Page 45 Review by Stephen
I enjoy Jack Kirby composition analyses and this cover, right, is no slouch. Unusually, there is no foreground, only mid-ground and background. The four paper dolls are caught mid-gesticulation before they thrust forward towards the inviting, intervening space: Captain America, Hawkeye, The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, all in glowing, rich, complementary colours. Immediate action is implied in each. This leaves Goliath, behind them, in contrasting sky-blue and gold, not to dominate the whole but impress upon you his weight and comparative, sheer strength of scale, his thick arms fanning out to defend the whole of his cohorts with fists, the rising then bifurcating, central yellow stripe of his costume keeping the organic triangle in motion.
If only there were such sturdy Roman strength and reciprocal teamwork inside.
"Avengers Assemble! Mayday! Mayday!"
"It's from Cap! He's been imprisoned in a dungeon! Into your costume, Wanda... quickly!"
"Imprisoned, Pietro? By whom?"
"No time for that now!"
Or, you could have just answered: "The Swordsman". It's a little more informative, a lot less dismissive, and two seconds swifter to say.
Following the team's earliest experiences in AVENGERS: EPIC COLLECTION VOL 1, our Avenging Assemblers by now consist of Hawkeye and siblings the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, led by a Captain America wrestling with self-doubt under the weight of responsibility and the isolation which comes of having been trapped an oceanic ice cube since WWII. He doesn't have any mates outside of Avengers Mansion, you see. But then nor do any of the others because Stan hadn't thought to write about them.
The Captain is desperate for some of the original members to return, the original members being The Wasp, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk. Yeah, he's not so keen on the Hulk.
"Hulk happy to keep Flag-Man company. Hulk give you big hug."
"Sorry, wrong address."
Good news cometh, however, as both the Wasp and Ant-Man return early on in this volume, the latter as the much enlarged Goliath in a blue and yellow costume which my child-eyes adored, the former in a swimsuit to resume her former career as professional prisoner / bait. With Hawkeye still envious of Captain America's leadership, they're bickering among themselves incessantly. It's like Big Brother in muscular fancy dress, the Diary Room located somewhere in Steve Rogers' head.
"Hello, Steve. How are you feeling today?"
"Hello, Big Brother. I'm feeling a bit low, to be honest. Hawkeye hates me. He's keeps calling me Methuselah."
"I bet he can't spell that, and who knew he could read? Anyway, he's only jealous."
"Yes, I can read that much in his thought bubbles, but it's demoralising when all he does in speech balloons is bitch, bitch, bitch. I think the Scarlet Witch has a crush on me. If Quicksilver found out, he'd skin me alive before I could even utter the word 'incest'."
"They are quite close, aren't they?"
"Yeah, but we're going to have to wait until Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's ULTIMATES for readers to realise that."
"Steve, is there anything else you wish to discuss with Big Brother?"
"I still haven't had my suitcase back. From 1944."
"Big Brother is looking into that. Anything else?"
"Can I get a flag?"
"I'd like something to wave."
"There could be Commies."
"Thank you, Steve."
What I've so far failed to mention is that amongst the household's weekly tasks (in order to ensure a shopping budget big enough to keep Hank Pym / Ant-Man / Giant-Man / Multiple Identity Crisis Man in Temazepam) is getting Dr. Victor Von Doom struck off the medical practitioners' list. His bedside manner is appalling, and I swear to God that unlike the above these are actual quotes:
"Here is a gold farthing for you, my boy! I, too, have known what it is to be
"There is a great surgeon in the Zurich, across the border! He can cure our child! But he leaves for America soon!"
"We beg you, good master
open the dome, so we can bring our son the doctor before it is too late!"
"Impossible! It must remain sealed
until the four enemies of Latveria have been disposed of!"
"But what of the boy
"Silence! This audience has ended!"
You'd ask for a second opinion, wouldn't you?
Frankly, I have no idea how Doctor Doom's surgery remains open: he's not exactly renowned for his patience or patient care, and his prescriptions are unorthodox to say the least.
It's all enormous fun, of course, as are the appliances of sciences: World-Wide Scanner-Scopes, Protecto-Shields, Vibra-Rays, Spectro-Waves, Visi-Projectors, Giant Plastithene Domes and a Temporal Assimilator which means it's only taken you a tenth of the time to read this than I wasted in writing it.
However, hope lies high on the horizon in the second half, both for the team's cohesion upon Goliath's return, and for readers' more rounded socio-political nurturing.
"Beware of the man who sets you against your neighbour!"
"For, whenever the deadly poison of bigotry touches us, the flame of freedom will burn a little dimmer."
In 1966 Stan Lee took a brief break from his own screaming stream-of-subconscious sexism to tackle racism instead, and did so with bold, unequivocal directness and robust language which I commend without one iota of irony. In AVENGERS #32 and 33 he introduced the Sons of the Serpent, Marvel's version of the Ku Klux Klan, seen here spitting their white supremacist venom out to a crowd which laps it so deliriously up:
"Our enemies must know we will show them no mercy! As the original serpent drove Adam and Eve from Eden
so shall we drive all foreigners from the land!"
Err, no really, that was God. The serpent poisoned the mind of innocents - and with that double whammy we'll notch the scene up to a Serendipitous Stan because these are racists, so they're inherently stupid.
Coming back to the commendable directness there's another scene in which the hate-mongering tosspots set about ethnically cleansing a section of the city by beating the living crap out of a man while successfully intimidating neighbours into doing absolutely nothing:
"We warned you not to move into this neighbourhood!"
"But it's a free country! I'm a law-abiding citizen! You have no right -"
"You dare speak to us of rights? You - who were not even born here!"
"Henry! What's the commotion outside the window?"
"It's the Sons of the Serpent! They've cornered Mr. Gonzales! We - we have to do something --!"
"No! Come away from there! It's dangerous to get involved! It's none of our business!"
Well, isn't that so often the way? Lest some of his readers learn the wrong lesson (bear in mind a lot of them were young and impressionable), Stan takes a moment to emphatically sneer at the couple's cowardice:
"Thus we take our leave of Henry and his wife - two less-than-admirable citizens who feared to get involved
Again, bravo! This is, after all, a book about getting "involved" - that's what the Avengers do - and they're not slow off the mark voicing their own disgust after Goliath catches the bigots attacking Bill Foster, who's black, outside his lab. I think that may be the first appearance of Bill Foster (he went on to become one of several Goliaths himself), and it's certainly Steve Rogers' first trip to the S.H.I.E.L.D. H.Q. which was buried under a barber's shop. This is also the era when Hercules signed up as an Avenger and former Soviet spy Black Widow signed up to S.H.I.E.L.D. having spectacularly failed to win anyone other than old flame Hawkeye's trust with the Avengers. Meanwhile Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have lost their powers but Stan The Man has lost none of his way with women. The Wasp speaks last:
"If you wish to see Captain America alive once more, you are to follow these instructions to the letter! You will report to the next meeting of the Sons Of The Serpent, at the following address - "
"They can bet on it - we'll be there!"
"I'd like to see someone try to keep me away!"
"Oh dear! I haven't a thing to wear!"