Stan Lee and Jack Kirby/Don Heck. Grade: A-. #1-35 (1963-1966) Roy Thomas and (mostly) John Buscema. Grade: B+. #36-104 (1966-1972) Steve Englehart and various. Grade: A. #105-150 (1972-1976) Jim Shooter and George Perez. Grade: A+. #158-177 (1976-1978) David Michelinie and various. Grade: B+. #181-187, 190-205, 223 (1979-1981) Jim Shooter and various. Grade: B. #211-218, 224 (1981-1982) Roger Stern and (mostly) Al Milgrom. Grade: A+. #227-250 (1983-1984) Roger Stern and (mostly) John Buscema. Grade: A. #251-287 (1985-1988) Walt Simonson and John Buscema. Grade: B. #291-300 (1988-1989) Larry Hama and (mostly) Paul Ryan). Grade: C+. #326-333 (1990-1991) Bob Harras and (mostly) Steve Epting. Grade: C. #334-351, 355-375 (1991-1994) Bob Harras and various.Grade: C-. #384-399 (1995-1996) Mark Waid and Mike Deodato. Grade: B-. #400-403 (1996). Volume Two (“Heroes Reborn”). Rob Liefeld, Walt Simonson, Michael Ryan, others. Grade: B. #1-13 (1996-1997) Volume Three/Volume One(Vol. 3 started with #1, but later was renumbered as part of Vol. 1; numbers below reflect Vol. 1 numbering). All posts at this tag. Kurt Busiek and (mostly) George Perez. Grade: A- (with Perez)/B+ (after Perez). #1-56 (1997-1998) Howard Mackie and various. Grade: F. #1(443)-29 (1999-2001). Geoff Johns and Various. Grade: B-. #57-76 (2002-2004) Chuck Austen and Scott Kolins. Grade C. #77-84 (2004) Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch. Grade A. #500-504 (2004-2005)
It’s more than a little annoying that so many early Black Panther stories involve weird, mean African Gods. But as far as these things go, this one is better than most. Of course, it involves the whole team saving the day in the end.
But at least they acknowledge that he’s a very busy king.
Black Widow is still hanging out with The Avengers during this issue because she’s conflicted about going back to San Francisco with Daredevil (after the two of them helped defeat Magneto last issue). But in the end, she decides that team life is not for her and she returns to Matt Murdock.
But not until after Iron Man hits on her. She’s been with Hawkeye and Daredevil, both sexist alpha males (and both kinda broke most of the time), but she says “no” to Tony Stark the millionaire. Good for her!
She’s staying at Avengers Mansion because she’s homeless. But by the end of the adventure…
She quits and goes back to DD.
And Mantis joins in her place. This is also the first time we see Mantis, a character who Steve Englehart created, in his own words, to be a “hooker” who causes dissension between team members. I’m sure he never would have guessed she’d be a movie star.
This issue involves Egghead forming a new Masters of Evil, featuring Tiger Shark, Whirlwind, Scorpion, and Moonstone, and they get defeated in about a page and half. Seems about right.
Egghead has a robot maid girlfriend now.
What’s cool about this Jim Shooter-led (and sometimes scripted) period for The Avengers is the focus on She-Hulk. And her never-realized flirtation with Hawkeye.
By now, her solo book has been cancelled, and it was never all that great. But we see her developing into a full-fledged fan favorite during her stint with The A-Team, and then later when she joins the Fantastic Four she becomes an A-list character.
In this issue, she gets annoyed at her broken down pink caddie, and then gets a new outfit from Janet Van Dyne. When Hawkeye sees it, he ridicules her…
But then she kisses him full on the mouth.
I know, I know. If a guy did that, it would be rape. But when a girl does it, it’s funny.
In fact, in the same issue, Whirlwind starts to sexually assault the Wasp (she shrinks and stings the crap out of him). Lots of sex in these issues, which is kinda cool and appropriate. And sex is used playfully, and for evil by villains—I don’t think there’s sexual range in a lot of modern books.
It’s also worth noting how Wasp and Hawkeye, in addition to She-Hulk, get so much screentime in this issue (and others from this period). The other main characters, Cap, Iron Man and Thor, had their own solo books, but this was the only place you could read about these other heroes. It was special—another thing missing from today’s books, where there’s an event every six weeks so you see all the Marvel characters assembling all the time.
Oh, Roger Stern takes on the three-issue arc about Hank Pym’s trial for stealing Adamantium and generally being a douche when he was tricked by Egghead several issues ago.
He’s been in jail ever since, watching headlines about Tony Stark making the moves on Janet Van Dyne Pym, so he’s understandably upset. There’s a brief overview of his history, then each Avengers gets screen time as they watch the televised news coverage of the panel and react, and all of them continue to believe Hank is innocent. Which is weird because he isn’t. Yes, Egghead blackmailed him into doing what he did, but he still did it. And on top of that, he beat Jan black and blue. None of them appear willing to delve into the moral complexity of the situation, but it also makes sense. After all, these are people who dress in spandex and beat up bad guys for a living—moral relativism isn’t their strong suit.
Meanwhile, Egghead isn’t content to humiliate Pym and have him go to jail. He forms a renewed Masters of Evil to break Pym out of custody to make Pym look even more like a bad guy. Egghead is just pain mean.
Of course, The Avengers intervene and there’s a nice big battle, in which we learn that radiation can redirect Thor’s hammer! That’s kind of like lifting it, so I’m adding it to the lifting Mjolnir tag, below.
After the fight, all but one of the Masters escape—with Henry Pym in their clutches. Shocker is captured, which was part of Egghead’s plan because he had hypnotized the Masters’ lamest member into believing it was Hank Pym who arranged for the whole thing and to confess it when caught…
Check out Jan’s cool costume!
This obviously causes more problems for Henry Pym. Now he’s captured and his former teammates think he’s a bad guy so they won’t try to rescue him. They also still think Egghead is dead, further disincentivizing any rescue attempt.
Eventually, they figure out that Shocker was brainwashed using a mind-investigating helmet invented by Tony Stark and dropped off at the mansion by Scott Lang. Ah, Tony. Is there any deus ex machina you can’t facilitate?
Once they know the whole story, they go free Pym from the Masters. In the process, Hawkeye shoots an arrow into Egghead’s gun to stop him from shooting Hank and…
Egghead is killed. Again. Albeit by accident, but still—Hawkeye did kill him. And he is put on trial for it. The second trial in just three issues. More on that below.
In the end, Hank gives up being a superhero and says goodbye.
Yeah, I could have done without Jan accepting blame for being beaten by Hank, but I get it. It’s true to her character (which was, of course, created and written SOLELY by white men from the 1960s to this point) and it’s not completely unrealistic, so I’ll accept it. And how can Hank be a total cad in this story and it’s Hawkeye who gets slapped?
Also in this story: She Hulk thinks she can take Captain America.
And something people often forget: The Avengers were very litigious in these issues. They also brought charges against Hawkeye.
Vision has been comatose (and lying in a clear tube) since he hit Annihilus’ force field in Avengers #233, and he speaks for the first time as Starfox is lamenting over him. This inspires Eros to hook Viz up to ISAAC, the supercomputer back on Titan, which leads to Vision downloading ISAAC into Avengers’ Mansions’ computers and gaining the ability to cast holographic projections of himself using the Avengers’ communications networks. It also seems to be changing his personality.
He uses his newfound awareness to track down Moonstone and Blackout, who escaped from Project Pegasus’ prison last issue.
His personality changes will be an evolving subplot for a couple years.
At the end of the issue, Tigra is visiting Jessica Drew, who is also comatose and in a hospital on the West Coast, and an astral image of Spider-Woman appears in the hospital room.