Sunday, January 3, 2016

Avengers Versus JLA - What If?

The story for the mighty clash between The Avengers and The Justice League of America scheduled for 1983 (gathered together for he first time in 2004's Avengers / JLA Compendium) offered up a story which was exceedingly familiar to fans of team books. Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas lifted from the annals of both the Marvel and DC universes two similar villains, two time-traveling baddies of reasonable experience.

Kang the Conqueror created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had first crossed swords with The Avengers as early as 1964 and had been a perennial villain for the team since, appearing often before 1983.

The Lord of Time created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky had first battled The JLA in 1962 and was a less frequent antagonist, never acquiring the status of Kang. Nonetheless, he was a nice foil for this story.

(Below are twelve of the twenty-one penciled pages for the story assembled from the bowels of the internet, in order with a summary of the story-to-be.)

The tale as drawn by George Perez begins when Kang travels back to the very beginning of time in his ship.

There he finds the "Macguffin" of this story, an "Chronal Egg" from which will hatch all the timelines of the Marvel Universe as well as those of the DC Universe.  And for that reason the Lord of Time also wants the egg.

The two villains discuss the matter but Kang then does something which creates a temporal crisis.

The action cuts to the Avengers Mansion where Hawkeye gets a late-night snack much to the surprise of Jarvis and Starfox (Eros the brother of Thanos the Mad Titan) is ruminating in the garden. Then suddenly he's surprised.

The startled Avengers assemble (Beast, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, and the aforementioned Hawkeye) slightly and rush to the garden to find Starfox at the feet of Kang. They swiftly defeat Kang, who seems to put up little effort, and then he tells them he needs their help to save the Universe.

So the Avengers assemble well and truly with Vision and Scarlet Witch showing up to joint the others including the Wasp, Thor and Iron Man.

The Hercules with Captain America, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), and Quicksilver join the gang.

Meanwhile the Lord of Time has visited The Justice League in their satellite headquarters and related a similar story. Members present are Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Red Tornado, Elongated Man, Zatanna, and Firestorm.

The League calls in other members (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Atom, and Aquaman) and they then sit to hear the details of the threat they must face.

Both Kang and the Lord of Time tell similar but slightly different stories about how the Time Egg splintered and must be recovered and according to each another villain has sent his fellow baddies through time to collect up these splintered parts. These yarns motivate both teams to divide into sub-teams and travel through time to various locations and periods to retrieve the egg fragments and defeat the "villains" sent to get them for the other side.

The first (and only) clash we see results when Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, and Starfox travel to the fields of France during World War I and confront Batman, Zatanna, and Hawkman. The battle between Starfox and Hawkman is ferocious but Starfox wins by dint of his greater Titanian strength. The Scarlet Witch is able to defeat Zatanna.

That leaves only Batman and Cap who are in a true face-off between physical equals. Bats throws a smoke bomb to gain advantage, but when the smoke clears he finds that he is now alone against a trio of Avengers.

And that's that.

The story sounds a lot like what would unfold in the soon-to-be Crisis on Infinite Earths which would make a fine puree the DCU some years hence.

I'm also reminded of the vintage All-Winners Squad debut adventure which had the Squad travel to different time periods to battle ISBISA. (Ice, Stone, Bronze, Iron, Steel, and Atomic ages respectively to make up his weirdo name).

The format of the tale is pretty standard for a team comic as originated in the earliest example of the form - The Justice Society of America, a network of small battles before the finale conflict.

It's a shame we didn't get this story at the time. It seems to be a humdinger and Perez's artwork really seem to be top notch. But then we might not have gotten the epic we did in 2003, and that's a story for next week.

Until then.

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  1. I think its impact would've been much greater had it come out at the time. Perez was at the height of his popularity and talent and was the dream artist for a dream project. The pretext of the battle and various other details seem like a direct rip-off of the Avengers/Defenders War by Steve Englehart. I don't think I can recall Conway ever coming up with an original idea, but I guess his friend Roy Thomas would've helped make it all work well.

    1. I don't think I'd be that harsh on Conway, but I have to agree the story is very much like "The Clash".

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