May 28, 2012

Back Issue Ben: AVENGERS ANNUAL 10

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

A Brawl Disguised as a Comic

 by Ben Smith

(Duy here. Ben's ROM: SPACEKNIGHT retrospectives will be back next week.)

For the five of you that read my Rom retrospectives, you’ll remember that I mentioned that Avengers Annual #10 was one of the greatest comics of all time. The astute reader among you might have wondered, "Well, why are you reading Rom comics instead of reading that?" To them I would say, because I like to waste my free time, clearly. And also, because Duy is pure evil. That really doesn’t have any bearing on any of this, but we can’t all go on pretending that we don’t notice. Something must be done!

Ahem, back on topic. Rereading this landmark issue, I have to amend my previous statement just the slightest bit. This comic was one of the greatest *fight* comics of all time. I’m not even entirely sure I understand the motivations for any of the fights in this comic, beyond Chris Claremont wanting to pound the stuffing out of the Avengers for personal reasons (more on that later), but it was supremely entertaining nonetheless.

Like I mentioned, it was written by Chris Claremont, arguably the biggest writer in superhero comics at the time. It was pencilled by (here’s that name again) Michael Golden, turning out yet another classic action issue. Without further ado, let’s jump into it.

The issue opens on San Francisco, where a body falls from the fabled Golden Gate bridge, and Spider-Woman makes an in-air save.

She’s not able to keep them from both ending up in the water, and has to struggle to swim both her and the mysterious blonde woman to shore. The next morning, Spider-Woman stands by at the hospital. The police have identified the woman as Carol Danvers (who we all know to be Ms. Marvel), and that her mind is functionally a blank slate.

Spider-Woman puts in a call to Professor X of the X-Men, for his assistance. Professor X uses her powers to read her mind, and confirms that it has been wiped clean. An unknown assailant by the name of Rogue is his only clue.

Cut to a scene of Captain America getting slammed by Rogue. Her mutant power is the ability to absorb the power and memories of anyone she touches. She had remained in contact with Ms. Marvel for too long, causing her to steal her power and memories permanently.

At Avengers mansion, Rogue makes a Captain America deposit, through the window.

The Avengers put in a call to Iron Man, who is taken by surprise by the shape-shifting Mystique.

Thor arrives at the mansion to render aid in his civilian guise as Dr. Donald Blake. Rogue is there to ambush him, and steals his powers as well.

Now with the combined power of Ms. Marvel, Captain America, and Thor, Rogue takes out the Vision with one punch.

Unable to steal the power of Wonder Man, she knocks him out and heads back to Mystique. I’m guessing the motivation for this was purely to steal as many powers as possible for the next part of their plan. Spider-Woman updates the remaining Avengers about Ms. Marvel. They recall the storyline that will not be recounted here involving Marcus. The Beast is able to track Rogue by the energy aura she stole from Ms. Marvel to Ryker’s Island.

Mystique and Rogue plan a prison break to free their fellow Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Their plan begins with humorously dropping Iron Man like a bomb on the prison generator.

Which kills the power and frees the Brotherhood, including a naked Blob.

The Brotherhood gathers together just in time for the Avengers to arrive.

Avalanche and Pyro make the first moves at long range, while the Blob punches Wonder Man into the next county. The Avengers are getting routed in the early going. The Beast is taken out early as well, and the Vision suffers another massive blow from Rogue again.

Hawkeye momentarily distracts them with a screamer arrow. Spider-Woman has gone to rescue Iron Man, only to find themselves under attack by Mystique. Spider-Woman removes the inhibitor module from Iron Man’s armor, and he lets loose with a devastating punch to Rogue’s face.

She responds in kind, and that is when the Scarlet Witch cuts loose.

Her power fading, Rogue joins Mystique in making a hasty exit, leaving their comrades behind. Scarlet Witch and Pyro continue their battle. Hawkeye finishes off Pyro, and then Wonder Man finally returns to free Beast, giving Vision the opportunity to get some revenge on the Blob.

The Brotherhood nearly defeated, the Avengers combine their efforts to take out Blob, resulting in the greatest sound effect ever, “Blorf!”

Later, the Avengers arrive at Professor Xavier’s school to talk to Ms. Marvel. Confused about what happened to her, and where Marcus is, she lets loose on them. Marcus had mind-controlled her into going with him.

Marcus was dead due to supernatural reasons, and she was able to free herself. The reason she hadn’t called the Avengers to let them know she was back, was because she hated them for allowing him to take her.

Ms. Marvel breaks down the rest of it for them.

Her words sting because they’re true. The Avengers return home feeling down. They had failed their fellow Avenger in a big way.

My brain thoughts: First, the easy stuff. Michael Golden was at the top of his game here yet again.

The action in this book is unbelievable. For those unaware, this was the debut of Rogue to the Marvel universe, and she made a big splash, showing that she would be a force to be reckoned with in the future. I don’t know if Claremont was letting his X-Universe bias show, but the Avengers were clearly trounced by the Brotherhood. I’m not entirely sure they’re on that level, but I’ll let it slide for the purposes of entertainment. Captain America’s only role in this book was as an unconscious smashing tool.

Now, the Marcus stuff. Those of you that know me, know that I hate this kind of subject matter in superhero comics. I find it too serious a topic to be used as a plot device, and more often than not it comes off as vindictive on the part of the creators when doing it. I suspect that Chris Claremont felt this way as well, since it seems he wrote this Avengers annual out of the blue specifically to rectify what he saw was a horrible wrong from a previous storyline. It almost feels like he punished the characters in this storyline, for previously allowing their teammate to be carted off by some supernatural being without a single question being asked. Good would come of this though, with Claremont adopting Carol Danvers into his X-Men books, leading to her eventual rebirth as Binary.

That bit of distastefulness aside, this was an excellent comic, and legendary for a reason. I’ve heard Brian Michael Bendis say before that this was one of his favorite books, if not his favorite. It’s not hard to guess why he later became such a big proponent in the resurgence of Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel as major Marvel characters. It all leads back to this comic.

If you don’t have it, good luck finding a copy. It is the first appearance of Rogue, and usually fetches quite a few pennies. I never could find one as a kid at all, so unfortunately I was never able to enjoy this through the wild eyes of youth. Being as big an X-Men fan as I was, this was very painful for me, and clearly is what drove me insane. Save yourself and any children you may have, or may one day have, the shame of living a life of insanity, and buy yourself a copy as soon as you can. Your brain will thank you for it.

Until next time, Blorf!


Gerry Alanguilan said...

I love this issue. Vintage Claremont, and Mike Golden's art is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for recommending this to me at the International Comics Society. Aside from the Spiderman vs Wolverine,this is another expensive but worth it backissue I have read and owned.

Your Snail,


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