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 #38, "In Our Midst...An Immortal!" by Don Heck, Roy Thomas and George Roussos.
Brian Cronin: I think Roy Thomas is finally in the driver's seat with this issue.
Brian Cronin: To the point where I figure I'll start giving Thomas top billing once John Buscema arrives on the book in a couple of issues.
Eileen Gonzalez: He still brings together a lot of elements from Lee's run, such as the Avengers squabbling, and the return of the Enchantress.
Brian Cronin: Oh, no doubt, it just feels a lot more coherent than the previous storyline, which was right up there with your typical weird Heck tale.
Eileen Gonzalez: Very true!
Brian Cronin: I wouldn't be surprised if Heck was actually working on Avengers #36's plot by the time that Thomas came on board Avengers #35.
Brian Cronin: It's possible that Thomas was a VERY late addition to Avengers #35.
Brian Cronin: In that Heck might not have worked with Thomas at ALL on #35.
Brian Cronin: Then Heck already started on #36, and since #37 continued from #36, then this would be Thomas' first chance to really drive the plotting.
Brian Cronin: I don't know for a fact that that's what happens, but it seems to track, right?
Eileen Gonzalez: That definitely makes sense!
Eileen Gonzalez: I just think it's interesting that we have a new writer on board but he still sounds so much like Lee in places, like with the introductory blurbs on the splash page.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, Thomas does an excellent job aping Lee's affectations.
Brian Cronin: By the way, I totally forgot to mention last issue, that Gil Kane is now on covers.
Brian Cronin: Last issue wasn't particularly memorable, but Kane's cover for this issue is excellent.
Brian Cronin: It was a big deal for Kane to agree to come over to Marvel at this time.
Brian Cronin: He was one of the biggest names in comics.
Brian Cronin: You can tell by the fact that A. He doesn't use a pseudonym (unlike George Roussos, who uses "George Bell" in this issue) and B. He didn't even stop working for DC.
Brian Cronin: Few guys could get away with that and Gil Kane was one of them (Neal Adams ,we will eventually see, is another one).
Eileen Gonzalez: Oh wow, that's really interesting! I do like Hercules reaching out to the reader on the cover in an almost 3D effect.
Brian Cronin: Marvel's main usage of Kane ended up being as a cover artist. During the 1970s, he basically became Marvel's house cover artist.
Brian Cronin: His covers tended to be extremely dynamic, like this one, with that 3D effect that you noted.
Brian Cronin: But yeah, of course we go back to fighting.
Brian Cronin: But this time, it makes sense, right? They have a legitimate disagreement that can't be compromised on.
Eileen Gonzalez: That's true. I'm kind of surprised Cap is escalating it so much though. He not only chucks his shield at them, he then sends Quicksilver into the fray!
Eileen Gonzalez: And it's interesting that Wasp is said to be chairman today, yet she does nothing to try to quell the argument.
Brian Cronin: It's sort of an honorary chairmanship.
Brian Cronin: "We like to make her feel included"
Brian Cronin: Reader Patrick Carey made a good point on Twitter that since Hank Pym's first wife was MURDERED by Communists, he would naturally be wary of letting a Communist agent join.
Brian Cronin: However, as shown here, he can't even think of a particular reason why he doesn't want her to join, so that doesn't appear to be the reason.
Brian Cronin: But that WOULD make a lot of sense.
Eileen Gonzalez: That absolutely makes sense, and I wish Roy Thomas had gone that route instead of having Hank randomly be a jerk for reasons that even he can't define.
Eileen Gonzalez: Speaking of Black Widow, I love how they describe her as a "former spy queen" right before she gets taken out by sleeping gas in midair.
Brian Cronin: We also get confirmation that despite Scarlet Witch being right there, no one saw her threaten to kill Ixar to get him to release the other Avengers.
Eileen Gonzalez: It seems weird that they're making such a big deal of this. The Avengers' golden rule is to never kill anyone, right? And Black Widow didn't. She just threatened him. So technically she didn't break their rule at all and should be allowed in. Or is even threatening death too much?
Brian Cronin: IXAR COULD SEE IT IN HER EYES!
Brian Cronin: But yeah, I guess it really is some ridiculous "you can't even THREATEN to kill" nonsense.
Brian Cronin: Cap's like, "Yep, during World War II, I made sure to tell soldiers that they better not even THINK about killing the Germans."
Eileen Gonzalez: And as we all know Thor never killed any trolls or giants or anything.
Brian Cronin: "Fight, Avengers! To the death!"
Brian Cronin: Was, like, a reference to METAPHORICAL death.
Eileen Gonzalez: Just like, despite their name, the Avengers don't actually avenge anything.
Brian Cronin: It just looked good on the merchandise
Brian Cronin: We get to see future Avenger, Ares, in our introduction to Hercules.
Brian Cronin: The art's definitely tighter with Roussos inking Heck instead of Heck handling inking duties himself.
Eileen Gonzalez: Ares looks like he goes to the same tailor as Galactus. But yes, the inking is very nice.
Brian Cronin: It's funny how they had to change Ares' look once he became a sort of hero
Brian Cronin: Because he sure used to look pretty goofy, right
Eileen Gonzalez: Even Hercules looks less silly. Somehow he makes that miniskirt work for him.
Brian Cronin: It's crazy just HOW straightforward Enchantress' plot is. But simple is not bad!
Eileen Gonzalez: It's almost a relief after the last few issues. And I do appreciate that she's a lady who knows what she wants: mind control Hercules into killing the Avengers for her. Nice and easy!
Eileen Gonzalez: I do think it's funny that Hercules apparently doesn't keep up with the godly gossip enough to realize that Enchantress was banished for being evil.
Brian Cronin: It helped that Ares was working with her to set him up, though.
Eileen Gonzalez: True. But maybe the gods should consider sending out news bulletins. Not that Herc would read them, probably...
Brian Cronin: I'd like a newsletter letting them know who's reformed or not.
Brian Cronin: "Ares - Good guy this week."
Eileen Gonzalez: "Loki - It's complicated."
Brian Cronin: It's interesting (and Thomas is consistent with this) that non-active Avengers still get to vote on new members.
Brian Cronin: So, did Thor sign off on Swordsman joining? I guess he probably gave one of those "Whatever you want, you decide" deals.
Eileen Gonzalez: The inactive/ex-Avengers always seem way too busy to participate even in quick stuff like this. So yeah, I bet the active team members just shoot them a message as a courtesy but expect to hear a simple "whatever's good" in reply.
Brian Cronin: But when it came time to maybe induct a MACHINE?
Brian Cronin: Then EVERYBODY shows up.
Brian Cronin: Of course, that is the behind the scenes deal going on, where Thomas wanted to use the classic Avengers and Stan Lee wouldn't let him, so Thomas would come up with these plots where the classic Avengers would just have to guest star for whatever reason.
Brian Cronin: Thomas doesn't exactly do a whole lot more with the Wasp than Stan Lee did, but I think he slightly improves her character. Like her idea of breaking for dinner, it could be read as flighty but it could also be read as her deftly "handling" Hawkeye in a sensitive situation.
Eileen Gonzalez: That's a good point. Hawkeye is clearly in no mood to be placated right now, so changing the subject was probably the best she could do. Though I'm laughing at poor Cap left behind all alone once again. Everyone goes out for burgers and he's stuck with a ham sandwich.
Brian Cronin: It also speaks to the whole "honorary chairmanship" deal as while Wasp's the chairperson, Cap's the "Officer-of-the-day."
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, that was weird. How many positions are there in the Avengers hierarchy? Do they all get a spiffy title so no one (read: Hawkeye) feels left out?
Eileen Gonzalez: So this whole time the Avengers have been fighting about whether to let Black Widow onto the team. But where is the Black Widow, anyway?
Brian Cronin: I am torn on this whole SHIELD deal.
Brian Cronin: I think it's a DECENT obstacle, but I guess i don't get why there needs to be an obstacle in the first place.
Brian Cronin: Why not just let her join the team?
Brian Cronin: As I write that, I think I know the answer.
Brian Cronin: For the first time since....ever?
Brian Cronin: There is actually some long term planning being put into the writing on the series.
Brian Cronin: And Thomas is setting up longterm subplots and this is just one of them. He likely planned on Black Widow eventually making the team, things just went in other directions as he went along.
Brian Cronin: It's nice to see an actual plan in place for the book. Thomas is thinking of issue, like, #43 while writing #38 while Heck, Lee and Kirby were rarely thinking beyond the issue in front of them.
Eileen Gonzalez: Was that specific to Thomas, or was the industry changing enough by this point that many writers were beginning to think ahead like that?
Brian Cronin: Great question. We're in January 1967 here.
Brian Cronin: So Ditko is off of Amazing Spider-Man.
Brian Cronin: He was really the only other guy doing stuff like that.
Brian Cronin: Kirby, to a certain extent, on Fantastic Four.
Brian Cronin: So I think it's fair to say that Thomas was standing out from the crowd at this point in terms of thinking further down the line with his plots and sub-plots.
Eileen Gonzalez: Interesting! I wonder what made him go down that path. Just his creative style, maybe?
Brian Cronin: I think it's just what interested him.
Brian Cronin: Also, he wasn't scripting 12 books a month, ya know?
Brian Cronin: Or whatever Lee was doing.
Brian Cronin: Thomas was writing a lot of books, but he probably had JUST enough extra time to be able to give it some more thought and if you give an ongoing title some thought, you're likely going to want to do longterm plotting.
Brian Cronin: All the writers who followed Thomas at Marvel did the same thing, ya know?
Eileen Gonzalez: Good points! It's neat seeing the writing style change almost before our eyes here in this one comic.
Brian Cronin: Thomas did an impressive job working in a Captain America story in another comic book that Thomas didn't write.
Brian Cronin: By having Cap leave mid-story.
Brian Cronin: Thomas really is a master of making things make fit, continuity-wise.
Eileen Gonzalez: I did like that. It helps build up the tension in the argument over Black Widow's membership, since they're obviously not going to vote without Cap.
Eileen Gonzalez: And then of course the whole thing falls to pieces when Black Widow says she's leaving and I never loved you anyway, Hawkeye!
Brian Cronin: It's funny that Goliath is now DEFENDING her
Brian Cronin: She is outright telling him that she's going to go back to the Communists, and this dude, who doesn't want her on the team and saw the Communists kill his wife, is all, "Wait, I think she's not really all that bad."
Brian Cronin: Make up your mind, High Pockets!
Brian Cronin: What i don't get is why can't Black Widow just tell them that she is working for SHIELD and she's going off on an assignment.
Brian Cronin: She doesn't have to tell him where.
Brian Cronin: Heck, she could tell him that she's NOT ALLOWED to tell him where.
Brian Cronin: Making him think she doesn't love him just seems unnecessarily cruel.
Brian Cronin: How funny is Wasp leaving in a huff with Hawkeye?
Brian Cronin: One night stand city coming!
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, that whole scene was one weird bit after another.
Brian Cronin: And the next page, where Goliath recaps to Quicksilver what they JUST SAW HAPPEN.
Brian Cronin: Is Quicksilver that dense?
Brian Cronin: Also, when Enchantress shows up, Goliath fought her in the past, no?
Brian Cronin: So why's Quicksilver explaining to him who she is?
Eileen Gonzalez: Pretty sure he did. I seem to remember Wasp defeating the Executioner with a can of oil.
Brian Cronin: And Quicksilver, buddy, "It can't be Hercules! He's a myth!"
Brian Cronin: When, you know, you're on a team with THOR as a member!
Eileen Gonzalez: I love that part. It's just so nonsensical.
Brian Cronin: Why is Scarlet Witch just WATCHING the whole thing happen?
Brian Cronin: "Hank, help him!"
Brian Cronin: Why aren't YOU helping him?
Eileen Gonzalez: If nothing else, I do like the melodramatic dialogue from Hercules in this issue. It's been a while since we've had dialogue like that.
Eileen Gonzalez: But I want a real battle between Enchantress and Scarlet Witch, not this stuff where Wanda's too distracted by her brother being unconscious to put up a real fight.
Eileen Gonzalez: Meanwhile, with Clint and Jan, we get to see yet another communication device that will never, ever come up again: Hawkeye's ring.
Brian Cronin: Didn't he used to have an H ring before?
Brian Cronin: This is at least an Avengers ring.
Brian Cronin: But yeah, still goofy
Eileen Gonzalez: I think one of them had a necklace or something, but they've gone through so many one-off gadgets I don't remember.
Brian Cronin: Wasn't there, like, some sort of crystal communicator?
Brian Cronin: I love how easily Hawkeye convinces Wasp to ignore their emergency call.
Eileen Gonzalez: Ha, yeah. And Jan's just like "no one would dare confront us at Avengers Mansion!" Literally in your second issue, the first issue to feature Avengers Mansion, the Space Phantom broke in!
Brian Cronin: The previous story had an android impersonating Scarlet Witch break in!
Eileen Gonzalez: But sure, the Avengers are just fine.
Eileen Gonzalez: I like Hercules almost mourning Goliath's defeat there. It shows there's a little spark of the real him in there somewhere behind the mind control.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, Hercules really comes off well in this story.
Brian Cronin: Thomas captures all the interesting aspects of the guy.
Brian Cronin: His fun-loving, boisterous but honorable nature.
Eileen Gonzalez: He does something similar with Hawkeye in the restaurant scene, when Clint starts to say Natasha's name by mistake. It shows that behind all the bluster and anger he's a dude who just got his heart broke.
Eileen Gonzalez: These are all really nice character touches.
Brian Cronin: And then, of course, Hawkeye and Wasp show up anyways, because they're NOT total jerks.
Brian Cronin: And then Hawkeye accidentally uses a sulfur arrow and that just happens to be precisely the thing that breaks people out of eros-driven mind control.
Brian Cronin: That makes perfect sense to me.
Brian Cronin: What's funny is that this isn't even the craziest "fluky win from a Hawkeye arrow" story that Thomas will write. There's one in an upcoming Avengers Annual that's so absurd that Thomas even acknowledges it in the story of how it makes no real sense.
Eileen Gonzalez: Hawkeye to the rescue with the plot convenience arrow.
Eileen Gonzalez: I do like this concept of Hawkeye and Wasp being mocked as the weakest Avengers only to save the day, but it could have been done a little better than with the sulfur/brimstone arrow.
Eileen Gonzalez: And the ending kind of peters out after that, with Enchantress just leaving because she loves Hercules too much.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, that didn't work at ALL.
Brian Cronin: However, then they tie in Ares' plot from the beginning of the issue and Thomas cleverly has Hercules stuck on Earth for a year due to Ares' lies about Hercules and Enchantress.
Eileen Gonzalez: In yet another addition of "all godly fathers are jerks."
Brian Cronin: Hawkeye, of course, has to throw in an outdated pop culture reference to the actor, Steve Reeves, who had famously played Hercules in the movies.
Brian Cronin: I think the end of the issue should be scored to "Arthur's Theme."
Brian Cronin: With Enchantress pining after Hercules and Herc staring out the window.
Brian Cronin: "When you get caught between the moon and New York City"
Eileen Gonzalez: I wonder what Thor's going to say when he finds out the Avengers rented out his room.
Brian Cronin: "Fight, Avengers! To the death!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Apparently our next villain is the Mad Thinker. Interesting how they pick a villain whose shtick is thinking to go up against one of the most physically strong heroes in Marvel.
Brian Cronin: Not a whole lot of thinking going on with this Avengers squad.
Brian Cronin: It'll be interesting, though, to see Thomas slowly extend his subplots.
Brian Cronin: We're at the early stages of a very interesting period in Avengers history. It's fun to see it from the ground floor, as it were.
Eileen Gonzalez: The Avengers have going through a lot of changes recently, both on and off the page. I wonder where they'll take us next?