Saturday, February 6, 2016

Avengerous Tales 2.15 - Avengers #100-#101

To read Avengerous Tales 2.14, go here!

I am going to need so many tags for this.
Our star-studded one hundredth issue begins in England, where every single Avenger ever to avenge (minus Hercules) has been summoned to England by the Black Knight.  That includes…

Hulk doesn’t have great memories of the Avengers, as you can imagine, but Captain America convinces him to stay around long enough to find out why he was called.

“You dragged us all out here for a bra burning?”
“Shut up, Hawkeye.”

Actually, the Black Knight was chatting with Sir Percy, one of his knightly ancestors, about the true fate of his Ebony Blade.  If you remember from Avengers #84, the blade was revealed to be a mind-controlling weenie so the Black Knight threw it into a magic well to be rid of its evil influences.  However, as it turns out, that well got the last laugh by spitting out the sword into Olympus, where it was promptly discovered by Ares.

To add to the fun, Enchantress (who now has white hair and is wearing a red version of her usual costume for no apparent reason) followed the sword’s magic trail to Olympus and is now happy to team up with Ares to destroy Asgard and Olympus.

Ares uses the sword to destroy the Promethean Flame, turning it to crystal.  As we learned in Avengers #49, the Promethean Flame is what keeps the Olympian gods alive.  Now that the flame is crystal, so too are the gods, except for Ares who is protected by his sword, and Hercules who is once again protected by his human half.

Ares’s henchmen, a couple of nameless Titans, chuck Hercules off the top of Mount Olympus.  Six days later, Herc landed on Earth sans his memory, and you can probably pick up the rest from there.  Though one thing I’m confused about: I thought that last issue they were implying that Odin’s dimension-hopping was the reason why Thor couldn’t return to Asgard, but now they’re saying that Ares put up that barrier???

I don’t know.  Anyway, Sir Percy’s tale is ended, and an unwelcome guest reveals himself.

The Avengers agree to tolerate Swordsman’s presence for now.  More specifically, Thor, the Black Knight, Vision, Hulk and Iron Man head off to Olympus to confront Ares and Enchantress directly; the others remain on Earth, ready to fight if any evildoers should decide to pay Earth a visit.  Good thing, too, because Thor and company are quickly taken down by Ares’s henchmen.  Ares, Enchantress, and a bunch of gargoyle looking creatures then invade London.

Go to your room.

Ares tries to sneak up on our heroes, but the Black Knight and Thor (who saw he was in distress and came back from Olympus to help him) make short work of the war god, who finally gives the Ebony Blade back to its rightful owner.  The Enchantress and the gargoyles, sensing the battle is lost, flee to Olympus, where the Hulk is more than happy to beat them up.  The issue ends with Hercules and Thor punching the interdimensional portal closed.

This issue was pretty good, but for a one hundredth issue, it was a bit anticlimactic.  Over half the issue is exposition—the real action doesn’t start until page fifteen, which doesn’t exactly leave room for the kind of big, epic, suspenseful battle I’d expect from such a momentous occasion—and the art was just kind of eh.  (The coloring mistakes didn’t exactly help either.)  Still, we did get to see all Avengers, past and present, working together for the first time, and that’s not nothing.

Avengers #101 brings us a new artist, Rich Buckler, and also marks the second time that Harlan Ellison was called in to write the story (though Roy Thomas still wrote the script).  Well, I guess it can’t be any worse than the last time Ellison was on board.

So we begin with the Avengers hosting/guarding a historic chess match between Eastern European champion Sporadnik and a super-computer called Nimrod of all things.  Sporadnik is a bit of a jerk, but all goes well until he suddenly falls over.

Sporadnik is rushed to the hospital, and Thor follows so he can become Donald Blake and help as necessary.  Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch wonder if the Vision knows more than he’s telling (see the “fiendishly clever human” remark).  Captain America, meanwhile, has absconded with the last thing Sporadnik touched before keeling over: a pawn.  Because symbolism.

Between Iron Man and Don Blake, we discover that the pawn is covered in traces of a rare poison from a very specific area of Brazil, which I’m pretty sure is the first time this comic has mentioned an actual South American country instead of just saying “South America.”  Unfortunately, Sporadnik is in a coma and isn’t responding to any of the antitoxins Blake used, so it’s up to the Avengers to track down the poisoner if they want to save Sporadnik and prevent an international incident.

The Vision, as he so often is, is two steps ahead of his teammates.
Maybe the Avengers should put a bell on him…

We don’t know who exactly Leonard Tippit is or what his deal is or where he got his magic Goldfinger powers, but we do know that he’s able to take down the Vision.  But when an angry Cap shows up, all it takes is one punch and he’s unconscious.  Weird, but, hey.  They won, right?  Break out the party favors!

Well, not so much.  Tippit sinks right through the floor, and not long after, the Avengers start to feel dizzy.  They find themselves falling down, down, down…

…right into Leonard Tippit’s dream sequence.  I’d make an Inception joke, but I never saw that movie, so you’ll have to do it.

Tippit’s an accountant, as it so happens, and he’s confused why anyone would want to contact a bland, boring guy like himself.  As he’s musing, the Watcher spontaneously appears in his bedroom and says that Leonard Tippit is one of the multiverse’s most crucial elements—a “focal element,” as the Watcher puts it—with the power to affect every potential future in every world.  The Watcher has seen the future of the various Earths, and each one is destined to end in nuclear holocaust if Tippit doesn’t do something.

The Watcher, of course, can’t fix anything himself because he’s only allowed to observe, not interfere (well, supposedly).  Tippit agrees to save the multiverse but is none too happy when he learns what he must do: murder five other “focal elements” (including Sporadnik) whose children will someday indirectly cause untold destruction.  So he’s a naked golden Terminator basically.

This is not a good time for a dance party, guys!

Tippit zaps himself around the world at record speed, putting each of his victims into comas.  The Avengers are always seconds too late to stop him.  By the time he accomplishes his mission, most of his power has been depleted, enabling Scarlet Witch to hex him.  She and Quicksilver then rush him back to Avengers Mansion, where Iron Man fits him with a special power-dampening helmet.

And then the Watcher shows up.


The Watcher created that whole story about the five other focal elements (who will be fine, don’t worry) so that the Avengers would get involved and drain Leonard Tippit of his latent superpowers, allowing the Watcher to take him without a fight.  Or, well, almost without a fight: the Avengers aren’t about to let some cosmic peeping Tom steal an earthling without permission, but Tippit begs them not to interfere, declaring that he is happy to give his life to do something important for once.  And the Avengers, with heavy hearts, let him go.

And Nimrod was presumably dumped in a basement somewhere and left to rust until a group of sentient appliances drop by and they all team up to save a bunch of animals.  What?  You can’t prove otherwise.


Why couldn’t this have been the one hundredth issue?

Sure it wasn’t a big sweeping saga, but it had something better: an absorbing story, lots of intrigue, and a surprisingly likable and heartbreaking hero in Leonard Tippit.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this invested or interested in the life of a side character in this comic.  It reminds me of the kind of story you’d see on The Twilight Zone except with superheroes, and let’s be honest, there are very few things in this life that can’t be improved with superheroes.
Oh well.  Even if it wasn’t the one hundredth issue, it was leagues better than Ellison’s last attempt at an Avengers story.  He’s definitely redeemed himself in my eyes, and Roy Thomas did a tip-top job in translating Ellison’s story to the page.  Good show all around.

To read Avengerous Tales 2.16, go here!

Images from Avengers #100 and Avengers #101

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