Sep 30, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Here Cometh the Bride of Ultron!

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

Here Cometh... the Bride of Ultron!
Back Issue Ben

If you’re like me (first of all, I feel bad for you) and you think that George Perez is a bit of a sexual deviant, then you’re in luck, because in this story you get to see him draw Ms Marvel’s panties. If you’re not like me, then…I really don’t know why you’re here, there are plenty of other more interesting things on the internet (please don’t go away).

(Before you get mad at me for besmirching the good name of George Perez, let me just remind you, he’s directed softcore superheroine porn, so…I think he’s comfortable with himself. Marv Wolfman on the other hand, that sick jerk just has it coming.)

Anyhoo, today we’re going to be taking a look at what I’ve slowly been discovering is a pretty underrated Avengers run by one time wunderkid, and future Editor-In-Chief of all Marvel, Jim Shooter. Jim Shooter, as you may have read, eats babies and once threw John Byrne down a flight of stairs (that last part’s not true, as far as I know, but the writers from back then sure make it seem that way).

This time, Ultron shows just how smart and advanced he is by continuing to make allies using the brainwaves of human beings that hate him, by making himself a robot bride that he can do….I don’t really know what with. I don’t even want to think about it, I’ve started in a dark place this week.

Let’s squish this goomba.

Avengers #161. Writer/Colorist: James Shooter; Artist: George Perez; Inker: Pablo Marcos; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Ant-Man stealthily watches from above as the Avengers return to the mansion.

The Avengers take a moment to gaze at the garish new costume of Wonder Man, before Ant-Man crashes the scene angrily, and announces himself to Iron Man. Ant-Man doesn’t recognize most of the team, calling Captain America an imposter and seems to think he’s arriving for the first official meeting of the Avengers.

I’m just going to start yelling “yeah you in the swimsuit” angrily at people now.

Ant-Man’s being a little impatient about getting answers to his questions, and throws a bunch of ants at everyone. While the Scarlet Witch freaks the hell out, Ant-Man throws a mini-punch to the jaw of Captain America, and flips Wonder Man onto his ugly face (I love seeing Wonder Man get hurt). Black Panther and the Beast come running at the sound of the commotion, and promptly get absolutely jacked in their faces by Pym.

Ant-Man is making the Avengers look like a bunch of amateurs, until the Wasp comes flying in and surprises him with a sting-blast. Wasp gets Pym and herself back to normal size, and begins to recount recent events.

Pym had been getting increasingly frustrated and angry with his lab work to the point where Jan decided to see a psychiatrist behind his back, who suggested she reinforce his positive behavior. It seemed to work for a while, with Hank even rejoining the Avengers, and in Jan’s words “Hank was beginning to act like the blue-eyed lover I remembered!” (Jan never misses an opportunity to be inappropriate.) Things took a turn for the worse again just the day before, when Hank flew off without explanation. Jan designed her new costume in an attempt to pique his interest (which I guess is why she looks like a stripper).

The Avengers decide to try and restore Hank’s memories by using the subliminal recall-inducer on him (I wonder if this is actually from a previous story, or if they just made that up right here), while they send Jan back home with the Beast to grab some things that might help jog his memory.

Jan is gathering some things at her house when she is surprised from behind by an unknown assailant.

Why, oh why, does she have a picture of Reed Richards on her wall?
Seriously, that picture of Reed is bigger than the one of her husband, and prominently displayed.

The recall-inducer doesn’t seem to be having much success, beyond excruciating torture. Cap attempts to contact Thor, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye for assistance. Hank seems comatose, until a ragged Beast comes stumbling in mumbling Jan’s name. But his arrival would be too late, as Ultron comes blasting in.

He makes quick work of the Vision, followed by Black Panther, Cap, and Wonder Man.

Ultron drains Iron Man’s armor of its power, leaving him helpless.

Scarlet Witch lets loose with her probability-altering powers, causing the roof to collapse on Ultron.

Even back then, you could tell George liked drawing the Witch.
Cap moves in for a closer look, only to get a beam of energy to the head, followed by the Scarlet Witch getting the same.

Hank tries to fight back as Ant-Man, but is sucked into Ultron’s “fingertip capsule-prison.” (Fingertip Prison is going on my “potential rock band names” list.)

Ultron flies off, leaving a stunned Jarvis to come home and discover a devastated Avengers team.

My brain thoughts: On the perversion scale of Skottie Young to Marv Wolfman, this ranks a…George Perez. Ha, see what I did there? The Avengers get worked over pretty hard by Ant-Man, and then Ultron, in this issue. Jan’s costume ranks a “Cherry Pie” on the stripper anthems bar graph. For some reason I find it funny that Shooter and Perez were working together back then.

Avengers #162. Writer: James Shooter; Artist: George Perez; Inker: Pablo Marcos; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Thor arrives at the mansion in time to see the apparently dead Captain America, Scarlet Witch, and the Beast taken away in ambulances. Inside, Iron Man is recovering from the power drain thanks to Black Panther, while Wonder Man stands close by. They get Thor up to speed on Ultron’s attack.

Elsewhere, Hank wakes to the voice of Ultron. Ultron plays on Hank’s confusion by telling him that he rescued him from his enemies, those imposter Avengers. He convinces Hank that Janet’s life is in danger, and that she must be transferred into the metalloid body (he just happened to have on hand) to save her.

Not knowing that Ultron was the one who erased his memory, Pym agrees to help and begins the process of transferring Janet’s mind from her body to the body of the robot.

Iron Man and Black Panther patrol the city, hoping for some sign of where Ultron has taken their friends. Back in the lab, the process appears to be working, as Jan and the robot to finish each other’s sentences.

A frustrated Wonder Man and Thor wait back at the mansion, when a swarm of ants come flying in and spell out “Stark LI” on the floor. Iron Man deduces it as Stark, Long Island, where he has an Aerospace Research Center. The team speeds off towards it.

Jan pleads for Hank to stop, quite obviously in pain.

Black Panther arrives, and lays down the best opening line in the history of anything: “The harbinger of a storm of vengeance, evil one!”

Ultron is surprised to see Wonder Man, as his encephalo beam should have left him in a coma like the rest. Having believed their friends to be dead as a result of that same encephalo beam, the Avengers are surprised and relieved to learn that their teammates can be revived.

Iron Man lets loose with the full power of his repulsors, and Wonder Man and Thor go charging in, only to get slapped aside (that’s right, fall Wonder Man, fall!).

Hank puts a lock and automatic finish code onto the machine to finish the process of transferring Jan’s mind. Black Panther knocks him out with a kick to the face before he has a chance to shrink.

Wonder Man continues to fight back, crying in his head the whole time about how he doesn’t want to die again. (Seriously, how is Wonder Man popular? Is he popular? If so, why?)

Black Panther and Iron Man are unable to cancel the sequence of the machine, and Iron Man decides they must trick Ultron into revealing it. As Thor tries to corral Ultron, Iron Man pulls the metalloid body off the machine, threatening both its life and Jan’s. Ultron calls his bluff for a moment, but then agrees to cancel the process.

Beaten, for now, Ultron flies off in anger. Iron Man is left to wonder what he would have done if Ultron had refused to help.

Jan recovers, only to find a completely unhinged Hank Pym, twisted by the manipulation of his mind and memories. Now even more confused as to who could have sent the ant shaped message to summon them, Black Panther looks at the cold lifeless body of the robot Ultron had created to be his bride. (Duh duh dunnn!)

My brain thoughts: Is there any villain that likes to monologue more than Ultron? For someone that hates humans, he sure does talk their ears off a lot. If Ultron and Magneto got into a monologue contest, who would win? Is there something about how both of them hate humans that makes them especially good at droning on and on about their plans? These are the questions that need be answered, not silly stuff like Wolverine’s real name.

Avengers #170. Writer/Colorist: James Shooter; Artist/Co-plotter: George Perez; Inker: Pablo Marcos; Editor: Archie Goodwin

Captain America is working out in the gym, when the Beast comes in for a conversation. Captain America is working out extra hard, and being extra grumpy, due to Scarlet Witch calling him “useless” recently. Iron Man comes in to have a conversation with Cap, to clear the air over Cap’s criticism of Iron Man’s leadership. The two hash things out and leave things on better terms.

In the living room of the mansion, the Vison and Wonder Man are playing chess, while Scarlet Witch talks to Hawkeye on the phone. Yellowjacket and Wasp arrive, with a couple of moving men hauling the lifeless metal body of Ultron’s attempt at a bride (back by what I can only assume is “popular” demand).

There’s an interlude where a young Vance Astrovik is saved from being hit by a truck by Charlie-27. The old-school Guardians of the Galaxy are in town to keep Vance safe from Korvac.

They should have let him get hit.

The moving men finish the job, just in time for Ultron’s bride to come springing to life and scare them off.

The Avengers come running, to find that she is being summoned remotely by Ultron. Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man get trapped in an impenetrable room, leaving Vision, Pym, and Jan to try to stop her.

Pym and Janet are taken aback when the robot speaks, because, as Jan puts it “Hank! That’s m-my voice!”

The creature speaks, “Am I not your surrogate, destined to be the bride of Ultron? Was I not created to replace you? Yet...we both live!” (Inherited Ultron’s motormouth. Ha, motor…get it? Forget you guys!)

The Vision is quickly subdued. Wonder Man is able to break through the door, finally accomplishing something. Yellowjacket and the Wasp try to slow down the robot, but she grabs and begins to crush him. Beast comes out of nowhere with a running kick, freeing Hank.

She blasts Beast with her eyebeams. Wonder Man comes swinging in, confident his strength will save the day. He does what Wonder Man does, which is get blasted and sent flying.

Seriously, it’s getting to be pretty pathetic at this point.

Scarlet Witch uses her powers to trap the robot in the branches of a nearby tree, but she busts free easily. (What is the probability of a tree coming to life and ensnaring someone? I’d have to believe the odds of anything else happening are higher.)

The Avengers regroup to attack again, but are stopped in their tracks by a blast from above, courtesy of Iron Man. Thor comes flying in, ready to let loose with his hammer, but Cap is able to deflect it with a well-timed toss of his shield.

Iron Man and Cap explain to the others that they want the robot to get away, so she can lead them straight to Ultron himself.

My brain thoughts: If Wonder Man were to fight Firelord, who would win? I tend to believe that both of them would find some way to lose.

Avengers #171. Writer/Editor: Jim Shooter; Penciler: George Perez; Inker: Pablo Marcos

The Avengers try to follow the escaping bride of Ultron through a large crowd of people. Beast gets surrounded by a gaggle of female fans, before being lifted off by Thor, because it is indeed, an ill-time for wenching. Scarlet Witch is getting recruited by a local department store owner, before the Vision whisks her away.

The woman remembers she left a woman in her dressing room, and runs off to get her.

Meanwhile, Ultron’s robot bride is speeding away in an automobile driven by a nun named Sister Eucalypta.

Back in the dressing room, a half naked Carol Danvers waits for service.

Danvers gets a premonition flash of danger (she used to get those), and joins the Avengers as Ms Marvel (this being the beginning of Ms Marvel’s association with the Avengers?).

Yellowjacket and Wasp show up with some kind of flying vehicle, and the Avengers finally remember that they’re chasing a dangerous robot.

Iron Man has tracked the bride to a convent, and they make their way inside, where they are greeted by Sister Eucalypta.

Thor is a bit uneasy about being in a convent.

Jim Shooter is noticeably bad at ‘Thor speak,’ really really bad

The nun and the Scarlet Witch disappear suddenly, and the stunned team continues to make their way through the building, while Ms Marvel breaks off to look for the Witch. Eventually, the team busts in on a room where they finally find Ultron.

Ultron lets loose with his encephalo ray, thinking he has finally killed his ersatz “father.”

Hank lets him know just how wrong he is, putting the verbal smackdown on his disobedient “son.”

You tell him, Pym!

The Avengers attack, almost immediately getting blasted back by Ultron.

Wonder Man is able to speed close enough to get in a punch, still whining in his head about being scared (hey kids, Wonder Man, a hero to aspire to be).

Scarlet Witch wakes up in a kaleidoscope chamber of mirrors, before falling through a hole in the floor, landing in a large pool of water. She struggles to get her bearings, before being expunged right back into another room of mirrors.

The Avengers re-double their attack, while Ms Marvel continues her search for the Witch.

She instead finds a gun-wielding Sister Eucalypta, and proceeds to literally knock her block off. (Ms Marvel punches the head off of a gun-toting robot nun. Only in comics, folks.)

She notices some water seeping out from underneath a nearby door.

Ultron traps the Avengers inside a force sphere, giving him the time to finish the process of bringing his beloved Jocasta to life.

It works. She comes alive, only to attempt to kill him despite professing his love for him. It seems using one of your most bitter enemies as a personality template wasn’t the brightest idea there, Ultron.

Ultron curses his hated “father.”

Ms Marvel arrives with the Scarlet Witch in tow, and she uses her hex powers to cause a rift in Ultron’s armor.

Thor uses his hammer to suck out Ultron’s life force, and then sends it barreling into the sky, exploding in space in a flash of brilliance.

Yellowjacket is relieved that the biggest mistake of his career appears to finally be gone forever (oh, silly boy).

The team is shocked when they notice that Jocasta has disappeared, and then again when Cap has disappeared. It seems, the action never ends, but that’s a different story for a different day.

My brain thoughts: Things kind of went off the rails this issue, but in a good way. At least my definition of good, if you think random modeling recruitment and panty shots are good.

My final brain thoughts: Pictures of Reed Richards, Jan making dollars, an ill-time for wenching, Ms Marvel’s panties, headless robot nuns, and Ultron talks and talks and talks.

Jocasta would eventually go on to be a member of the Avengers, marking yet another time when the team embraced someone created specifically to destroy them. Making them just slightly dumber than Ultron, who kept creating robots to love him based off of the brain waves of people that hated him.

Like I said earlier, this whole era of Avengers turned out to be pretty memorable, with Shooter working with two future legends of the industry, in Perez and Byrne. Byrne handled the art on the Count Nefaria battle royale. The famous Korvac Saga is also from this time period, as well as the infamous “Marcus” mistake. I highly recommend you read them all.

Or stick around here and I’ll do it for you. Until next time, my minions!

You can read the first two-parter here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Scarlet Witch making the tree branches do their thing was supposed to be her using her magic training, given that the caption says that "her mind is one with the elements" or something like that. Once Steve Englehart gave her the witchcraft training, writers would constantly go back and forth on whether she was using magic or her mutant hex powers at any given time, which I assume is why Kurt Busiek thought he was simplifying things by saying that it was all magic. Of course he just made it more complicated.

I like Shooter's Avengers too. It isn't an iconic run like Thomas's, but I generally prefer it to Englehart's better-loved run: Shooter really dug into the characters and explored some interesting ideas about them, and even his most infamous story (Hank slapping Jan) resulted in Wasp breaking free of her jerk husband and going from Team Ditz to team leader. Shooter's dialogue is not the greatest, and arguably his approach was better executed when he farmed out stories to David Michelinie (who had the same approach but sharper dialogue).

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