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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

X-amining "Acts of Vengeance" Part 1

Avengers Spotlight #26, Avengers #311, Thor #411
December 1989

In a Nutshell 
Loki launches his opening salvo and the New Warriors make their first appearance. 

Avengers Spotlight #26 by Dwayne McDuffie & Dwyane Turner
Avengers #311 by John Byrne, Paul Ryan, and Tom Palmer
Thor #411 by Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz (words, pictures, plot) and Joe Sinnot (finishes).
(for full credits on each issue, please visit the GCD)

Plot
Avengers Spotlight #26: The Wizard is transferred to the high security super-villain prison the Vault, but after a strange man in a suit appears in his cell, the Wizard suddenly escapes, in full possession of his gear. Battling the armored Guardsmen, he frees the other prisoners, triggering a breakout as the guards calls for backup. Iron Man and Hawkeye respond to the distress call, and together, they get the Guardsmen out and, using an EMP arrow, seal off the prison, preventing at least a few of the prisoners from escaping. Avengers #311: Quasar arrives on Hydro-Base, the artificial island home of Avengers Mansion, amidst reports from the support staff of superheroes all over the country getting caught up in fights against foes they've never faced before. Elsewhere, the suited man watches from afar, then meets with Dr. Doom and the Mandarin, pretending to be their servant as Doom announces that his part in their plan is about to commence.


Suddenly, a force of Doombots attacks Hydro-Base, puncturing holes in the floatation apparatus. Quasar leads the staff in defense of the island and they manage to drive off the Doombots, but not before the robots plant a bomb near the fuel tanks which, when it explodes, sounds the death knell for the island. Quasar is able to get the staff to safety, but can do nothing to prevent Avengers Mansion from sinking into the sea. Thor #411: Loki, unable to locate Thor in his secret identity, frees Juggernaut from prison and deposits him in New York to lure out his brother. Thor does his best to defend the city from Juggernaut, but is wracked by seizures, weakening him. Meanwhile, their battle draws the attention of a Richard Rider, who issues a call to action to a group of teens. At the Long Island Railyard, Juggernaut overwhelms Thor, and is poised to strike a killing blow when a group of heroes intervene: the New Warriors. 

Firsts and Other Notables
After the mostly-linewide and X-Men-centric "Inferno" crossover the previous summer (and to a lesser extent "Fall of Mutants" and "Mutant Massacre" in the prior two years), Marvel handed the reigns of their next big crossover to the Avengers, crafting a loose narrative in which Loki attempts to takedown the Avengers (whom he inadvertently helped form) by manipulating Earth's villains, the end result of which was mostly a lot of tie-in issues built around the (admittedly fun) idea of heroes facing off against villains they didn't usually fight, giving this issue the largest scope yet, in terms of series involved, of any Marvel crossover yet. 

Arguably the most notable event in this batch of issues is the first appearance of the New Warriors in Thor #411. A group of teenaged superheroes, some new, some existing (including former peripheral X-character Firestar), the New Warriors would soon receive their own series which would last through most of the 90s, and would, in various incarnations, remain a presence in the Marvel Universe to this day (most notably serving as the accidental impetus for the events of "Civil War"). Being a group of 90sfied superpowered teens (and given the history of one of their members), the New Warriors will, on occasion, also end up crossing over and interacting with the New Mutants, especially once transition into X-Force (and both titles are being written by the same author), so "Acts" won't be the last X-aminations sees of the group. 


Most of the New Warriors who appear in this issue (Nova, Firestar, Marvel Boy, Speedball and Namorita) made previous appearances in earlier comics, but Thor #411 is the first appearance of New Warriors leader Night Thrasher, and his associates Chord and Tai, both of whom will feature in the eventual New Warriors regular series as well.


The opening salvo of "Acts of Vengeance" occurs in Avengers Spotlight #26, as Loki orchestrates a breakout at the Vault, the special prison designed to hold super-villains, thereby creating a convenient excuse for all the super-villains popping up in the various tie-in comics.


The next big event occurs in Avengers #311, as a group of Doombots sink Hydro-Base, the artificial island on which Avengers Mansion was relocated following the "Under Siege" storyline (in which the Masters of Evil took control of the mansion). The island takes the mansion down with it, destroying it for the first time. A Watcher from an alternate reality will eventually restore it, but first, the Avengers will go headquarters-less for about a dozen issues, before a new Avengers Compound is built, which serves as their HQ throughout the early 90s.


Avengers #311 also establishes that the overall plan of "Acts of Vengeance", with Loki having, between issues, organized a group of the more significant villains in the Marvel Universe, dubbed the Prime Movers (though not in this issue, nor do we know it's Loki yet), into acting together against the world's heroes, with Loki concealing his identity and posing as a suit-clad lackey, convincing each of the villains that he is the true leader of the Cabal. As of this issue, we see Dr. Doom and the Mandarin as members of the Prime Movers.


Shortly before"Acts", following the reunification of the team as seen during "Inferno", Captain America had created a support staff for Avengers Mansion, comprised of assorted supporting characters culled from the various Avengers titles (including current TV star Peggy Carter). With the regular Avengers all caught up in other battles, the support staff, get the spotlight in Avengers #311.


They are joined by Quasar (who is basically Marvel's Green Lantern), a minor character who had been hanging around on the fringes of the Marvel Universe for years but who at the time was receiving a big push from Marvel, having recently joined the Avengers and received his own title.

At the time of "Acts", John Byrne was writing both Avengers titles, having recently returned to the company following his reboot of Superman in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, though he doesn't stay on the titles too long after this storyline.

Thor at this time is residing within the body of architect Eric Masterson, transforming back and forth as with Don Blake in the 60s, a condition of which Loki is unaware, making it difficult for Loki to locate him when he's just Masterson. Thor is also suffering from random seizures (I forget what that's all about) and is living with Hercules, in his Harry Cleese identity.

A Work in Progress
Much of Avengers Spotlight #26 is informed by "Stark Wars", the classic Iron Man story in which Tony Stark went around reclaiming or destroying technology created using his inventions without his permission, including the armor of the Guardsmen at the Vault. It's noted in this issue that the Guardsmen's new armor was provided by Stane International, Stark's competitor, and is inferior to the original armor.  

When Iron Man enters the Vault to help with the breakout, he also (understandably) gets a lot of guff from the guards and Hawkeye, having caused the last breakout at the prison when reclaiming his tech. At the time, Stark told everyone that the guy inside the Iron Man suit during "Stark Wars" was fired, but anyone who knows the truth about Iron Man (like Hawkeye) knows that's BS. Stark was also paralyzed at this time, though Hawkeye clearly believes that's a ruse as well.


Hawkeye's hearing aids (which he acquired after going deaf battling Crossfire in his original limited series) are damaged by the EMP arrow he fires at the end of Spotlight #26, a rare recognition of his handicap.

In Avengers #311, the support staff notes multiple reports of Avengers being caught up in battles with uncommon foes.


Juggernaut is released from Crossmoor Prison in Thor #411, which is where he was left the last time he appeared, in Excalibur #3.


Thor notes that Juggernaut is usually handled by X-characters, but says he's not about to be territorial about it, which is pretty much "Acts of Vengeance" in a nutshell.


Juggernaut references his "personal force field" as the source of his invulnerability, which is one of those elements of his powers which is inconsistently depicted. Here, it's enough to stop Thor's hammer cold.


Juggernaut is also referred to as a mutant, which he of course is not, though it is a common mistake.

The Reference Section
Juggernaut compares Thor to Yankees slugger Don Mattingly, who really needs to trim those sideburns.


It's in the Mail
The results from a series of polls conducted on Avengers readers are displayed in the letters page of Spotlight #26. Of note, at the time there were eight Avengers carrying their own series (charitably including Moon Knight, who was technically a member of the West Coast team, briefly and Hawkeye, who often headlined Avengers Spotlight, but didn't technically have his own series), and Spider-Man easily wins the title of Favorite Candidate for Avengers membership.  


Teebore's Take
"Acts of Vengeance" is an odd crossover. Building on the success of the previous year's "Inferno", it's even faurther reaching than that storyline, with nearly every significant title Marvel published participating in some regard. Yet whereas "Inferno" had the narrative spine of the X-books (specifically X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor) to tell the main story while the tie-ins mostly used the setting of a demon-infested New York to tell their own stories, "Acts of Vengeance" lacks that central narrative. It's almost entirely tie-ins. And while, admittedly, the setup of "Acts" is designed to make those tie-ins at best engaging and at least fun, as we see heroes take on new or unexpected foes, there's still a sense that a larger narrative piece is missing.

What narrative spine there is to "Acts" runs through the Avengers titles (another departure from the X-centric "Inferno"), and there's a bit of that in these first few issues. Spotlight #26 depicts a breakout at the Vault, creating a convenient explanation for the sudden surge of super-villains appearing in the various tie-in books, and it's strongly hinted that the mysterious man in the suit orchestrated the breakout for some reason. Avengers #311 introduces the concept of the Prime Movers but is rather vague about it (Loki goes unnamed), though the destruction of Hydro-Base and Avengers Mansion in that issue is certainly a significant enough event to work as the opening salvo of Loki's attack. But the issue ends with a sense that something is missing, that even if you've read both Avengers issues, there's a chapter out there you've missed featuring Loki formulating his plan and approaching the Prime Movers for the first time. But there's not, and there never will be.

For readers approaching this crossover with the benefit of hindsight, the lack of a strong, obvious central narrative can be refreshing, allowing as it does the bulk of the crossover to unfold in the tie-ins, where, in this case, the most fun can be had and the success of an individual chapter is more dependent on the specific creative team or hero/villain pairing than a connection to a larger plot. But for new readers coming to the storyline for the first time, the effect can be jarring, a perpetual sense that a chapter or two or three is missing, and depending on how well you handle that, it can take some of the fun out of otherwise entertaining tie-in issues.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the "Cross Time Caper" goes ever on in Excalibur #16. Friday, things get rough in Wolverine #18. Next week, "Acts of Vengeance" arrives and Jim Lee returns in Uncanny X-Men #256. 

Collected Editions

31 comments:

  1. You're totally right about this storyline lacking a central spine. I had never read "Acts" in its entirety, being familiar only with the Spider-Man and X-Men bits, until a few years ago in the ACTS OF VENGEANCE OMNIBUS. It's clear there was some attempt at an overall arc by Byrne in the AVENGERS books, but mostly it's a meandering maze, and there are a couple points where chapters contradict each other.

    In theory I like the idea of a crossover whose parts you don't need to read in order, but I just don't think it works. See "Evolutionary War" and "Atlantis Attacks" for other examples. I don't think you need to go as far as Marvel does nowadays, with a self-titled mini-series to form the event's core, but I really believe the X-books had it right in the early- to mid-nineties, with crossovers that had clearly numbered chapters across the various titles. Ancillary materials without chapter numbers are fine, but "Acts" would've worked much better if the two AVENGERS series had formed a single, cohesive six (or whatever) part story (which would've been really easy with Byrne writing both!) and all the other books in the line just had fun with the concept.

    That said, I love the Spider-Man parts of this crossover, especially the Gerry Conway stuff. Conway's WEB and SPECTACULAR from this era, as I've said before, make up one of my all-time favorite Spider-Man runs.

    Also -- I'm sure we'll cover this when you get to UNCANNY 256, but does anyone else find it odd that Chris Claremont basically just ignored "Acts" to do his own little story with the Mandarin? I haven't read the issues in a while, but I don't recall those stories mentioning much, if anything, about the Prime Movers and the entire campaign. Call me old-fashioned, but -- much as I enjoy the Lady Mandarin storyline -- I would've preferred to see Claremont get into the spirit of the crossover by pitting Wolverine against Bullseye or something cool like that.

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  2. Actually there were three Avengers titles at the time - there was a real drive to encourage a franchise mentality with both Solo Avengers and West Coast Avengers having their titles altered so the three books would be shelved together. John Byrne was given both the East and West Coast teams to shore up the continuity.

    At the time it seems a lot in Marvel spotted the mess with Avengers annual 19 carrying a back-up story that basically summarises the main parts of the whole event in order (presented in fiction as a pooling of heroes' reports and testimony from captured villains). Several writers clearly disliked the premise and used their characters to say so - watch out for Louise Simonson doing this with Apocalypse and Peter David did similar with the Hulk.

    More basically the Prime Movers have been chosen for little more reasoning than being strategic thinkers who are the arch enemies of the Silver Age Marvel heroes. So we get the arch foes of the Fantastic Four, the Human Torch (from his solo tales), Captain America, Iron Man, the X-Men and Daredevil (who is also the nearest to the role for Spider-Man). So by elimination it's fairly clear who the suited guy is. But this is also an absurd combination of villains and we'll see at least one attempt to undo the mess.

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  3. Maybe I'm thinking with my "fan hat" here, and not as a professional writer might, but I don't see what's not to love about this premise from either side of the coin. A fan will enjoy seeing his favorite heroes mix it up with new and interesting villains, and I would think a writer would appreciate the chance to throw some new adversaries at his or her characters, maybe finding new story angles and potential rivalries in the process.

    And it seems like -- mostly -- the Avengers writers had fun with it. Thor vs. Juggernaut! Captain America vs. Magneto! Quasar vs. Venom! These are all great ideas and were executed with varying levels of success (I'd add Punisher vs. Doctor Doom to the "well done" side of the crossover also, plus all the Spider-Man material, which remains my favorite sub-segment of "Acts").

    There were some stinkers from the Avengers office too, of course -- the Iron Man/Chemistro story: A) is horrendously drawn; B) suffers from coming immediately after the second Michelinie/Layton run; and C) Chemistro?? We're going to pit all our heroes against new and exciting villains, and Iron Man gets freaking Chemistro? How about Iron Man vs. the Sentinels or Dr. Octopus or something?

    As for the meta-commentary -- I enjoy Peter David much of the time, but he occasionally comes off as a Byrne-esque prima donna, taking shots at other writers through his work. It feels unprofessional to me. Likewise for some of the X-writers around this time. If "Acts of Vengeance" had been an X-centric event, like "Inferno", I'm sure Claremont and Simonson would've had no problem with it.

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  4. "Stark was also paralyzed at this time, though Hawkeye clearly believes that's a ruse as well."
    Just to clarify- he wasn't paralyzed during this story, he was healed shortly before it started but Iron Man continued to appear while Tony was paralyzed, so Clint thinks it was a ruse. (In reality, Tony figured out how to make his armor compensate.)

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  5. Arguably the most notable event in this batch of issues is the first appearance of the New Warriors

    They never did anything to me. Well, not that I was so exposed to them either, besides the very small cameos in Starlin's Infinity trilogy but... yeah, no. "Teenage hero" is something so 60's, and being done in the 90's way is no compliment to that.

    Gotta love the Night Trasher's all-black n' red uniform when all his friends are sporting bright colors.
    Was it him or Darkhawk who they once advertised for the readers as someone "who listens to same music as you"?

    the Avengers will go headquarters-less for about a dozen issues, before a new Avengers Compound is built

    The white monstrosity with the massive 'A' in front? Again, exposure only through the Infinity trilogy and it was quite enough for me. Points have to be given though for the hoops they go through for to have the classic Avengers mansion on the 5th Avenue sunk in the sea.

    Thor at this time is residing within the body of architect Eric Masterson, transforming back and forth as with Don Blake in the 60s

    I'm starting to think Thor is a parasitic life form, because there's just too much of this happening. I wish the next time they choose to tie Thor up with a mortal, they'll have the courtesy of leaving a hacksaw next to them.

    Also, I do have AVENGERS #313-314 issues and the thing making them damn hard for me to enjoy is this outfit of Thor's. Now, I'm very forgiving in what comes to superhero costumes and the general unstable molecules wear, but something just makes it nigh impossible for me to stomach Thor's costume being pretty much the classic one BUT WITH THE SIDES CUT OPEN.

    In Avengers #311, the support staff notes multiple reports of Avengers being caught up in battles with uncommon foes.

    Vector, X-Ray and the gang?

    Juggernaut is released from Crossmoor Prison in Thor #411, which is where he was left the last time he appeared, in Excalibur #3.

    This sort of thing makes everyone pause, take a deep breath and just let oneself bathe in the sweet warm caresses of the continuity control done right for a moment, right?

    The results from a series of polls conducted on Avengers readers are displayed in the letters page of Spotlight #26.

    Ha, poor Rogue, tied with the Frog-Man. Bring the hacksaw...

    The Avengers by the way didn't ever really show much specific contempt for Rogue over the Carol Danvers thing, did they? A somewhat wasted opportunity, I think, though can't really blame them if the Avengers rather just actively choose to forget everything surrounding those events.

    Matt: Also -- I'm sure we'll cover this when you get to UNCANNY 256, but does anyone else find it odd that Chris Claremont basically just ignored "Acts" to do his own little story with the Mandarin?

    I kind of like that, considering I didn't think much of the Mandarin's show of cackling villainy in AVENGERS #313 whereas I love the UNCANNY issue and the Mandarin we got there. Despite them ruining Betsy in it forever and ever. It kind of is in the spirit of the event, if not totally working with the framing device.

    It's not like Claremont hadn't already done his share of services, and admittedly, disservices for the general crossover scene.

    I would've preferred to see Claremont get into the spirit of the crossover by pitting Wolverine against Bullseye or something cool like that.

    "An adamantium bone to pick!", a three-way battle with Lady Deathstrike.

    That particular pairing has in my mind too high a potential to end up being nothing more than a Milleresque lift, whereas the bit with Wolverine in the end of the next UNCANNY is a minor classic.

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  6. Btw, this brings Victor von Byrne's count of destroyed iconic superhero headquarters to two.

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  7. "The Avengers by the way didn't ever really show much specific contempt for Rogue over the Carol Danvers thing, did they? A somewhat wasted opportunity, I think, though can't really blame them if the Avengers rather just actively choose to forget everything surrounding those events."
    It was mentioned in Secret Wars 3 but other than that, no.

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  8. I think the two main irritations writers had were the way the crossover stomped into existing series with ongoing plotlines - the obvious example is X-Factor where issue #50 has both the Judgement War and Acts of Vengeance competing for attention - and the awkward out of character way a lot of villains had to be written. For a lot of villains the nature of the conflict with their regular hero is so personal that contracting out revenge is simply fundamentally contradictory to the basic relationship. Heck some of them have actually saved their heroes' lives so as to preserve the opportunity to personally destroy them in battle which makes their participation in a trading scheme bizarre (unless they're subject to some form of mental influencing) and Doctor Doom actually sends lame villains against the Fantastic Four for precisely this reason. The Hulk questions the Grey Gargoyle to learn he's been attacked "to gain revenge on Thor and Iron Man" and the response is "Oh, well that makes TONS of sense. You hate THIS guy so you attack some OTHER guy. Cripes. What a DOPEY plan."

    The other objection only really applies to the Prime Movers but their goals are so mixed that it's bizarre to find would be world conquerors in alliance with a New York crimelord and a mere nuisance, and with Magneto it's as though Byrne ignored just about everything done with the character since he left X-Men. And that includes the revelations about his history with the result that his taking part in an alliance with the Red Skull is bizarre - there are some early lines where he assumes this is a new Red Skull (the original died some time back but is back in a cloned body - preceding Lex Luthor) and then an issue of Captain America to address the problem head on.

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  9. Teemu -- "The white monstrosity with the massive 'A' in front? Again, exposure only through the Infinity trilogy and it was quite enough for me."

    Interesting; I've always thought the Avengers Compound was really cool looking. It may be my favorite Avengers base, even above the classic mansion. Though I also liked the West Coast Avengers' Mexican hacienda-style compound.

    Teemu --"This sort of thing makes everyone pause, take a deep breath and just let oneself bathe in the sweet warm caresses of the continuity control done right for a moment, right?"

    I meant to comment on this yesterday, but forgot. Frenz uses pretty much the exact same establishing shot of Crossmoor as Davis used in EXCALIBUR #3 -- but look at Frenz's art and compare it with Davis's depiction (which I unfortunately don't happen to have a picture of at just this moment). In Davis's illustration, Crossmoor is clearly lit from all sides by spotlights, forming a "light pyramid" effect around it. Looking at Frenz's depiction, it seems he mistook the lights for an actual transparent pyramid of some sort covering the prison building, and drew it as such. This has always struck me as funny.

    Teemu -- "...I didn't think much of the Mandarin's show of cackling villainy in AVENGERS #313 whereas I love the UNCANNY issue and the Mandarin we got there."

    Oh, I like the classy Mandarin the upcoming UNCANNY issues give us, but it's not really any version of the Mandarin I've ever seen before or since. Byrne's "cackling" depiction in AVENGERS is much closer to how the Mandarin is normally written, from the handful of his appearances I've read.

    Tim -- I agree with some of what you say; certainly there are villains who are tied in with their heroes and wouldn't want to trade. Were Norman Osborn alive at this time, there's no way the Green Goblin would participate in the "Acts" since he's so invested in killing Spider-Man. But at the same time, I think there are several villains who would've been happy to let somebody else (attempt to) succeed where they had failed many times. I haven't read a lot of Grey Gargoyle stories, but I never realized he was that invested in defeating Thor and Iron Man.

    Plus, the way I look at it, some of the villains may have joined in simply to prove that they aren't losers; so they could say afterward, "See, you couldn't beat him either!"

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  10. Matt: Interesting; I've always thought the Avengers Compound was really cool looking. It may be my favorite Avengers base, even above the classic mansion.

    The classic mansion was an apt home for out not-quite-family superhero team, with a yard where people can have chatty strolls and the neighborhood kids could try and throw a snowball at Cap from behind the fence and with atmosphere where everyone could gath... assemble in the living-room to be awed by their new retina-scanner. The Compound is like a federal office building where a federal task force would do official stuff efficiently and with military precision with computers and whatnot.

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  11. Hmm... For me, a mansion works time for a clandestine team like the X-Men, or Excalibur when they briefly lived in Braddock Manor. But I like the big public teams in more formal bases, like sprawling compounds, high-tech skyscrapers, orbiting satellites, etc.

    As far as your argument against the compound being like "... like a federal office building where a federal task force would do official stuff efficiently and with military precision with computers and whatnot", I'd argue that's what the Avengers are within the superheroic community, with their U.N. charter and formalized bylaws, regular meetings led by the duly elected team chairperson, mandatory rotating monitor duty for all members, etc.

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  12. Matt: I'd argue that's what the Avengers are within the superheroic community, with their U.N. charter and formalized bylaws, regular meetings led by the duly elected team chairperson, mandatory rotating monitor duty for all members, etc.

    That's only a short step shy of being "Kent" of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, that sort of thing. In the core of being a superhero is, to an extent, the element of masked vigilantism. Doing the "right" thing, rather the government mandated thing, with the above-average personal power to do that. It's not by chance they have their charter from the UN rather than the US government, but with even that it's at least a flirtation with being a team of superpowered agents rather than a team of superheroes and formally answerable to... someone in official position.

    If you set up a byro and overdo the efficiency and military precision thing, what you'll have are folks who won't go over Gyrich's head and take the team to Bulgaria for a good-will tour when non-active member Wanda is going berserk. And we know how things will wind out if you don't cut Wanda going berserk down immediately. And so to underline that you're the hero the people needs whether or not they would vote for you, you live in a mansion and not in a byro building.

    I guess what I'm arguing is that a massive 'A' in the facade is not a superhero thing to have. :D But on that note, I am a tad annoyed how in MCU it's "Rogers" they often refer to. As in "Captain Rogers, S.", of the U.S. military and thus expected to salute every damn coincidental major there is.

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  13. Teemu -- "That's only a short step shy of being 'Kent' of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, that sort of thing."

    I understand what you're saying, but I disagree. The Avengers aren't a pack of government stooges; that's the whole point of the "goodwill tour" scene you cited. They're independent operatives who happen to have government clearances. They're paid and supported by a non-profit organization. They just happen to be highly organized (probably because their original chairman was secretly the CEO of a huge company).

    I like the "vigilante" angle for most superheroes. I love that the X-Men are feared and hated by a world they've sworn to protect, and I love that my favorite superhero, Spider-Man, is frequently mistrusted by the authorities and even by other heroes. But, for different reasons, I absolutely love the strict organizational structure of teams like the Avengers.

    I do agree with you on "Captain Rogers" in the movies, though. My whole life I never once thought Captain America held any official rank. He wasn't even a member of the armed forces in the modern day! "Captain" was just part of his name. I recall a few years ago, around the time Dan Slott wrote MIGHTY AVENGERS, USAgent was referr d to as "Captain Walker". He, also, was never in the military, and "Captain" wasn't even part of his codename! But that was the first I ever saw of this oddity.

    I recently rewatched CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER to prepare for the AGENT CARTER TV series, and there it's a joke. He goes off on his rescue mission to find Bucky and Peggy tries to stop him, telling him she outranks him. Cap says, "The hell you do -- I'm a captain!" and jumps from the plane. It's a flippant remark, played as a joke. I guess maybe he was given a battlefield commission to the rank of captain afterward, but it still seems wrong to me. If he's going to be a captain, it would've made more sense for him to be a military captain first, then adopt the name Captain America after gaining superpowers. But that's obviously not Steve Rogers' origin, so instead the rank becomes arbitrary, simply based on his codename.

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  14. Matt: " I do agree with you on "Captain Rogers" in the movies, though. My whole life I never once thought Captain America held any official rank. He wasn't even a member of the armed forces in the modern day! "

    Actually... the point I was going after before I lost my way was that I hate them calling him "Rogers", instead of Captain America or even Cap. The guy is supposed to be a superhero with a superhero moniker, not your resident "Kent" to be pointed the direction by the suits and especially not a "captain Rogers" someone could or should give orders to. He's a superhero and a symbol, the civilian him exists only for civilian things. I hate when the movie folks appear to be shaming the comic book superhero elements.

    I'm also certain he specifically holds the military rank of captain, I've seen him lead regular troops with his hand up enough times. It would be just wrong if he didn't. Also, I'm 100 % EVERY military person regardless of rank salutes him barring maybe some asshole generals and certainly wouldn't dream of outranking him. He's WWII and punched Hitler in the face.

    About the Avengers, your assessment is surely fairer than mine. My bronze tastes just fight the 90's headquarters.

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  15. @Matt: but "Acts" would've worked much better if the two AVENGERS series had formed a single, cohesive six (or whatever) part story (which would've been really easy with Byrne writing both!) and all the other books in the line just had fun with the concept.

    Yeah, my biggest problem with "Acts" is just that (I mean, I'm not a huge fan of One Dimensional Magneto, but that's a problem larger than this storyline). I wish there was more of a spine to it, so it didn't constantly feel like the I was missing a chapter or two somewhere, or that all the important action (like recruiting the Prime Movers) is happening off panel.

    I would've preferred to see Claremont get into the spirit of the crossover by pitting Wolverine against Bullseye or something cool like that.

    Ideally, I would have preferred someone else be the protagonist of the "Acts" UXM issues, since Wolverine had his own series to get in on the fun, but I suppose that wouldn't have worked given the state of the book. I mean, Forge and Banshee don't exactly have a Rogues Gallery to trade on. :)

    We're going to pit all our heroes against new and exciting villains, and Iron Man gets freaking Chemistro? How about Iron Man vs. the Sentinels or Dr. Octopus or something?

    I wonder if each creator had free reign over which villains they could use, or if someone (the Avengers office, DeFalco) handed out some of the matchups?

    USAgent was referr d to as "Captain Walker". He, also, was never in the military, and "Captain" wasn't even part of his codename!

    I'm pretty sure Walker was in the military, prior to becoming Super-Patriot. He did it to honor his brother, who died in Vietnam, IIRC.

    Granted, I don't think it was ever a huge part of his character or that we ever learned what rank he held, but technically, he was in the military.

    @Tim: Actually there were three Avengers titles at the time

    Yeah, I'll be covering AWC in the "Acts" posts starting with the next one, which is when the book starts tying in more directly with the overall story and features Magneto.

    So by elimination it's fairly clear who the suited guy is.

    Was Loki's role supposed to be a secret at the time? I've only ever read these knowing that's Loki, and while he doesn't go named in, say, Avengers #311, I've just always assumed that was because the central narrative was so haphazardly handled. But maybe his reveal was meant to be a big deal?

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  16. @Anonymous: Just to clarify- he wasn't paralyzed during this story, he was healed shortly before it started but Iron Man continued to appear while Tony was paralyzed, so Clint thinks it was a ruse.

    Good point. I should have made that more clear.

    @Teemu: The white monstrosity with the massive 'A' in front? Again, exposure only through the Infinity trilogy and it was quite enough for me.

    Like Matt, I have a great deal of affinity for that HQ. The early 90s Harras/Epting run is one of my all time faves, and that's the HQ for most of it. I think it fits their roles as "official" heroes nicely. Plus, one of the library's near me looks a lot like it on the outside.

    I'm starting to think Thor is a parasitic life form, because there's just too much of this happening.

    It's tough, because that was his original status quo when he first appeared. So whenever a decides it's time for a "back to basics" approach with the character, the compulsion is to setup the body switcheroo thing, cuz that's how it was at the beginning (ditto the fact that Ben Grimm can be cured of Thing or be able to change back and forth for awhile, but it's only a matter of time before he gets "stuck as the Thing" again).

    but something just makes it nigh impossible for me to stomach Thor's costume being pretty much the classic one BUT WITH THE SIDES CUT OPEN.

    I do like the later one, from shortly after this era when the status quo changes so that Thor is Masterson with all the power but still just Masterson, and he gets the metal facemask added to the helmet.

    This sort of thing makes everyone pause, take a deep breath and just let oneself bathe in the sweet warm caresses of the continuity control done right for a moment, right?

    Oh yeah.

    I hate when the movie folks appear to be shaming the comic book superhero elements.

    I don't really think of it as shaming the idea of secret identities, just that it's easier for movies to play fast and loose with them. Even in the comics these days (for better or worse) secret identities are pretty loosey goosey amongst the Avengers, and I think the movies just pick up on that. Plus, the movies want any and all excuses to have the characters not masked as much as possible, because they aren't paying movie star money to not see an actor's face.

    That's one of the things that intrigues me the most about having Spider-Man in the MCU: he'll really be the first masked hero with a hardcore secret identity in that universe. It'll be interesting to see how they handle it.

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  17. Teebore: " I do like the later one, from shortly after this era when the status quo changes so that Thor is Masterson with all the power but still just Masterson, and he gets the metal facemask added to the helmet. "

    I agree that one is fine. The historically viking-accurate protective visor and beard changes the game totally.

    " I don't really think of it as shaming the idea of secret identities, just that it's easier for movies to play fast and loose with them. Even in the comics these days (for better or worse) secret identities are pretty loosey goosey amongst the Avengers, and I think the movies just pick up on that. Plus, the movies want any and all excuses to have the characters not masked as much as possible, because they aren't paying movie star money to not see an actor's face. "

    Ha, I wasn't thinking about or even noticing myself the secret identity angle at all. I'm totes fine if you call your team-mate "Steve" or "Tony" or "SCOTT!!!", or, if there's some vitriol there, "Summers...".

    What I have problem is when every coincidental SHIELD agent start addressing the superhero as "Rogers" to third persons, like he was Rogers from the Supplies department at 5th floor or something. The right to do the civilian name is something you earn the hard way, and that does not include using it when talking with a third person who is not within the same privileges.

    Like, something akin to job prestige. It's "officer Rambeau" or "Dr. Blake" when they're on the job and you don't know them personally.

    I have hard time with the insisted unmaskedness too in the first place, and the last name thing is really related to that. You hang out in half uniform and embarrassed of your codename, I'm not sure you're taking it seriously really. About that, those New Warrior kids have recommendably the right idea. Get in there, full gear and yell them your name when it's your turn.

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  18. Teebore: I'm not a huge fan of One Dimensional Magneto, but that's a problem larger than this storyline

    The problem does have a lot of its roots in this very event. On that note, can we blame Claremont being less than totally enthusiastic about it, I mean, imagining what his initial reaction must've been when he was told that "btw, Byrne has successfully pitched for a line-wide event where Marvel's greatest villains like Magneto team up and go after each other's enemies"?

    I wonder if there was a bang of any karmic guilt then about killing all those Morlocks in what became the MUTANT MASSACRE, the first X-over and a pathfinder of sorts as events go. There had been the line-wide Casket of Ancient Winters thing, which Claremont participated just nicely in his titles, but I don't believe it was acknowledged on the issue covers as an "official" thing(?) back then.

    Which kind of reminds me that this far these sort of events have had the Simonsons as the driving force. Might it be a case of professional jealousy coming into play here that caused the Simonsons- written titles not being perhaps so happy to go along with Byrne taking over their thing?

    I do hope the FANTASTIC FOUR issues will be among the X-amined ones... Teeb?

    Matt: The Avengers aren't a pack of government stooges; that's the whole point of the "goodwill tour" scene you cited. They're independent operatives who happen to have government clearances. They're paid and supported by a non-profit organization. They just happen to be highly organized (probably because their original chairman was secretly the CEO of a huge company).

    Just to elaborate my earlier comment on this: everything you say here is of course correct. What I said was a sort of slippery slope argument from the beginning, and there may indeed have been more actual red tape matters during my beloved Gyrich-as-the-government-liaison era than during my alleged "byro" era. Of course the Avengers NEVER would (be allowed to) fly with being a bunch of government-pushable operatives (... to be kept back as reserved when things go down at Dallas and NY at the same time, good one, Claremont).

    I'm also biased as hell towards Marvel and especially 80's Marvel, so orbital satellites and skyscrapers are wrong for me by definition as DC things. Unless it's Baxter Building or Asteroid M, when it's totally allowed and the right thing to do.

    On completely another note, to balance what could be seen as (undue) criticism towards Byrne: that "Report, hireling" line from Dr. Doom is pure awesomeness.

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  19. @Matt & Teebore

    I strongly suspect an editor would have assigned the villains given how proprietary many writers get about someone else using "their" characters. Allowing free choice could have brought even more problems as multiple writers picked the same villains and some might have gone out of their way to rub it into rivals.

    I believe the suited lackey's identity was intended as a secret at the time and it's certainly played that way in Captain America #365 when he recruits the Red Skull but fails with both Namor and the Cobra. It's also presented as a mystery in X-Factor but Apocalypse soon rumbles it - maybe a sign of disconnected editing. Plus some mysteries were poorly handled - in Avengers #311 the guy in green is meant to be a mystery but the only uncertainty is which Doctor Doom he is. (The Mandarin may be better if that armour is new or not.)

    Captain America was also the title to address the Magneto situation and all the issues are written by Mark Gruenwald as is the epilogue in Avengers annual #19 - it's as if Gruenwald took it upon himself to fill in and tidy up as many of the problems and omissions identified here as possible.

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  20. There's no way Doom or most others were supposed to be unrecognizable. I'm on record on commenting the recognizability of the Marvel villains by their feet when Teeb first posted the promo picture for AoV.

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  21. In that issue Doom and the Mandarin are kept in shadows and their names are avoided - but the green cape is unmistakable. Either this is a homage to Silver Age paper thin mysteries or the creative team on that issue weren't singing from the same hymn sheet.

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  22. I'd guess it's for the same reason as the end credit scenes in the MCU movies: rewarding the longer-time fans and allowing them to be smug about recognizing the coming-up-next enemies a bit earlier than the common muck.

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  23. "I believe the suited lackey's identity was intended as a secret at the time and it's certainly played that way in Captain America #365 when he recruits the Red Skull but fails with both Namor and the Cobra. It's also presented as a mystery in X-Factor but Apocalypse soon rumbles it - maybe a sign of disconnected editing"
    It was SUPPOSED to be a secret- it was revealed to be Loki in Thor 413, which came out the same week as X-Factor 50. However, most readers figured out it was Loki before then.

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    1. @Anonymous "Most readers"

      Were readers actually polled back in 1989? I've always wondered just how well contemporary audience reaction (as opposed to fanzine reaction) is really understood.

      I hadn't realised X-Factor and Thor had come out the same week. Avengers crossovers have a history of the order being unclear and shipping problems making it even worse.

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  24. Acts of Vengance was just ok. Some of the individual chapters are ok, but the whole "stoyline" that was supposed to be linking them all together was just lacking. Among the issues already mentioned, one of the problems is that unlike DC comics, villians here don't really have any type of "fellowship" to make this kind of thing work. DC routinely has crossovers with many of their prominent villians forming various alliances. You just can't imagine Marvel villians getting along enough to do that, since many of them have such disperate goals (something that comes up eventually in THIS crossover too.)

    The other problem (and similarity to NU52 DC at least) is that this isn'lt a storyline is a gimmick. That might excplain at least some of the frustration on the creative side. (and the X-writers were already doing enough stalling as it is.) It comes across as Marvel's version of "Villian's Month" or "Zero Issue." It's a writing exercise, not a cohesive storyline.

    Again some of the individual issues are pretty cool, but AoV jst doesn't work as a whole.

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  25. Jonathan Washington: Among the issues already mentioned, one of the problems is that unlike DC comics, villians here don't really have any type of "fellowship" to make this kind of thing work. DC routinely has crossovers with many of their prominent villians forming various alliances. You just can't imagine Marvel villians getting along enough to do that, since many of them have such disperate goals (something that comes up eventually in THIS crossover too.)

    I wouldn't use the word "problem", as I think that's a very good thing indeed that various villains have differing and even incompatible motivations, storytelling-wise. Examination of that might even have been one impetus for the storyline, and anyway it is a hindrance at least for having too many generic [insert villain's name here] plots.

    Of course, that goes mainly for the A-list Prime Mover villains. The second-tierers usually have little problem joining Masters of Evil for the usual gain-money-illegally purposes or getting gadgets from Justin Hammer against some services, or some hero-specific villains forming a Sinister Six or Syndicate setup for slaying the said hero, not unlike Batman's enemies are occasionally known to do. Though, wasn't there that one story where everyone thought Batman had been killed by his ganged-up villains and hilarity ensued when everyone of them tried to get the glory from it to themselves?

    On Marvel side, it's kind of fun really that the more elevated villains are aware of their elevateness themselves too and have egos to go with it.

    It adds nice complexity, too, when villains with differing motivations do manage to pool up. I don't think the murderous Reavers and their mutant-hating boss would be too pleased to learn that Lady Deathstrike, a honor-bound daimyo, didn't shoot Wolverine from afar recently.

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  26. "built around the (admittedly fun) idea of heroes facing off against villains they didn't usually fight"

    Which, lets be honest, you don't really need a crossover for.

    "including former peripheral "X-character Firestar"

    Peripheral back then or now? She definitely isn't peripheral anymore these days.

    "and his associates Chord"

    And naturally, Chord and Cable know each other too.

    "on which Avengers Mansion was relocated following the "Under Siege" storyline"

    I always wondered why they moved the mansion as it is, all busted up. I mean, it's unusable either way.

    Overall, a blah "crossover". As others have said, some decent issues sprinkled throughout, but lets mark this under the "Not that good, average at best" column.

    Also, while the idea of heroes fighting villains they normally wouldn't might be interesting for the fans, in-universe it's not logical. The assumption is that Hero X will lose to Villain Y because X isn't used to fighting Y works both ways. So the villains are kind of doomed to fail. Unless that's a plot point intended by Loki anyway later on that I forgot about ("You were supposed to lose anyway so I could be the one to destroy the Avengers, because, lolz!").

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  27. // the issue ends with a sense that something is missing, that even if you've read both Avengers issues, there's a chapter out there you've missed featuring Loki formulating his plan and approaching the Prime Movers for the first time //

    I'm at once glad and disappointed that this is the case. Glad because I tried reading further tie-in and run-up issues to find some definitive introduction or scene-setting but couldn't get any better grip on it, so at least the fault wasn't my lack of trying; disappointed because that's just extremely sloppy storytelling, worse really even than shipping crossover pieces out of order.

    Pretty much all I knew about Acts of Vengeance — whose name doesn't even make sense other than, hey, it's an imposing title I guess — before now, having read none of it to my recollection, was that (1) villains switched up the heroes they usually battle (2) as masterminded by some big guns who met in an extradimensional chamber (3) with Loki pulling the strings. It turns that was not only all I needed to know going in but more than I would have gleaned from the stories themselves had I not known.

    Avengers Spotlight #26 has a great candidate for I Love the '80s, by the way, in the immortal line "Thank heavens for auto-dial telephones!"

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  28. @Tim: // For a lot of villains the nature of the conflict with their regular hero is so personal that contracting out revenge is simply fundamentally contradictory to the basic relationship. //

    I was going to point this out and you articulated it much more succinctly than I'm afraid I'd have done. Same with how Doctor Doom, Magneto, and the Kingpin are on equal footing in the, uh, Prime Movers as they're apparently called.

    @Matt: // I like the "vigilante" angle for most superheroes. I love that the X-Men are feared and hated by a world they've sworn to protect, and I love that my favorite superhero, Spider-Man, is frequently mistrusted by the authorities and even by other heroes. But, for different reasons, I absolutely love the strict organizational structure of teams like the Avengers. //

    Ditto.

    Since I really only know the mansion in terms of Avengers headquarters that argument is lost on me. I'm familiar with Hydrobase from '70s Avengers and Super-Villain Team-Up, but its destruction here is my first and only time seeing it as the Avengers' seat of operation; similarly, I just got my first glimpse of the big A-front Avengers compound recently reading the '90s' Infinity _____ miniseries for the first time. My Avengers reading basically leaves off during the mid '80s and picks up again with Heroes Return in the late '90s.

    @Tim: // it's as if Gruenwald took it upon himself to fill in and tidy up as many of the problems and omissions identified here as possible //

    Which certainly would have been in character for him.

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  29. "Were readers actually polled back in 1989? I've always wondered just how well contemporary audience reaction (as opposed to fanzine reaction) is really understood."
    The letters page claimed that most of the letters they received realized it was Loki and apologized for making it too obvious. You're right in that the letters received might not reflect the fandom at large.

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  30. Even as a 13-year-old, the premise of Acts of Vengeance felt, well...dumb. Villains switch off to "fight" heroes they don't usually fight?

    It just calls attention to the absurdity of the superhero genre: the very fact that heroes just 'fight' the villains and maybe lock them up somewhere until the next time they can 'fight' is perhaps the most childish aspect of superheroes, and not something that holds up to any kind of scrutiny.

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