The following are the latest mildew casualties from my collection:
Avengers #62 (Mar. 1969, reprint). “The Monarch and the Man-Ape!” Grade: A. I don’t usually discuss the art as much as the writing, but it is clearly John Buscema who brings power and grandeur to Roy Thomas’ tale of a guy wearing an ape suit kicking the Black Panther’s butt.
Avengers #71 (Dec. 1969, reprint). “Endgame” Grade: B. So many epic-worthy ideas crammed into this issue, like a novelist’s notes, without ever being finished into something that works. Yellowjacket holding his own against Sub-Mariner? Black Knight knocking out Kang in one hit? Roy Thomas has a strange grasp of the relative power levels, or else he was just really swamped with editing work at the time and had to crank this out in a hurry.
Avengers #166 (Dec. 1977). “Day of the Godslayer” Grade: A. It may have been impossible to live up to the promise of part one as super-Count Nefaria mauled the Avengers like crazy. As fun as it is to see a villain able to duke it out one-on-one with Thor, the way the Vision beat him seemed like a cop-out to wrap up the story quickly. The art looks a little rushed too. Busy month for the inker?
Avengers #170 (Apr. 1978). “…Though H--- Should Bar the Way.” Grade: B+. Possibly the slowest lead-in to an Ultron two-parter ever. Jocasta is inexplicably powerful compared to later appearances, but the effort to stop her is practically buried under a bunch of sub-plots.
Avengers #171 (May 1978). “…Where Angels Fear to Tread.” Grade: A-. The best part here is Thor talking about how he feels about the Catholic Church and God, which was almost never touched on in his own comic. The worst part is how Ms. Marvel is forced in the story as an obvious bit of cross-promotion. The fight against Ultron is okay, but has been done better before and since.
Avengers Annual #9 (1978). “…Today the Avengers Die!” Grade: A++. My copy is in tatters because I literally wore it out by re-reading it as I grew up. Bill Mantlo was never too successful with ongoing series, but he could write fill-in issues better than anyone else in the business. Don Newton draws the Avengers fantastically, as he would a few more times in the ongoing series before his untimely demise. Best of all is Arsenal, a robot menace who's powerful, mysterious, and personal for the Avengers -- Ultron done right! I must have subconsciously learned from Mantlo when it comes to writing superheroes. When I wrote “The Last Fantastic Four Story,” I paced it much the same way, keeping the strongest hero busy rescuing someone else to give the weaker heroes time to shine until the strongest hero returns for the grand finale. Superb.
Avengers #173 (July 1978). “Threshold of Oblivion” Grade: B+. I never read the whole “Korvac saga” and these issues didn’t make me want to. It’s hard for me to get excited about a villain who hangs around the house all day in his robe, gloating because no one has noticed him. The best stuff here is Jim Shooter riffing on Tony Isabella’s Champions book and some delightful interplay between Hercules and the Black Widow, as well as some Dr. Who references at the end. This is also around the time when George Perez started doing all the covers for the Avengers, even when he was not the artist inside. They look great and gave the book more consistency, at least on the outside.
Avengers #174 (Aug. 1978). “Captives of the Collector” Grade: B. Uh-huh. The Collector takes down every Avenger there ever was, but gets beat by Hawkeye. More of that silly Korvac stuff stuff. At least he’s moved from his robe to a T-shirt now. Still, the Collector is a great villain that always lets a writer get inventive.
Avengers #181 (Mar. 1979). “On the Matter of Heroes” Grade: A++. David Micheline’s stellar stint on the Avengers has begun. John Byrne’s artwork is top notch and lovingly embellished by Dan Green. The then-new character Peter Gyrich is a scream and (again, then) highly original. And what a cliffhanger ending!
Avengers #182 (Apr. 1979). “Honor Thy Father” Grade: A+. It bothers me a little that such veteran superheroes were fooled so long by rather obvious illusions, but this is a perfectly-paced story and such a treat to see Klaus Janson inking John Byrne’s art.