Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Classic Comics - The Avengers #71

   Last week we talked about Avengers #70 (from 1969), which introduced the JLA-based Squadron Sinister.

   One month after that issue, writer Roy Thomas created another "new" super-team to fight the Avengers (who were caught up in a cosmic game between the Grandmaster and Kang the Conquerer) - and it was a team that Thomas would return to six years later.

   The rules of the game were simple - the Avengers must fight and win to save the Earth. The cosmically-powered Grandmaster has promised Kang the power of life and death, which he plans to use to revive the love of his life, the comatose Ravonna.

    So the Black Panther, Yellowjacket and the Vision find themselves transported to Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941 - and they're quickly confronted by the most powerful heroes from that time - Captain America, Namor and the (android) Human Torch!

   Six years later the stories of their World War II adventures would be told in the pages of The Invaders (also written by Thomas), but in 1969 the only historical team-up of those characters happened in the All-Winners Squad - a team comic printed after the war was over.

   So with this issue Thomas (with artists Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger) were laying the continuity-rich groundwork for that series. (Thomas even revisited this story in The Invaders, telling it from the other side of the conflict - and explaining why Cap was using his original triangular shield, instead of the circular one.)

   It's a terrific action sequence, and it's just the setup for the final confrontation with Kang  and the Grandmaster - a battle that has a real shock and a special guest star!

   And another treat on the last page - a full page splash of the Avengers posing heroically - maybe the first such splash incorporated into the pages of a story (as opposed to a special pin-up)!

   (We'll even forgive the fact that the Wasp has somehow changed costumes instantly for that final page!)

   It's a great wrap-up to a classic story that set up elements that would be revisited over and over in the Marvel universe - a real classic!

Grade: A



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