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Thursday, March 4, 2021

X-amining Avengers #401

    

"Sins of the Father"
August 1996

In a Nutshell
A contingent of Avengers & Gambit track down the de-aged Magneto.

Story: Mark Waid
Penciler: Mike Deodato Jr. 
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letters: Bill Oakley 
Colors: John Kalisz 
Editor: Mark Gruenwald 
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Plot
Hoping to determine if Magneto is responsible for the creation of Onslaught, Gambit accompanies Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Vision, the Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver on a mission to find him. With Hank Pym detecting Magneto's energy signature in South Carolina, the group heads out, with Scarlet Witch telling Gambit about how awful her time in Magneto's Brotherhood was. Meanwhile, Rogue & Joseph are waiting for their car to be repaired, as Rogue hopes she can get Joseph to the X-Men before he remembers his past as Magneto. Just then, the Avengers arrive, and Quicksilver, recognizing Joseph as a younger version of his father, quickly attacks. Rogue leaps into the fray, desperate to stop the fight before it awakens Joseph's memories of his past, but when Joseph, acting in self-defense, apologizes for briefly trapping Scarlet Witch in a force bubble, she realizes Joseph isn't the monster her father was, and intervenes to stop Quicksilver & Joseph from further harming each other. Gambit, trusting Rogue, vouches for Rogue's explanation of Joseph's condition as an amnesiac Magneto. Once she learns about Onslaught, both Rogue and Joseph agree to accompany the Avengers back to New York to ensure Joseph has no ties to the creature, though Gambit isn't happy about what he senses between Rogue & Joseph. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first issue of Avengers to tie into "Onslaught" and the penultimate issue of the series before it is cancelled and rebooted as part of "Heroes Reborn". It features half the Avengers team (and Gambit) seeking out Magneto, as the other half of the team (plus Iceman & Bishop) are sent to warn the Fantastic Four about "Onslaught" (which they'll do in Fantastic Four #415). 


This issue serves to bring Rogue & Joseph, last seen in X-Men Unlimited #11, into the storyline, and leads directly into X-Men (vol. 2) #55, when this group arrives back in New York. It also marks the beginning of the Gambit/Rogue/Joseph love triangle, which will essentially culminate in Uncanny X-Men #350 (the issue which finally reveals Gambit's big secret that drove Rogue away from the X-Men). Also, while Joseph will later be revealed to be a clone of Magneto, at this point in time, everyone involved was acting with the idea that he was the actual Magneto mysterious de-aged, with Rogue trying to get Joseph to the X-Men before he "remembers" his past as the villainous Magneto. 


Creator Central
Adjectiveless writer Mark Waid, also in the midst of a short run on Avengers, writes this issue. Pencils come from future superstar artist Mike Deodato Jr. (who was already making a fairly big name for himself at this point in time), though his work here is both less bombastic and referential then it will be later in his career (and, really, even less bombastic than his contemporaneous work on Thor), with inker Tom Palmer likely reigning him in a bit (the end result is a bit pedestrian; Palmer, despite being possibly my favorite inker, doesn't seem to mesh well with Deodato's style).  

A Work in Progress
On their way to Magneto, Scarlet Witch reflects on her time in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (and Mike Deodato takes the opportunity to drop in a contorted "sexy" Scarlet Witch). 


This prompts Quicksilver to revert to his "I'll protect you no matter what!" defensiveness of that era. 


Rogue & Thor trade blows, and Thor is impressed by her strength, though neither notes the time Rogue took on the entire Avengers and whipped them handily. 


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
This being the 90s, Iron Man notes that both he and Magneto are currently younger versions of themselves (this is the Teen Tony Stark Iron Man that came out of "The Crossing" aka the Avengers' version of "Onslaught" which revealed that Tony Stark had secretly come into the service of Immortus, so he ended up dying and being replaced by a younger version of himself from his past). 


Also, everyone is in their "Crossing" era costumes here, with Thor (who had a lot of costume changes, most of them terrible, in a short period of time in the mid-90s) rocking his "my costume is just me not wearing a shirt" look. 


Editor Mark Gruenwald on "Onslaught" tie-ins
"It's actually very reader-friendly. The main Marvel titles will get involved in some phase of the story during the last couple months but each title will also on it's own." 

"Preparing for the Onslaught." Marvel Vision #6, June 1996, p10

Austin's Analysis
As promised, this issue features a contingent of the Avengers searching out Magneto to see if he is responsible for Professor Xavier's transformation into Onslaught (plus Gambit comes along, because Rogue is with Magneto/Joseph, and while the Avengers don't know that, Mark Waid does, and understandably wants to wring all the drama out of the encounter he can). While this all comes in service to the larger "Onslaught" crossover, Waid does give the issue itself something of an arc, by having Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch essentially revert, psychologically, to their younger selves, in the face of a confrontation with their father (a parallel, of course, with the fact that Magneto, at this point in time, is physically his younger self): Scarlet Witch becomes much more of a Silver Age shrinking violet, while Quicksilver shifts into his ultra-aggressive protector mode. This is all a bit regressive - Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch have both faced off with Magneto plenty since their early Brotherhood of Evil Mutants days (heck, Quicksilver was on the team that went to Avalon when Professor X wiped Magneto's mind in X-Men #25) - but it adds some characterization to an otherwise routine misunderstanding fight, and the moment when Scarlet Witch overcomes what is, essentially, PTSD and stands up for herself before both Magneto and Quicksilver is genuinely cheer-worthy. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, the rest of the Avengers meet up with the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #415. Next week, Cable #34 and Incredible Hulk #444!

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17 comments:

  1. This was one of the few non-X-book “Onslaught” issues I bought, simply because it continued the Rogue storyline. I recall not being impressed. I didn’t like the artwork, and the production values (specifically letters and colors) seemed way below what I had become accustomed to on the X- and Spider-books. Even today, it’s jarring to read this in the X-MEN MILESTONES: ONSLAUGHT trade. The hand letters and colors (which are computer separated, but not as nicely as in the X-books) seem out of place when all the issues around it, even FF 415, have Comicraft letters and really nice digital colors (and that FF issue has Carlos Pacheco on art, which is light years more impressive than Mike Deodato at this point).

    I assume Waid was tapped to “see off” the AVENGERS title for its final few issues (similarly to Pacheco coming aboard FF to wrap that series up artistically), and that he would not have had an extended run if “Heroes Reborn” hadn’t happened. But, given he was also writing CAPTAIN AMERICA at this point, it does make you wonder what an ongoing CAP/AVENGERS tandem by Waid might have been like.

    Regarding the Avengers’ costumes — yeah, many of them are awful, but I actually find that bare-chested Thor is far less offensive than some of the other outfits he wore around this time. My ire is reserved for insect Wasp and whatever the heck Hawkeye is wearing. (Though to be honest, I’d take this Hawkeye costume any day over the stupid Ultimate costume — which can barely even be called a costume — that he wears nowadays. Why Marvel dumps really cool, iconic looks like Hawkeye’s classic costume will never make sense to me.)

    And I actually kind of like this Scarlet Witch costume! Again, I will always prefer the classic outfit with cape and tiara, but this is a pretty sweet alternative.

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    1. Agree 100% re Hawkeye - it's a weird modified head condom. Is he trying to hide his identity? It makes no sense. I was OK with the Ultimates "non-costume" because it seemed to fit the Hawkeye of that world as a SHIELD operative, not really a reformed carnival villain like in 616. But I definitely see your poit.

      As for Thor, I agree it's not offensive, it just seems off to me, like I'm not seeing Thor Odinson, but some 90's clone facsimile or something.

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  2. Given my extremely limited finances at the time I was strictly an X-Men reader but I somehow managed to actually get all the books in this crossover. Even though the production quality on this title was subpar I enjoyed it a great deal. The Avengers were never really my thing but it was a nice change of pace.

    I can't help thinking that if this had been a DC event Mark Waid would have known or remembered that Rogue actually single handedly taken down the Avengers. Still, it's an amusing exchange and he wasn't on the title that long so I'll cut him a little slack.

    Given that Magneto was already supposed to be in his early 30s at this point do they ever mention how old he's supposed to be here? I don't remember if that was covered in the issue of Uncanny where he first appeared.

    I generally like Deodato's art and I don't hate it here but it looks vaguely like he was trying to copy Steve Epting's style at that time. His own personal style seems to coalesce in the upcoming Elektra series.

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    1. do they ever mention how old he's supposed to be here?

      Not that I recall; in true comic book fashion, they keep it all vague.

      I generally like Deodato's art and I don't hate it here but it looks vaguely like he was trying to copy Steve Epting's style at that time.

      Some of that, I think, is due to Palmer's inks (who also inked Epting). Again, I love Palmer's inks, and Deodato's big bombastic style is...fine, but the two don't seem to mesh well here.

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  3. "Otherwise routine misunderstanding fight...."
    Perfect description for this one. If you asked me before I read this issue, "what do you think will happen when the Avengers find 'Magneto'?", I probably would have assumed misunderstanding fight. And if you'd asked me how it got instigated, one of Wanda or Pietro is the most obvious instigator. So obvious issue is obvious, and a little underwhelming. Comic book conventions like this are fine if they are done right (see, for me, the Inferno misunderstanding fight between X-Men and X-Factor), but here it just didn't click for me.

    Also, because I never really ventured outside of X-Men during this time frame, the proliferation of head condom uniforms is stunning. Hank Pym in a head condom, and with a build like Thor? Does not computer. What the hell is Hawkeye wearing? And I agree re the Thor non-costume -- he's got such a classic look, why tweak it to this degree? And it also seems out of character for Thor Odinson to adapt (unless no shirt was the current fashion on Asgard).

    Overall a "C" issue for what is a C, C- crossover.

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    1. This comment is riddled with typos. I need to edit before publishing. "Computer" = "compute" ; "adapt" = "adopt".

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  4. When did Mike Deodato become a super star? Was it during his stint on Wonder Woman? Did that happen after this? I recall that he was part of a minor “Brazilian invasion” around this time, with Roger Cruz and Richard Bennet coming a bit earlier. By the way, where were Cruz and Bennett around this time? I could swear that Cruz would ar least show up somewhere with his awful Joe Mad imitation.

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    1. I tend to think Deodato had two big "super star" periods; WONDER WOMAN was where he broke in, and then came over to AVENGERS & THOR, and then I'm pretty sure ELEKTRA was considered a showcase book for him. But then 5-10 years later he had another resurgence in popularity when he was on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the post-"Secret Invasion" THUNDERBOLTS and then DARK AVENGERS; by then, his style had adopted more of a photo-reference look (his Norman Osborn, for example, looks like Tommy Lee Jones), kind of like what happened to Salvador Larocca (but not as extreme).

      By the way, where were Cruz and Bennett around this time?

      Bennet I'm not sure, but I think Cruz shows up doing some fill-in work again during "Onslaught" or shortly thereafter.

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  5. At first I was confused about who the pink bug-lady was in the group shot, but then I remembered that along with Teen Tony, this era also had Jan turn into an actual bug-lady.

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    1. Yeah, Bug-Lady Jan is probably the worst offender.

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  6. I think the reason Thor is just topless at this point was that he was exiled to Midgard* and Odin had taken most of his power. I could be wrong - that was the reason when he first adopted that look, but Thor was changing writers and directions every few issues at this point, so for all I know he could be touring the midwest in a blues-rock band with the Warriors Three at this point.

    *Earth.

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    1. Their rivalry with ZZ Top would be epic, in every meaning of the word.

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  7. I mentioned once on Matt's blog that the single thing that defined the Avengers to me, even through the 90s, was Tom Palmer's inking. I had forgotten he inked Mike Deodata Jr. until Matt reminded me, and looking at this...bless, Palmer TRIED. He gave it his best shot, and this looks far better to me now than 90% of 1990s art, but this is definitely a case of two artists that just didn't mesh. Still, at least Palmer's there doing his best keeping that Avengers look consistent as he can: soon he won't be.

    I believe the shirtless Thor look started in Warren Ellis' sublimely weird four issue World Engine arc, during a period where Thor was disowned by Odin and a mortal with red hair and a red beard had taken over the job. I think the guy's name actually WAS Red. Ellis kind of did his thing, even had a pointless self insert character as a British cop in New York for some reason, but at least he had the decency to have the Enchantress kill the damn guy.

    And oh god, Teen Tony. You had to remind me of Teen Tony. I needed therapy to forget Teen Tony. No wonder Marvel thought giving the Avengers and Fantastic Four to the Image lads was a good idea, they couldn't make them any worse.

    Right?

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    1. Wait is this what was going on on that Pantheon era HULK where they went to Asgard or something and they got a red haired bearded dude posing as Thor? It was a mystery I never bothered to find out what that was about.

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    2. Yeah, Shirtless Thor is part of Warren Ellis brief run where he got replaced as the god of thunder by Red Norvell (who actually first appeared back in Roy Thomas' run). I believe he lost some, but not all, his power, though to me, that means he should be wearing MORE clothes, not less. :)

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  8. Ah, the forgotten period of "Avengers". The Crossing, bad 90s costumes, kid Tony, Heroes Reborn, Deathcry...

    Actually most of the Crossing era costumes were okay. Iron Man is just another upgrade. Black Widow looks like a rejected Spider-Man outfit, but its better than her grey catsuit+ leather jacket thing. Hawkeye would be better if he'd kept the old mask; Havok+ buccanneer boots does not work. Pietro and Wanda are pretty solid, Wanda's a little too much like Jean Grey but that's almost always an issue. Crystal's look hasn't been updated and it shows. Thor from the cover of "The Crossing" looked fine in a 90s sort of way, but then they put him into more Conan-esque adventures in his own title (which straight up just got cancelled during Heroes Reborn, interesting sidenote), so Avengers goes with that.
    Hey, Cap and Vision are pretty normal! Vis got his color back and Cap ditched the Iron Cap look!
    Giant man with 90s pouches makes SENSE, because that's where he keeps his shrinking pills! And 90s Wasp is the ugliest look I've ever seen.

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    1. I may very well tweet out a full ranking of these Crossing-era costumes, but Jan is definitely the worst. You're right that Pietro & Wanda's are perfectly fine (I like this Scarlet Witch costume more than her last AWC/Force Works one) and some of the others are okay but for weird 90s head condoms.

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