Avengers annual #17
Issue(s): Avengers annual #17
It starts when the High Evolutionary has his men recreate Jocasta, just so that he can download information from her on the Avengers. But instead, she immediately accesses a phone line and puts out a Code One emergency signal to the Avengers reservists.
The Captain is the first to respond, probably because he was already on his way to Hydrobase after Avengers #298. The Avengers' computer system gives him Jocasta's truncated message (the only thing clear is the phrase "genetic bomb") and tells him that it was a 47% chance that it was Jocasta, even though Cap knows her to be vaporized.
Falcon is the next one to respond to the call.
Then Hercules shows up on a bolt of lighting!
Next, the Beast and the Hulk arrive. The Captain doesn't have anything negative to say about the Beast's promises to the Hulk, and he does seem genuinely happy to see him alive.
Finally, Hercules finds the new Yellowjacket skulking around. She's here because the Code One alert went off in her helmet and she couldn't figure out how to shut it off. It doesn't look that hard! And Rita Demara seemed more tech savvy in her previous appearances. But she's an interesting character to round out the bunch. She claims here that the other Masters forced her to work with them, but we should be pretty sure that's not true since she was villainous before joining up with the Masters.
Hercules insists that she stay with the group so they can keep an eye on her. Note that he doesn't seem all that traumatized by the beating he got from the Masters even though this is his first return to the mortal plane and he's facing one of the team (albeit not one of the ones that actually beat on him).
It's worth a brief moment to think about who didn't respond to the Code One call. First of all, where's Redwing?! We'll also see that the Black Widow is in Hell's Kitchen with Karen Page; i wonder if she didn't get the call or if she thought looking for Daredevil was more important (or maybe she got the call, didn't arrive in time, and that's what made her available to help Karen). The Black Panther showed an unwillingness to help out in the West Coast Avengers part of this story; i wonder if he therefore also ignored this or if it just didn't get to him (although Hercules got the call in Olympus!). The West Coast team - both splinter groups - are still active, so i wonder if that means they don't receive reservist alerts. Is that even true for the Scarlet Witch and Vision, who may not have officially been taken off of reserve status? Probably Henry Pym hadn't been put back onto reserve status yet. But i wonder where the Wasp is. To be clear, i didn't need this comic to delve into any of this; i'm just thinking who else might or might not have received the call. But seriously, where's Redwing?
But in any event, see, Thor? It really wasn't that hard to call in a team of reservists. Now granted you didn't have to send out a Code One emergency, but maybe some kind of message letting whoever was out there know that you were disbanding the team.
Beast is able to trace the source of Jocasta's call to a former Stark Industries lab on Long Island.
The Hulk doesn't have a lot of speaking parts while the team is initially gathering - he tells Falcon that if people wrongly thought he was dead then Jocasta could be alive too, and he starts to object to being Beast's "mount" again before Beast reveals they're taking a Quinjet - but he's the first on the scene at the Long Island lab.
The Captain isn't happy about that at first.
But the Hulk has kept one prisoner conscious (alive?), and he tells the Avengers the High Evolutionary's plan to detonate a genetic bomb that will apparently turn everyone into the Beast's cousins.
While the poor lackey is talking, he tells them that he needed time to "reengergize" after the fight, and then he explodes.
The Hulk isn't choked up about it, and the other Avengers are a bit worried about their ally.
As you can see, Jocasta is still active, and she joins the group, and this is where she explains that she was rebuilt so that the High Evolutionary could get information on the Avengers.
The lackey that died told the Avengers that the High Evolutionary's bomb is being built under the Pacific Ocean, so the Avengers head to Lemuria to see what they might know. They find Lemuria under attack by the Atlanteans (who are still led by Attuma at this point). The Atlanteans are under the mistaken belief that a recent Leviathan attack on their kingdom was sent by Lemuria. Cap attempts to broker a peace between the two undersea kingdoms, in part by sending Hulk and Hercules out as envoys to Attuma (but definitely not by telling anyone that the Leviathan was really the Avenger Marrina).
But the fighting really stops when a mechanical device of neither Atlantean or Lemurian design appears and emits some kind of rays. The rays don't do any physical damage, but the Beast does some analysis and determines that they were sterilizing rays.
With that, both Attuma and the Deviant's leader, Kro, agree to help the Avengers against the High Evolutionary. Cap figures out that the Evolutionary must be planning to detonate the bomb in Krakatoa (which i had to remind myself is a real place and not a reference to the living island of Krakoa that the X-Men fought), with the idea that the volcano will help spread the genetic bomb material. They find the base, and Cap convinces Attuma and Kro to perform diversionary strikes while the Avengers sneak in to disable the bomb. The first thing they find is a quasi-religious setting where a New Man is giving orders to the human staff.
Interestingly there's no one in Gatherer, Purifier, or Eliminator suits in this base. I suppose they're all off somewhere else, still performing various missions. We may be near the end of the High Evolutionary's plans, since he's about to detonate the bomb, but even here we see him still working on other projects like researching the Avengers and sterilizing the mer-people, so it's feasible that all the specialized troops aren't around (or maybe off panel fighting the Atlantean and Lemurian forces).
The Falcon recognizes the similarities between the High Evolutionary's follower's talk of genetic purity and white supremacy (something i've been observing all along in this event) and comes up with a plan to exploit that.
It hinges on the assumption that the humans aren't aware that their New Men bosses are really animal men and not just wearing masks, and that does seem to be the case. It also hinges on the fact that the Beast can pass as a New Man.
Captain America then gets into costume as well to get the New Men involved.
And then a slaughter begins.
I'll note that Captain America doesn't seem particularly upset about the death (of unarmed people, at that) that he's helped cause. I suppose this is war (Cap tells Jocasta that the "quasi-military discipline" of the Evolutionary's underlings wasn't hard to fake, and of course the sea kingdoms and the High Evolutionary's forces are also blasting away at each other outside the base). To be clear, i don't think this is out of character for Captain America, but it does show the sort of hair-splitting you have to do to accept the idea that Cap had never killed anyone prior to Captain America #321 (and that's beyond the more explicit WWII examples). Or maybe Cap just doesn't think super-evolved animals count as people.
The fact that this scheme works so easily also shows some failings on the High Evolutionary's part. It's one thing that the two guys that heard the Beast talking believe him, but that the other men so quickly accept that what they heard was accurate and pick up weapons shows something about the character of the people the High Evolutionary was recruiting. And why didn't the High Evolutionary tell the humans that the New Men were super-evolved animals? Did he not trust them? Did he just think it was too obvious to need to be said (i mean, those would have to be some pretty realistic looking masks and costumes)? And a lot of these guys were scientists. You'd think the Evolutionary would want to share with them the work he had done, both to prove that what he was hoping to do with humans was plausible and to give them the data they needed to work properly. Or again, did he not trust them with the big picture?
Anyway, that all comes back to bite him now.
Meanwhile, Yellowjacket locates the bomb...
..although she then has to be extracted by Falcon.
But before the Avengers can head to the bomb, the High Evolutionary shows up to deal with them personally.
After destroying Jocasta, he just puts them all in a prison, but our three super-strong members are able to pool their strength and break out.
Yes, the Beast is super-strong nowadays, thanks to a combination of factors mucking with his genetics in the X-Factor series.
The Captain then gets the wild and brilliant idea that since they're fighting against a super-evolved human, they need a super-evolved god to fight back.
The only problem is the Hulk, who decides if anyone's getting powered up, it's him.
Cap solves that problem by making a broadcast over the PA that draws the High Evolutionary back to them. The Hulk attacks the Evolutionary, and gets teleported back to the Nevada desert.
So while the rest of the Avengers are fighting the High Evolutionary, with Yellowjacket flying in his ear, Hercules gets his power up.
It doesn't work right away, but the Beast has also rigged his armor to continue the evolving after the rays are done, and eventually Hercules starts to change.
As they're fighting, the High Evolutionary complains that he's so close to achieving his goal, and that he would no longer have been alone, because he would have made all of humanity gods. Hercules responds that he should have aspired for less godhood and more humanity. And then Hercules inflicts upon the Evolutionary the fate that the Evolutionary intended for Hercules. The Evolutionary says that he's not going alone, and he blasts back. But the Evolutionary disappears. However, Hercules' armor is evolving Herc "beyond godhood" and soon he expands and disappears too.
There's still the matter of the bomb, though. Yellowjacket has plugged the damaged Jocasta into the High Evolutionary's ship, and Jocasta intends to detonate it before they reach Krakatoa. So the rest of the remaining Avengers fight their way off the ship...
...and get out to see Jocasta destroy the ship (and herself) before reaching the volcano.
A really fun adventure. This is my favorite part of Walt Simonson's Avengers run (with issue #298 being a close second) and i think it's the best part of the Evolutionary War series as well. Lots of fun stuff. The Hulk kind of steals the show for a while. He's arguably a little too villainous (would he really demand that he be subjected to the evolutionary accelerator? I'd think he might be afraid to muck about with his current state for fear of releasing Banner), but i'd rather err on the side of that than have him be too goody goody for this appearance outside his book. And in the meantime, his attitude plays well off the others. I enjoy his team-up with Hercules as well as all of his barbs and bad attitude. Yellowjacket is a little under used but it's interesting to see her at all. It's nice seeing Falcon with the Avengers again, too; he has more room here than he did in last year's annual appearance. And Walt Simonson has a great handle on the Beast. Fun stuff.
M.D. Bright's art is fun too. In getting scans for this, i found there weren't that many great knock-out images of the Avengers vs. the High Evolutionary, although here's one i didn't work into the above narrative that i liked.
But there's still plenty of great action shots in here and plenty of dense storytelling.
The nature of this crossover means that we never really got an explicitly laid out explanation of the High Evolutionary's motives. Here we find out that part of it was loneliness, and we can also piece together some other things. The X-Factor annual had Apocalypse hinting that the High Evolutionary was running out of time, and we saw in the West Coast Avengers annual that the Evolutionary was worried about what the Fantastic Four might stir up in their search for the Beyonders, which was also the issue where we saw most clearly that the Evolutionary was working towards accelerating humanity beyond the point of the Beyonders, and that's confirmed in the Saga of the High Evolutionary story in this issue. The FF originally found the Beyonders' monument, which we saw the Evolutionary looking at in the WCA annual, prior to X-Factor annual #3. So i think the idea is that the Evolutionary knew the FF uncovered that monument, and realized that his plans to evolve humanity needed to happen soon, before the Beyonders stepped in and ruined things the way they stole his Counter-Earth. In fact, as far as we could tell, the FF never did cause the Beyonders to do anything, so the Evolutionary's sense of urgency might have been unnecessary, but that still seems to have been the motivating factor. I actually like the idea that it's all a little ambiguous, because the High Evolutionary should be a godly character with unknowable motives. His actions through these annuals still seemed a little too haphazard, and i'd almost say that this story would have been more coherent if only the X-Factor, X-Men, West Coast Avengers, and Avengers issues weren't published, but at the same time i like seeing the other parts of the Marvel universe getting to participate. And the fact that it ends strongly here makes up for a lot.
A quick note on the Historical Significance Rating. This is the end of the Evolutionary War but normally that wouldn't garner significance points by itself. And the status changes to the various characters here are short-lived. But just the appearance of this odd group of Avengers helps solidify them as Avengers. In the cases of the Falcon, Jocasta, the Beast, and especially the Hulk, it reminds us that these characters can count as Avengers after their short, questionable, and/or distant stints as members (in the case of the Beast, it's more the fact that he's so solidly an X-character at this point). And it establishes a foundation for a turn towards heroism for Yellowjacket. So that's all bundled into the rating on top of the short term period of super-godhood for Hercules.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain America appears soon after this in Captain America #349. We'll see the fate of Hercules and the High Evolutionary beginning in Thor #406. Beast appears here during and after X-Factor #34. Hulk appears here between Hulk #350-351.
Crossover: The Evolutionary War
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (13): show
one of my holy grails of childhood, picked this up that summer in 1988 at a 7-11 and was surprised to see the Hulk in it. great, great stuff and a great Sal Buscema cover. my favorite Avengers line-up!
Posted by: George Gordon | August 10, 2014 2:02 PM
Marvel Age 64 showed a cover of this Annual featuring Thor, Druid, Hulk, She-Hulk, Dane, Beast and Cap. So probably the original plan was to feature the Avengers before they broke up getting help from Hulk, Beast and Cap but it was decided at a late date to change this issue so that it took place AFTER the Avengers broke up. That would explain Clint's and Bobbi's nonsensical phone calls in West Coast Avengers 39 as well as Thor's inability to assemble a team of reservists shortly before the Avengers are able to assemble a team of reservists against the Evolutionary.
Posted by: Michael | August 10, 2014 4:02 PM
Boy, Hercules didn't have much luck in the latter half of the 80's. First he gets beat up by the Masters Of Evil. Then, upon his triumphant return, he gets evolved beyond godhood and disappears again for a while.
Posted by: clyde | August 10, 2014 4:28 PM
I was almost convinced that Hercules was gone for good after reading this story in real time.
This was the last great Avengers annual for me. Walt Simonson brought together an awesome mix of characters both old and new. Walt writes a cool Beast and the Hulk easily fits Hawkeye's role as the team's resident infant terrible. It was good to see the Falcon and Cap in the Avengers again. Heck, THIS is the roster that Walt should have gone with instead of the crew he assembled for Avengers #300. I know that Peter David was doing great things with the Gray Hulk over in his own book and Hank was still exclusive to X-Factor, but it was a lot of fun seeing these guys assemble for at least one adventure.
Poor Jocasta, though... I knew her well.
Posted by: Clutch | August 11, 2014 10:50 AM
This IS a fun team, and Doc Bright's art is always welcome. I would have liked to have seen more of these "ad hoc Avengers teams" every so often in addition to the regular lineup.
I agree with clutch that this team would be more fun than the team Walt assembled #300. I liked Gilgamesh though - he had potential and would have filled the Hercules role. Good call, Clutch!
Posted by: Chris | August 13, 2014 2:35 AM
Please explain to me why M.D. Bright never penciled an issue of X-Men. His action scenes are top-notch.
Posted by: Vin the Comic Guy | January 27, 2015 5:54 PM
Add me to the people that thinks this is the team that Simonson should have stuck with. Or at least building on the four final members. Probably my favorite Avengers Annual.
It's great for the humor (three Hulk moments stand out - his irritation that the one guy he left alive then dies, the look he gives Hercules and the way he just throws Beast away). It's great for the action (a lot of great artwork on that front, especially Hulk and Hercules taking out the Atlanteans). It's great for the story.
I especially like the way this team works together. I liked Yellowjacket as a character and was pleased to see her turn towards reforming (yes, she only shows up initially because of the alarm and wants to leave, but she does turn out to be quite helpful). I especially loved the comraderie between Steve, Sam and Hank - those three were teammates together and it's good to see the way they work together. I love that we're left with them at the end.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 13, 2015 11:40 AM
Genuinely this one might be the single greatest stand-alone Avengers story ever (although, with it being annual-sized, I think that makes gives it a bit of an unfair advantage, but whatever).
Bloody love it I do. I remember slogging through the hit-and-miss Evolutionary War and this being at the end made the whole thing worthwhile.
I also became obsessed with that hideous Hercules armor. I bought like 5-6 surrounding issues with Hercules appearances expecting to find the story where he changed costume and, no, this is literally the only time he has ever worn it. Even when he comes back to life in Thor, he's suddenly wearing his old costume. It's a bit like Herc's lame answer to Thor's golden armor.
Posted by: AF | January 13, 2016 7:13 AM
Yep, this is one of the all time great Avengers tales and feels like it has the pacing of a film. Love the camaraderie and how Erik points out it's nice we're left with those three (plus Yellowjacket) at the end. Would love to see some kind of Kang/time warp storyline with this exact line-up brought together again though that likely and understandably won't happen. Wonder if one can get Doc Bright to do a commission? Just a great memory of childhood and a great Avengers story, even if you hadn't been following the murky Evolutionary War.
Posted by: Wis | December 28, 2016 1:53 AM
Bright does do commissions, but he was taking a short break last I checked, as I indeed had considered getting him to do a nice shot of the team from this annual.
I'd also like to get Walt to draw this team - that'd be cool. I saw a commission where someone had gotten him to draw the line-up from #300 and I thought that was a nice thing to get him to draw instead of getting him to draw a Thor or Beta Ray Bill for the 1,000,000th time.
Posted by: AF | December 28, 2016 5:46 AM
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