Avengers West Coast #98-100
Issue(s): Avengers West Coast #98, Avengers West Coast #99, Avengers West Coast #100
In these issues... Mockingbird dies! Or, at least, a Skrull gets banished to hell.
These issues are also why i tag all Josef Stalin appearances as Coldsteel. This story features the return of the second Hangman, who has an alliance with Satannish, who provides him with a new Lethal Legion.
They are all evil people stolen from Mephisto's hell and transformed into demon super-villains:
Axe of Violence = Lizzie Borden
We don't learn exactly who they are at first and have to guess from context clues. I question why such real life monsters as Himmler are being used in goofy, poorly written super-hero stories in 1993. On the other end of the spectrum are Borden (who possibly killed two people but was acquitted at trial) and Borgia (whose supposed crimes are entirely unsubstantiated). If you're going to include people like that, maybe Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd would have been better than using people responsible for the real world deaths of millions. And if mentioning Jack the Ripper sets off your "cheesy" alarm bells, that's my point. These characters are described by no less than Mephisto as "mortals whose evil was monumental -- whose deeds were among the most foul in mankind's history". But two of them are basically cartoon characters.
I also think it's weird how often the West Coast Avengers go up against mystical threats like Master Pandemonium and Satannish, and even the demon in the last Dr. Demonicus story. Yes, Scarlet Witch is a "witch" but she's really more of a mutant, and the rest of the team(s) aren't particularly suited to mystical adventures. Which i guess is why in this story the demons are basically super-villains.
The story starts with Hawkeye stepping down as chairman, and Scarlet Witch getting voted to replace him. Hawkeye and "Mockingbird" then slip away for some Skrull lovin'.
Public displays of affection make USAgent uncomfortable, so he drives off to find some random criminals to beat up, and then he goes to hang out at a bar where he's picked up by a woman who turns out to be Cyana.
Then he's attacked by the rest of this Lethal Legion, and we see that they are competing for the kill.
USAgent calls for help on his communicator card, but it's damaged and he doesn't know if he's getting through. The rest of the Avengers do arrive, but not until after USAgent is badly beaten and the Legion has left.
USAgent is taken to the hospital where, still poisoned, he dreams (and the dreams give us clues about the Legion's identities). When he wakes up, Scarlet Witch orders him to stay at the hospital, and the rest of the team go out looking for the Legion. Since the Hangman was one of the villains that attacked USAgent, Spider-Woman and War Machine go to the home of Stella Houston, the Hangman's old love interest. They find that Axe of Violence has just killed her.
Ugh, that name. But i always approve of people with weapons for hands.
Spider-Woman calls Axe a "latter-day Lizzie Borden" and Axe freaks out, shouting "HOW DID YOU KNOW?". Axe wounds Spider-Woman and then gets away.
Meanwhile, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye investigate Hangman's old Beverly Hills mansion. They're attacked by Hangman and Cyna, who reveals that she's Lucrezia Borgia. The villains both escape.
Mockingbird has actually remained at the hospital to look over USAgent. They are attacked by Coldsteel and Zyklon.
Their identities are revealed as well (i have to admit that i forgot that Himmler had committed suicide too, so i was originally thinking that Zyklon was Hitler and was wondering how this would fit with his various other identities). Mockingbird is kidnapped; USAgent is left behind.
At this point the Avengers are aware that they are dealing with the arcane. So when the other Avengers arrive at the hospital, Scarlet Witch pulls out Agatha Harkness' book of spells and summons Satannish. They ask him what he's up to, and he says that he's just collecting souls. He then disappears, but we see that Mephisto is watching.
Scarlet Witch casts another spell to get the Avengers to Satannish's domain. It requires them to pass through Mephisto's domain, and he comes out to greet them. Mephisto says that he wants the souls of the Lethal Legion, which Satannish stole from him, and offers an alliance. The Avengers don't quite answer him, with Hawkeye clearly considering it, and Scarlet Witch then transports the team the rest of the way to Satannish's place. Cue more fighting with the Lethal Legion, and then Mephisto shows up, saying that Hawkeye in his heart wanting to agree with Mephisto was enough for the alliance to happen.
The rivalry between Satannish and Mephisto started in Roy Thomas' Doctor Strange run, so from a continuity perspective i kind of like seeing it continue here, even though it feels totally inappropriate for an Avengers story. The problem is that the two demonic entities are depicted as just being giant dudes who physically fight each other. Spider-Woman is even able to help by webbing up their feet.
That's not how a literal incarnation of evil and a mystical entity called upon by the likes of Dr. Strange should be depicted.
With Satannish occupied, the Lethal Legion revert to their human forms and are easily defeated. Scarlet Witch opens up a portal back to Mephisto's realm, creating the possibility that the two demon realms will get merged. This causes Mephisto to give up the fight and depart. He tries to take the Legion's souls with him, but Satannish destroys them instead (so at least that's the last of them). The Avengers are also pushed to Mephisto's realm, and Mephisto decides he wants to claim four of their souls to make up for the ones that he lost. The Scarlet Witch manages to open a portal back to Earth, and they all make it through except Mockingbird, who goes back to make sure the Scarlet Witch herself gets out, and then gets blasted by Mephisto.
Mockingbird does make it back to Earth, but she dies and is buried ("days later").
The funeral feels like an afterthought. I wanted to assume that there are more Avengers present off panel (and, like Nick Fury? Ka-Zar?), but in Marvel Comics Presents #161 Hawkeye will say that Captain America was the only East Coaster to show up at the funeral. And the writer of the Hawkeye story is Nel Yomtov, who is the Editor here, so it's not like some random writer misunderstood the intent here and took the panel too literally.
So the death of an Avenger is given relatively short shrift. That may be a matter of timing. Next issue is a Bloodties crossover and then the final issue of the series is written by different writers, and then the book becomes Force Works. So this is the last real issue by Roy Thomas.
And don't feel too sorry for Hawkeye, a guy that couldn't even tell that his wife was replaced by a Skrull. At least Lyja the Lazerfist had the smarts to break up with the Thing after replacing Alicia Masters. I know: this is all retcon. But even ignoring the Skrull retcon, Mockingbird's death sucks. It's not related to the main plot of these issues, and it's not specific to her in any way. It just kind of happens randomly at the end of this story. I mean, that's realistic, but it's lame. And i can't help thinking that it's just part of a contrived Disassembling to get us ready for Force Works.
As for the fact that this Mockingbird will eventually be revealed to be a Skrull -- i mean, the poor thing! Imagine getting assigned to infiltrate the Secondary Avengers (and having to smooch with Hawkeye!) and then getting sucked into a hell dimension. Worst. Assignment. Ever. This isn't the last we'll see of her, either. There are numerous stories after this depicting "Mockingbird" in the afterlife. But i don't think we ever see her after the revelation in Secret Invasion (or Avengers: The Reunion) that she really was a Skrull all that time.
I noted before that the Whackos deal with a lot of mystical threats. It's worth noting that Mephisto was around for two of them (counting this one), and both times it came with a significant event (the revelation that the Vision & Scarlet Witch's kids weren't real, and now the "death" of "Mockingbird"). I don't have anything important to say about that, but i thought it was worth adding that to the odd way in which mystical stuff is more important to the book than you'd think. This is also, of course, another example of Mephisto breaking up someone's marriage.
Nothing like having a story with a momentous event diluted with a bunch of crap, so after the main story ends in issue #100 we get some garbage fill-ins. The first fill-in is at least by Roy Thomas and pretends to be about Hawkeye dealing with Mockingbird's death. But that's just really a framing sequence around a completely irrelevant story. The story takes place right before the West Coast Avengers are founded. Bill Foster has picked out a location for the team, the compound that the team does wind up using. Hawkeye and Mockingbird go (without Foster) to check it out, and they find that it's currently owned by an elderly Hollywood actress who is being intimidated by Crossfire to set a trap for them.
The heroes avoid the trap with the help of the actress.
As Michael notes in the comments, the woman, Moira Brandon, is made an honorary West Coast Avenger.
I'm kind of amazed to hear that anyone took this seriously enough to ever reference her again, but we all nerd out in our own special way.
In the next back-up, USAgent beats up some snotty rich kids that were desecrating his parents' cemetery. And then War Machine encounters a gang inspired by him.
He finds that they were being supplied weapons by the Sons of the Serpent, who somehow got their hands on a cache of SHIELD weapons surplus. It makes him mad enough to do a Code-approved rip off of They Live.
This all turns out to be a plot by the current Hate-Monger, who apparently only merits getting punched out before War Machine walks away.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: I don't currently have any other Himmler appearances but it looks like he did appear in a couple of Golden Age era stories so i've listed Zyklon as a Character Appearing.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Is this really the only appearance of Zyklon/Himmler in your project? You'd think that with the Golden Age obsession of certain writers every member of the Nazi high command would've put in at least a few cameo appearances...
Posted by: Berend | February 23, 2017 2:38 PM
The MCP don't have many Himmler appearances listed and i don't recall any that they may have missed.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 23, 2017 2:45 PM
Roy Thomas has subsequently stated that he was ordered by editorial to kill Mockingbird, and he only reluctantly complied.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 23, 2017 2:56 PM
I'd love to hear other people's opinions on the use of the historical villains here in this story.
For me, it's tacky. I understand that real-life villains tend to appear in comics, but it's one thing if you use people like Lucretia Borgia, who lived centuries ago. But using Himmler and Stalin? These aren't just some people from a history book, these were real-world politicians whose actions' effects are still remembered (or, in some respects, even lasting) in our lifetimes. Turning them into comic book supervillains seems really disrespectful. Especially villains who are, essentially, bruisers. Seriously, Stalin - a cruel dictator - becomes an evil strong guy? Really, Thomas? That's how you use a person like that?
Also, from the purely factual point of view, this selection of villains doesn't make quite sense. Really - Stalin, Himmler, Borgia (let's say that the MU version of her did kill people) and... Lizzie Borden? What's so special about her..?
Posted by: Piotr W | February 23, 2017 4:47 PM
Yeah, it's tacky. Calling a character Zyklon is just offensive no matter how you look at it. Lizzie Borden was probably innocent, and is only remembered because of the poem. Stalin almost works -- the guy did name himself "steel Lenin" after all -- but that's the best I can say about it.
Posted by: Andrew | February 23, 2017 5:24 PM
Himmler appearing as a "Duuuude, EXTREME!!" 90s cheeseball super villain, and he's named Zyklon, after the actual gas that exterminated millions of Jews in real life.
Roy Thomas, how do you even show yourself in public after writing this swill?
Posted by: Bob | February 23, 2017 5:57 PM
Gotta love the almost-wardrobe-malfunction-causing outfits the villainesses are wearing too. Satannish knows what's hip for the 90s.
"Zyklon? ZYKLON?!? You're not even trying to get it right! Say it with me: X-Y-K-O-N! Xykon!" (points to whoever gets the reference)
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 23, 2017 6:09 PM
When this series started, my favorite aspect of it was Hawkeye and Mockingbird's marriage. They met and got married in a whirlwind miniseries, which was perfectly in character for Hawkeye, and it just made Mockingbird that much more appealing that she was able to appreciate what a goofball he is. And then they went and had her get raped by a ghost cowboy or whatever, and the whole stupid falling out between the two of them when Hawkeye uncharacteristically takes the ghost cowboy's side, basically...it would have been a gross and inappropriate story even if I wasn't invested in that couple. They never came back for me, even when they finally got back together...the magic was gone. And then they go and kill her off without much fanfare.
Basically this whole series started great and turned into a huge disappointment. It's a product of the era, I guess.
Posted by: Andrew F | February 23, 2017 6:10 PM
(Incidentally, when I opened the page Bob's comment wasn't up and I never reloaded it, so I could surmise from Andrew's comment that "Zyklon" had some importance of its own that would make it offensive but I didn't know what it was.)
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 23, 2017 6:34 PM
Mockingbird has always been one of my favourites, so I was disappointed to see her killed off--but not surprised. When they announced that an Avenger was going to die in the story, you just KNEW it was going to be Bobbi. There was no chance of it being anyone else.
Roy Thomas rarely did well by her character anyway. With the likes of Gruenwald and Englehart she was a strong, smart lady with a distinct personality and sense of humour. The AVENGERS SPOTLIGHT book had her and Clint resolve their differences and repair their marriage. Then Thomas takes over WCA and suddenly she and Clint are separated again with no explanation and Bobbi is reduced to just another costumed athlete and a nearly constant pissed-off attitude. It improved a bit when he finally had Bobbi and Clint get back together--but since he only did it to make it more dramatic when he killed Bobbi off, it was too little, too late.
I agree completely with Fnord that Bobbi's death and funeral were horribly handled. I appreciated that they at least showed Tigra, Miguel and Cap showing up for the funeral--but there had better have been a LOT of other people in attendance that weren't shown on-panel. Maybe some of the space that went to the back-up features could have been better spent showing the funeral in more detail, and having the characters honour Bobbi (at least ONE of the back-ups was a Clint/Bobbi story, so that's something).
Posted by: Dermie | February 23, 2017 7:08 PM
Jim McCann's explanation about Bobbi's corpse with the later Skrull reveal is that just a second after the panel where we see "Bobbi" die in Clint's arms, the corpse turns to ash--that as soon as she died, the magic of the hellfire incinerated her. That's why no one discovered at the time she was a Skrull; there was no corpse left. And since the scene immediately cuts to the funeral, at the headstone with no body, there is nothing on-panel to contradict it. So that's ONE upside to the rushed way Bobbi's death was handled--it provided a clean way to slip that retcon in there and bring Bobbi back by a writer who wanted to use her right!
Getting back to this story--I had to laugh at the scene when USAgent is getting out of his hospital bed and tells Bobbi to avert her eyes so she doesn't see him naked. This is the same guy who deliberately flashed her his bare butt the last time he was in the hospital! But I guess now that she and Clint were officially back together, that changed the rules for him. I just thought that was interesting, for what it says about Walker's character and his thinking on such things.
Posted by: Dermie | February 23, 2017 7:13 PM
"And don't feel too sorry for Hawkeye, a guy that couldn't even tell that his wife was replaced by a Skrull". It's explained that the Skrull had a copy of Bobbi's memories, and therefore could exactly mimic her body language, manner of speaking, etc.
Posted by: Michael | February 23, 2017 8:25 PM
While the name of Zyklon may be bad, how is using Himmler and Stalin in this story any different than Simonson's cyborg Stalin, or the Hitler-as-Hate-Monger story done by two guys named Lieber and Kurtzberg?
Posted by: Thanos6 | February 23, 2017 10:01 PM
The way Stalin and Himmler were used as supervillains feels embarrassing, yet Hate-Monger is an aspect of Marvel history I like. Maybe that's contradictory, but thinking about it, there are some differences to me.
In his public identity, Hitler had very prominent appearances in Golden Age comics, and has figured into the stories of some major characters. He was almost the arch-antagonist of the first published era of the Marvel universe. When two Jewish World War II veterans gave him a costumed identity and pitted him against their heroes in the Silver Age, they tried to make the story thematically appropriate. FF21 was about how people anywhere can do great evil if they're ruled by hate. In contrast, Stalin and Himmler didn't have a major role in the comics, and were made into supervillains just for a brawl and some jokes.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 24, 2017 12:48 AM
US Agent should have died instead of Mockingbird. He is the worthless character. Why didn't editorial recognize that? Why did editorial hate Mockingbird?
Posted by: Steven | February 24, 2017 1:00 AM
"Stalin" was an adopted name. The Coldsteel identity is play on its meaning, "man of steel". I think Cyana's skin is supposed to be cyan as a play on her name.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | February 24, 2017 4:23 AM
I'm glad Mockingbird is back; but the Skrull retcon- especially having her replaced BEFORE her and Clint make up, is pathetic.
Hawk and Mock's reconciliation was very emotional and a classic moment in WCA history.
Posted by: Urban Commando | February 24, 2017 6:53 AM
I guess there are no other All-Star Squadron fans here. Roy Thomas already created a character named Zyklon, back in 1985 for All-Star Squadron.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 24, 2017 12:12 PM
The net tells he me was a speedster. Apparently "Zyklon" means "cyclone" in German. Looking him up online I see he was designed to look like Siegfried from WONDER WOMAN #240, who was the Golden Age Flash in disguise. See http://www.amazonarchives.com/ww240.htm .
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | February 24, 2017 12:57 PM
Very surprised WWII-historical-footnotes-in-the-lettercol-fanboy Thomas would have ideological and military foes Himmler and Stalin aligned here, in death or otherwise.
Posted by: cullen | February 24, 2017 2:26 PM
Regarding why Hate-Monger is acceptable while Coldsteel and Zyklon aren't...
I am not quite fond of Hate-Monger, either - using Hitler in that way *does* feel tacky to me. The difference here is, I think, that Hate-Monger is conceptually tied to Hitler's real-life methods. In real life, Hitler was a hate-mongering dictator, in MU he is a hate-mongering super-villain. Like Mortificator said, this character can be seen as a statement on the dangers of hate and prejudice. Meanwhile, Coldsteel and Zyklon have no such ties to their real-life counterparts. Stalin was a dictator surrounded by a cult of personality, while Coldsteel is... a super-strong bruiser? Himmler was a shrewd politician with deadly ideas and a skilled manager who used his talents to build a machine of terror - while Zyklon is... a guy who flies around and shoots poisonous gas? There's no bigger point here - these very dark historical figures are turned into simple villains in the vein of Pyro or Blob. It just feels... wrong.
I know that the comics (and other media) have a tradition of appropriating real-life evil people into colourful villains - for example, Jack the Ripper has appeared in countless books, movies, comic books, even board games. This, too, could be considered questionable - after all, in truth the guy was an actual murderer not unlike Ted Bundy. The fact that he was active over 120 years ago softens that, though... It does not feel the same with Himmler and Stalin: it's just... too soon.
Posted by: Piotr W | February 24, 2017 2:28 PM
In a recent issue of Alter Ego, Roy Thomas specifically named Nel Yomtov as the one who ordered Mockingbird killed.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 24, 2017 4:07 PM
Satannish makes reference to invading Mephisto's "sphere" through Mephista- isn't that a reference to Doctor Strange 30?
Posted by: Michael | February 24, 2017 7:29 PM
Sure, i've added it.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 25, 2017 12:56 PM
Speaking of Satannish, I never understood how a being that seemed somewhat like a burning Zeus in its first appearance and was mentioned as being above good and evil ended up as another hell lord... with two faces to boot.
Posted by: Piotr W | February 25, 2017 3:22 PM
The problem is that the claim Satannish was "above good and evil" never really made much sense- he was clearly willing to accept Strange's soul against Strange's will and helped his followers bring Surtur and Ymir to Earth. In Giant- Size Defenders 2, by Len Wein, Satannish's servant Asmodeus is unable to hurt Daimon because "the powers of darkness cannot harm one who was spawned in the lower depths"- the clear implication is that Satannish is one of the "powers of darkness". Later on, in the Six-Fingered Hand storyline, Satannish is explicitly described as a Hell Lord. So it was Wein and DeMatteis that decided Satannish was a Hell Lord- mostly Wein.
Posted by: Michael | February 25, 2017 5:09 PM
And then there is the matter of his name, which makes him sound like a Hell Lord.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | February 26, 2017 2:28 AM
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