Avengers West Coast #93-95
Issue(s): Avengers West Coast #93, Avengers West Coast #94, Avengers West Coast #95
After i read this arc but before i sat down to review it, John Seavey at Mightgodking put out the latest of his regular Things I Love About Comics series and it just so happens to be about Doctor Demonicus. Seavey's take on the character is that he's kind of a hapless version of Doctor Doom, a villain that should be a big badass but whose plans always backfire on him. I think that's kind of the inevitable result of appearing mainly in licensed comics and 1990s Roy Thomas stories. But it does put an interesting spin on this arc, where Demonicus' plot to get recognized by the United Nations gets derailed thanks to the pure bad luck of there being a demon temple on the island and all the bad guys getting possessed. It's a weird narrative jolt, like someone lost interest in the story they were telling, so i'm glad for Seavey's explanation that this is all part of cosmic fate's role for Demonicus to fail spectacularly in bizarre ways.
Probably more interesting than the main story are the extra characters that appear here. Trying to lend some credibility to Dr. Demonicus is Klaw. In a nice bit of Roy Thomas continuity, we see some of Demonicus' minions attacking the "Panther Posse", who were transferring Klaw to the United Nations after Fantastic Four Unlimited #1.
Klaw hasn't always made the best choices when it comes to team-ups - i'm looking at you, Solarr - but Demonicus seems like a new low. But quid pro quo for a rescue makes sense.
On the good guys' side, Spider-Woman decides to call in Darkhawk.
With Wonder Man having quit and Iron Man thought to be out of action, Spider-Woman thought that the Avengers could use Darkhawk's help. It's an interesting choice. Sure, they've worked before, but he operates all the way across the country, so basically they could have called in anyone. And it's interesting to see Spider-Woman, who is still fairly new to the team, making the unilateral decision to call in back-up. It's also worth remembering that the Avengers aren't aware that Darkhawk is a teenager.
Note that Darkhawk informs the Avengers that Iron Man is indeed active. They turn on the TV and learn that Tony Stark is alive.
USAgent complains that "Stark did it to us again". But before things go any further, the Avengers are attacked by Klaw and another villain that's been added to Dr. Demonicus' ranks: Morning Star (don't take USAgent's pronunciation of her real name seriously).
Morning Star was previously part of the Bogatyri, Soviet die-hards that the West Coast Avengers fought once before. At this point she's accepted that the USSR is no more, and even the rest of the Bogatyri are making nice with Boris Yeltsin, so she's struck out on her own. For what it's worth, there are a fair number of events around this time that relate specifically to the dissolution of the Soviet Union - i'm thinking of the Presence's actions in Quasar, for example - that are hard to square with the sliding timescale. It's hard to think of an event as significant as the break-up of the USSR that could be used as a proxy. The Soviet Union already presented a problem for the sliding timescale - the origins of the Black Widow and many villains, for example - but this is more specific. Could use a fan fix!
Speaking of having fought before, i was a little disappointed with Spider-Woman's interaction with Klaw.
Spider-Woman and Klaw previously met during Secret Wars. So i don't really think "Didn't Demonicus brief you?" is the best line for her. "Wow, you really were out of it on the Battleplanet!" or something like that could have been better. Normally i would let this sort of thing slide - characters shouldn't be expected to recite their mutual histories every time they meet - but this is Roy Thomas writing, where they usually do exactly that and more!
Klaw and Morning Star manage to kidnap Kuroko - the Demonicus agent that defected to warn the Avengers - and escape.
The Avengers are without a Quinjet, so USAgent, Hawkeye-Goliath, and Mockingbird take a Pym Rover (not the one with artificial intelligence that was destroyed in Avengers West Coast #63, i assume) to Stark Enterprises to get a new one. That causes them to get involved with the droid assault that Iron Man is dealing with.
At this point, as we saw in Iron Man #290-291, the new Iron Man controlled by Stark is out, and Rhodey in the War Machine armor has taken over. What we didn't see there is that War Machine actually runs into the Avengers. He reveals his ID this time (as he says, "Who did you think?").
In Iron Man #291, Rhodey finishes the fight with the droids and then goes to Tony Stark carrying the defeated new armor, quits, refuses the offer to keep the War Machine armor, and then changes his mind, takes the armor, and dials the West Coast Avengers. The situation here is a little different. The fight has ended, but the new armor is nowhere to be seen, and War Machine is already saying that he wants to join the Avengers, which means that he'll want to keep the armor. I guess there's two possibilities. 1) The gold and red armor is laying off to the side somewhere, and after getting the Avengers their Quinjet, Rhodey is going to pick it back up and then head to Stark, and he's going to get so mad at Stark that he's going to refuse the armor for a second. Or 2), this is all happening after #291 and there's a second wave of droid attacks after Rhodey decides to keep the armor. I think we have to go with the second option, because War Machine seems to go back to the compound with the Avengers. I do like the attempt at continuity between books, but it's weird how often details don't line up.
Anyway, Stark is alerted when Rhodey gets the Quinjet, but Stark says it's ok.
Demonicus' island is considered a sovereign nation, but the UN is concerned about his actions, which include freeing "Third World" prisoners to make up his army and hijacking a jetliner. So they send the West Coast Avengers to the island as a "UN delegation". Darkhawk is not an Avenger and therefore not covered under the Avengers' UN charter, so he is made a reservist.
When they get to the island, Demonicus is already under the influence of the demon, Raksasa, and he's declaring himself a High Priest instead of a President-For-Life.
I'm not going to cover the fight with Demonicus' loser villains in too much detail. There's the jaw guy, the tattoo guy, pin-head guy who i think grows and controls machinery, etc.. I'll focus on moments that have longer term implications, like this No Capes! moment for Scarlet Witch.
And here's War Machine making the decision to zap Hawkeye when Demonicus threatens to shoot his hostages unless the Avengers depart and leave Mockingbird and USAgent behind as prisoners.
We also see that Scarlet Witch's powers still seem wonky, even though the Darkhold business is behind her at this point.
And i guess for completion's sake, here's the demon Raksasa.
The turning point is where Morning Star and Klaw realize that working for a demon-possessed Dr. Demonicus is not a good career move, and they switch sides. Klaw's sonic claw is briefly controlled by the pinhead guy, and he's forced to blast the ground, which causes Demonicus' island to sink. Dr. Demonicus is freed from possession, and he and most of the bad guys seemingly get buried in the resulting rockslide. Demonicus' minions won't be seen again. Demonicus himself will resurface years later just to appear in group shots with other villains that work for the Hood (which, and i know i'm contradicting myself by saying this, is really beneath him). Morning Star does escape the rockslide, and she gives USAgent a surprise kiss before flying away, but she won't ever be seen again either.
I think the quality of villains is apparent. That aside, Thomas and company do bury a few decent character moments among the exposition. But the bigger problem is the way the plot veers sideways. A story about an arch-villain type gaining control of his own island country is potentially interesting. Ok, it's basically Dr. Doom and Latveria, but Demonicus is lower level and it's possible to do more with him in that status than one might do with Doom. But whatever potential there was in that idea is just tossed aside in favor of some throwaway ancient demon. Really weird. But i guess that's just Demonicus' luck.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted in the entry for Iron Man #290-291, this basically takes place concurrently with that story. As for Darkhawk, he specifically says that he's a glider, not a flier, so this takes place before Darkhawk #26-29, when he gains the ability to fly. When the story is over, Klaw says he can't be captured because he has business with the Human Torch. That's meant to be a handoff to Fantastic Four #377, although the MCP has him as a captive of the Vault in New Warriors #36 next, so i guess he does wind up getting captured (the truth is that this story is ambiguous about what happens to Klaw at the end; it's implied that he's also buried in the rockslide).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): show
I think there's a timeline on the Marvel Database that posits that the fall of the Soviet Union slides with the rest of the timeline, so it somehow got delayed to coincide with the 1991-published books and gets delayed more and more as the timeline slides.
I know you don't want errors pointed out in the comments, but as long as I'm here, you have a duplicate scan and you've tagged "Cybertooh" as appearing.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 4, 2016 6:10 PM
Darkhawk is made a West Coast Avenger in one of the lamest inductions ever.
Posted by: Michael | October 4, 2016 7:39 PM
Fnord, I see that you thought that Bendis' inclusion of Demonicus into his Hood Army didn't make sense.
It's one of the things that made it impossible for me to like Bendis' Avengers run: he kept writing the villains as characters from the crime genre, making them behave like real-world criminals etc. Meanwhile, many Marvel villains are grandiose and have more interesting motivations that ordinary crime. So, they shouldn't be included in a crime lord's gang... Bendis disregarded that, pushing the crime genre onto everything. Bleh.
Posted by: Piotr W | October 4, 2016 7:51 PM
There was one neat moment here, when USAgent realized he could communicate with Klaw from a distance just by whispering. Well, I thought it was cool, anyway
Posted by: Andrew F | October 4, 2016 10:02 PM
I think the line "which your HEIRS will learn about via TELEVISION" (emphasis his) is, uh, a very strange line and choice of words. Anybody?
Posted by: Wis | October 8, 2016 1:57 AM
It felt like the Pacific Overloards were a well-meaning attempt to add some much needed diversity to marvel villains and to establish local villains that AWC could call their own.
But as you say, after all that time setting them up, just to dump them in a throwaway story feels odd.
Posted by: kveto | October 8, 2016 1:58 AM
Fabian Nicieza was going to use Morning Star in his HAWKEYE series and make her the new Mockingbird, but the book was cancelled with #8 before he could do it.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | December 16, 2017 10:07 AM
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