Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Old Order Changeth!

Avengers #16, May 1965.
(By Lee, Kirby & Ayers)

Well, here we are then, the first in what will become a very regular event in the Avengers, the "changing of the guard" issue. Common as muck now, back in the day this must have been a bit of a puzzler for the readership, who'd got used to the adventures of Marvel's Mightiest Heroes, and the Wasp. Off we go.

Our story picks up where the last one left off, with the Avengers polishing off the battered remains of the Masters Of Evil. Here they are.

That there, folks, is the Melter (with the stripy tights), the Black Knight (with the horse), the Executioner (with the skirt), and the Enchantress (with the Executioner). They are unaware that the reason Captain America is missing, is because he's in South America, dropping a large number of rocks on the bad guys' leader, Baron Zemo.

So confident are the Masters of their ability to win the day, that they stand around while Thor twirls his magic hammer; never a good idea.

With the Masters of Evil beaten, and with Cap stranded in South America, the remaining Avengers (Thor having shot off to take care of some private business) meet to decide what to do next. Go rescue Cap, you say? Guess again.

What, just like that? Where's your gumption? Your fighting spirit? Or has Tony Stark had a meeting with his accountants, and found out just how much it's costing to keep his Superfriends on the payroll?

Before the Avengers can make good on their plan to abandon Captain America in the Amazon and retire, they receive a mystery visitor. A visitor who leaves only one clue: an arrow. Wonder if Iron Man can work out who it is...

Hawkeye then spins a sob story about how he's just been misunderstood this whole time, a pawn of the Black Widow and her commie masters. Then he does a trick shot with his arrow. And then the Avengers hire him on the spot. Somehow, I'd have expected the interview process to be more formal. At my work, it takes three months of credit checks, police checks, and god knows what other checks, to even get in the door, and these guys are giving Hawkeye the keys to Avengers Mansion with barely a twenty-second chinwag? Some might say they're being indecently hasty in their rush to retire.

Having hired a two-bit hood to replace them, they next move onto a would-be world conquerer.

I mean, what?!? At this point, the Avengers have only fought Namor a couple of times, but he's gone toe-to-toe with everyone from Daredevil to Spider-Man, and recently led an invasion of New York! Sixties superheroes presumably didn't worry so much about public relations. Ah well, perhaps after he's conquered the surface world, he'll be ready to join up.

Who's next?

Yes, it's everyones' favourite members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, taking a relaxing time after the dissolution of their gang of villains (in this month's X-Men #11) I don't know what I like more, Quicksilver's sensible yet stripy jumper, or that they feel the need to get changed into their super-togs before deciding to try for membership in the Avengers.

Odd though, wouldn't you really expect them, if they've finally gotten the oppoortunity to join the forces of good, to hang out with their old pals, the X-Men. Or is that speciesist, to think that way. In fact, it's odd to see them contemplating signing up at all, given this exchange, less than a month ago, in that self-same X-Men #11:

Anyway, let's move back to New York, where the Avengers are announcing their latest recruit:

On the one hand, it's comforting that the team actually have some sort of official screening process. On the other hand, it's a bit disconcerting that the Feds didn't pick up on Hawkeye having spent the last few months working with a commie spy. Not to mention that the assembled ladies and gentlemen of the press don't have anything
to say about it. Perhaps part of the American Dream is the crimes of supervillains and mutant terrorists are just never mentioned again, once they've apologised. Like so:

Quicksilver, the fastest man alive, proceeds to race Tony Stark's chauffeur through the streets of New York, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he wins. Which is enough for both him and his sister to get a seat at the big table.

No sooner have the new members settled in, then Captain America finally gets back from South America. Without so much as a "where the hell was my lift home?", Cap welcomes the chaps who'll be joining the team.

Ever get the feeling you've been shafted, Cap? Rick's worked it out, he's smart enough to realise that Paste-Pot Pete and the Vulture would have got a job, if they could pass the qualifying test: showing up.

Anyway, with the new team assembled, it's time to meet the people...

Good question, Hawkeye, although I can't but notice that you don't even mention the Wasp. It was tough being a woman in the sixties, huh?

So there we have them: Cap's Kooky Quartet. As anti-establishment as their predecessors were Republican, things are going to be a mite different round Avengers Mansion from now on...

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