The Avengers was my favorite title of Marvel Comics when I was a kid. I’ve managed to collect nearly all of the first 200 issues. I’m missing only the very most expensive ones, so I’ll have to wait until this blog makes me rich or I win the lottery. So, I’ll probably never own them. Anyway, I dug back into the archives of my personal blog and found this one discussing the virtues of Avengers #164. I’ve given this write up a little updating and revision, but it’s still about how cool I thought this comic book was.
Issue #164 features guest penciler John Byrne. John Byrne is one of my all time favorite comic book artists. This issue was one of his early efforts for Marvel Comics, but he would soon make a huge splash in the comic world when he became the regular penciler for the X-Men (starting with issue #108).
I love Byrne’s work. For quite some time I considered him the top artist at Marvel. George Perez was a close second, but Byrne’s work just had something that impressed the hell out of me. He continued to produce great work for many years until he began writing titles as well as drawing them. Then he seemed to hurry his drawing.
The Avengers #164 was early in his career at Marvel, but he was already showing those signs of greatness. His inker was Pablo Marcos for this three issue series, giving George Perez, Avengers’ regular artist, a break. However, I am focusing on the first part of the three issue story, because as I’ve always found the set up issue seems to be more interesting than the conclusion issue of a story line.
The synopsis of this issue tells of an old Avengers’ villain, Count Nefaria, recruiting three other villains: Power Man, Whirlwind, and the Living Laser (known as The Lethal Legion), to help him defeat the Avengers once and for all. Through the efforts of the team of scientists he employed, Count Nefaria enhances the powers of the three recruited bad guys. But only temporarily. This reunited and boosted Lethal Legion rob a bank, the Avengers try to stop them, but the Legion get away and to regroup and counterattack. At the end of their counterattack, the bad guys appear to have the upper hand and are about to become victorious when their powers begin to mysteriously disappear. Enter Count Nefaria, crackling with the super powers he’d just stolen from the Lethal Legion. That dastardly double crosser!
OK, it ain’t Tolstoy, but it’s good comic book fun. (And I’ve never read any Tolstoy.)
Now to look at the art…
The cover (see above) was draw by George Perez and it depicts the Lethal Legion putting the beat down on the Avengers. Power Man states that the Avengers are finished, but someone is shouting, “Not all of them!” But who is it? We do see a pair of gloved hands, but the story doesn’t let us know who it is. Is it Yellow Jacket? The Wasp? The Scarlet Witch? I guess we aren’t supposed to know. It was a common practice in comic books to have cover art that didn’t exactly fit the story inside.
The first frame I’m including is the beginning of the second battle between the Avengers and the Lethal Legion. The three bad guys decide to use the old attention getter of throwing a car through the window of the second story conference room of the Avengers’ mansion. How the Legion knew our heroes were gathered there I don’t know. Still it is a dramatic shot with the great sound effect “KA-SMA-A-ASH!” Marvel always did pride themselves with their uncannily descriptive sound effect words.
Next is a two frame sequence in which we get to see just how much more powerful Power Man has become. At the expense of the Beast, unfortunately. Poor Beast, that looks like it hurt.
Then I have the last page of the issue. Here is where Count Nefaria makes his dramatic entrance. He tears up the street under the Avengers’ feet, sending them all down to the ground, stunned. A shocked Capt. America recognizes the villain and can’t believe Nefaria is capable of such a display of power.
And doesn’t the Scarlet Witch have quite the nice behind?
I’m also including another two frame segment that always bugged me. It shows the Whizzer (yep, that’s his name) speeding through his apartment. He’s heading off to get into the action, but he really shouldn’t because he’s an older fellow and he’s got heart trouble. So, he’s using his power of traveling at super speed (did you think the name and the yellow costume indicated a different super-power?) when his daughter, the Scarlet Witch, gets in his way. (She wasn’t really his daughter. It’s complicated, just take my word for it.)
He grabs a trellis rod and spins himself backward into the wall to keep from colliding with his daughter. I always thought the drawings were confusing. Why would he go backward?
Looking at it now, I think I understand what happened. The Whizzer (Yes! That is his name!) must have reached to his right to grab an “off camera” trellis rod and that’s why he’s flung backward into the wall. I guess Byrne had difficulty fitting the trellis into the first frame.
This is my favorite era for comic books. The art was improved, in general, over that of the early 60s. I like the use of newsprint and full gutters on the pages, with the occasional breaking of the frame in the big action sequences. But then again, I’m probably just nostalgic for the simpler days of my youth.
Yes! He was called The Whizzer!