Friday, November 23, 2012

Avengers Sorta Disassambled part III: Kick An Ant-Man When He’s Down


By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

After getting himself booted out of the Avengers for dishonorable conduct and being framed for crimes he didn’t commit by his archnemesis Egghead, Hank Pym found himself in jail. Can things get any worse? Ow, you’d better believe it…

He suffered the ultimate insult for the next 6 months or so: being completely ignored. Jim Shooter had the entire fall and rise of Hank Pym all planned out when his duties as editor in chief unfortunately proved too time consuming and he had to take breaks. This meant fill in issues and guest writers scripting over Shooter’s plots... as a result, poor ol’ jailbird Hank got lost in the shuffle.

The effects were jarring, to say the least. After the Yellowjacket centric # 217, which ended with him in jail, one would expect # 218 to pick up on or even mention the matter. Instead, we get a perfectly decent stock story by J.M. DeMatteis which sees the Avengers trying to deal with the plight of the Forever Man, a human being who cannot die and is tired of this unending cycle of reincarnation.

Shooter returns for issues #  219  and 220, but the matter of Yellowjacket’s upcoming legal issues aren’t addressed at all by the team. It takes Moondragon of all people to even remind the readers something is going down with Hank.


 
Yes, Moondragon makes her triumphant return to the book. The last time she crossed paths with  the Avengers, the self important high priestess of the mind decided to help them pick their new line up. But now, she was pursuing higher goals, travelling the galaxy with her father Drax the Destroyer to bring peace wherever they went. In this case, the planet known as Ba-Bani.

Having succeeded in ending a planetary war by using most of her powers to ‘influence’ military leaders, Moondragon was left vulnerable to an imminent rebel attack on her stronghold. Because she had cured Drax of his rage issues, he couldn’t defend her so she decided to summon her former team to come to her aid. Sending her ship the Sensia to Earth, the remaining 4 Avengers feel oddly compelled to board the vessel and soon arrive on Ba Bani ready to defend Moondragon.

Lets face it, this two parter makes no sense. It takes the Avengers an entire issue to discover there’s no rebellion,  Moondragon actually controls the entire Ba-Bani population. Why did she go through this whole song and dance? Seemingly, all she wanted from the Avengers was to  mentally seduce Thor and take him as a lover.  If so, why did she need to bring the others?

Iron Man meanwhile manages to get through to the newly pacifist Drax, who breaks free from his  mental conditioning. Enraged, the Destroyer goes to confront his daughter, who feels she has no choice but to do this…



The effort of killing her father weakens Moondragon sufficiently for the Avengers to take her out. With the Ba-Bani free (and already back at war), the team agrees Moondragon has to pay for her crimes. Unfortunately, common Earth courts don’t exactly cover interplanetary mental domination and super powered patricide.

Shooter brilliantly solved this by having Thor teleport her to Asgard. If Moondragon insists on thinking she’s as a goddess, she ought to be judged by the gods, he reasons. Thor leaves Moondragon with Odin himself, who is ready to sit in judgement over her actions. This resolution would eventually turn out to be a neat set up for J.M. DeMatteis, when he drafted Moondragon for his New Defenders run.

Alas, the ill plotted Moondragon two parter were the last full issues of the title Shooter would write. David Michelinie scripted # 221 which saw the four remaining active Avengers finally dealing with their depleted ranks… all the while not mentioning Hank a single time.

At any rate, the team had two slots to fill and everyone had their own ideas on how to reach the quota of six members. Thor sought out Spider-Man who kindly refused, while Iron Man and Cap simply went to Hawkeye and asked the all too eager archer to rejoin. Wasp was the only one who took a little effort and held a recruitment drive of her own. Inviting the Invisible Girl, Black Widow, Dazzler, Spider-Woman and the She Hulk to an all girl tea party at her house,  Janet was about to make her pitch when an uninvited ‘friend’ dropped by.



Fabian Stankowicz was introduced in # 217 as a good hearted but slightly goofy inventor who had gained a small fortune after winning the lottery. Hungering for a taste of fame to go along with his fortune, he decided to pitting his mechanical genius against the Avengers would certainly get him some press.

He got beaten up mercilessly by the assembled heroines, who one after another took their leave until only the She-Hulk remained and happily accepted Janet’s offer for membership. The Avengers were back to fighting strength, right on time for # 222 which saw Steven Grant scripting Shooter’s plot and the return of Egghead and… the latest incarnation of the Masters of Evil.

Issue # 222 is significant for many reasons. It’s the first time we see the new Avengers in action against Egghead’s equally new Masters of Evil… but its also the first time in 5 months Hank Pym is mentioned ├índ seen. Shooter even tries to explain away Hank’s absence from the book with an awkward exchange between Tony Stark and Scott Lang.



Scott Lang taking an interest in Hank’s case only makes sense, considering he owns his super hero identity to the man. It also shows a real sense of neglect on the part of Tony and the other Avengers. Sure, they can’t do an awful lot until Hank’s case comes to trial… but is a visit or a show of sympathy really too much to ask?

Meanwhile, the reason why Pym’s in the pokey is having troubles of his own. Egghead was initially rather pleased with causing the downfall of his nemesis, but that joy proved rather fleeting.



His plight actually helps inspire his latest nefarious scheme: come up with a cure for eternal life and get filthy rich selling it to the highest bidder. But to achieve all of this, he’ll need a few super powered henchmen to do the heavy lifting. That’s why not too long afterwards, a remote controlled torpedo destroys the Atlantean prison holding the fierce Tiger Shark. The aquatic baddie soon shows up at the Ryker’s Island prison to gather a few more recruits, like inmate David Cannon, better known as the Whirlwind. Right before his breakout, he was just having some lunch with fellow prisoner Hank Pym.


In a nice nod to established continuity, Shooter reminds the readers that Whirlwind is actually obsessed with the Wasp. He even posed as her driver in the early issues in order to get close to her. With his parole hearing coming up soon, Cannon openly fantasized about paying Janet a little visit. Naturally, that didn’t sit well with her new ex-husband.



Only moments after Pym is dragged away to solitary, Tiger Shark bursts through a wall and starts a jail break. He takes Whirlwind, the Scorpion and Moonstone and leaves the other prisoners to fend for themselves. Egghead is pleased by his latest Masters of Evil and he plans for them to rob a New York medical research center that night.

Having a few hours to kill before the job, Whirlwind decides to make good on his earlier promise and looks up the Wasp. He knocks out her driver Carrothers and waits for her right outside Avengers Mansion. When she finally enters the car, she isn’t too pleased to see him.

Also: picking a fight with the Avengers’ chairman in front of their headquarters? Not the smartest thing to do. Hawkeye is the first to come rushing to Jan’s aid, but luckily for Whirlwind his fellow Masters are nearby as well.



Despite their best efforts, the outnumbered Masters are quickly routed and sent back to jail. But Egghead isn’t too depressed about it, figuring this defeat may help the Masters see the wisdom of obeying his orders… next time.

Speaking of next time, in the fourth part of this retrospective on a certain TPB called The Trial of Yellowjacket, we’ll skip over half a dozen inconsequential issues and finally get to the trial and redemption of the aforementioned Yellowjacket in Avengers Sorta Disassembled: Ant’s For The Memories, Man!


4 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed the Moondragon/Ba-Bani story. As for the apparent inconsistency of the circumstances, I chalked it down to Moondragon having too many irons in one fire, so to speak--i.e., she had a lot to keep track of and constantly maintain, and only a finite amount of power to dole out. Drax took up a good bit of that, to be sure--but there was also the aggressive Ba-Bani population, which she wasn't simply influencing (suggesting something and then leaving it be) but controlling ("suggesting" with no let-up). So with the rebellion, she had a need for the Avengers as a kind of "security force" to keep in line those more persistent stray elements that were slipping from her control. Unfortunately, that meant partitioning more of her power to keep a lid on the Avengers' suspicions, as well as dedicating what must have been considerable power to co-opt Thor.

    Bringing the Avengers into the mix probably made this house of cards of hers even less stable (albeit without her realizing it)--but what made it topple was her concentrated assault on Drax, which was a superb scene. That and the entire Ba-Bani storyline really solidified Moondragon's character for me.

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  2. I hate to disagree with your analysis that Moondragon might simply have overextended herself and needed the Avengers to stop the rebels. If you read the actual issue, you'll see the Avengers take down the alledged rebellion and take their leaders into custody... while a day or so later those 'rebel leaders' are revealed to be ordinary citizens who help clean up the city after the fight. That, to me, is a clear signal Moondragon manipulated the entire population to create a false pretense for getting the Avengers there.

    Furthermore, its never clearly stated that Moondragon had indeed overextended her powers. Though, granted, admitting (the existence of) her own limitations was never Moondragon's strong suit.

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  3. I don't think it needs to be said that mind-controlling an entire planet is an over-extension of powers; that should just be a given.

    I loved these issues when they came out and never felt Pym was being neglected. Indeed, drawing out the resolution only increased the significance of Pym's eventual redemption.

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  4. I loved these issues when they first came out thirty (!) years ago. I really look forward to seeing the next few blogs in this history review. :)

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