Saturday, June 13, 2015

Avengerous Tales 1.36 - Avengers #68, Avengers Annual #3, Avengers #69

To read Avengerous Tales 1.35, go here!

We’ve got Sal Buscema, longtime artist for Captain America and The Incredible Hulk (and John Buscema’s brother), on art today.  Dang, the Avengers are going through artists faster than Harry Potter goes through Dark Arts professors.
Nothing’s changed since last issue: SHIELD and the Avengers are both closing in on Ultron, who already has his finger on the button that will blast New York as high as its rent.  Nothing can stop him now!  Ahahahahaha!

Does this warrant a sad trombone?  I think this warrants a sad trombone.

The Avengers show up just long enough to get trampled, so it certainly wasn’t them who tampered with Ultron’s machinery.  We have the Vision to thank for that—after his defeat last issue, he used the last of his strength to make himself intangible and slip inside the machine, ripping it to pieces.  He passes out after Ultron flees, so the Avengers take him back to the mansion for repairs/treatment.

Well maybe it wouldn’t be so dangerous if you’d stop playing video games when you’re supposed to be working, Hank.

Yellowjacket then gets the bright idea to use a mind probe on Vision, just in case he knows something that could help them defeat Ultron.  The fact that they even HAVE a mind probe is creepy, but since it’s an emergency…

Sure enough, the Vision’s clearest thought is of a molecular rearranger.  The Avengers conclude that Vision must have used such a device to create Ultron’s new adamantium body since, as we saw before, not even Thor’s hammer could make a dent in the adamantium.

They call up Dr. MacLain, who confirms that yes, the molecular rearranger was stolen at the same time as the adamantium.  With this new information, Yellowjacket comes up with a plan.  Said plan requires a chunk of Wakandan vibranium, which Black Panther, who’s back in his home country fighting off looters, readily agrees to give them.
Now to bait the trap: the Avengers somehow arrange for Dr. MacLain to speak to the U.N. about the threat Ultron poses.  Ultron realizes it’s a trick, but he decides to go anyway.

Wasn’t this Winterbolt’s plan in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July?  Ultron is getting less intimidating by the second.

MacLain gives this big speech about how he’s the only one with any hope of stopping Ultron (while wearing sunglasses inside the whole time for some reason) while Goliath, Wasp, and Thor keep a look-out for Ultron himself.  They don’t do a very good job, because Ultron—now minus the go-cart and calling himself Ultimate Ultron—busts through the floor.  Heck, Ultron is so confident that he lets Goliath get in the first blow.

Bruce Springsteen?!!

Ultron wipes the floor with our heroes and grabs MacLain.  He tries to use a literal brain drain device on him to gain all of MacLain’s scientific secrets, but MacLain resists so hard that he actually manages to break Ultron.

I wonder what MacLain was thinking that could cause Ultron to have a literal meltdown.  My money’s on this.

After Ultron bites it (supposedly), we find out what really happened: MacLain was a disguised Hank Pym, who’d been hypnotized into a) believing he was really MacLain, and b) thinking the phrase “thou shalt not kill” over and over, which is what caused Ultron to self-destruct.  Wow.  If that’s his reaction to religion, I dread to think what would happen if some unsuspecting Jehovah’s Witness knocked on his door.

I’m not sure I’d recommend hypnotizing a guy who’s been hypnotized before with dire consequences and clearly has trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality as it is, but apparently we’re just pretending that never happened, so fine, whatever.

The next issue, chronologically speaking, is Avengers Annual #3.  We’re not really going to talk about this one, since there’s no new material in it; it’s just a reprint of Avengers #4, which I’ve already reviewed, and then some reprints of some old Tales of Suspense.  It’s kind of ironic, given that the very first Avengers Annual proudly proclaimed “NOT A SINGLE REPRINT!” right on the cover, and now two issue later, we’ve devolved into NOT A SINGLE ORIGINAL STORY!

So really, there’s nothing left for me to say about this.  My thoughts on Avengers #4 still stand—it’s not just historic, but a fun story with good art—so we’ll skip ahead to Avengers #69.  Before we dive in, though, I should explain a few things.  Specifically, the events of Iron Man #17-#18.
Dangit, Clarence, you’ve already got your wings, stop screwing with people.

Actually, one of Tony’s Life Model Decoys has gone Short Circuit on him and tricked everyone into thinking the LMD is the real Tony Stark.  He even destroys Tony’s spare armor, leaving just one set for himself.  Eventually, Tony grabs hold of his older armor and uses it to battle the LMD.  He succeeds just as the Avengers arrive, but the strain of using the bulkier vintage armor causes his heart to give out.  The Avengers take him to a hospital, but there isn’t much hope.

That’s where we pick up in Issue Sixty-Nine—with the Avengers visiting Tony while Thor is out retrieving a surgeon named Dr. Santini, who’s the only person capable of saving the Avengers’ benefactor.

Just before Santini kicks them out of Stark’s hospital room, Jan notices a glowing doll under a chair.

You’d think the other Avengers would be curious about that, but Hank just tells her to quit being silly and let Santini do his thing.  Jan throws the doll away, which is a shame because ten seconds later it does this.

The doll thing beats up a couple of guards, growing bigger all the while.  He busts into the operating room, and by this point he’s big enough to grab Tony and try to leave with him.  The Avengers, having heard the commotion from down the hall, charge to the rescue.  They quickly realize that their enemy only grows bigger each time they hit him, and Thor recognizes him as one of Kang the Conqueror’s lackeys.  He is, appropriately enough, called the Growing Man.

Goliath promptly grows to his maximum size—I don’t know what he’s planning on doing, since it’s clear they can’t punch him into submission, but it all becomes irrelevant when Goliath gets dizzy from growing too fast.

At that moment, a beam of light shoots down from a mysterious glowing sphere.  It shrinks Growing Man to human size and sweeps him and a still-unconscious Tony up into itself.  The Avengers step into the beam and follow them up. 

That’s how I feel whenever I remember Batman: The Brave and the Bold got cancelled.

They are transported to the future, where the Growing Man and Tony have disappeared and Kang is keeping his old “girlfriend” Ravonna in a jar.  I put girlfriend in quotation marks because, if you remember Avengers #24, their relationship was so terribly written it was outright offensive.

Anyway, Kang explains that the ball that brought them here has been shrunk down to crystal ball size, with Growing Man and Tony still inside.  Beyond that, the Avengers don’t need to know anything as far as Kang is concerned.  Thor doesn’t take that well and the Avengers attack, only to be stopped by… Black Panther?

Panther was in Wakanda when Kang the Conqueror kidnapped him as well, and he now urges his teammates to listen to Kang’s story.  Kang even kinda-sorta apologizes for being so rude earlier, so the Avengers agree to listen.

It turns out that Ravonna didn’t actually die at the end of Issue Twenty-Four.  Kang just put her in suspended animation, I assume because her injuries were too grievous to treat (even though it’s the year 4000 and you’d think they’d have decent healthcare by then).


An intergalactic blue man called the Grandmaster overhears Kang’s request and offers him that power, but only if Kang can beat him at a game of the Grandmaster’s choosing.  If Kang loses, he, Ravonna and the entire planet Earth will be disappeared.  THAT SOUNDS FAIR.

Kang of course accepts the offer, and Grandmaster gives him one year to defeat his game, a funky-looking device called “the game of the galaxies.”  The deadline is up in one hour—boy, he sure took his sweet time asking for help, didn’t he?—so of course the Avengers agree to help him out, if only to save the world.

Kang helpfully returns Tony Stark to his own time so he can get his operation.  We’ll find out the results of that operation next time, but for now, the Grandmaster appears to split up our heroes.  Goliath, Thor, and Captain America are zapped to the game’s first round: a battle with the Squadron Supreme!

And of course, cliffhanger.

Anyone else want to know what happened to the Growing Man?  Is he still in that sphere?

Also, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but for crying out loud, KANG IS A TIME-TRAVELLER.  He literally used time travel to get the Avengers to his house.  Why can’t he go back in time and prevent Ravonna from being shot in the first place?  Why did he need to accept an offer from the first creepy mystical guy who happened along?

Ignoring that, a lot of this issue was prepping for the next one.  I get the feeling, just given the general set-up of this plotline, that we’re going to get a lot of big slugfests in the next issue or two.  Sounds good to me!

To read Avengerous Tales 1.37, go here!

Images from Avengers #68, Avengers Annual #3, Iron Man #17 and Avengers #69

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