Avengers #215 – Reviews Of Old Comics

blogheaderI  always want to use this feature to highlight some really great comics that I remember from my childhood. We are fortunate to live in an age where so many great comics are available to read for a small fee. Of course, I paid for the annual subscription to Marvel Unlimited, which is no small fee, but came with some bonuses every year. DC Unlimited is also a really good value, but I’m off on a tangent.

I recall getting this issue when I was eleven years old, and I was instantly assaulted by the art of Alan Weiss. Don’t take that as something bad. Alan Weiss was something so different from what I used to. I had to be exposed to Michael Golden’s fantastic art on Micronauts, so there was nothing that I could equate to this very naturalistic style. This is probably where I fell in love with a more naturalistic type of art. Of course, since then, I have come to appreciate a variety  of styles, especially those that make use of the wise and proliferous use of black ink.

This issue even introduced itself with a bit of levity. The credits are normally a boring horizontal list of the people responsible for the issue along with a brief summary of the title characters. Here, it was replaced with some background on the new artist that I was being introduced to.

So they said to me, “Alan Weiss – ?! Drawing two issues of the Avengers? He takes forever! He’ll never get the pencils in on time!” But Alan told me, “Jim, I may not hit the deadlines right on, but I’ll do ’em up right and make something special!” So I talked Editor Jim Salicrup into it. Well, the deadlines came and went, but eventually the pencilled pages did come in from Alan. Then, I buckled down and scripted them the best I could, and Joe Rosen did his usual superb lettering, and Dan Green came through with his usual polished, sensitive inking job, and Christie Scheele masterfully colored the completed art. And, though, each of us, at some point along the way, want ed to have Alan’s beard pulled out hair by hair for keeping us awake nights making up time, everyone involved agrees that the finished product was worth the suffering. Everyone, that is except Jim Salicrup, the man who patiently guided, orchestrated, edited, and sweated out the creation of this issue and the next, and as a result had a nervous breakdown. He was last seen sitting in the middle of Fifth Avenue smashing six dozen clocks with a ball peen hammer while singing “Time and Tide Wait for No Man” to the tune of :Edelweiss.”

P.S. Bob Hall, the penciller who usually does ’em up right and makes each issue something special is enjoying this respite, and will be back to dazzle you again with his unique brand of artistic excitement two months hence. Right now, he’s over on Fifth Avenue with Stan Lee, our Publisher, Mentor, and Presenter, trying to reason with JIm Salicrup.

Avengers #215

January 1982
Marvel Comics

Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciller: Alan Weiss
Inker: Dan Green
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Letterer: Joe Rosen

Synopsis:

Tigra is at the bank to cash her Avengers stipend check for $1,000. She’s drawing a lot of attention, especially since her costume is essentially a bikini. A guy in the bank feels up her backside. She lashes out with her claws, slashing the guy’s briefcase. The bank guard says with the way she’s dressed, she’s asking for it.

Tigra leaves the bank and decides to use her stipend on some shopping for clothes. She goes to a singles bar that evening, She’s hit on by a very creepy guy. She ties him up with the brass railing from the bar, throwing cash at the bartender for the damage.

On the subway, she sits next to “a wino” with chrome shoes. A drummer gets on trying to earn tips from subway riders, by drumming on the railings. A biker breaks his drumsticks. Tigra literally kicks him off at the next stop. As she leaves, doffing her new clothes, she gives the drummer almost $500, pondering if she’s fit for any more than punching out hoods on the subway.

The wino observes all of this and is mystified by everyone resorting to violence. He removes his clothes, revealing that he is the Silver Surfer. The Surfer summons his surfboard and flies off into the sky. He wonders what violent humans would do with something like the Power Cosmic he wields as a former herald of Galactus. As he comes upon a polluted marsh below, he senses a powerful source of energy. He finds a wand, which seemingly is trying to possess the Surfer. He casts the wand aside. It is frustrated and re-creates the body of the Molecule Man.

The Silver Surfer greets the Molecule Man and tells him about Galactus. He tells him how the devourer of worlds empowered him to be a herald. He also tells how, after he aided the Fantastic Four in driving him away from Earth, he was stranded by Galactus on this planet. The Molecule Man briefly tells his story to the Surfer. He got immense power over molecules but with no direction, eventually found his essence stranded in a wand. He decides to take a page from Galactus’s book and eat the Earth. When the Surfer tries to stop him, the Molecule Man attempts to crush the Silver Surfer with the polluted marsh.

The Silver Surfer’s board goes on its own and circles the Baxter Building looking for the Fantastic Four. Traffic around the building is jammed including the limousine of Tony Stark. Stark dons his Iron Man armor and snags the board. He signals the Avengers. Captain America is in his civilian identity waiting on a portfolio review at an ad agency. He leaves through the window, prompting the receptionist (Ann Nocenti) into thinking he’s jumped out the window to his death. Dr. Don Blake is in a restaurant when he gets the signal. When he goes to the bathroom and changes into Thor, he realizes the window is too small to go through. He simply strides through the restaurant, confident that no one would think that Thor and Don Blake are the same person.

At Avengers Mansion, Tigra deduces that The Silver Surfer sent his board for help. Joking around, she jumps on it and commands it to take her tho the Surfer. Thor frees the Surfer. He tells the Avengers about the Molecule Man. The Avengers decide to go after him, and the Surfer volunteers to help. Tigra volunteers to ride with him. Unfortunately she gets very scared by how high and fast they’re flying.

The heroes come across a massive dome built over a huge chunk of New Jersey. Nothing any hero does can get through the dome, so they decide to try a concentrated burst. It weakens it just enough for Captain America to create a small opening. Only Tigra can fit through and rushes ahead. She’s trying to redeem herself for doing so poorly against Ghost Rider. She sneaks into the Molecule Man’s massive structure that he’s built for himself.

He captures her. She stalls for time, pretending to be impressed by him and wanting to know more. She’s stalling until the Avengers can get there to help against the Molecule Man. The Avengers battle the defenses the Molecule Man pits against them. They get through and confront the Molecule Man. He waves his hands and disintegrates their weapons, including Iron Man’s armor and the Surfer’s board. Captain America snags the Molecule Man’s wand, but is surprised to learn that his power is no longer there. He renders all of the heroes unconscious except Tigra. He makes her beg for her life as he smashes the heroes underneath a giant boot.

Review:

One can criticize a lot about James Shooter at this point in Marvel history. Fortunately, his writing cannot be criticized here. He mimics Stan Lee’s Silver Surfer soliloquies excellently. He captures some wonderfully mundane moments in the lives of the Avengers. Tony Stark is stuck in traffic. Thor finds himself hampered from a quick change and departure by a small bathroom window. Captain America scares poor Ann Nocenti to death, thinking he’s committed suicide. Tigra tries to enjoy time off and finds herself the target of unwanted sexual advances.

That last one is very telling, especially in how we today treat cosplayers. Immediately, I’m reminded of the time Adrianne Curry beat a guy who assaulted Alicia Marie while she was cosplaying Tigra. Too many times, even today, men who grope women defend, or find their actions defended by others saying, “Look at how they’re dressed.” The blatantly open hitting on her at a bar is almost grotesque. However, it mirrors too often the treatment women get online. I’ve even seen female creators hit on in similar ways at conventions. I almost want to ask if this has ever worked for this guy.

Back to the writing, it remains very clear, all the while giving a reader unfamiliar to one of the characters all that they need to understand their role in the story. Tigra almost betrays her insecurities in her flippancy. In the panel where the heroes are trying to break through the dome, Tigra refuses to even try, because if Thor’s hammer can’t dent it, what are her claws going to do? When she’s by herself, Shooter gives us her thoughts, letting us know she doesn’t feel like she pulls her weight in the Avengers. However, she’s very wise in trying to use other’s perception of her in stalling the Molecule Man. It’s tragic that he makes her grovel for her life at the end. 

The art is really nice, and like I said, when you look at Avengers #214 and Avengers #217, the change in style is jarring. His style shows a masterful knowledge of anatomy. He makes Thor and the Silver Surfer bristle with power. Captain America is lean and almost acrobatic. Iron Man looks like a more normal guy in a suit rather than a bodybuilder painted red and gold. His bystanders are so varied that it looks like a group of normal people. It’s not as detailed and naturalistic as Michael Golden, but it has that feel of something special, even after a lifetime of seeing artists using this style come and go.

Notes:

If you’re looking for the issue itself, it shouldn’t break you to pick up a good copy. It was collected by Marvel in The Trial Of Yellowjacket (ISBN: 0785162070) and Avengers: The Big Three (ISBN: 9780785159384). If you want to read it digitally, it’s available on Marvel Unlimited or through Comixology

Final Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)