The Avengers vol. 3 (1998) #3 Heroes Return, part 4 of 4 “Too Many Avengers!”

Last issue: Morgan Le Fay was taken down, but the Vision paid the price by being torn literally in half. Now the question is, what next? With 39 potential Avengers, are we going to get a bunch of smaller teams? Could we see a return of the Great Lakes Avengers? Avengers West Coast? Avengers Antarctica, consisting of Starfox, Moondragon, D-Man, USAgent, and any other Avenger nobody wants to work with?

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Our story opens with a news report about what happened yesterday. But instead of talking about Morgan Le Fay’s shenanigans (which makes me wonder if anyone outside of the Avengers involved remember what transpired), the reporter instead focuses on a bank robbery involving Whirlwind…

…who as you can see from the before and after has received another makeover. With a few exceptions, character looks shouldn’t remain static; there’s nothing wrong with tweaks to one’s appearance to go with the times. But in the case of Whirlwind, I’m a little disappointed. Yes, earlier he was following that very chic ’70s trend of showing off a dude’s bare abs, but I think adding the chain mail was a nice touch. And look at that bullet helmet; if I were in the business, I would be wearing the most effective brain protecting head gear imaginable. And see how it protects the neck? There’s a man whose paying for medical out of pocket and is thinking ahead. But the new look? Eh, it’s a little too… cool for the likes of a C-lister like Whirlwind. But our disposable villain of the month proves he’s no slouch when he uses his super-spinning powers and his steel blades to tear apart the bank vault and attempt to make off with a large sack full of swag. But as he attempts to flee…

And that’s just half of the Avengers! One against eighteen or so should be a bloodbath, right? But recall how Captain America’s team was able to hold a far larger force at bay for the past couple of issues. It’s just worse here, as the heroes get in each others’ way: Quicksilver gets tangled up in Spider-Woman’s psi-webs; Hawkeye’s shots deliberately go wide to avoid hitting teammates as Sandman explodes in Namor’s face; Hercules throws a chunk of debris into Crystal’s “wind trap” which goes wild, making Falcon and Stingray lose control and causing Rage to eat Hercules’ tossed giant rock. And the end is quite ignoble, as Starfox almost flies into Binary/Ms. Marvel’s energy blast, which also misses Whirlwind as he takes to the sky. But at least she hit Machine Man’s arm.

I love how utterly embarrassed Hawkeye is; it’s a mark of maturity that he seems to take this whole debacle personally. Back with the TV news reporter, she notes that the team had been “riding high” after beating Baron Zemo recently in the pages of Thunderbolts #12 (and I have to say, the first twenty-five issues of that comic were some of my favorites of all time. If you haven’t read that, do yourself a favor and do so… after you read this article, of course), so this defeat is particularly humiliating. But word is the core team is in conference with their new federal security liaison to… wait a second. “New” liaison? No Henry Peter Gyrich? Well good, that guy had worn out his welcome a long time ago. I wonder who the new guy is?

Oh… no…

Seriously, had the Avengers movie been made in the ’80s or ’90s, William Atherton would have been an utterly amazing Henry Peter Gyrich. We cut to the scene inside, where the gang has gathered.

Cap’s got a new shield because his old one got lost in sea in his own comic. I remember buying Captain America, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, and Thor during this period; Heroes Reborn might have been a flop, but Heroes Return was I feel a huge success, generating a lot of interest in titles that had been the victim of poor creative decisions. Well, Captain America was the exception. Mark Waid had been the writer before Heroes Reborn, and he pretty much picked up where he left off when he came back. And—aw no, Thor shaved! And… who is the new guy? Why, it’s the new liaison, Duane Jerome Freeman. Duane asks for some clarification regarding how the team works, and Hank explains that when things get messy, the founding members are there to sort things out, and that Cap was voted in as a founding member after Hulk got voted out. It’s a nice piece of exposition to explain why these guys get to decide who determines the new lineup. Cap asks Freeman if he has any requirements, which is in reference to when Gyrich first came onboard and picked the lineup, insisting Falcon be on the team as the token black guy to meet federal guidelines. But Freeman insists he’s here to make sure things run smoothly on a federal level, and he’s very much hands off. Thank God; the liaison is an Avengers fanboy.

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First things first: they have to figure out who can’t be or doesn’t want to be on the team. For one reason or another, Stingray, Sandman, (sigh) Photon, Firebird, Darkhawk, Spider-Woman, and Living Lightning all have other commitments. Black Widow has left without explanation, which irritates Iron Man because questions, he’s got ’em. Cap says three founding members should stay to keep things stable and volunteers, as does Iron Man. Thor also agrees to stay. Jan says she and Hank can’t, implying that hey, who knows, maybe they might give marriage another shot? Hank… doesn’t sound overly thrilled about that.

Elsewhere in the mansion, Wanda sits vigil on a recuperating Vision, full of self-recrimination that she didn’t take down Morgan Le Fay sooner. But someone disagrees.

It’s a callback to the last time Viz was laid up, when he could create holograms to communicate with people. He tells Wanda it wasn’t her fault and she shouldn’t feel obligated to stick around, since their marriage ended when the feds captured him and literally took him apart, effectively “killing” him. But Wanda is beyond frustrated with their non-relationship, and her hand passing through his hologram symbolizes their non-existent connection far more effectively than words could. She stalks out of the room with Vision looking on with an expression of loss on his face, which is likely due to the realization that maybe there was more in him that needed Wanda that he had realized.

Meanwhile, She-Hulk, Black Knight, Quicksilver, and Crystal leave the mansion, with each one citing their own prior commitments. Inside, Hawkeye stalks around, obviously fuming that he wasn’t automatically picked. And Falcon’s not crazy about joining up, and seems to be just sticking around more for curiosity’s sake, while Hercules is totally chill. However, Moondragon’s just here out of “courtesy”. It’s more like she’s hoping she gets a spot just so she can say “no”, because I’m pretty sure that’s how she rolls. Honestly, after mind-raping Thor a while back and killing Drax the Destroyer (her father), I’m shocked she’s still allowed in the building. And nope, I’m not making that up; go read Avengers (vol. 1) #219 and #220.

Vance Astro pops in and tells his partner/girlfriend Firestar he’s heard there’s a robbery going on, and they should head out and deal with it to prove they’ve got what it takes. Nearby, Hawkeye overhears… and ponders…

Cut to the Beast running tests on Carol Danvers, confirming what she suspected: she’s getting weaker. She talks the Beast into keeping things quiet. And then they consider a new name for her. Uh, why? Yeah, okay, “Binary” doesn’t work anymore, but what’s wrong with Ms. Marvel? By this point, Sharon Venture was She-Thing and wasn’t using it. I guess the twenty-year rule hadn’t applied yet and “Ms. Marvel” wasn’t cool and nostalgic enough yet. Meanwhile, Wanda sits by a window as she thinks of a face. But not Vision’s face; no, someone else’s. And that ionically charged face begins to take shape outside the window when—

Nice job of cock-blocking there, Jan. There’s more culling as Quasar, Sersi, Magdaline, Swordsman, Namor, Machine Man, and Black Panther politely decline. Hank wonders if they’ll ever fill out the roster, while Cap wonders what happened to Hawkeye, who they called up earlier. Duane then politely asks for autographs of the team. Duane’s a Skrull, isn’t he? Or Kang the Conqueror in disguise? D-Man departs, but not without plenty of groceries provided by Jarvis, because sometimes real heroes wear tails. Speaking of tails…

Yes, more departures. Back in the mansion, Carol continues to think about a new name while examining the contents of the well-stocked bar. Iron Man comes to collect her and Carol makes a lame excuse why she was behind the bar. And to Tony Stark, alcoholic, a grown woman making such an excuse is surely a red flag.

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Elsewhere in NYC, Whirlwind flies through the skies, still flush over his earlier “victory”, and ready for more scores. Only, his day gets ruined when he’s ambushed by Vance and Firestar. Vance is all cocky, thinking he’s got Whirlwind’s number. But Whirlwind ain’t gonna sweat a pair of kids!

Back at the mansion, the gang is going over the “maybes”. When Cap suggests Ms. Marvel, Iron Man expresses reservations but won’t elaborate. The gang quickly shuts him down and Tony backs off, because all he’s got are suspicions. Cap asks about the USAgent, and Jan quickly changes the subject, asking where Hawkeye is. Yeah, why bother with Carbon Copy Cap when you’ve got the original? Oh, and speaking of Hawkeye…

Bet you wish you were still wearing the old bucket helmet now, don’t you, Whirly? Hawkeye points out as a former team leader (both of the Avengers West Coast and Great Lakes Avengers, for those who didn’t know), he’s always on the lookout for talent, and soon he’s got the press all over Vance and Firestar, declaring that they took down Whirly and implying to the press that they’re going to be Avengers. Inside, Hawkeye reminds Cap that he said he should listen to Hawkeye more, and well, if the kids aren’t in, then he’s out. Cap explains that there’s only one slot open and they were saving it for Clint. Clint’s too proud to beg and he offers the last spot to the kids, telling Cap he owes him that much at least. Damn, but I love Clint; he’s all cocky and a bit of a pain in the ass, but his heart’s in the right place.

Firestar’s all “I can tell when I’m not wanted” and begins to storm out, but Cap stops her, saying that while he and the others were jaw-jackin’ (my words), Vance and Firestar were getting it done out there, so he’s up for the pair being reservists, and training with the main team. Vance utterly fanboys out at this news. In the end, Jan and Hank fly on out of there and a press conference is called.

This is an action-light issue, but the character interactions are top-notch, laying the groundwork for future subplots. Like Morrison and Porter’s JLA run, the Busiek/Perez pairing was pretty wizard and was part of a back to basics approach from Marvel. If my buying habits back then were anything to go by, I think it was largely successful, with comic fans wanting more traditional versions of their heroes. Hence, Thor wound up with a mortal alter-ego, adult Tony Stark was back… somehow, and we had a lineup of Avengers that was a reflection of a more popular time, back when guys like Perez and Byrne were illustrating the title. Sometimes nostalgia’s a bad thing. Other times, it’s exactly what you need to remind people why you fell in love with a franchise in the first place.

Next time: I set aside the periodicals and take a look at Star Trek. Hope to see you then!

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

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