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 #40, "Suddenly...the Sub-Mariner!" by Don Heck, Roy Thomas and George Roussos.
Eileen Gonzalez: Time to give Roy Thomas' thesaurus a workout!
Brian Cronin: Ha!
Brian Cronin: First, great Don Heck cover, right?
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, I like everyone getting ready to attack the Sub-Mariner
Eileen Gonzalez: Just jumping right into the meat of the issue
Brian Cronin: It is nice to see Heck seemingly respond to the excellent Gil Kane covers recently with one of his strongest covers for this issue!
Eileen Gonzalez: Especially since, as we were talking about last time, Heck's artwork has been a little subpar lately.
Eileen Gonzalez: At least compared to other artists like Kane.
Brian Cronin: And this cover is actually inked by Heck, and his recent issues inked by him were the weakest of the bunch.
Brian Cronin: I suppose he had more time for this cover?
Brian Cronin: I really don't know, but whatever the reason, it's one of his best covers of his entire run.
Brian Cronin: I have to think that it is not a coincidence that it came after Kane did a couple of covers.
Eileen Gonzalez: You mean that Heck was inspired by Kane's artwork, or perhaps it pushed him to put more effort into his own covers?
Brian Cronin: I honestly think a bit of both.
Brian Cronin: But yeah, as you noted, the opening splash is hilarious, as Thomas breaks out the thesaurus in his best Stan Lee impression.
Brian Cronin: What stands out, too, though, with the opening splash is that it already shows just how much more is going on in Thomas' run.
Brian Cronin: Thomas is balancing a number of personalities all at once, all reacting to a situation in a much different fashion.
Brian Cronin: Hawkeye, his normal wiseass self, Hercules, marveling at the situation he stepped into and Scarlet Witch, trying to hide her concern over her power problems.
Brian Cronin: And, of course, Wasp and Goliath keeping up with our favorite Avenger passtime, gushing over how awesome Tony Stark is.
Eileen Gonzalez: While Quicksilver is worried about his sister and his sister only.
Eileen Gonzalez: I am in awe of the new expression Hawkeye has introduced to us: "Somebody really pearled our harbor!" Exquisite.
Brian Cronin: Didn't Hawkeye also invent a contraction recently?
Brian Cronin: "Care'a" for "Care of"
Brian Cronin: He's a regular wordsmith
Eileen Gonzalez: It is nice to see the Avengers all getting along for once. Everyone's just contributing to cleaning up rather than picking fights.
Brian Cronin: Well, Quicksilver couldn't help but show off a bit, but yes, it's certainly a lot more happy than normal.
Eileen Gonzalez: Until Wanda has to go and ruin everything. THANKS, Wanda.
Brian Cronin: Just like a woman.
Brian Cronin: Luckily, even unconscious, she's just so damn hot.
Brian Cronin: So Hercules gets to ogle her as he holds her passed out body.
Brian Cronin: Kind of creepy there, dude.
Eileen Gonzalez: His dad is Zeus. He learned how to creep from the best/worst.
Brian Cronin: Also, how funny is "We need to get her to her room right away! I'm super fast, so I'll....go get the room ready for you!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, you'd think Quicksilver of all people would be reluctant to leave Wanda alone with a stranger
Eileen Gonzalez: And it doesn't look like he did much preparing. Unless her bed was covered in junk and he cleared it off at super speed.
Brian Cronin: I imagine she had lots of pornography all over her room that he realized he needed to get rid of before everyone else came in.
Eileen Gonzalez: What a good brother
Brian Cronin: That's the only logical possibility
Eileen Gonzalez: It all makes sense now!
Brian Cronin: Does Hercules not know Quicksilver is Scarlet Witch's brother?
Brian Cronin: It just seems odd to see him be all, "Wow, you really care about her. Where'd that come from? Oh, you're her brother!"
Brian Cronin: You'd think Quicksilver would work "my sister" into his first introduction with people at all times.
Eileen Gonzalez: All humans look the same to Hercules.
Brian Cronin: I can't say that I'm thrilled with Scarlet Witch being shown so weak.
Eileen Gonzalez: Agreed. I can only speculate it's because she would be the strongest member of the team if they allowed her to be, so they have to compensate by having her faint all the time lest she outshine everyone else.
Brian Cronin: It seems, though, that it's mostly so that Hercules can start dwelling on how hot she is.
Brian Cronin: Like, damsel in distress 101.
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, good point. I guess the Hawkeye/Black Widow drama wasn't enough for them.
Brian Cronin: For a dude who we've discussed his romance comic past a lot, Heck sure didn't draw a very alluring Black Widow in Hawkeye's daydream, right?
Brian Cronin: She looks like a 40 year old librarian
Eileen Gonzalez: Ha! It's the hair.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, it's totally the hair.
Brian Cronin: The 1960s had some uninspired hair styles.
Brian Cronin: However, Black Widow remains a total badass
Brian Cronin: She is going all out in her pretending to be a bad guy.
Brian Cronin: Steals sub plans and then steals an experimental plane to deliver the plans.
Brian Cronin: She doesn't shy away from the spotlight.
Eileen Gonzalez: Definitely no slouch, our Black Widow.
Eileen Gonzalez: I love the cameo from General Ross there, and how he's blaming the theft of the plane on the Hulk like he's J. Jonah Jameson ranting about Spider-Man.
Eileen Gonzalez: I assume that was Thomas trying to tie the Marvel Universe together.
Brian Cronin: That's totally what he's doing and he's such a master at this sort of stuff.
Brian Cronin: He's always been so plugged into Marvel's continuity and as he has become more of the driving force of this title, we're seeing more and more of it.
Brian Cronin: Heck, the main plot of this issue is directly based on an iconic Captain America story from this time period.
Eileen Gonzalez: Is that where the Cosmic Cube comes in?
Brian Cronin: Yeah, but not before we get Namor introduced.
Brian Cronin: Thomas was JUST about to take over the scripting duties on the Namor feature in Tales to Astonish.
Brian Cronin: So this sort of serves as a precursor to those issues.
Brian Cronin: With him giving us a spotlight on Namor's whole deal.
Brian Cronin: Including his rather....distinct approach to riding a torpedo.
Eileen Gonzalez: I don't know what you're talking about, that seems like a perfectly healthy and normal way to ride a torpedo.
Brian Cronin: He even works in the word "master" into the scene.
Brian Cronin: If only one of the sub commanders was named Bates.
Eileen Gonzalez: So this issue was a way for Thomas to get his feet wet, so to speak, when it came to writing Sub-Mariner? Like a test run?
Brian Cronin: It's possible, but you know what, he's so good at the whole Marvel Universe thing that it could be a total coincidence.
Brian Cronin: And Lee just gave him the Namor feature because Lee just kept giving him more and more features as Thomas proved himself so successful at this stuff.
Eileen Gonzalez: Makes sense.
Eileen Gonzalez: Lucky for Namor, that patch of super-rare, metal-hugging seaweed just happened to be right there.
Brian Cronin: He started the year with three assignments
Brian Cronin: By the time he takes over Namor's feature, he's writing Nick Fury, X-Men, Avengers, Namor's feature and Doctor Strange's feature, plus at least one western assignment a month.
Eileen Gonzalez: He did keep busy back then!
Brian Cronin: But yeah, once Namor is set up, Thomas ties in wonderfully to then-recent classic Cap'/Red Skull Cosmic Cube story.
Brian Cronin: The one where Red Skull becomes, like, king of all reality.
Brian Cronin: And Cap pretends to be his lackey, but then knocks the cube out of his hands and it is lost in the ocean.
Brian Cronin: You'd think that Thomas was the writer on that story, the way that he so deftly ties its conclusion in with this story.
Eileen Gonzalez: It is really neat to see them connecting the dots this way. I believe Lee did that a time or two, but just a brief "Hey, this character isn't here right now because he's busy in this other book!" I think this is the first time they've seriously tied two different books together this way, no?
Brian Cronin: Well, Thomas had been working Cap's solo feature in pretty well the last couple of issues period, though, right?
Brian Cronin: As that's the one character on the team where Thomas didn't have total control over the character.
Brian Cronin: And this was the days where there were few enough titles that you could actually try to work in a character's solo adventures into the continuity of the team book.
Brian Cronin: It was funny to see Chris Claremont TRY to do that with Wolverine's solo adventures later in the 1980s (like he would have Wolverine take leaves of absence each time he had a new solo miniseries)
Brian Cronin: Before it just became clear that there was no way you could reconcile all of his solo stories into the continuity of the main book.
Brian Cronin: Like here, imagine if Cap had guest-starred in, like, five other books that month?
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, at this point it feels way too late to try to do something like this. Continuity wasn't quite the long, tangled thing it is today.
Brian Cronin: Exactly. By the way, while the Avengers head to the island with the naval base due to their search for the Cosmic Cube
Brian Cronin: Namor headed there because he...read the radio waves?!
Brian Cronin: When has that ever been a Namor superpower?
Eileen Gonzalez: I was going to ask you that! But hey, if he can fly with his itty-bitty ankle wings, reading radio waves almost makes sense by comparison.
Brian Cronin: Very true.
Brian Cronin: But what's weird is that you'd think there would have been any number of ways to get him to the base.
Brian Cronin: But whatever, the main thing remains is that he ends up on the same island base that the Avengers travel to to get the Cosmic Cube.
Brian Cronin: And hilarity ensues.
Eileen Gonzalez: Even before the ridiculous fight starts, I am amused by the fact that the Avengers' plane apparently has an ant-sized door for Hank and Jan.
Brian Cronin: That Tony Stark thinks of everything!
Brian Cronin: It's fascinating to see Thomas setting up Hank's Yellowjacket future here, when it won't come to fruition for 20 issues!
Brian Cronin: Well, unless Thomas literally is just wondering "Why DOESN'T Hank just get wings, too?"
Eileen Gonzalez: Good question. I wonder if this was just supposed to be a throwaway line that later inspired Thomas to create Yellowjacket.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, that's the more likely scenario.
Brian Cronin: A lot of this was just flying by the seat of his pants plotting.
Brian Cronin: I mean, don't get me wrong, he had some long term subplots in mind.
Brian Cronin: But specific stuff like Hank becoming Yellowjacket or Hawkeye later taking over as Goliath, were just spur of the moment ideas.
Brian Cronin: It's just well set up here
Brian Cronin: It's funny that Goliath is an old hat at fighting Namor, and yet totally forgot that Namor can fly.
Eileen Gonzalez: I bet Goliath wishes he could fly too, once Namor starts twirling him around in the air.
Brian Cronin: It was adorable watching the Wasp try to get involved.
Brian Cronin: "Look, everyone, Wasp is trying to help!"
Brian Cronin: Luckily, she actually plays a key role later in the issue.
Brian Cronin: Ah, the classic Heck "Let me draw them in silhouette out of nowhere to save time" panel.
Eileen Gonzalez:And then Hercules gets involved and his best idea is to a) spill the beans on the Cube, and b) throw Namor into the ocean. All of which ends so well.
Brian Cronin: Ooph, definitely not Hercules' best moment.
Brian Cronin: This issue also really showed Heck's limitations as the set-up was really strong
Brian Cronin: But once Namor gets the Cosmic Cube, a stronger artist could have done some really interesting stuff with it.
Brian Cronin: Here, Heck's whole deal for Namor's use of the Cosmic Cube is for him to create some low-rent -looking sea monster.
Eileen Gonzalez:It could just be that Namor has no imagination, but yeah, this is really sad
Eileen Gonzalez:Incidentally, it looks like B'Wana Beast was created just prior to this issue. I'd sue if I were him.
Eileen Gonzalez:Namor is stealing his shtick.
Brian Cronin: Ha!
Brian Cronin: Totally.
Brian Cronin: I like how the Avengers have gone back to their "Okay, you attack him one on one. Then I attack him one on one, then...."
Brian Cronin: Did Hawkeye KILL the beast Namor created?
Brian Cronin: And why does his blast arrow not look like an arrow at ALL?
Eileen Gonzalez:The fate of those poor animals is really left up in the air, isn't it? I like to think they all just separated into what they were before, but probably not.
Brian Cronin: It sure looks like it's head just exploded, though, right?
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah. I'm assuming the soldiers at that naval base all had calamari that night.
Brian Cronin: It'd be interesting if one of them later got secondhand cosmic sea monster powers from eating it!
Brian Cronin: The Wasp then surprises everyone by saving the day, realizing that Namor is wearing the cube as a necklace and getting rid of it to save the day.
Eileen Gonzalez: That was a neat moment, with Wasp using her tiny size to advantage for once.
Brian Cronin: And then Thomas tied into the Marvel Universe once more for a strong ending
Brian Cronin: With the Mole Man getting the cube and just tossing it away.
Eileen Gonzalez: It's almost like a Twilight Zone ending with the irony.
Brian Cronin: Totally!
Brian Cronin: This was a fun issue overall, but yeah, boy, it could have used another artist.
Brian Cronin: And that signals the fact that the book IS getting an art change, as Heck is off the book (for now) after being the regular artist since issue #9!
Eileen Gonzalez: Thirty issues ain't a bad run.
Eileen Gonzalez: It'll be nice to have some fresh blood in the art department, though.
Brian Cronin: Not at all, but the book could use some new blood.
Eileen Gonzalez: Ha, great minds
Brian Cronin: And while he was already taking over control of the story, Thomas is now FIRMLY in control of the direction of the series.
Brian Cronin: We will soon see some classic Thomas/John Buscema issues, so it will be fun to see how their run started together.
Eileen Gonzalez: It can't be any sillier than this issue... or can it?
Brian Cronin: Duh duh duhhhhhhhhh