Sunday, September 18, 2016
Go West Young Kang!
The Avengers #142 is one of my all-time favorite comics. It showcases Marvel's western heroes alongside the Avengers. And it's all thanks to that wily Kang the Conqueror yet again.
The story actually begins in the previous issue when the Avengers are still in the process of reassembling the team after the tumultuous events of the Celestial Madonna yarn. Since those events The Beast had joined their ranks and Moondragon had stayed around to tutor Thor on his responsibilities as a god among men. The Yellowjacket and the Wasp are recovering from wounds suffered in previous battles. A mysterious woman is seeking the Beast and just missing him. The Avengers come up against the Roxxon Corporation which had been bedeviling Cap in his Nomad role in his own book and this time they find the Squadron Supreme battling on their behalf. Also Immortus pops back up as does Kang and Thor and Moondragon chase after him ending up in the Old West where they encounter some of Marvel's oldest stars.
Thor and Moondragon meet Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Ringo Kid, Ghost Rider (now called Night Rider) and Two-Gun Kid. The latter operated out of Tombstone and his town has been besieged by the minions of Kang of Conqueror. The cowboys were trying to find a way to battle the threat when they find godly help. They also find Hawkeye who a few issues before had left the team and headed out on his own mission which led him to Doc Doom's time machine which spirited him to the Old West where he had been working with the cowboy stars to contest Kang. While the other Avengers cool their heels in the clutches of Roxxon, this trio help the western heroes rob a train controlled by Kang's minions and they succeed.
Next in issue #143 the western trio lead an assault on Kang's outpost castle and with the help of some clever disguises make their way into his inner sanctum. As usual Kang is confident he has the upper hand and as usual he is wrong.
He unleashes a monster derived from a Gila Monster and while Hawkeye, Moondragon and Two-Gun Kid battle it a mysterious stranger sneaks up on Kang who turns out to be Donald Blake, the secret identity of Thor who transforms and knocks Kang for a loop. The battle rages and Kang becomes ever more desperate until finally in an attempt to defeat the enraged Thor he ends up dissolving himself into the winds of time itself. Immortus appears and says that with the reduction of Kang to atoms the time circle which linked Rama-Tut, Kang and himself has been broken and all of them now cease to exist. It sounds hinky even as he says it, but it appears that for now at least the nigh ubiquitous Kang threat is over...for a time.
To close things out, with the defeat of Kang the story shifts back to the modern-day Avengers and their battle with Roxxon and the Squadron Supreme. They have been joined in their efforts by Patsy Walker, an old acquaintance of the Beast and something of a superhero groupie. Her husband Buzz works for Roxxon and seems intent on letting his wife get killed if that's how it goes. While battling within the walls of Roxxon the Avengers find an old costume which once belonged to The Cat (since then having become Tigra) and Patsy dons it, filling it out nicely in all respects. The newly dubbed "Hellcat" joins up with out heroes just in time to travel with them to the alternate-Earth of the Squadron Supreme.
After a few fill-in issues in The Avengers #147 we discover it is the Serpent Crown which has empowered the Roxxon Corporation and which has seized control of the president of the Alternate Squadron Earth. The Avengers fight to take and keep possession of the charmed crown but even as they do so it fights to overwhelm their wills, especially that of the Scarlet Witch who is even more powerful than she's been.
The Squadron and the Avengers fight in the streets to keep control of the crown. The Squadron here lives up to its JLofA inspiration with a satellite headquarters and lots of members who echo some famous DC stars.
Meanwhile Thor, Moondragon and Hawkeye return to the modern world and bring with them Two-Gun Kid. He and Hawkeye decide to team up and explore the modern West. The Avengers defeat the Squadron and the forces of the evil President Rockefeller and return to their Earth.
The Avengers reassemble in issue #149 and battle the Roxxon Corporation one final time, putting down their secret weapon the undersea threat of Orka. With the team finally returned to full strength and the immediate threat quelled, they realize it's finally time to change up the line up. New members will be joining for sure.
And as it turns out it's the effective end of Steve Englehart's run as well on the team, this time. He and George Perez along with the inks of Vince Colletta (indifferent on Perez) and Sam Grainger (great on Perez) have crafted some grand stories, some really exciting spectacles, though admittedly the deadlines had gotten in the way more than a few times. Perez will become to many the definitive artist for the team, and Englehart will travel to DC to work his magic on the Justice League of America. We even get to see a glimpse (of sorts) of the Celsestial Madonna. Comics were big fun in the Bronze Age, even if the craftsmanship and professionalism took a back seat at moments.
And now here are some key comics featuring the cowboys who help defeat the Conqueror in these issues.
Marvel really had a knack for blending in all its history during the Bronze Age. Using time travel stories like this one to give new life to classic heroes of a different time and place.
And that's that folks, for Kang...from now.