Every installment of I Love Ya But You’re Strange I spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories. Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!
Today, in honor of the new Avengers film and at the suggestion of reader Smokescreen, we take a look at the time the Avengers saved the day by committing suicide together.
A cool, albeit short-lived, tradition at Marvel after the creation of the West Coast Avengers is that the Annuals for West Coast Avengers and Avengers would do these big team-up stories together.
Avengers Annual #15 and West Coast Avengers Annual #1 did this neat story where every then-living Avenger got together to combat a plot by a former member of the team that framed the Avengers in a plot to destroy them.
The second crossover reversed the order, with West Coast Avengers Annual #2 (written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Al Milgrom) starting things off followed by Avengers Annual #16.
Just like the first team-up of the two teams, the conceit was that the Avengers and the West Coast Avengers would meet up to play baseball against each other once a year.
But while they were playing...
The Surfer explains to them that it was a plot by the Grandmaster. Back during the Contest of Champions, Grandmaster successfully defeated Death to get his Elder of the Universe "brother," The Collector, back from the dead but he ended up having to take his place! So the Grandmaster is apparently at it again, only using the lives of the Avengers as bargaining chips. So then Surfer takes the Avengers to the Collector who agrees to help them save their friends, but the only trick is that they all have to commit suicide to get to their friends...
I certainly buy this as conceit, but at the same time, you really have to marvel at the idea that the Avengers just agreed to all commit suicide based on the word of a guy who has routinely lied to them in the past. And that's really their only recourse? Just kill themselves? Not try to contact, I dunno, Doctor Strange? Or Hellstorm? Nope, just kill themselves and hope for the best.
Once in the death realm, of course, the Grandmaster convinces the dead Avengers that the COLLECTOR is the bad guy and that he has arranged for the West Coast Avengers to die, leading to the two teams, naturally, fighting each other...
Superheroes definitely are easily prodded into fighting each other, aren't they?
After the fights are resolved (at least three of them will be fodder for future editions of The Wrong Side, so let's not dwell on them at the moment), it turns out that this was all a plot by the Grandmaster and the Collector to get Death involved so that the Grandmaster can capture her to get his (and his brother's) revenge on her.
This leads to Avengers Annual #16 (by Tom DeFalco, Bob Hall and a bunch of different artists), where the now nearly omnipotent Grandmaster decides to destroy the universe, but the Avengers convince him to give them a sporting chance, so he creates a series of bombs to destroy the universe and lets the Avengers try to stop him (and his Legion of the Unliving to fight in his name). After they barely succeed (while losing the majority of their members in the process), they were about to forced to do it all over again with just Captain America and Hawkeye against the Legion of the Unliving (which now has the newly dead members of the Avengers). Luckily, in one of his most awesome moments ever, Hawkeye saves the universe through carnival trickery...
Awesome moment. Very clever work from DeFalco.
And so, of course, now that they've all died (a couple of them more than once), they go right back to playing baseball...
The Grandmaster turning to the reader seems like the ending of a sitcom. I can only imagine a freeze frame there with a list of credits.
In any event, I don't mean to knock this story, as I think it was a lot of fun, just noting, as Smokescreen did in his suggestion to me, that the idea of the Avengers just quickly deciding to kill themselves is pretty darn strange, but in a fun way!
If YOU have a suggestion for a future edition of I Love Ya But You're Strange, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!