Friday, June 17, 2005

THE AVENGERS vol 3 #56 Marvel Comics, 2002

The Avengers vol 3 #56 was the end of writer Kurt Busiek's epic 56 issue run (give or take an issue) on the book. Busiek and Perez relaunched and revitalized Earth's Mightiest Heroes back in 1997 and created some of the best damn Avengers comics ever during their time on the book. In my mind, the true climax of Busiek and Perez's run came with their JLA/Avengers mini-series, aka Fanboy Nirvana, but this is the true chronological end of the era. After that it was Geoff Johns turn on the book, and we got Hank Pym doing some flesh spelunking and ultimately, Avengers Disassembled.

This issue is sort of a low-key coda to the Busiek/Perez era, because instead of going out with a big epic battle against impossible odds, instead of ending on a high note, we get... sniff sniff... what's that smell? I smell an inventory issue! Unless I'm totally high, this is one of those one-shot issues that editors keep on tap that they can just drop into their publishing schedule as need be. In this case I'm guessing that Geoff Johns and Kieron Dwyer, the next creative team, needed some breathing room so editor Tom Brevoort just plopped this story into the mix. Don't get me wrong, I actually dig this comic, but it's just sort of an anti-climactic end to such a great run of comics.

In Avengers #56, a team of ad hoc Avengers must meet with accountants from the Maria Stark Foundation, the organization that bankrolls them, to justify their expenses on a recent mission. Here, the accountant will explain everything:

The accountant thing is a neat idea and serves as a narrative device that allows each Avenger present to tell the story of a battle against The Elements of Doom in a series of interviews. Each character narrates a little bit of the battle and interacts with the suits. And yes, hilarity ensues as the white-collar world of the accountants meets the fantastic world of our heroes.

Being an inventory issue, Busiek is careful not to screw with continuity and tells a one-issue story about a mission featuring an ad hoc team of active and inactive Avengers - She-Hulk, USAgent (ugh), Thor, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Cap, Wonder Man, Silver Claw, and the plush doll version of The Beast from The X-Men. It's a perfect fill-in story because it doesn't screw with the status quo or mess up anything that the next creative team is going to do, but you can kind of tell that it's designed to be non-intrusive, continuity wise. Look, even the cover is generic and sort of timeless, aside from Thor's costume, which is easy enough to change.

I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining, because I do like this issue. Penciller Yanick Paquette, whose Wonder Woman work I really dug, does a great job with inker Ray Snyder on this issue. Some of Snyder's inks have a sure-handed Kevin Nowlan vibe to them, and Paquette goes out of his way to draw She Hulk's butt in this issue, so he gets extra points there.

Plus - the Avengers fight the Elements of Doom in this issue, and that's never a bad thing.

I may be the world's #1 Elements of Doom fan. First appearing in The Avengers #188, the Elements were a bunch of monsters made out of different elements (duh) that were created by a Russian mad scientist type. They later reappeared in Busiek's Thunderbolts and here again in The Avengers #56. They're pretty much just what you would imagine: Chlorine is a gas monster, Plutonium is a radioactive monster, etc.

The Elements of Doom are one of those inevitable comic book ideas that had to happen somewhere - it's one of the things I liked about them so much. Seriously, if they hadn't appeared in a Marvel comic first, Superman would have fought them. Some concepts just have to be turned into super-villain groups, and if you don't do it, darn it, somebody else is just going to beat you to the punch. (See? No Profanity Week is still in effect) They're like DC's Royal Flush Gang. Somebody had to base a bunch of villains on a deck of cards - DC just got there first. Same with The Zodiac. Or The Chessmen from Iron Man. Or the Ani-Men. Or Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew. Okay, I've gone too far now.

Anyway, here's a shot of The Avengers in battle with the Elements of Doom. I know what you're thinking - nice booty on Silverclaw. But isn't she, like, sixteen? I don't know if I'd let her out of the Mansion wearing that if I were Captain America. I mean, I know she's from South America, but still...

As you might imagine, things work out for our heroes. They defeat the Elements of Doom and the accountants. Thor gives them a bag of Asgardian gold to cover any damages. She-Hulk gets all lawyerly on them. Captain America has all the correct forms filled out. And Iron Man owns the darn Maria Stark Foundation, so he can do whatever the heck he wants.

It's a clever issue, and I have to give Busiek props for not making it too cute. Plus, and I never say this, but great lettering by Richard Starkings' crew - it's a pity Marvel doesn't use them anymore. (Do they?) Like I said, I kind of wanted the Busiek era to end with Something Huge, but I'll take what I can get. A Busiek inventory issue is still way better than the stuff that was to follow in the pages of The Avengers. Busiek wins.

Hey, Ric Flair and special guest Vince McMahon - can I get a "wooo" for not using profanity?

Thank you, Mr. Flair. I truly do understand now: "To be The Man you gotta beat The Man."


RobB said...

Is it me or is that cover, I don't know, really cheesy? Like it should be on coloring book, or lunch box or something?

Dave Lartigue said...

That's "His AMAZING Zoo Crew" to you, buddy!

RobB said...

A Busiek inventory issue is still way better than the stuff that was to follow in the pages of The Avengers. Busiek wins.

But doesnt Kurt always win?

David Campbell said...

Yes, except for Power Company.

Kevin Church said...

Oh, Campbell. You went and mentioned Power Company. That comes pretty fucking close to profanity.

gorjus said...

This was a great issue!! I just re-read it the other day and was tickled by it.

Verily, it reminds me of the issue of Action where Superman's lawyer appears, and did any-one ever read the "Damage Control" miniseries? They were a fun "behind the veil" look at the Marvel Universe.

Anonymous said...

Ummm...dude...I hate to break it to you but this installment was not profanity free. You said "Busiek and Perez relaunched and revitalized Earth's Mightiest Heroes back in 1997 and created some of the best damn Avengers comics ever during their time on the book." See a clear use of the word damn and yet later you avoid using it by saying darn, so obviously you consider it profanity, so... I mean I hate to be the one to break this to ya but....

Shon Richards said...

Regarding the use of the word 'damn': If Ric flair taught me one thing it's that if the referee doesn't see it, and the bell rings, then it didn't happen. The decision stands! Go ask for a rematch cause this one is over. WOOOOOO!

David Campbell said...

I agree with Shon, I'm home free! WOOOO!

Daniel E. Renfer said...

no woooo for yoooo

kelvingreen said...

You missed this issue's title "And Lo, There Shall Come An Accounting!"

Old Stan must have laughed his socks of when he read that. If he even reads Marvel comics any more.

I really enjoyed this issue, apart from the disco cover ("Strike a pose!"), and I think they were right to go with a low-key story. Remember, this came immediately after Busiek's 634(or something)-part Kang War story arc, and as Johns showed when he came in with his epic first story that fell flat, readers needed a bit of a rest after the scale of that Kang tale.

Blimey, I really miss the Busiek era. Bendis is starting to turn things around after Disassembled, but it's not a patch on Busiek's stuff.

And hooray! This is the second Long Box entry that I've actually read!
(the first was Bill & Ted)

Kid Hollywood said...

Ok, I didn't read much of this post, but I think the use of the word damn screws you.
Come on, don't front.
Ok people, I want to also call BS on something else, yea, I'm just nit picking my good buddy DC here, but I'm going to point it out anyway.
Check out the post:
and the line "I had to get this comic because look! -somebody defaced the cover with adolescent word balloons! Admit it, it's funny when superheroes swear."
Dave, I would recognize your handwriting anywhere. Especially the double underline, with exclamation point. That is SO YOU. You re-bought that for the same reason you buy most comics. You have too many, and forgot you already had it. And during some chemical induced haze, you probably wrote that and giggle your way into total oblivion. Which, in itself is pretty damn funny I must say. Ok, here is something for you, because I love you.
End of the Universe
Enjoy, I hope you have not heard it.

David Campbell said...

Kid Hollywood has totally busted me. Yes, it was I who defaced my West Coast Avengers comic, it was I who wrote the "Fuck you!" and "No, fuck you!" word balloons, it was I who sold out my childhood for the sake of a cheap gag. What better time than No Profanity Week to admit it? What can I say, I thought it was funny.

Kid Hollywood said...


You know what though.
I still laughed my ass off at that cover. That's good comedy my friend.

Oh god, tell me if you have listened to the audio behind that link.


Mark Hale said...

Paquette did some damn fine drawing in the Terra Obscura mini-series (I haven't read the second yet). And, much as I hate to admit to reading Gambit comics, his art there came out snazzy, too.

Geoff Johns Avengers comics SUCKED. I don't care how far you shove Ant-Man up Wasp's hoo-hah, those were crappy comics.


kelvingreen said...

Well said, World Eater Mark.

Geoff Johns and his buddy Chucklin' Chuck Austen should be sent to some frozen penal colony for crimes against Avengers comics.

The Tensor said...

The name "Elements of Doom" just doesn't do it for me. I much prefer "Periodic Table of EEEEEVIL". (BTW, the Elements sound more than a little bit reminiscent of the Metal Men.)

Dan Coyle said...

One thing you can always count on with a Yannick Paquette Comic- lots of gratuitous, good old fashioned T and A. Still did a great job on Terra Obscura and Codename: Knockout, though.

I thought John's first story, with Keiron Dwyer, was just fine. Then the Gary Frank two-parter was just.. first off, he gets Cassie's age totally wrong, and then Scott deals with losing his daughter because he was spending too much time with the Avengers by... joining the Avengers full time. Whatthefudge?

Second, the fights between Jack of Hearts and Ant-Man seemed canned in, and just there because Johns couldn't think of a decent way to set up a conflict on the team, so Jack all of a sudden thought Ant-Man was just riding Pym's coattails.

As for Austen...just a disaster. The interview at where he takes a couple of cheap shots at Busiek- is a pretty good depiction of one of the most relentlessly paranoid, unpleasant comics creators ever to grace the industry with his sloppy scripting.

Brian Cronin said...

I would disagree, David, with your assertion that this was an inventory story.

Yes, it has the FEEL of an inventory story, but I think that was intentional of Busiek.

I think he was GOING for the whole "laid back last issue" feel.

And yes, as Dan said, Johns was decent except he just invented characterizations for the heck of it and Austen invented characterzations AND wrote crappy stories...never a good combination.

Zoot Koomie said...

It is an inventory story. A quick search on "avengers accountant" in Google Groups turns up a post from Busiek saying as much.
What I can't find, but I seem to recall Kurt saying, is that it's a rewrite of the first Avengers story he ever wrote. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
Personally, I thought it made a lovely coda to the mondo Kangfest bringing Avengers back to the sort of small story that I think is Kurt's greatest strength as a writer.

Chris Arndt said...

This was an inventory story?

That's odd because when I read it when it first came out it felt like it was Busiek working really hard to acknowledge all the wierd continuity and costume changes throughout the Avengers membership in the non-Avengers titles in the Marvel Universe.

Thor now possesses the Odin-Power and is King of Asgard. CHECK.

The Beast has now been mutated into a kitty-cat instead of a miscellaneous blue primate creature. CHECK.

Iron Man has revealed his secret identity to the world. CHECK.

I thought, when I first and last read it, that it was some of sort of odd manifesto or announcement... "SEE, CONTINUITY?!:


Busiek worked awfully hard to make an "inventory issue" match up to the times and the other stuff put out in the six-to-four months before it.

kelvingreen said...

Don't forget the sudden hatred for Black Panther everyone "developed" during Johns' run. That baffled the heck out of me, especially since they dropped the footnotes just as Johns came on board.

Johns' first arc was okay, but I can't say I enjoyed anything after that. "Red Zone" was such a spastic bit of writing, and that She-Hulk "story" missed the point on so many levels.
Not quite as bad as Austen, but getting there...

David Campbell said...

Geoff Johns' run on the book wasn't a total disaster, but it seemed like he never clicked with the characters like he does in JSA. The suspicion of Black Panther, the gratuitous Ant-Man/Jack of Hearts feud, the vaginal spelunking... It just didn't work for me. He had a tough act to follow, kind of like the poor bastards who had to go after Morrison on JLA...

Dan Coyle said...

IIRC, issue #56 WAS an inventory least partially. Busiek plotted it years ago, and dusted it off and scripted it for current continuity.

Brian Cronin said...

Clever...I like it.

What a neat way to end out the series.

Taking the first Avengers script he ever wrote and re-doing it, only updated.

Quite a neat idea.

Augie De Blieck Jr. said...

Richard Starkings and Comicraft do still work for Marvel. Digital Calligraphy isn't quite large enough to handle ALL of Marvel's monthly titles, so Starkings does the rest, basically. It's not many, but there are a few out there.

David Campbell said...

Thanks A-Bomb - I'm going to start calling you that now - I think Starkings and Co. do good work. If you must computer letter a book, it may as well be done well...

Augie De Blieck Jr. said...

I like Comicraft's stuff, too, but in limited doses. After awhile it all looks so much alike, particularly their design work.

And "A-Bomb" is fine by me. Someone else has taken to calling me "Bloggie De Blieck," but either way is cool. =)

I'll always be the lettering geek on the blogosphere. . .

JamesMallone said...

This was actually the first issue of Avengers I read (it was my brother who wanted to start buying it, but I ultimately became a fan) I later scooped up every Busiek Avenger story I could find, through tradepaperbacks and a few odd back issues during one of my local store's infamous 50% off back issue sales. Loved Busiek's run, he quickly became in the running for my favourite comic writer ever.

A note on Silverclaw though; according to Jarvis in her second appearance (the one where they go after Moses Magnum, boy was he a lame villain), she's older than Firestar. So I figure she's gotta be a bit older than 15.

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