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Black Widow's Love for Hawkeye Breaks Through Her Brainwashing

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!

Avengers #30, "Frenzy in a Far-Off Land," by Don Heck, Stan Lee and Frank Giacoia

Eileen Gonzalez: I noticed Frank Giacoia started using his real name rather than the Ray alias

Brian Cronin: Oh hey, you're right.

Brian Cronin: Is this also the first time we've gotten an Irving Forbush reference?

Brian Cronin: What an odd little conceit Forbush was.

Eileen Gonzalez: Possibly! It wasn't in the last issue, anyway.

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Brian Cronin: It was one of Lee's odder attempts at cross-marketing

Brian Cronin: In 1965 (so a year before this issue), Marvel tried to launch their own version of Mad called Snafu

Brian Cronin: It did not go over well, but its version of Alfred E. Neumann was Irving Forbush.

Brian Cronin: So Lee then began to pepper references to Forbush into other Marvel magazines to sort of make him a "thing"

Brian Cronin: And eventually he got to be the mascot of the NEXT attempt by Marvel to do a Mad-style magazine, Not Brand Echh.

Eileen Gonzalez: Huh, I don't think I knew any of that! Funny how things work out.

Brian Cronin: Around the same time of this issue of Avengers, there is an issue of Amazing Spider-Man where Spider-Man even name drops Forbush!

Eileen Gonzalez: Spider-Man does have some amazing friends.

Brian Cronin: Heck leans heavily into his romance comics style for the splash page.

Brian Cronin: As time has gone by, Scarlet Witch's waist has gotten smaller and smaller, right?

Brian Cronin: Maybe she should be more concerned about that than her missing powers.

Brian Cronin: It's a shame Quicksilver couldn't get Ant-Man's cybernetic helmet to work. It'd be pretty cool to see a super-fast guy who can also call a bunch of ants to help him!

Brian Cronin: Quicksilverfish is the best I can come up with.

Eileen Gonzalez: Ha, I like that! I kinda want to see that now--as we'll see later, it's not that like the Avengers were averse to swapping powers.

Eileen Gonzalez: But this seems like a rather hurried sendoff for the Maximoffs. Neither of them mentioned power fluxes before, did they? But then all of a sudden it's, oh no, we must go to Europe to fix our powers.

Eileen Gonzalez: They deserve better. Or Wanda does, at least.

Brian Cronin: It's interesting to see them sort of inadvertently set up the retcon DECADES later that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are not, in fact, mutants.

Brian Cronin: But yeah, as soon as Goliath and Wasp returned, it seemed like Heck and Stan got disinterested in writing for the twins anymore.

Eileen Gonzalez: Too many Avengers spoils the book, I suppose.

Brian Cronin: By the way, as I write that, were they even officially twins at this point?

Brian Cronin: They were, right?

Brian Cronin: I'm trying to remember if they ever expressly noted that they were twins.

Brian Cronin: It's always, "My sister!"

Brian Cronin: But not necessarily, "My twin!" right?

Eileen Gonzalez: I remember Wanda saying Pietro was older, but I don't know if it's been mentioned in this book that they're twins

Eileen Gonzalez: Maybe in the X-Men in came up?

Brian Cronin: Huh. I should look into that.

Brian Cronin: Not even Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver understand her powers!

Brian Cronin: Weren't they just in Europe a few days ago?

Eileen Gonzalez: You mean the trip to Latveria? Yeah, that should have recharged them, if that was really the problem.

Brian Cronin: Or maybe they feel it DID, which was the problem?

Eileen Gonzalez: Nobody knows how anybody's powers work in this book. Even Hank doesn't seem to know how his own powers work!

Brian Cronin: True. He still believes in some old combat surgeon friend of Cap without checking anything himself.

Eileen Gonzalez: I'd like to think he's done some of his own research between issues, but part of me thinks he's really just sat there moping this whole time.

Brian Cronin: Man, his mental situation really is bad.

Brian Cronin: This is interesting, though, in that Lee and Heck are clearly just going for melodrama.

Brian Cronin: And that's a big thing in the evolution of comics, in general.

Brian Cronin: Where stuff that was clearly just intended as melodrama.

Brian Cronin: Was later given the spin of "is something wrong with this guy?"

Brian Cronin: Even through the future developments with Hank during Roy Thomas' run, as messed up as it seems to us reading it now, at the time it really wasn't intended as such.

Brian Cronin: So it is sort of interesting to read these Hank scenes through our modern lens, knowing that that was definitely not what they were going for back then.

Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, it always makes me curious what these things looked to readers back in the day. By the time I read these older issues, I already knew a lot of what goes on in the future, and I feel like it's coloring a lot of my readings and reactions.

Eileen Gonzalez: Sorta like how everyone goes into Psycho knowing the big twist. What must it have been like for people viewing it back then with no baggage?

Brian Cronin: Oh man, the ending of Psycho alone should tell you what people thought back then, as Hitchcock felt the need to add that RIDICULOUSLY long exposition-filled speech about what a psychopath is.

Brian Cronin: And yeah, that's fascinating knowing that people really DIDN'T know stuff like this back then.

Brian Cronin: Back then, we were all Ice-T from SVU (as in John Mulaney's classic bit where he shows how Ice-T's character's role is to be the person who needs to have all of the sexual stuff explained to for the sake of the audience... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1sd4CRcaE0 )

Brian Cronin: (Starts 2:00 minutes in)

Eileen Gonzalez: This whole issue is funny like that--innocently introducing ideas that will turn out to be a whole thing down the line.

Brian Cronin: I love the sight of Goliath just taking off in his rocket sled for South America.

Brian Cronin: Man, the shit scientists get into in South America in this comic.

Brian Cronin: It seems almost as lawless as a Marvel Universe circus.

Eileen Gonzalez: I hope the newspaper mentioned Anton's location more specifically than just "South America."

Eileen Gonzalez: Or Hank's gonna be down there for a long time just searching around.

Eileen Gonzalez: Meanwhile, we get to see the villains engage in pointless bickering for once rather than seeing the Avengers do it.

Brian Cronin: Oh man, the devolution of Swordsman and Power Man into roving flunkies is kind of sad.

Brian Cronin: Not that Swordsman was some great character.

Brian Cronin: And I guess he WAS a flunky for the Mandarin pretty quickly in and Power Man is a professional flunky but....

Brian Cronin: Hmmm...I might have undercut my very point.

Brian Cronin: Still, I'm sticking with it being sad that they're like, Black Widow's unruly children now.

Brian Cronin: "Mom likes me best!"

Eileen Gonzalez: It's enough to make me feel bad for even the brainwashed version of Black Widow.

Brian Cronin: I adore that the Avengers have a "Plan S" that is just them splitting up and searching for people.

Brian Cronin: Time well spent training for that one!

Eileen Gonzalez: Looks like Hawkeye's getting some character development there as he runs out to search for Black Widow. If only it'll last!

Brian Cronin: Yeah, wow, Hawkeye actually reflecting on his past actions - WOW!

Brian Cronin: However, the interesting thing there is that that is all Stan, right?

Brian Cronin: There's nothing on the page to indicate the character growth and I bet that's why it doesn't stick, since Heck wasn't plotting him as a character who was growing.

Brian Cronin: That's the Marvel Method problem. Heck is plotting and drawing scenes with him one way, but Stan is then adding dialogue/thought balloons taking him in another direction

Brian Cronin: And the end result feels disjointed.

Brian Cronin: Speaking of the Marvel Method, that Swordsman/Power Man fight sure seems like some classic Heck plot filler, right?

Brian Cronin: Things get so much tighter, plot-wise, when Roy Thomas takes over.

Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, their fight feels exactly like the ones the Avengers always have, but now transplanted to the villains.

Eileen Gonzalez: I guess the Marvel Method, while introducing many great concepts, is also the reason why it took so long for many of those concepts to truly take root.

Brian Cronin: Isn't it hilarious how the Avengers have added two new members, but now, in this issue, they're the weakest they've EVER been?

Brian Cronin: Cap, Hawkeye and Wasp - yikes

Eileen Gonzalez: No wonder they're so desperate to find Goliath!

Brian Cronin: I like to imagine that Wasp is really just doing a pub crawl on company time.

Brian Cronin: Look at Heck/Giacoia getting all fancy with the silhouettes in that one panel!

Brian Cronin: I love Hawkeye getting permission to do what the Avengers always do anyways, run off half-cocked without the rest of the team into traps.

Eileen Gonzalez: He's turning over a new leaf. He has to be polite about it now.

Eileen Gonzalez: And yet it's Goliath who gets captured first after dashing off the South America without a word.

Brian Cronin: Man, the Goliath plot...yikes.

Brian Cronin: Heck is all over the place.

Brian Cronin: That's just some nonsense right there.

Brian Cronin: Some page-filling nonsense.

Brian Cronin: Heck/Giacoia don't seem to get aerodynamics well, do they?

Brian Cronin: Hawkeye's swings don't seem to make sense.

Eileen Gonzalez: I honestly had no idea what was going on in the Hawkeye fight scene.

Eileen Gonzalez: The whole issue feels like a tennis match--first look this way at Hawkeye, then look that way at Goliath, now back to Hawkeye...

Brian Cronin: I love Swordsman's "In my hand, a sword is every weapon!" as he uses the sword...to cut things just like a sword.

Eileen Gonzalez: What gets me is this weird rivalry between Hawkeye and Swordsman. Why are they both so obsessed with being the "master?" You use completely different weapons! You can both be masters!

Eileen Gonzalez: And then Hawkeye tries to get his arrows back by throwing his bow at Black Widow. What good are your arrows going to do you if you don't have a bow?

Eileen Gonzalez: It all works out in the end, but still.

Brian Cronin: Swordsman's boomerang sword really doesn't make any sense, right?

Brian Cronin: There's nothing even remotely aerodynamic about his sword

Brian Cronin: It's, like, faith-based weaponry.

Brian Cronin: "Trust me, it works"

Eileen Gonzalez: I wanna see him in a fight with Captain Boomerang.

Brian Cronin: I'd love to see it in a film

Brian Cronin: To see an audience go, "Wait, how is he spinning the sword and having it return to him like a boomerang?"

Eileen Gonzalez: The Mandarin fixed it, so it can do whatever it wants!

Brian Cronin: True. It's "Oriental magic"!

Brian Cronin: They should use that precise phrase.

Brian Cronin: Has there ever been a dumber B-plot in the series yet than Goliath's trip to this lost world?

Brian Cronin: Besides that bizarre story with the aliens from #14.

Eileen Gonzalez: Frankly, I'm just sad we don't get to see Jack Kirby drawing this. Imagine how much better these guys' hats would be!

Brian Cronin: Ha! Right?

Brian Cronin: But that's the problem in a nutshell.

Brian Cronin: You have Stan basically mocking the story as it is going on for being derivative.

Brian Cronin: "Like a scene right out of H. Rider Haggard"

Brian Cronin: "This is like a Grade B Mystery Movie!"

Brian Cronin: He keeps hanging a lantern on the fact that the story is so dumb.

Eileen Gonzalez: My favorite bit is the line where Hank decides someone is a good guy because he has wavy hair and no mustache.

Eileen Gonzalez: I guess he forgot about Tony Stark and Dr. Strange for a second.

Brian Cronin: Or did he?

Brian Cronin: Maybe this is REALLY early set up for The Crossing!

Eileen Gonzalez: I like this theory!

Eileen Gonzalez: Hank knew the whole time.

Brian Cronin: The (later abandoned) Crossing retcon was that Kang tried it with Hank first

Brian Cronin: And Hank successfully fought it off, but in the process, had his mental breakdowns

Brian Cronin: So maybe he did know the whole time!

Brian Cronin: It was nice to see Hawkeye/Swordsman get some real scenes together.

Brian Cronin: And nice to see the student defeat the master.

Brian Cronin: And Black Widow comes back to the side of good!

Brian Cronin: I love Hawkeye's reaction to the idea that she was brainwashed.

Brian Cronin: These people don't trust ANYONE

Eileen Gonzalez: Honestly, Hawkeye, Cap TOLD you she was probably brainwashed last issue. Keep up!

Eileen Gonzalez: Man, what a convenient news broadcast that Jan has tuned in to.

Brian Cronin: Right?

Brian Cronin: National news coverage of a missing scientist in South America...K

Brian Cronin: And the dumber thing is that it was also in the morning papers, as well!

Brian Cronin: But I guess Jan doesn't follow the news normally.

Brian Cronin: I can sort of forgive Hawkeye for not listening to Cap when we see Cap mansplain stuff to Jan like a total jerk.

Brian Cronin: "Listen, girl..."

Brian Cronin: DANG, CAP!

Eileen Gonzalez: True! I can't believe Hawkeye might have a point about something.

Brian Cronin: It's funny to see Stan throw some more shade at Heck over the rather abrupt ending of the story.

Brian Cronin: "We ran out of panels"

Brian Cronin: This has got to be one of the least interesting cliffhangers we've seen, right? Like we're supposed to be remotely interested in the "Keeper of the Eternal Flame."

Eileen Gonzalez: It's weird that Stan is talking about running out of panels when the last two just feel like a rehash of Goliath's last scene. Especially with Hank's thought bubbles there, it almost feels like the recap they give at the beginning of an issue to catch up the readers, not a cliffhanger.

Brian Cronin: Yeah, it's just a total mess.

Brian Cronin: Lee's stint on the book is almost over and boy, it seems like it is coming at just the right time.

Eileen Gonzalez: I assume they knew Stan would be leaving soon. Maybe that in some way contributed to the mess that is this issue?

Brian Cronin: I don't even know if STAN knew he was leaving, to be honest.

Brian Cronin: It seemed like this stuff was happening all spur of the moment.

Brian Cronin: Like, "Hey, Roy, you're on this book now."

Brian Cronin: But yeah, Roy Thomas' ability to take over for him on books must have been like a godsend to Lee at the time. That dude had to have been seriously overworked.

Brian Cronin: Leaving more plotting to Heck and as a result, more nonsense.

Eileen Gonzalez: It's always fun to see just how off-the-wall this book gets!

Eileen Gonzalez: And this is waaay off-the-wall.

Brian Cronin: And we'll see how much closer to the wall they can get things next issue!

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