Reviews of Old Comics: Avengers Annual #10

AVENGERS ANNUAL #10

August 1981

Avengers Annual 10-00I’ve had a habit of reviewing overlooked comics, but when I came across this one, I just had to include it. It’s also one of the most expensive back issues that I’ve ever reviewed. The fact that it’s a key issue also makes for a unique experience.

This comic is the first appearance of Rogue, the X-Men character that has become a fan favorite over the thirty years she’s been with the team, being one of the first members to join the second X-Men team that stuck around, almost becoming synonymous with the franchise, to the point of being in the first three films and the upcoming film that’s supposed to tie together the franchise.

SYNOPSIS:

Spider-Woman catches an unconscious woman falling from the Golden Gate Bridge. At the hospital it’s discovered that she’s Carol Danvers, but her mind is completely gone. She also completely vanished six months earlier. Needing someone who can get inside her mind to find out what happened, Spider-Woman calls Professor X of the X-Men, who comes to San Fransisco as quick as he can. The police have also uncovered a connection Carol Danvers has with the Avengers and the super-hero known as Ms. Marvel. Professor X telepathically lets Spider-Woman know that Carol’s mind was wiped clean by an assailant named Rogue.

In New York, Captain America has found himself beaten by Rogue, who takes his powers through skin-to-skin contact, and with Captain America, she uses a kiss. Her thoughts indicate that she was in contact with Ms. Marvel for too long and that the absorption of her powers is permanent. Cap then is tossed through the window of Avengers Mansion. The team calls Iron Man to contact Dr. Don Blake to treat the unconscious Avenger. Iron Man calls Don Blake, and is visited by the Wasp, only to have her place a device on him that freezes his armor. She reveals herself to be the shape-changing Mystique of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who is working with Rogue, radioing her with orders to attack the Avengers.

She starts by attacking Dr. Don Blake, just after he has transformed from his alter ego of Thor. Before she can use her powers on Blake, she’s attacked by Spider-Woman, whose powers she can’t steal because her costume covers her entire body. Blake transforms back to Thor, grabbing Rogue, which is a mistake as she grabs his bare face and arms, draining his considerable power. The Avengers join Spider-Woman’s attack, and Rogue uses Thor as a shield to incapacitate the Vision, who’s immune to her power, but discovers that Womnder Man is also immune due to the type of energy that powers him. Throwing him against a dumpster, Rogue flies off.

Spider-Woman briefs the Avengers on Ms. Marvel’s condition and the Scarlet Witch relays the story of the last time they saw her. Ms. Marvel found herself with a rapidly accelerated pregnancy, giving birth to an aging, brilliant child named Marcus, the son of Immortus, who had abducted Ms. Marvel, wooed her and used her to escape from Limbo. His presence caused a problem with time, but a machine he was building would fix the problem. The Avengers suspected Marcus was hiding something and destroyed the machine. Marcus had to return to Limbo and Ms. Marvel volunteered to join him.

The Avengers track Rogue to Ryker’s Island where the captured members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are incarcerated. Rogue throws the incapacitated Iron Man into the power generator that inhibits many of the villains’ powers, allowing the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to escape. Mystique gives them their costumes and equipment, just as the Avengers arrive to attempt to stop their escape. The Brotherhood make good use of  the powers in concert with Destiny’s precognition, enabling them to take the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man out of the action. The Avengers make some stride but find Beast, the Vision and Hawkeye taken out as well.

Mystique attempts to disguise herself as Nick Fury in order to keep Spider-Woman from freeing Iron Man, but fails. With Iron Man joining the battle, Rogue quickly discovers that the powers she’s stolen from Captain America and Thor are fading fast. The Scarlet Witch revives and turns the tide for the Avengers, with Mystique and Rogue fleeing. The remaining members of the Brotherhood are recaptured.

The Avengers go to Xavier’s School to check on Carol Danvers. She erupts at them, even slapping Thor. She explains that she didn’t go with Marcus of her own free will, and the Avenger should have known by Marcus’s own description of  how he won her over “with a subtle boost from Immortus’ Machines.” After the Avengers are suitably chastised, They leave Carol to pick up the pieces of her life, but with the Avengers feeling horrible, especially the Scarlet Witch, who postulates that it could have been her Marcus chose instead of Carol.

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REVIEW:

Chris Claremont’s writing is impeccable and flows from scene to scene fluently. The final scene is the strongest and points out the major flaw in the ending to Avengers #200. The fact that this issue is talked about for the introduction of Rogue misses that this is a classic issue that points out the classic Marvel storytelling of an instance of the heroes losing even when they seem to be winning. This was just as John Byrne left the X-Men, and Chris Claremont was crafting some of the best stories of his career. I count this up there among them.

The artwork by Michael Golden is simply amazing, with the mundane, quiet scenes looking as exceptional as the fantastic splash page of Scarlet Witch battling Pyro’s flame dragon. The flat colors of the early 1980s do nothing to hinder it, and I imagine that not much could be improved by using Photoshop on this. That’s how great Michael Golden’s art is. The characters are consistently drawn, although looking at his Rogue, one has to wonder at what point it was decided she was a teenager at the time of this story. None of her background is given, but this story is so full of characters and back story that you can’t blame anyone for not giving Rogue’s origin in this comic.

Usually key back issues aren’t well crafted, but this one is, from the shot of Spider-Woman saving Carol Danvers to the Avengers flying off into the sunset, it looks gorgeous and works so well. It’s a shame that it hasn’t seen more reprinting since first seeing print.

The only thing keeping this from getting a ten-star review is the atrocious cover by Al Milgrom. Seriously, that’s just some bad cover design and artwork there, especially for a comic drawn by Michael Golden.

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NOTES:

This issue has been collected in Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men #7 (ISBN #0785135138). An Avengers Annual in an X-Men collection, that’s how important this book is to the X-Men’s history. The ramifications of this story carried forth through the next twenty years of stories featuring Rogue.

An affordable reading copy might be located for a few dollars. If you want a Near Mint copy, expect to drop a few twenties. Searching on eBay, there are a ton of these for sale, with varying price points, so do your shopping.

FINAL RATING: 9.5 (out of a possible 10)