Green Goblin is Dr. Bart Hamilton?
Posted by: Robert | April 12, 2014 10:10 PM
Posted by: david banes | April 12, 2014 10:23 PM
I understand why ya didnt like this one. It did have fun fights and art. My favourite bits: Dr. Pym impaled on a stalagmite. Dracula basically defeating an entire group of avengers by himself. Kovac's clever way to beat the surfer (melting of his silver skin) then the surfer's even cleverer way to take them both out (commanding his board into a sun).
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 13, 2014 2:23 AM
I always loved the Legion of the Unliving as a concept, even though retcons always throw a monkey wrench into things. This annual was a favorite of mine as a kid and I still have a soft spot for it today.
Personally, I think this Green Goblin is Bart Hamilton; nothing indicates it's Norman Osborn, after all. The only other sticking point is Bucky, since due to retcons (Ugh!), he's alive and busy Winter Soldiering it up behind the scenes. I know there was another Bucky or two over the decades; could it be one of them? Is there a dead Bucky?
My only real sticking point with the story was Hyperion's defeat of Wonder Man. Wondy is quiet a bit stronger than Hyperion (according to the Marvel Universe Handbook of the time), so that always bothered me. Otherwise, it was a fun story for the young me to enjoy!
Posted by: Bill | May 9, 2015 8:08 PM
Quick research: there were basically three "Buckys" and, thanks to the Winter Soldier retcon, all of them were still alive around this point. (unless we had a child actor who died after playing Bucky in a serial or something...)
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 9, 2015 9:48 PM
Is it possible that the Grandmaster just created simulacra of people the Avengers THOUGHT were dead, for a psychological advantage?
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 9, 2015 10:13 PM
I remember reading a Comics Journal interview with Paul Chadwick where he said he didn't have a problem with stories in which superheroes save the universe; he had a problem with stories in which superheroes save the universe, and then simply return to mundane life as if nothing exceptional had happened. (His point being: the latter act renders the former banal.) I wonder if it was this comic he had in mind?
Posted by: Oliver_C | June 17, 2016 8:03 AM
When Hawkeye and Captain America are pictured next to each other their heads spell out "Ha."
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 25, 2017 7:05 PM
If Hyperion is fighting Wonderman on a planet with a nearby sun, how is it also an ice planet?
Posted by: Bonez | February 7, 2018 4:42 AM
Define "nearby"- it's possible for a planet to be orbiting a star and still be an ice planet.
Posted by: Michael | February 7, 2018 7:56 AM
I dunno Hyperion says he's smashing Wonderman through the planet and into a nearby sun to kill him. I just always found it as a strange addition since they're all fighting on an ice planet.
Posted by: Bonez | February 7, 2018 12:57 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|