Tuesday, September 27, 2016
And as much as I loved Stan Lee's writing on the series, it really took off when Roy Thomas took over. He built the team, ramped up the continuity (to the sticking point), developed great character interaction, crafted terrific dialogue and wrote fantastic stories.
One of my favorites (there are so many!) was the trio of issues (starting with #69) that introduced the Grandmaster, a cosmic being of fantastic power who devoted his energies to playing games.
He offers a challenge to Kang the Conqueror - a game where each one chooses a team of champions to fight it out. Kang, of course, chooses his old enemies - the Avengers.
They have to fight or the Grandmaster will destroy the Earth - so the game begins! It was an ingenious bit of business that would serve as a springboard for innumerable stories in the future (including, perhaps, the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie).
As if that wasn't enough, the story introduces the opponents for this issue - the Squadron Sinister, a not-so-thinly disguised evil version of the Justice League, as Captain America faces Nighthawk (Batman), Iron Man fights Dr. Spectrum (Green Lantern), Thor squares off against Hyperion (Superman), and Goliath matches wits with the Whizzer (the Flash).
(Lest you think that Roy was swiping shamelessly, at the same time a version of the Avengers was appearing over in the Justice League - it was a deliberate in-joke on both sides.)
It's a terrific fight, wonderfully illustrated by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger, both at the height of their powers - I especially love their take on Thor, who's rippling with power.
It's an exciting story with a terrific twist at the end - but perhaps the best surprise was waiting in the next issue, which wrapped up the series.
We'll talk about that classic tale... next week!