Avengers annual #19
Issue(s): Avengers annual #19
The Terminus Factor
Sons of the Serpent
Len Kaminski - Assistant Editor
East and West Coast Avengers are about to meet in the middle in pursuit of "Ulterminus - Terminoid - Terminex - Terminator - or whatever fits your fancy". "Ultra-Terminus" is what the Thomases eventually settle on, but i'm just going to call him Terminus.
The narration gives us what feels like a new clarification of Terminus' goals. He's not just after Celestials, his purpose is "to annihilate any people or planet which has been spared by that world-judging clan". So that explains why he's been hanging around on Earth. But of course, not why he would have "claimed" the Earth in his first appearance, or, really, anything else that he (or his Deviant stand-in) has done up until these annuals.
In addition to what amounts to their current membership at this time (Captain America, Quasar, Sersi, and Thor, who is adrift in space) the East Coast team includes Captain Marvel...
...and also Starfox.
But the first Avengers on the scene where Terminus is in St. Louis are the Great Lakes Avengers.
And that means it's time for some fat jokes.
The GLA don't really accomplish anything (although Mr. Immortal is able to distract Terminus by letting himself getting squished. And then coming back from the dead, of course).
When the West Coast team arrives, Hawkeye, as usual, puts his foot in his mouth.
This still probably counts as the GLA's most serious adventure so far (or maybe ever?).
Eventually all the Avengers arrive. Machine Man has apparently been taking color coordination suggestions from Crossfire.
Out in space, Thor, manages to knock himself out trying to float to a planetoid.
Back on Earth, Quasar tries to repeat the trick he used last time to get rid of Terminus: lifting him into space. Last time he had Captain Universe Spider-Man to help him. This time he has the might of all of the Avengers. But it's not enough to lift him, in part because Terminus is more massive than ever and growing.
The floating heads of those civilians look incredibly Ditko-ish.
Thor wakes up, and starts singing.
That second scan needs to be repurposed into a picture of Thor singing at a rock concert.
Terminus is eventually lifted up into space, and it's determined that it's not because of what Quasar was doing. Hercules thinks that he heard Thor's voice. And it's speculated that Thor was praying or reciting a rune-spell.
I'm not sure about the part about removing the enchantments, but the gist of it is that Thor is calling back his hammer Mjolnir, based on the property that causes it to always return to him. And since Terminus has absorbed the hammer, Terminus comes with it.
To tell the truth, that's pretty much the end of the story. Once he's out in space, there's apparently nothing sustaining Terminus, so he starts feeding on himself. He shrinks...
...and eventually becomes a black hole.
And then Thor's hammer flies out of the black hole. Like, that's IT? I mean, i guess i don't know what i would have wanted. Terminus was depicted as being so powerful that the Avengers just couldn't do anything to him. But maybe a resolution that didn't hinge on the accidental absorption of Thor's hammer from two issues ago would have been nice. What if Thor had never gone out into space to check on the original Terminus while the clone was rampaging on Earth? But regardless of that, it's just a dud of an ending. He just implodes, along with the story itself. All i can do is just sputter incoherently. "Leave Roger Stern's Terminus story ALOOOOOOOONE!"
Another point: there are too many characters in this issue. It's potentially interesting to include characters like Captain Marvel, Starfox, and Machine Man, since they're not part of a regular line-up. But there's no room for them to do more than get a panel or two where they get to think about how useless their powers are or how awesome it is to be fighting with the Avengers. And i'm always interested in seeing how certain characters would interact, like Captain American and USAgent. And there is a scene where Cap gives an order and USAgent kind of chafes but does it. But it's not much and there's just no space for anything more than that. Considering the type of threat, it might have made sense to pare the group down into the most powerful members so that we could get more room for characterization. I guess the exception is the Great Lakes Avengers, who do get a moment in the spotlight (not that i'm particularly interested in them).
The TV feature this time is by Dwayne McDuffie/James Reddington/Andy Mushynsky and it's a one note joke featuring Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes complaining that there are too many super-hero mega-crises.
Again, very much feels like padding. I'd rather just have less pages.
Another story in this issue, though, is good.
The story has a young kid, Hubie, who is a big fan of the Avengers. He is working as a hotel bag boy where the Avengers show up after their fight with Terminus.
The kid is totally oblivious to the Avengers in their civilian clothes, and is more interested to see that a story about the local chapter of the Sons of the Serpent has made the front page. Hubie has been collecting information on the Serpents and wrote to the Newspaper to get them to do something about it.
A backdrop to the story is the economic hard times that the town is going through as a result of the Savings & Loan crisis. And Hubie has an older brother who blames foreigners for that.
While the Avengers are in town, they decide to look into the Serpents.
They manage to take down the group, but the leader of the chapter escapes. And Hubie learns that the leader is his brother.
So in a heartbreaking scene, Hubie turns in his brother.
And after that, he continues to be interested in following the Avengers and doing what's right, but with a little less innocence.
This is a rare worthy back-up feature. I'll leave aside the fact that this story takes place sequentially after the main story, which already endears it to me but isn't something most people care about. It's a very human story. Kurt Busiek uses his trademark technique of telling the story from a unique perspective, giving us an outsiders look at the Avengers and making it more poignant when the kid has to turn in his brother. Richard Howell makes it kind of cutesy, and it's easy to dismiss because of that, but that style has its moments...
...and either way, the story is something fresh. If the rest of the stories in these annuals weren't so terrible, i'd say that this one makes them worth the price of admission. For what it's worth, this story was reprinted when Marvel was doing occasional "Monster" issues packed with reprints in the early 2000s.
We're back to crap for the final back-up, though, which has the Avengers touring the work that's been done so far on the rebuilding of their mansion. The gag is that super-villains are likely to attack the Avengers while they are out and about, so the construction workers take out all the villains before anything happens to the Mansion and they have to rebuild.
I can see ragging on Stilt-Man, but turning the other villains, and especially the Wrecker, into jokes, is not a good move. I don't get why you would do that for some cheap laughs, especially since it doesn't work as comedy. If these guys are so easy to beat, then the Avengers can beat them without any worries. The Busiek story almost softened my heart towards back-up features, but this killed it.
All in all, a terrible set of annuals!
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is the final part of the Terminus Factor. An Acts of Vengeance epilogue from this issue is covered in a separate entry.
Crossover: The Terminus Factor
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBig Bertha, Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Dinah-Soar, Doorman, Falcon, Flatman, Hawkeye, Henry Pym, Hercules, Human Torch (Golden Age), Iron Man, Machine Man, Mockingbird, Mr. Immortal, Plantman, Quasar, Quicksilver, Redwing, Sersi, She-Hulk, Starfox, Stilt-Man, Terminus, Thor, USAgent, Vision, Wasp, Water Wizard, Wonder Man, Wrecker
""Leave Roger Stern's Terminus story ALOOOOOOOONE!""
Nice use of the "Britney Spears" rant. lol
Posted by: clyde | July 8, 2015 2:47 PM
I could be wrong, but I think Lucas Green may be the first Supreme Serpent who is a white guy who truly believes in the Sons of the Serpent's message (as opposed to minorities or people using the Sons of the Serpent as a front for other goals).
Posted by: mikrolik | July 8, 2015 7:13 PM
I know that fnord is often somewhat more critical than I am. But, honestly, I really enjoyed "The Terminus Factor" crossover when it was first published. Okay, I was only 14 years old at the time, and my tastes were a bit less, um, developed. Maybe if I had been an adult instead of a teenager it wouldn't have left such a favorable impression on me. And it has been quite a number of years since I've re-read it in its entirety, so who knows what I would think of it nowadays?
On the other hand, "The Day the Strangers Came" was, and still is, a superb story, a really nice coming attraction of the awesome work the Kurt Busiek would be offering to readers on a regular basis in just a few short years.
And I know that he's never been superstar artist or anything like that, but I'm certainly a fan of Richard Howell. You could say that his style is more soap opera than superhero, but that just means that he draws incredibly beautiful women. Just look at his depiction of Sersi here, or his version of the Scarlet Witch elsewhere.
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 8, 2015 9:23 PM
Fnord, I think the idea is that Thor removed the enchantment deliberately as a trap- he wanted Terminus to "lift it", merge with his spawn and then when he reactivated the enchantment, Terminus would be drawn back into space. That still seems like a dumb plan- how did Thor know that Terminus was going to absorb his spawn?
Posted by: Michael | July 8, 2015 10:48 PM
Funny you mention Ditko - I didn't look at the credits before reading your summary, and when I got to the second scan with Sersi and Captain Marvel I said "waitaminute, is this Ditko art??" and went back to check. Trimpe's style really fluctuated, maybe he was trying to be more Ditko-esque? Seems unlikely in 1990, though...
Posted by: S | July 8, 2015 11:20 PM
Machine Man is using the colors of his 2020 self from the 1984 series. Sloopy editorial supervision, I guess.
You may compare with this cover from the 1994 reprint.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 9, 2015 12:23 AM
Wow, that Busiek story is super cute. And the art is very cool "classic" Marvel house style - definitely pulls me in more. I was really afraid there was going to be some sort of really dark and horrifying twist, or the kid lighting himself on fire or something, but luckily Busiek doesn't seem to enjoy crushing people's souls.
Posted by: cullen | July 9, 2015 12:36 AM
Is anything said in these issues about Machine Man joining the Avengers? I was surprised when he showed up with the reservists in Operation Galactic Storm and had wondered when he had joined the team.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 9, 2015 1:27 AM
I don't think so. A near-future WCA story will show you why.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 9, 2015 1:48 AM
While not his best work, I prefer Trimpe's cleaner art to the murky, dark mess we were getting from Ryan/Palmer on the main book at the time.
Posted by: Bob | July 9, 2015 2:49 AM
Machine Man also appears in Avengers v3 #1-4, when all the Avengers are re-assembled, so I guess he was considered at least a reservist at some point? I'm not sure where Busiek got his canonical list, though. He also included Darkhawk (or just his head in the back corner of every splash page behind someone else) even though he was just an Avengers West Coast guest star for a few issues.
Posted by: Andrew F | July 9, 2015 4:04 PM
The Whackos vote to make Machine Man a reservist in issue 69 and he appears with the reserves in issue 82.
Posted by: Michael | July 9, 2015 10:51 PM
I just perused my copy of AWC #94, and Darkhawk is definitely not officially made a reservist. (Nor would that make sense; he's a kid from Queens with no money and no way to transport himself to the west coast.) When War Machine asks him if he's a new recruit, he says he's "just visiting"; and when he starts to enjoy teamwork, he wonders in a thought bubble whether the Avengers East have an opening.
Posted by: Andrew F | July 10, 2015 5:44 PM
Andrew F, look again. On the same page as the "Just visiting" quote the subject of Darkhawk's ability to come along is called into question since he isn't an Avenger and therefore not granted access through their U.N. charter.
On the next page, we find out that he was named "A reservist in the Avengers West Coast, huh? Weird gig for a guy from New York!".
So, yes, he WAS officially made an Avengers reservist so that he could tag along on the mission. It is one of the lamest membership additions ever (right up there with Machine Man getting voted into the team at a meeting he wasn't even AT, without even being asked if he *wanted* to join the team...)
Posted by: Dermie | July 11, 2015 1:16 AM
Oh yeah! I stand corrected. And yes, that is super lame.
Posted by: Andrew F | July 11, 2015 2:52 AM
Fnord, I agree that the kid's story is quite nice - reminds me of the Assistant Editors story in Iron Man with the kids who played at Avengers. I just wish they hadn't used Sersi, because the Avengers undercover in a hotel seems so Silver Age and if she wasn't there, you could say it was an old story. Though, I imagine then you would have had to cut it up and put in another box and it would have just irritated you.
The construction workers story is dumb (I think I just referenced it in another earlier comment recently), but I do think of Plantman and Water Wizard as more joke villains. But yeah, unless they drop a whole flippin building on the Wrecker, it's not gonna stop him, and even that might not stop him.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 12, 2015 12:51 PM
It's possible that if a Terminus lives long enough, it will develop and form its own goals in addition to its original mission, hence the first Terminus claiming worlds for its own uses.
Posted by: D09 | May 23, 2016 1:52 AM
Comments are now closed.
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