Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Classics - The Avengers #118

Lots of great writers have done terrific work on The Avengers, but the most influential writer who ever tackled the series - in my opinion, natch - was Steve Englehart.

He wrote the book for some 50 issues and turned it into a comic that was about big events and big ideas, and he managed to bring together disparate elements of Marvel's history and make it all fit together as though it had always been intended that way. (And that's a trick few writers can manage, though many have tried.)

This issue, cover dated December 1973, was the wrap-up to one of the wildest and most purely entertaining series for both The Avengers and The Defenders.

Englehart was (incredibly) writing both team books, and he decided to create what I believe is the first-ever multi-issue crossover between two titles. There had been crossovers before, but usually just one issue spilling over into another one. This series jumped back and forth between the two titles over several months, as individual members of each team faced off, trying to gather the pieces of a powerful object called The Evil Eye (which first appeared in a single Stan Lee / Jack Kirby issue of the Fantastic Four).

This led to some classic battles, including the Vision vs. the Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange vs. the Black Panther and Mantis, and my personal favorite, Thor vs. the Hulk.

Of course, the whole conflict was devised by two of Marvel's biggest villains - Dormammu and Loki, and by this final issue in the series, the bad guys were bringing down hell on Earth, and the two teams would have to work together to save reality as we know it.

The task of drawing (virtually) the entire cast of the Marvel Universe would make anyone this side of George Perez shudder, but the underrated Bob Brown turns in an admirable job here, with clear storytelling and a professional job throughout. If a few panels are a bit shaky in the anatomy department, we can certainly forgive - it's an amazing display here. And I love that John Romita cover.

The whole series is available in reprint form, and is highly recommended. It's loaded with terrific dialogue, some classic battles between heroes, and a knock-down, drag-out final chapter loaded with surprises.

A true classic, and highly recommended!

Grade: A-


Anonymous said...

I guess this is one of the first attempts at the "Big Event" type
of cross-company storytelling...involving a LOT of characters up against a BIG BAD!
The kind of thing DC and Marvel do
almost every week now.
Like a top performer, Englehart knew when to get on and off the stage before it all became tedious.
And Bob Brown is certainly underrated, but he was a good choice for the job, because he could make the deadlines! Always
a plus...

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Sam, I do think it's a textbook example of how to do a crossover "right." It was small - just two titles involved - and tightly woven so it almost didn't matter which team's comic you were reading. Much easier to deal with than today's multi-issue, multi-title, interwoven "events" (I'm looking at you, War of the Hulks).