The Avengers vol. 3 (1998) #2 Heroes Return, part 2 of 4 “The Call”

Last issue: Our Heroes had returned to find the team had been disbanded, but before they could look more into it, Thor arrived with dire tidings that spurred the gathering of a gaggle of Avengers. Morgan Le Fey and her whiny wimp son Modred turned out to be the bad guys and the sorceress triggered her Master Plan, which involved Odin’s giant sword and the Scarlet Witch. What plan, you may ask? Well…

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We open in the community of Titangel Head…oh, sorry, Tintagel Head. Sorry, sometimes my inner thirteen year old slips the leash. It’s a lovely castle off the coast of Cornwall, clean and well built, and… well, this isn’t a flashback: it’s 1998. And Morgan is queen of all she surveys, with the common folk living in abject terror of her displeasure. Case in point: two locals exit the Jarvis Tavern (heh) and the one named Osbert is well and truly fordrunken. His pal Willem gets put out on his arse as well just for being Osbert’s friend. Old Oz is slurrily saying something about Picts, and Willem’s trying to shut him up before they get in trouble. It’s then that they spot two fair maidens by a well and prepare to put on some smooth moves. Only, the fair maidens are “Jade Giantess” and “Lady Marvel”, two of the queen’s personal guard.

The ladies put the bloody peasants in their place, and right away you can see the violence inherent in the system. It’s then that more of the queen’s guard appears flying overhead.

I try to limit how many images I share from a comic; no one has ever specifically given me rules about it, but some blogs limit things to about a third of an issue’s content to avoid copyright strikes. I say this because the last time I was tempted to show the whole damn comic in all its glory was JLA/Avengers, another George Perez modern classic. I’m not kidding; I am so blown away by the man’s spectacular art here. And right away, you can identify the different Ye Olde versions of the Avengers despite their new outfits. I like how in some cases, they’re similar to what they’ve worn before (i.e. Sersi, Thor) because of her timeless background. And then George goes full creative on guys like Namor. I won’t lie—I wish he could have kept that outfit after this series, because man, does he looks boss.

Elsewhere, Morgan looks on via magic scrying portal thing as her flying Avengers arrive, with Modred acting the part of the killjoy, insisting she should have locked them up or killed them. But Morgan figures everything’s just fine; she’s got the Avengers in her back pocket… well, if her tight dresses had back pockets, that is. She then lays down some much needed exposition about what went down last issue, and how she drew the Asgardian creatures from the broken worlds to Earth, then used the Scarlet Witch as a kind of “software patch” (my words, not hers) between Celtic and “Muspelian” magics to make Le Fey World. But Modred wants to know: well, now what? Morgan says she’s let the Picts rebel just so she could have them crushed. Damn, she probably would have been the kid with the magnifying glass frying ants… if England had any sun to fry ants with, that is. But Modred wants his own lands to rule, and Morgan is not in the giving vein today.

Donar (aka Thor) shows up to report. Kneeling, he says the Picts have been pacified but he’s got questions, like how the God of Thunder is currently serving as a yes man. Morgan suggests he chill and maybe enjoy some refreshments.

Morgan’s explanation doesn’t wash, as Thor remembers that face being red. He flies off into the skies, intent on returning to Asgard to get some much needed answers from Woton. Modred wisely points out things are starting to come apart, but Morgan’s like naw, it’ll be fine. I bet she’s the sort of villain to drop a hero in a death trap and leave the room, confident that everything will work out.

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Meanwhile in the dark dungeons, Morgan has a special guest on hand. So at least she’s aware at least one Avenger might make a mess of things if she’s left running around loose, so she’s bound her up with shackles of cold iron.

Now of all the new designs, this one rocks the most. And Vision being used as Morgan’s personal servant now makes all kind of sense; all the better to keep a close eye on Wanda’s ex, and to twist the knife a bit. But as bound as she is, Wanda isn’t helpless. While bound by iron, her will is steel, and in desperation she’s able to use her magicks to send out a mystic cry. But is there anyone to hear it?

Cut to “Yeoman America” striding among the common folk…

…while old ladies swoon over his manliness and women of easy virtue offer distraction, and a familiar pair of ne’er do wells flee in terror. Sadly, they run into “Longbow”, who skillfully subdues them. Yeoman America approaches the Queen’s Avenger and quickly silences him, then tells him to “remember”.

Damn, now I need to know what the hell was up with that brown plantman incident. A couple of things to mention: First, I love how Hawkeye’s look is reminiscent of Green Arrow’s Mike Grell era. And I love Clint’s reaction; it’s like Perez and Busiek are acknowledging the possible over-use of the trope. Clint here is similar to how George and Kurt wrote him in JLA/Avengers, when he noted how the Justice League looked like the Squadron Supreme.

Clint was comic relief, but he was taken seriously as a character. It just seemed that over the previous few years he’d become a pathetic punchline. Sorry for the aside; it’s just that if you asked me to list my top ten favorite Avengers, Hawkeye would be in the top three. Hmm, a top ten Avengers article…

Later, the pair are on horseback and riding through town and Cap suggests the place looks like Howard Pyle’s King Arthur. I really dig this, because I looked it up and it’s a 1903 children’s book, and something that Cap might have seen when he was a kid. He also says it looks like a Disney movie, and with the Renaissance faire look of the place he’s got a point. If Morgan was going for any kind of authenticity, she missed the mark. Take, for instance, these panels from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, issue #73.

If I was putting together a super-team, The Sandman‘s Hob would be on it; an immortal with centuries of practical knowledge might prove to be the most dangerous man in the room. Hawkeye says they need to go around and start waking people up, but Cap says he already tried and several of the people he spoke to hadn’t heard the voice, meaning Hawkeye was his first success. So it seems only those who are truly deep, hardcore Avengers might be freed. The pair head to the barracks and set about figuring who those might be.

And… Tony Stark turns out to be a bad choice. But I love that Monica Rambeau, my generation’s Captain Marvel, was one of the small group who bleeds Avenger. And I have to admit it’s sad that I knew that was Monica in that outfit right away because she’s the only black woman to have ever been an Avenger. And the funny bit in this scene is that Hawkeye knew what would happen, but since nobody asked his advice and he was busy getting Jan and Monica woken up, he wasn’t in time. The Iron Knight attempts to blow them all away, and his blast destroys the floor beneath their feet, sending the gang to the barracks below. Ah, interesting; Stark’s got his own quarters above while the other men slum it. I see Morgan had at least one Avenger pegged correctly.

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Soon our heroes are surrounded by, well, more heroes:

Cap listening to Clint? Yeah, fat chance of that happening during the Perez/Busiek run. Fortunately, there’s a deliberate plot going on here, not mere character assassination. But before you know it, even more heroes show up.

Aw, man. Hank’s Giant-Man outfit is just as ugly here as it was in the real world. Before “Yeoman America” can talk his way out of this, Iron Man shows up and tells his lessers that America and the others are “ensorcelled”. Cap then uses his most powerful weapon: speechifying. He attempts a mass persuasion on the gang, and while some seem almost swayed, their resolve hardens. And then there are two defections: Quasar and… Vance Astro? But Vance isn’t even an Avenger! But… he has the heart of an Avenger, I guess? The two go over to Cap’s side, which inspires the Yeoman to give a second rousing speech, and it seems to be working, when:

You’d think by now that Namor the “sea lord” would start wondering how Tony got his own suite of rooms while he’s stuck in the barracks. But apparently he’s okay with being a minion. The fight is on and the odds are indeed fierce.

Meanwhile, the Vision is helping Morgan get dressed just as Modred bursts in and exclaims the Avengers are fighting each other. Morgan switches into her ultra-busy combat gear and heads off to see what’s going down, feigning confidence in front of her son. But her face becomes troubled as she’s starting to sense something’s not right. Said something being Wanda in the dungeons, who’s made contact with a presence. A presence she uses all her will to summon.

Cut to…

For God’s sake, can somebody please clone George Perez?

The good guys are sorely pressed with the weight of numbers against them, but the advantage of being out-numbered is you don’t have to worry so much about hitting a teammate. Even in the middle of the fight, bouncing a shield off of Black Widow as he feeds Black Panther his boot, Cap attempts to appeal to his teammates to wake up. He knows it’s only a matter of time before the weight of numbers overwhelms him and the others. Sure enough, they’re soon on the ropes, and Morgan’s face appears in the air above mocking them. Cap says they’ll go down swinging, and it’s nice that it reminds me of Age of Ultron and how well the writers of that movie “got” Captain America.

But then reinforcements arrive, heralded by a bolt of lightning from above.

Yeah, Thor’s got his mind back and he’s pissed. Cap figures now is a good time to bail, and tells Captain Marvel to cause a distraction which she does with a blinding flash. When eyes stop blinking, Morgan and her thralls see Cap and Company have scarpered. Moon Dragon begs Morgan to let her lead a posse into the woods to hunt Cap and the others down, but Morgan says it’ll be “good sport” later. Modred thinks that’s crazy talk, and Morgan thinks her son’s a bit of a chickenshit and can’t believe he sprang from her loins. Um, my words, not hers. She points out that as long as they’ve got the sword and Scarlet Witch, she controls all reality in her realm.

Meanwhile in the dungeon…

Yeah, about that “controlling the Scarlet Witch” thing…

Next Issue: The finale…wait, what? Finale? This story’s only three issues long?! Mind. Blown. Guess I’m delivering that top ten list a lot earlier than I thought.

Tag: The Avengers vol. 3 (1998) Heroes Return

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