This is "From a Different Point of View," a feature where I discuss a comic book series with another writer. In this case, it is CBR's own Eileen Gonzalez who will be going over the history of the Avengers with me, story by story!
We continue with Avengers #21 "The Bitter Taste of Defeat!" by Don Heck, Stan Lee and Wallace Wood
Brian Cronin: You would think that this latest group of Avengers keep falling on their face so much that defeat would no longer taste as bitter, right?
Brian Cronin: They should be used to the taste by now.
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, the narration keeps saying stuff like "this team has never failed before!" And it's just like... you don't read this book, do you?
Brian Cronin: It's like, "Don't try to fool us with your fancy narration, narrator!"
Brian Cronin: Dropping "Aught" like it's a common word
Brian Cronin: Maybe they thought it would be like a double negative
Brian Cronin: And tried to trick us with "They have never not known not winning!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Sending all the kids running for the dictionary
Brian Cronin: Cap and Hawkeye are doing their best Sam and Diane here.
Brian Cronin: I keep waiting for them to just get it over and make out.
Eileen Gonzalez: That would be more interesting than watching them fight over everything from how to take down a supervillain to changing a fuse.
Brian Cronin: "You've keep riding me"
Brian Cronin: "Glamor-Pants"
Brian Cronin: This is so flirtatious
Eileen Gonzalez: It is! Though I wonder if Cap is too blinded by his crush on Tony Stark to notice. He keeps talking the guy up, even when he's not here.
Brian Cronin: Also, Hawkeye, your weapon is a bow and arrow, are you threatening to, like, shoot Cap in the face with an arrow? That's not cool, man.
Brian Cronin: Even though the Heck/Wood combo continues to be gorgeous
Brian Cronin: These are really well drawn pages of them taking their sexual tension out on each other
Eileen Gonzalez: I can't believe Quicksilver is the only sensible one here.
Eileen Gonzalez: Telling them to knock if off like that. He's somehow the most mature Avenger these days.
Brian Cronin: Holy shit, right?
Brian Cronin: They've been rocking the "Quicksilver is the least hot-tempered one" the last couple of issues.
Brian Cronin: And it's gotten to the point where it's almost true!
Brian Cronin: Except, of course, Scarlet Witch, but she's a woman, so obviously she could never lead the team.
Brian Cronin: Her spot on the team is mostly ceremonial, like a mascot or Rick Jones.
Eileen Gonzalez: She has a bit of a temper too though--she zaps Hawkeye right there and then gets scolded for it by Cap of all people.
Eileen Gonzalez: Where does he get off telling other people not to hurt Hawkeye when he was just about to punch him into next Sunday?
Brian Cronin: Very true. Also, her powers continue to make NO SENSE
Brian Cronin: What is a "hex bolt"?!"
Brian Cronin: It's just blasting the guy with energy
Brian Cronin: Like, "bad luck energy"?
Brian Cronin: What the heck is up with her powers?
Eileen Gonzalez: I have no idea. Maybe they're missing Thor and want someone with electrical-looking powers.
Brian Cronin: Of course, we now have to add Scarlet Witch's sexual tension with Cap into the whole moray of sexual tension we've got going on here.
Eileen Gonzalez: Everyone but Quicksilver has a crush on Cap. This really is starting to look like a sitcom.
Brian Cronin: A couple of things just occurred to me about the Marvel Method
Brian Cronin: Both on these pages, and the next page, which introduces Erik Josten
Brian Cronin: Maybe we keep getting fight scenes because Heck knows he has to pad out the glimmer of a plot he's working with each issue?
Brian Cronin: This is not a guy who has written a lot of stories, after all.
Brian Cronin: And he's likely been given at BEST a rough plot from Lee
Brian Cronin: And possibly no plot at all.
Brian Cronin: So maybe he figures that these fight pages fill out the issues
Brian Cronin: On the same point, he revisits the machine from Avengers #9 because that was his first issue and he has little else to go back to for plots.
Eileen Gonzalez: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, I can definitely see that as the explanation for why these issues are unfolding as they are.
Brian Cronin: You'll note that as soon as the more in depth Roy Thomas joins up, the in-fighting doesn't disappear, but it becomes much less monotonous
Eileen Gonzalez: I imagine that was also helped by the addition of other characters, which changed the team dynamic yet again.
Brian Cronin: True
Brian Cronin: Let's take a moment to reflect on how dumb Josten's plan is here.
Brian Cronin: He's been living on his own with an injured leg for, let's say at least a couple of months, right?
Brian Cronin: All to search out a machine that gave Wonder Man his powers
Brian Cronin: A machine Josten knows a lot about
Brian Cronin: But a machine Josten also knows KILLED WONDER MAN!
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, that's... that's not great.
Eileen Gonzalez: You'd think he'd seek out civilization or something, but no, let's go for the gizmo that Josten knows diddly squat about how to operate and will also probably kill him.
Eileen Gonzalez: Luckily the Enchantress just happened to be watching that spot, I guess? Did she rig an alarm system?
Brian Cronin: That's the only thing that makes slight sense, right?
Brian Cronin: That she had some sort of magical alarm set there
Brian Cronin: As I hate to believe that Enchantress was just watching that base, hoping someone would inexplicably show up
Brian Cronin: However, I guess she could retort to me, "Well, someone DID show up, so don't you feel dumb!"
Brian Cronin: You done outsmarted me, Enchantress! I give!
Eileen Gonzalez: And Josten didn't die after gaining powers, so I guess that's us told.
Brian Cronin: Because he loves life too much. DUH
Brian Cronin: I love that that implies that Simon Williams was suicidal.
Eileen Gonzalez: He loved justice more than life, or something.
Brian Cronin: What a wimp!
Eileen Gonzalez: Gotta love how the Enchantress just happened to have that costume ready and waiting.
Eileen Gonzalez: I guess she got bored one day.
Brian Cronin: She would again note, "Hey, it came in handy, right? So shut up!"
Brian Cronin: I do appreciate Stan Lee's good bit where Josten tells her to not give him a name as corny as Wonder Man.
Brian Cronin: She then calls him Power Man.
Brian Cronin: A lesser writer might have had him say, "Yes, that's much better!"
Brian Cronin: But Lee knows that that's just as corny and he allows Josten to express that exact sentiment.
Brian Cronin: It's a nice touch.
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, I did like that bit. And I liked how he decided he was good with corny as long as it came with superpowers. That seems in-character at this point.
Brian Cronin: And how he agrees to kill the Avengers because he wants to have sex with the Enchantress.
Brian Cronin: Hey, it worked for Hawkeye with Black Widow!
Brian Cronin: TEEN BRIGADE ALERT!
Eileen Gonzalez: I completely forgot the Teen Brigade existed and was shocked to see them mentioned.
Brian Cronin: I imagine ol' sweater vest and cool hat guy were just chilling by their ham radios, desperate to be of use again.
Brian Cronin: "Any suicide missions you'd like us to go on, Cap?"
Brian Cronin: It's good to know that Scarlet Witch is somehow skeptical about a report about a monster.
Brian Cronin: They fought a monster on their first mission!
Eileen Gonzalez: I'd expect that nonsense from Hawkeye, not Wanda!
Eileen Gonzalez: And I guess Quicksilver is at the hairdresser's, so he's not here to fix their arguments this time.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, did Heck just forget to draw Quicksilver?
Brian Cronin: With what we know about the Marvel Universe, Enchantress' plan was clever
Brian Cronin: But boy, it should not have worked otherwise
Brian Cronin: "The Avengers say they were fighting a giant apparition, but I dunno, I think they're full of it"
Brian Cronin: Makes no sense
Brian Cronin: But it DOES make sense with the untrusting, cynical citizens of the Marvel Universe and Enchantress is apparently quite familiar with their behavior.
Eileen Gonzalez: No one likes anybody in these old comics, haha.
Eileen Gonzalez: The heroes don't like each other, the civilians don't like the heroes, the supervillains don't like anyone...
Brian Cronin: And of course, as we've established for some time now, these heroes are kind of dumb.
Brian Cronin: So a manipulation campaign is SUPER easy to pull off
Brian Cronin: "The Avengers are a menace to New York City!" "How dare you! I will destroy this city to prove you wrong!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Meanwhile, Quicksilver is back and also dumb. "Only a magician could be doing all this!" Apparently forgetting that he knows a magician with a grudge against them.
Brian Cronin: Especially since he made a big deal the other issue about how he's researched the Avengers files!
Brian Cronin: I love Scarlet Witch's "my hex is useless now."
Brian Cronin: NO ONE KNOWS HOW YOUR POWERS WORK!
Brian Cronin: "I can blow up a robot, but how could I be expected to slow down a train?!!? HOW?!?!
Eileen Gonzalez: Wanda has the power of plot (in)convenience
Eileen Gonzalez: That panel of the train blowing up is pretty cool, though.
Brian Cronin: SUCH a good panel
Brian Cronin: Wood lives up to his reputation.
Brian Cronin: His short stint at Marvel before he was driven away by Stan Lee's business practices were brilliant.
Brian Cronin: Sadly, the next time we got to see Wood working in the mainstream was late in his life when he wasn't really giving it his all anymore.
Brian Cronin: He still put effort into his independent stuff, but his DC inking was serviceable and little more.
Eileen Gonzalez: That's depressing.
Eileen Gonzalez: His work here is so good!
Brian Cronin: It's weird how Enchantress' plan really works perfectly on its own, right?
Brian Cronin: Why did she even wait for Power Man to show up?
Brian Cronin: This plan could work just by itself.
Eileen Gonzalez: I was just about to mention that! What was the point of giving this guy superpowers when she's just doing all the work?
Brian Cronin: I think she likes having a sort of enforcer with her, just in case she needs it?
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, maybe it's just habit. She's always had the Executioner, so going it alone feels weird.
Brian Cronin: Exactly.
Brian Cronin: I love how Quicksilver continues to be Tony Stark's press agent
Brian Cronin: "Man, he would make such a great Avenger"
Eileen Gonzalez: I literally just noticed the little wings on Quicksilver's boots.
Eileen Gonzalez: I'm slower on the uptake than Hawkeye.
Eileen Gonzalez: At least Power Man finally gets to DO something on the next page!
Brian Cronin: Yeah. It's pretty embarrassing for Cap to lose to Swordsman and Power Man in back to back issues.
Brian Cronin: Granted, extenuating circumstances in each instance, but still...
Eileen Gonzalez: Poor Cap is getting it from all sides: the bad guys, his own team... plus Fury never did write him back...
Brian Cronin: Hawkeye then bumbles into the most obvious trap ever.
Brian Cronin: Maybe Cap really IS just a shitty leader
Brian Cronin: No one seems to have learned anything about how to work as a team
Eileen Gonzalez: True. Though they haven't exactly been receptive to learning new things.
Eileen Gonzalez: Why did any of them even join?
Eileen Gonzalez: You'd think Wanda and Pietro would at least keep each other informed, but they go storming into the same trap individually.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, the whole thing is a mess.
Brian Cronin: How odd, by the way, that they kept Carol Channing's name but changed "Hello, Dolly" to just "Dolly"?
Brian Cronin: It's interesting that Scarlet Witch won out on them going to the theater
Brian Cronin: I guess they'll hit the circus next week
Eileen Gonzalez: Maybe it's a typo? That is odd.
Eileen Gonzalez: If they do go to the circus next time, that would at least indicate two Avengers know how to compromise!
Brian Cronin: Ha!
Brian Cronin: I like how Ant-Man and Quicksilver both think that thin nylon cords are, like, REALLY powerful
Brian Cronin: "Yeah, this guy has super-strength, but I have a thin nylon cord!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Power Man is going to defeat Hawkeye with the power of hugs.
Eileen Gonzalez: I'm digging that funny onomatopoeia where Quicksilver gets hit with the water.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, that was awesome.
Eileen Gonzalez: The little water drips are a nice touch.
Brian Cronin: The city government, of course, are just a bunch of simpletons
Brian Cronin: So they actually go along with this obvious frame job
Brian Cronin: Although, while this was totally unfair, I do think Hawkeye is on to something when he says that maybe they weren't cut out to be Avengers.
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, in the first few issues I could understand them butting heads and having trouble adjusting, since they were new to the whole team thing. But if they're still having problems NOW? Either they need group therapy or they shouldn't be a group.
Eileen Gonzalez: And I guess it's no surprise the politicians are this dumb--look at the civilians that likely voted for them.
Brian Cronin: True
Brian Cronin: They probably think this is all some sort of cruel publicity stunt
Eileen Gonzalez: They've been fooled before--no one will catch them sleeping again!
Brian Cronin: Better to just ban the Avengers than get fooled again!
Brian Cronin: Power Man ransacks the city. "It'd be nice if the Avengers were here to stop him." "No! This is worth it if we just avoided their publicity stunt!"
Eileen Gonzalez: That implies Power Man ever gets to do anything. Clearly the Enchantress would be the one doing the ransacking while Power Man complains he never has any fun.
Brian Cronin: A WOMAN ransacking the city?
Brian Cronin: That'd HAVE to be an advertising stunt!