Archive for June, 2012

The Avengers #29

June 30, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
June 1966
**
Before Romita would jolt Marvel into a more soap-operatic mode, Heck sets the prototype. Goliath mopes over his gigantism while g’friend Wasp frets; Hawkeye moons over his lost love, the Black Widow (poor wallflower Witch!). But this is supercomics, so BW has enlisted muscle to attack the team.
[last issue: The Avengers #28]
[next issue: The Avengers #30]

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The Avengers #28

June 29, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
May 1966
***
The insectoid Avengers, now B-listers w/o their own series, return to this mag. Lee has revised Doc Pym in the Marvel style, w/ a period-perfect costume from Heck. Giant-Man, AKA Goliath, is anxious cuz his growing power taxes his body, maybe fatally! Van Dyne, OTOH, is cast as a damsel-in-distress.
[last issue: The Avengers #27]
[next issue: The Avengers #29]

The Avengers #27

June 28, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
April 1966
***
The mag’s on an upswing. As Lee supplies dialogue w/ his usual brio, Heck finally delivers a plot to match. It’s an undersea adventure, complete w/ giant octopus, crashing subs, & plenty of swashbuckling. #27 isn’t revolutionary, but its scope & stakes feel worthy of Avengers, even this b-grade cast.
[last issue: The Avengers #26]
[next issue: The Avengers #28]

The Avengers #26

June 27, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
March 1966
**
The Avs lose the first bout against an undersea warlord (an enemy of Namor’s, natch) w/ a supervillainous plan to flood the world. Heck, as usual, seems more jazzed by the internal squabbling than the adventures, since it allows for more emotion. But nice to see the Wasp perform a bit of solo heroism!
[last issue: The Avengers #25]
[next issue: The Avengers #27]

The Avengers #25

June 26, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
February 1966
***
Lee sets up a match w/ the inestimable Dr. Doom; too bad Heck draws a mediocre plot. His Avengers don’t win so much as get trapped & then escape as Doom unholsters ray-guns. Still, the creators remind us of the mutant sibs’ coded origin as Holocaust survivors, & sideline the FF via diplomacy.
[last issue: The Avengers #24]
[next issue: The Avengers #26]

The Avengers #24

June 25, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
January 1966
****
Compare #24 to last ish: Ayers does skillful work but his inks lack the lush texture of Romita’s. Still, it’s a great story, the sort of epic that a superteam deserves. In the fifth millennium AD, Kang faces down a coup w/ the Av’s help! But in a sentimental twist, he’s too late to save his beloved!
[last issue: The Avengers #23]
[next issue: The Avengers #25]

The Avengers #23

June 24, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
December 1965
****
Kang, despot of the timelines, shunts the Avs into the future to impress a space princess. Romita’s inks turn this adventure into a space opera in Raymond’s Flash Gordon style! His sensuous approach, honed in romance comics, adds conviction to the villain’s motivations & Kirby-like deco backgrounds.
[last issue: The Avengers #22]
[next issue:  The Avengers #24]

The Avengers #22

June 23, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
November 1965
***
Trying to clear their name after last issue’s frame-up, our heroes face Ditko’s Circus of Crime (a silly ’60s concept) & Power Man, a juggernaut of muscle. But the better part of the ish involves the set-up, with the team moping around & such. Plus, Wood’s inks smooth & add weight to Heck’s art.
[last issue: The Avengers #21]
[next issue: The Avengers #23]

The Avengers #21

June 22, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
September 1965
**
One of Lee’s favorite plots: the heroes falsely accused. This time, they’ve been framed by the Enchantress & her new stooge, a merc empowered by the Wonder Man treatment. Wally Wood, inking since last ish, adds a lovely sheen that makes Heck’s style resemble Plast & Swan’s contempo work on Superman.
[last issue: The Avengers #20]
[next issue: The Avengers #22]

The Avengers #20

June 21, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
September 1965
**
Echoes of issue #9, as Avengers applicant the Swordsman acts as catspaw for a greater villain till his conscience kicks in. His boss is the Mandarin, a Fu Manchu type who has no prior beef w/ the team. Heck balances the scenes of teamwork w/ clashes of personality—but oy, his costume designs!
[last issue: The Avengers #19]
[next issue: The Avengers #21]

The Avengers #19

June 20, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
August 1965
**
When folks talk about the insane plots of Silver Age comics, they don’t mean this arc. Part 1 of 2 sees the new Avengers face a chappie w/ a sword, a lowlife ex-carny (Hawkeye’s onetime mentor) who wants to join the team. A molasses-slow multi-issue plot has Cap petitioning for SHIELD membership.
[last issue: The Avengers #18]
[next issue: The Avengers #20]

The Avengers #18

June 19, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
July 1965
***
The heroes jet off to Indochina to overthrow a Communist goliath. Formulaic plot & racist art gets lifted by giving damsel-in-distress Scarlet W the win. Also strong: character dynamics. Hawkeye exhibits an anti-authoritarian streak while the mutant sibs voice doubts about their mission’s politics.
[last issue: The Avengers #17]
[next issue: The Avengers #19]

The Avengers #17

June 18, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
June 1965
***
A hunt for charter Avenger the Hulk turns up blank, while a face-off w/ that subterranean tyrant, the Mole Man, & his monsters ends in a draw. The new roster, however, shows more teamwork & demos more character than the square heroes they’ve replaced. Hawkeye is aiming to replace Cap as team leader!
[last issue: The Avengers #16]
[next issue: The Avengers #18]

The Avengers #16

June 17, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Don Heck
May 1965
****
Recognizing the need to shake up this formulaic mag, editor Lee revises its mission by changing its cast. Cap excepted, the square-jawed heroes step aside for reformed criminals from other mags, antiheroes w/o titles of their own. The combat’s perfunctory; this ish aims for drama, not action.
[last issue: The Avengers #15]
[next issue: The Avengers #17]

The Avengers #15

June 16, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby & Don Heck
April 1965
**
Staging a battle royale btw the superteam & their evil reflection, the Masters of Evil, on the streets of NYC, this conventional ish acts as climax for the original lineup. The shake-up will help, since the all-star cast has been straightlaced, even square, ever since Cap replaced the wild-card Hulk.
[last issue: The Avengers #14]
[next issue: The Avengers #16]

The Avengers #14

June 15, 2012

Stan Lee, Paul Laiken, & Larry Lieber // Jack Kirby & Don Heck
March 1965
***
Lots of hands work on #14, but it’s Kirby’s imagination that directs them. So a twisty plot links a critically wounded Wasp, a hunt for a lung specialist, the secret Arctic citadel of pale blue aliens, & finally, an interstellar war! It’s worth lingering over the King’s strange city & war machines.
[last issue: The Avengers #13]
[next issue: The Avengers #15]

The Avengers #13

June 14, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
February 1965
***
An aristo runs a criminal syndicate, so he engineers a war btw the Avengers & the US military! Under the Marvel Method, the conventional plot is Heck’s. But Lee’s hand is seen in the Innocent Accused trope as well as the cute twist on the Mob’s popular nickname (the “Maggia”, one letter off).
[last issue: The Avengers #12]
[next issue: The Avengers #14]

The Avengers #12

June 13, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
January 1965
**
A standard superteam adventure, as the Avengers take on a megalomaniac & his doomsday device. The villain’s not even new, he’s on loan from the Fantastic Four: a subterranean tyrant & his pale yellow horde. The underground setting, at least, allows Ant-Man to prove he’s not the team’s fifth wheel.
[last issue: The Avengers #11]
[next issue: The Avengers #13]

The Avengers #11

June 12, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
December 1964
***
Once again the mag’s supervillain targets the team, as the futuristic Kang sends a Spider-Man robot to the Amazon jungles. It nearly bests the Avs till it’s stopped by the real deal. Heck’s Spidey lacks Ditko’s acrobatics; he focuses on the webbing. But his art improves as he adopts more Kirby-isms.
[last issue: The Avengers #10]
[next issue: The Avengers #12]

The Avengers #10

June 11, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
November 1964
***
The latest ally of the Masters of Evil is a sort of time-wizard, able to yank figures out of history to pit against the heroes. Compared to Kirby’s spacesuited Kang, Heck’s design—long robes, black goatee—reflects a more conservative aesthetic. His plotting too is clumsy, his fights w/o finesse.
[last issue: The Avengers #9]
[next issue: The Avengers #11]

The Avengers #9

June 10, 2012

Stan Lee // Don Heck
October 1964
****
Heck picks the mag up, replacing Kirby’s kineticism w/ a richer emotional palate. Take Cap, who’s now obsessed w/ Nazi hunting. Or see the issue’s antihero, a Superman stand-in. Initially he’s ready to trap the Avengers as corporate payback upon Tony Stark, but his conscience turns at the 11th hour.
[last issue: The Avengers #8]
[next issue: The Avengers #10]

The Avengers #8

June 9, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
September 1964
****
A UFO brings a boastful despot to Earth, but he’s not an alien, he’s a time traveller! Curiously, Marvelites have seen this guy Kang before—in ancient Egypt, v. the FF! Still, this issue’s plot is generic, and aside from a crazy uniform, so’s the artwork (graded on a Kirby curve, anyway).
[last issue: The Avengers #7]
[next issue: The Avengers #9]

The Avengers #7

June 8, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
August 1964
*****
Nearing its anniversary, The Avengers becomes a monthly mag—so Lee & Kirby stage a helluva fight! A siren of Asgard hypnotizes Thor into fighting his teammates. And Captain America faces Zemo, the Nazi who killed his sidekick in WW2. Cap, a true war vet, burns w/ neurotic guilt at the kid’s death!
[last issue: The Avengers #6]
[next issue: The Avengers #8]

The Avengers #6

June 7, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
July 1964
****
W/ the Hulk gone, the mag finds a new center in Captain America. He leads the heroes against a superteam of their enemies, enlisted by a Nazi foe who’d hid in South America! Kirby brings his gadgets, a gang of kids, and a ranting megalomaniac; Lee adds his editorial passion for a shared universe.
[last issue: The Avengers #5]
[next issue: The Avengers #7]

The Avengers #5

June 6, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
May 1964
****
The return of the Lava Men, whom Thor faced last fall. But aside from one of Lee’s typical warmongering advisors, these classic Kirby monsters aren’t villains. Incidentally, this ish acts as a coda to the Hulk’s career with the Avengers, after breaking w/ them finally in The Fantastic Four.
[continued from The Fantastic Four #26]
[last issue: The Avengers #4]
[next issue: The Avengers #6]

The Avengers #4

June 5, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
March 1964
*****
Kirby & Lee resurrect Captain America, carefully retailoring him to superb effect. A disastrous WW2 mission cost Cap his sidekick Bucky & put him on ice. Reawakened, he broods mightily but fits perfectly w/ the superteam, who help an oddball (but not evil) alien while facing a resurgent Namor.
[continued in The Fantastic Four #25]
[last issue: The Avengers #3]
[next issue: The Avengers #5]

The Avengers #3

June 4, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
January 1964
*****
In a Marvel irony, the teams’ foe in #3 used to be a teammate. The Hulk’s antisocial demeanor earns him attn from the original antihero, Namor—who defeats the surly monster in an underwater wrestling match! But the duo can’t cooperate when they challenge the Avengers to a battle royale under Gibraltar.
[see also Journey into Mystery #112]
[last issue: The Avengers #2]
[next issue: The Avengers #4]

The Avengers #2

June 3, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
November 1963
****
Kirby & Lee apply the shapeshifter trope (a fave of theirs) to JLA‘s alien invasion plot. But it’s their best iteration, as the conflict reflects the book’s engine of distrust among teammates. Hulk just can’t mesh w/ the more idealistic heroes, & so, in an encore of FF 3, he stomps out on them!
[last issue: The Avengers #1]
[next issue: The Avengers #3]

The Avengers #1

June 2, 2012

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
September 1963
*****
Stan & Jack add a Marvel twist to superteam conventions. Loki, a trickster god, dupes a handful of Earth’s mightiest heroes into fighting that monstrous antihero, the Hulk! Despite the formulas, this premiere issue is incredible, mostly cuz Kirby, inked by Ayers, offers such vigorous dynamism.
[next issue: The Avengers #2]