Wednesday, March 28, 2012
X-amining Avengers Annual #10
In a Nutshell
The first appearance of Rogue.
Writer/Co-Editor: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Michael Golden
Inker: Armando Gil
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: M. Golden
Co-Editor: David Anthony Kraft
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
In San Fransisco, Spider-Woman rescues an unconscious woman falling from the Golden Gate bridge. Taking her to the hospital, she is identified as Carol Danvers, the former Avenger known as Ms. Marvel, but her mind has been wiped clean, essentially functioning at the level of a newborn. The doctors are mystified, but Spider-Woman puts in a call to Professor X. Arriving in San Fransisco, he confirms that Carol's mind was completely and forcibly erased, though he manages to pull a name and image of her assailant from her subconscious: a woman named Rogue.
Spider-Woman goes to New York to question the Avengers about Carol, but arrives just as Rogue attacks the team, stealing Captain America and Thor's powers and adding them to the ones she permanently stole from Ms. Marvel, before flying off. At the same time, at Stark International headquarters, Iron Man is attacked by Mystique, who uses a device to immobilize his armor. At Avengers Mansion, Spider-Woman tells the surprised Avengers about Carol's condition; when last they saw Carol, they believed she had left to live happily in Limbo with a former Avengers foe, Marcus Immortus, whom she professed to love. That night, Mystique and Rogue free the rest of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from Rikers Island prison by dropping the paralyzed Iron Man on a power generator, cutting power to the building.
The Avengers, who have been tracking Rogue's energy signature, respond, and a battle breaks out between the two groups. The Brotherhood holds their own until the power Rogue absorbed from Captain America and Thor begins to fade and Iron Man recovers, at which point Mystique and Rogue flee, leaving the rest of the Brotherhood to be recaptured by the Avengers. A few weeks later, the Avengers arrive at the X-Mansion where Carol has been staying while Professor X helps her recover her memories, though she tells the Avengers she still has a ways to go. She explains that Marcus Immortus used mind control to make her love him, and that once she escaped and returned to Earth, she stayed away from the Avengers, feeling betrayed. Carol admonishes them for standing by as Immortus controlled her, and they apologize, vowing to do better.
Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is the first appearance of Rogue. Though she debuts here as a villainous member of Mystique's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and will continue in that role for a few years, she will eventually join and become a mainstay of the X-Men, and thanks to her continual role in the various cross-media X-Men projects, like the cartoons and movies, is one of the better known X-Men characters amongst the general public.
Though later stories will consistently portray Rogue as being a late teens/early twenties-something Southern belle (even before she becomes an out-and-out sexpot under Jim Lee), here she skews quite a bit older (though the pseudo-phonetic Southern accent is there, including her propensity for calling people "sugar"), and her connection to Mystique is more or less non-existent (Mystique simply refers to Rogue as her protege).
Ms. Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, is rendered powerless in this issue, as a result of an unseen attack by Rogue just prior to the opening of the issue, in which Rogue permanently absorbed Ms. Marvel's flight, super strength and invulnerability, as well as her memories. Though Professor X is eventually able to restore Ms. Marvel's memories, he is unable to restore her emotional connections to those memories, a condition which exists to this day. This confrontation will come to define both of these characters for some time to come, and the depowered Carol Danvers will, following this issue, become a supporting character in X-Men for a time.
Though the fight between the women goes unseen, it was originally planned to occur in the final two issue of Ms. Marvel's solo series, scripted by Claremont. But the title was canceled before the issues saw print, and Carol ended up joining the Avengers for a time. Once she was written out of that book, Claremont used this annual as a means to regain control over the character, picking up Carol's story from where he left it (despite those issues never being published) and allowing him to bring her over to X-Men. Eventually, the unpublished Ms. Marvel issues were printed in Marvel Super-Heroes #10-11 in 1992, and they are included in the Essential Ms. Marvel collection.
Michael Golden provides the art for this issue. Best known for his runs on Micronauts and The 'Nam, Golden never quite made a huge name for himself, working on lots of small projects but never establishing himself with a lengthy, definitive run on a title, though his detailed and more realistic style would be an influence on later artists such as Art Adams.
The new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants make their second appearance, with the members captured at the end of "Days of Future Past" freed from prison by Rogue and Mystique before getting recaptured.
The impetus for this issue, as discussed below, is largely Chris Claremont's reaction to an earlier story in Avengers #197-200, during which Ms. Marvel mysteriously becomes pregnant, gives birth in record time to a rapidly-growing child who eventually is revealed to be a form of sometimes Avengers foe/ally and lord of the extra-dimensional Limbo, Marcus Immortus, who kidnapped Carol to Limbo and seduced her in order to be born into the Avengers reality. Eventually forced back into Limbo, Ms. Marvel chooses to accompany Immortus, and the Avengers happily wish them well. Claremont believes that Carol was essentially raped by Immortus in that story (he used his devices to subtly influence her into loving him) and that the Avengers were cads for standing by and not questioning why Carol was so in love with Immortus, and uses this issue to give Carol an opportunity to tell the Avengers as much.
In the beginning of this issue, there is a small girl at the hospital who is named Maddie Pryor. As Claremont will later appropriate that name for a character meant initially to be a coincidental Jean Grey lookalike and later a clone of Jean-turned super-villain, there's has been much speculation through the years that this Maddie Pryor is somehow related to the later Maddie Pryor. However, as detailed here, Claremont simply re-used the name, as it is the name of the lead singer of one of his favorite bands, Steeleye Span (a later appearance of this child as a manifestation of the adult Maddie's inner child in X-Men #238 was meant by Claremont to be an in-joke, referencing the fan speculation regarding these two characters) .
For what it's worth, this annual occurs between issues #209 and #210 of Avengers, just before a big membership shake-up which occurs in issue #211, and Spider-Woman appears between issues #40 and #41 of her book.
A Work in Progress
When Spider-Woman contacts Professor X, the X-Men are, you guessed it, repairing the Danger Room due to the damage caused by the N'Garai attack in issue #143.
Kitty and Nightcrawler work together to repair a power relay in the Danger Room, a further indication of Kitty's technical prowess.
Lt. Sabrina Morrell, a supporting character from Spider-Woman's book, is investigating the attack on Carol Danvers.
One of the skulls on Mystique's belt is a radio.
Upon seeing Mystique's true form, Spider-Woman wonders if there's a connection between her and Nightcrawler.
Iron Man mentions that the plane Mystique is using, and that she somehow has access to sophisticated weaponry, a hint at Mystique's secret identity of Raven Darkholme, who works for the Department of Defense.
I Love the 80s
That's quite the resume for a 29-year-old.
Try to contain your surprise there Hawkeye...
With a dry cool wit like that, Scarlet Witch could be an action hero.
Expressing his affinity for aircraft, a narrative caption specifies that the X-Men's jet is a hyper-sonic, modified SR-71 Blackbird.
Great cover on this one. One of those classic "look what happens inside!" covers you don't see very often anymore.
Golden turns in a fantastic splash page depicting Scarlet Witch transforming Pyro's fire creations to stone.
Mystique refers to Destiny as her "beloved friend".
Chris Claremont on writing strong women
"The women in my family tend to be very strong, or self-reliant. Capable. My mother was a sergeant in the Women's Royal Air Force during the war, was strafed a number of times, was continually being busted back from sergeant to private for fraternizing with Americans, and getting promoted back to sergeant because she was good at her job. You could probably trace my head back a number of years and find a point from which this all comes. And in terms of my writing there was a moment I think when I made a conscious decision by looking around seeing how few people were portraying heroic rational sensible women in books and comics. I thought, "I'll fill that vacuum - since no one else is doing it, I'll give it a try." Because in a sense I wondered in the ultimate kind of fiction, science fiction, could I put myself in the head of this being who was totally unlike me?"
"Women tend to get very short shrift in comics. They are either portrayed as wallflowers or as super-macho insensitive men with different body forms, who almost invariably feel guilty about their lack of femininity. And it's always seemed to me that, why does this have to be exclusive? Can you not have a woman who is ruthless and capable and courageous and articulate and intelligent and all the other buzzwords - heroic when the need arises, and yet feminine and gentle and compassionate, at others? That was what I tried to do with Ms. Marvel. I tried to create a character who had all the attributes that made her a top secret agent yet at the same time was a compassionate, warm, humorous, witty, intelligent, attractive woman."
Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p23-24
Claremont's reaction to the Ms. Marvel story in Avengers #197-200
"Avengers #199, where Carol Danvers is introduced to the Avengers, and they're told that in two days she has become eight months pregnant by an unknown father, or by force of persons unknown, and the reaction of the entire crowd, men and women both, is to the effect of "Can I babysit?" "Can we knit booties?" "Can I make cookies for the baby?" "Oh, you must be so happy?" and my reaction was, "What an insensitive crowd of boors." Actually, my reaction was a lot stronger than that. But how callous! How cruel! How unfeeling! Considering that these people must have seen Ms. Marvel only a couple days before, or even a couple months before. She wasn't pregnant then. How could she be eight months pregnant now? Now, if that had been the point David [Michelinie, the writer of the story] was trying to make, that these other Avengers are callous boors, okay then, I may disagree with the point, but if he followed through on it, it would have made sense. But it seemed to me, looking at the story, looking at the following story, that he was going for: "This is how you respond to a pregnancy."
Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p23
Though it ostensibly stars the Avengers and the X-Men make only brief appearances, this is a quintessential Claremont comic (so much so that he chose to include in Marvel's Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremont hardcover collection). A decidedly feminist story, it is written both in defense of one of the characters Claremont has always felt protective of, Ms. Marvel, and to take to task the creators who crafted a story in which the Avengers stand by and applaud while she is essentially raped. The closing pages, in which Ms. Marvel berates her fellow Avengers, is Claremont more or less speaking directly to his colleagues involved in the execution of Avengers #197-200. In addition to expressing his dissatisfaction with that story, this issue also features, alongside Ms. Marvel and the X-Men, Spider-Woman, making it the trifecta of Claremont's late 70s/early 80s characters.
But even putting aside the personal, feminist perspective that could have only come from Claremont at the time, this issue is also a Claremontian classic because it is a rollicking good superhero story. At its center is a fantastic fight sequence, brilliantly rendered by Michael Golden, in which the Avengers go toe-to-toe with the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and their newest member, Rogue (Mystique using an incapacitated Iron Man as a bomb to free the rest of the Brotherhood is pretty brilliant, and one of my favorite moments of the issue). Though she will linger on the sidelines as a villain for a bit, in Rogue Claremont will eventually give to comics another strong, powerful, independent woman, one who continues to this day to be a integral part of the X-Men franchise. That alone is probably enough to make Claremont proud. That her debut issue is so enjoyable is all the better.
Next Issue: Uncanny X-Men #150
Magneto returns for the X-Men's sesquicentennial issue!