Thursday, April 6, 2017

1988: The Dreadful Druid part IV: The Doctor Is Out... Of His Mind

By Jef Willemsen (

Remember the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it?" Well, Marvel's editors sure didn't when they broke up the Avengers in late 1988 just to "fix" them. Walt Simonson was brought in and he picked Dr. Druid as the tool for the job. Marvel was so pleased, they took out an ad.

They were Earth's mightiest heroes. Nothing lasts forever"

The end begins in Avengers I#291, but before we get into the story... Let's consider the ad for a moment. This line up never actually served together. Thor was absent for most of their tenure, Namor was basically an estranged member and his wife Marrina was active as an Avengers associate at best. Still, longtime Thor-scribe Simonson started out with this lineup that by all accounts was nothing to sneeze at. Thor, She-Hulk and Namor were powerhouses, Captain Marvel was virtually unbeatable living energy, Doctor Druid was the next best thing to Doctor Strange, Black Knight covered both science and mysticism and Marrina well... She was a real good swimmer.

Anyway, remember them as they were because they'll never be this close again. Walt wasted no time and began tearing at the team's seams in the first few pages by revealing Doctor Druid was having bad dreams.

"I feel as though the heart has been cut out of me!"

Truer words were seldom spoken, Doc. To fans of Roger Stern's Avengers, reading Simonson's debut must have been the way Druid felt when he woke from his nightmare. Something felt off, even though everything looked fine and familiar. After all, Avengers I#291 still sported the comforting, reliable art duo of John Buscema and Tom Palmer. Yet, even without reading the in house ad, you could tell an ill wind had begun to blow.

"What evidence have I of the impending doom that seems to haunt my sleeping hours?
A moment's meditation will restore my calm and refresh my spirit."

That's right, the first thing this self proclaimed savior of mankind does after waking up from a potentially prophetic dream is take another restorative nap. And it's during his REM-cycle that the Doc is having the most problems. His dreams are being invaded and manipulated by Nebula, a mysterious woman who adores him and assures Druid he's the biggest hero there is... All of this clearly feeds the Doc's already considerable ego. 

Now, on to the actual deconstruction of the team. Though Simonson started on a positive note by having Edwin Jarvis return as butler, things took a turn for the worse when the Avengers attended a New York City gala and Marrina suddenly went wild. 

"My love!"

For unknown reasons, except for the obvious, plotdriven ones, Marrina was overcome by berserker rages, eating goldfish and slamming her hubby the Subby before transforming into a massive sea serpent. Now known as a/the Leviathan, she began to literally terrorize the seven seas. Namor went after his spouse and for the next two weeks, the Avengers simply sat back as reports of Leviathan's destructive attacks continued to come in. Simonson cleverly tied Druid's ominous dreams to Ralph Macchio's previously established storyline that focused on Captain Marvel's apparent incompetence as leader. Monica continued to doubt herself and had Druid order her around like a little girl. 

"If this is truly the beginning of those events, perhaps someone else might be better suited for the chairmanship here."

The issue ended with the Avengers catching up with Namor just as the Leviathan was getting ready to charge Florida. The heroes tried to stop Marrina, but Namor refused to let them hurt his wife and even fought off his fellow Avengers. The ensuing melee helped prevent the Leviathan from decimating the entire Florida coast. Namor escaped to chase after what has become of his wife while Simonson made sure we knew the internal struggle for power over the Avengers was alive and well.

"A good suggestion, Dr. Druid.
Should I ever decide to step down as the Avengers' chairperson...
There will be a ready candidate at hand."

... Ya can't even consider this foreshadowing anymore. But Simonson wasn't done being "subtle". While piloting the Quinjet, Druid got another vision, courtesy of Nebula. It only helped convince him he's to be the one, true savior of all.

"... You, my lord and master... You are the leader they have been waiting for"

All this subliminal deification only fed Druid's conviction that he indeed was the man who would be king. That's why he openly started questioning Captain Marvel's stance on the Leviathan. As a former Monster Hunter, Druid was the first to suggest the rational, though all but popular, option of killing Marrina for the greater good of mankind. Monica was vehemently opposed to this and found herself backed by Thor who rallied the team by declaring he'd agree with the Avengers chairman.

Monica Rambeau decided not to opt for lethal force, which led to the Leviathan attacking the US navy, sinking several battleships in the process. The Avengers tried to help, but the military got understandably steamed when they learned the team had kept the fact Leviathan was Namor's wife a secret.

"While Captain Marvel fails to make the tough decisions, men die.
The Avengers must be convinced that the Leviathan,
whatever her form or origin, must be killed!"

Avengers I#293 opened with Druid using his hypnosis and mentalism to subtly guide matters along. He tricked the Sub-Mariner into believing Leviathan was now attacking Atlantean cities, which helped convince Namor that lethal force was now unavoidable. He then fooled the sea serpent with an illusory cargo ship to lure it towards a final confrontation with the Avengers. Joined by Namor, Earth's mightiest faced down the sea serpent. During the fight, Namor used the Black Knight's ebony blade to slash into their foe, which triggered the sword's blood curse.

But the outcome of the battle was never in doubt...

                                                                "Where's Captain Marvel?"
In the space of just three issues, Simonson had managed to jettison three main characters: Namor, Marrina and Monica Rambeau, while also seriously handicapping the Black Knight who was suffering the effects of the blood curse.

In Avengers I#294, we learned just where Captain Marvel had gone. During the fight against Leviathan, Monica had combined her energy form with Thor's lightning in order to hit the creature with a double whammy. That worked, but water and electricity don't really mix and Monica got herself dispersed across the ocean. It took Rambeau days and all her will to rematerialize and appear at Avengers Mansion. She'd clearly paid the price for her heroism.

"Captain Marvel yet lives. But she is in the final stages of exhaustion."

And with that, the road was clear for Druid to take command of the team. But first he made sure Monica received proper medical care while also effectively sidelining her even more by having her parents flown in. Druid then insisted on holding a meeting in Monica's hospital room to decide who should succeed her. The good doctor used his mental powers to assure his favored outcome.

 "Our new chairman must be Doctor Druid!"

And that, as they say, was that. Druid influenced the vote to make sure he became the leader of a sorely depleted Avengers squad. Now down to a foursome, with Black Knight slowly turning into a living statue because of the blood curse, the team's future appeared more insecure than ever. But it was still morning in Druid's America... thanks in no small part to Nebula's machinations.

"Our enemies are gathering and the time is coming when we must face them together as a team.
All of us!"

You just know this won't end well, and that's just what the fifth and final installment of The Dreadful Druid will show. Hardly a spoiler alert, still worth checking out, though.

1 comment:

  1. Great artwork, but misbegotten storyline. They should've left Stern well enough alone, he was on a roll.



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