Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Classics - The Avengers #133, 134 and 135

   There have been quite a few excellent writers who worked on The Avengers over the years, and it's not easy to name a favorite.

   Certainly Stan Lee got the team off to a great start, and Roy Thomas built an epic run after that. Over the years we've enjoyed tremendous work by Roger Stern, Kurt Busiek, Brian Michael Bendis and many others.

   But if you forced me to choose a favorite writer on the series, I'd have to go with the guy who followed Thomas: Steve Englehart.

   If Stan introduced continuity to superhero comics and Thomas refined it, it was Englehart who used it to build epic tales that took fans into new territory, linked up disparate threads and explained long-held mysteries about the Marvel Universe.

   One of the best examples can be found in issue #133, 134 and 135. The Avengers defeated (and aided) Immortus, the master of limbo, and as recompense, he offers to shed light on the mystery of the origin of Mantis, the martial artist (created by Englehart). The answer took the team far into the past on a tour of the origins of the enmity between the Kree and Skrull alien races, the creation of the Blue Area on the Moon (complete with Earth-like atmosphere), and the existence of a plant-based life form.

   At the same time, the Vision traveled back in time to learn about his link with the original (android) Human Torch from the Golden Age, and the connection to his evil creator, Ultron.

   It was an intelligent, involved and perfectly-constructed tale that wove through three issues and left characters changed forever. By tying together so many different story threads, it actually made the Marvel continuity stronger.

   It was a remarkable work, wonderfully illustrated by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton. (It's also interesting to note that the Avengers do nothing in this series - except watch history unfold.)

   The writing had far-reaching effects, as it inspired other writers (including some of those mentioned above) to try their hand at linking together continuity threads to craft stories of their own.

   But no one was better at it than Englehart.

Grade: A+




Kevin Findley said...

This and the Avengers/Defenders crossover were two of the best storylines Englehart wrote IMHO. It's a shame that this 'secret origin' was eventually retconned.

Or is it back in continuity again?

Chuck said...

Good question! I think the Vision's secret origin was somewhat undone (to allow the return of the original Human Torch, I think), but they muddied the waters as best i remember, to allow both origins to work somehow or another. It is a shame they changed a brilliant explanation, but i understand wanting to hang on to the original android (though he's been mostly underused).