Andy’s Read Pile: Avengers, Assault on Olympus
So did you go see Avengers: End Game yet? I’m sure you must have by now. I’ve heard reports that hermits that have been living off the grid for years subsisting on a meager diet of beans and recycled pee water shunning all forms of communication and influence in the outside world have even been showing up at movie theaters just to see what happened “after the snap”. I for one have already seen it, as have most of the members of the GotS crew here.
However, you wouldn’t know it by how tight lipped we’ve been about our thoughts concerning the end of this MCU era and it’s climatic conclusion. I will say it’s all through design as the Ghosts wanted to give everyone out there on the interwebs an extra week to digest this 3 hour film and it’s monumental impact before releasing our movie review podcast.
So long story short, make sure you tune in this Friday, May 3rd to our Bonus monthly episode to hear what the Ghosts thought of this tremendous movie event and the long term implications for the future of the MCU franchise. Make sure to subscribe if you haven’t already to any of the variety of podcast spots such as iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and the like so you don’t miss this GotS event show that’s been years in the making!
In any case, now that I’m done with the shameless plugging, on to the read pile for today’s post. In attempts to keep that Avengers buzz building, I’ve decided to showcase an trade paperback from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, that you can pick up at your local comic book store today! It is in some ways a sequel/conclusion to one of the most famous Avengers story lines of all time, Roger Stern’s epic “Under Siege”, in which the Avengers are ambushed at their headquarters by Baron Zemo and his new Masters of Evil, and are nearly defeated.
As we’ll get to in a moment, this grouping of issues now more universally known as the “Assault on Olympus” story line, not only serves to wrap up the fallout from the Under Siege event, but also Roger Stern’s epic run as writer of the Avengers in the mid 80s, which is fondly remembered as a truly significant and influential run for this book in general, and one that many other Avengers spinoffs and tie in media has ended up referring to at one point or another.
One of the main repercussions of the “Under Siege” attack for the Avengers team, is the brutal attack on their resident beefcake/greek god, Hercules, who is nearly beaten to death by some of the Masters of Evil’s strongest heavy hitters, such as Mister Hyde, Goliath, and the combined power of the Wrecking Crew. The end result finds Herc confined to a hospital bed in coma with severe brain damage.
Outraged over this attack on his kin, Herc’s father, the almighty Greek God, Zeus, decides not to hold the Masters of Evil responsible for his son’s present state, but instead the Avengers themselves, stating that their reckless behavior and disregard for the fate of their fellow teammates lead Hercules to his present state. Thus, the Avengers are attacked and magically kidnapped by the Greek Pantheon including such well known mythological characters from the Greco/Roman tradition as Hermes, Neptune, and Dionysus. Although they attempt to explain that it was Hercules’ impulsive and reckless refusal to follow orders that lead to him being outnumbered and ultimately attacked by the Masters, Zeus demands retribution for his son, and turns the team over to Pluto, ruler of the underworld and semi recurrent Thor baddie.
After originally being imprisoned in hellish dungeons found in Hades, the Avengers are rescued by Namor the Submariner, and manage to fine their way back to Mt. Olympus forcing a showdown with Zeus himself in hopes of making him see reason. Although they are helped in that confrontation by the exiled titan, Prometheus, and by some of Zeus’ own family like Venus and Hera, in the end, its Zeus’ own son, Hercules, who stops the fighting.
After being reawakened by Dr. Druid, Hercules confirms the Avengers story that it was his fault, not theirs, that be received the monumental ass beating from the Masters of Evil. As punishment for unfairly attacking the Avengers, Zeus bans all Greek Gods from ever stepping foot on the Earth again, or meddling in their affairs, that includes Hercules being recused from the team altogether.
Things I Liked:
It’s hard not to highlight in this section by saying that I’m an absolute huge fan of this particular era of the Avengers series. Mainly because it’s got two of my favorite comic book legends on the same book at the same time, in an often overlooked dream team of sorts.
That would be aforementioned Roger Stern, who again penned not only this gripping adventure pitting our modern day pantheon of god like characters verses the pantheon from the bygone days of yore, but also wrote such other solid Avengers story lines such as the Council of Kangs and of course “Under Siege”.
Speaking of which, if you are in the mood to not only listen to our review of Infinity War from one year ago, but also hear a read pile review of that particularly great Avengers story you can click on the link below to take a blast to the GotS past with one of our great classic podcasts:
Anyways, the second half of this dream team would be the man I’ve mentioned several times on the podcast as my number 1 favorite comic book artist of all time, the man that taught us all to “Draw Comics the Marvel Way”, John Buscema!
John was originally the artist that saved what I consider a floundering Avengers title in the mid 60s by stepping in and bringing his dramatic, powerful, and highly romanticized style to Marvel’s premiere super hero team and made the book worthy of those we consider Earth’s Mightiest. I mean, the “Behold the Vision” cover alone is worth all the praise in the world for delivering the striking imagery we deserve from these characters.
And here he is again, back in the mid 80s, helping to usher the Avengers again through a difficult time, when they didn’t really have the most exciting or sexy lineup, thanks to half of their well known characters being over on the West Coast title at the time. But it didn’t seem to matter whether John was drawing an “A” class member like Thor, or a “D” class member like Dr. Druid, he drew all these characters with a poise and inner strength that many an Avengers artist before or since has yet to match.
Yes, indeed folks, under different hands, this collection of stories, whether about the Avengers fighting Greek Gods, multiple Kangs, or an evil version of themselves, could have been dull and unremarkable, especially again given the somewhat lackluster grouping of team members. But thanks to Stern and Buscema deft handling of the both the scripting and the art, it is truly a treat for any Avengers fan or more importantly, a fan of just good comics in general.
Things I Didn’t Like:
I’m not so much going to use this section to discuss something I didn’t like about this book in particular, but instead about something that occurred in this book, which now in retrospect, was criminally overlooked in later Avengers run and in Marvel’s history overall. That is the fact that Monica Rambeau aka Photon aka the Captain Marvel of the ’80s was in fact named the leader of the Avengers over the likes of Avengers mainstays like Captain America and Thor.
I mean this wasn’t the first time she was the team’s leader as she filled in temporarily when Cap, Iron Man, Wasp, and the rest were off fighting on Battleworld during the original “Secret Wars” crossover. However, this was infinitely more monumental because the group had other more well known members that could have lead the team, and yet, even they voted to name Monica as their leader!
I mean talk about forward thinking from Roger Stern to have the guts to name a minority female character as the leader of one of the premiere super hero teams Marvel had. I mean I sure the X-men did it first with Storm, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Monica earned this honor and serves with distinction at least during this story line in their battle against Zeus as a strong and capable commander.
What I didn’t like though is more about what happens to this character in the years after Stern left this book, and how pretty much the Avengers first black female leader was largely abandoned and forgotten, as the Captain Marvel title was taken back from her to be used for other male characters which Marvel thought they would sell more books with. In fact, it took nearly 20 more years for the Captain Marvel moniker to find it’s way back to a female, and in some ways as a slap in the face to Monica, it still wasn’t even her, but Carol Danvers. I mean sure Carol is worthy of that title as well, but still I feel terrible for this character that went from being the leader of the Avengers to someone that was pretty much looked at as a joke in the years following.
We did the Warren Ellis series Nextwave on the show last week, and although that’s one of my favorite comic series of all time, the fact that Monica is given this running joke about how she once led the Avengers is in some ways insulting. It makes light of what a ground breaking accomplishment that was, and how little Marvel thinks about it now in terms of their own continuity.
Jason Aaron’s current run on the Avengers has received high marks for making Black Panther the team’s official chairman, but I hate to say that doesn’t even hold a candle to Monica being named almost 30 years before. I’m just saying publicly with all the buzz around Captain Marvel and Monica’s appearance in the MCU movie and such, I think it’s time for a serious reevaluation of this exciting and dynamic character that hasn’t really gotten much of a fair shake.
Among all the issues collected in this story line, there’s one that stands out as a little bit of an “odd man out”. It’s issue 280 entitled “Faithful Servant”, and deals another causality of the Under Siege attack in Jarvis, the Avengers faithful and ever present butler. After being attacked by Mister Hyde in the previous story arc, Jarvis is in pretty rough shape in the hospital, so much so, that Iron Man stops by to suggest that maybe Jarvis should retire from being the Avengers butler out of fear that he could suffer worse in future if the Avengers enemies attack the mansion.
This exchange prompts Jarvis to remember events from the Avengers past including serving the Hulk during their first ever meeting as a team when they drew up the official charter, fireside chats with Captain America after the super solider was first freed from his icy tomb, and witnessing the blossoming love between Scarlet Witch and Vision first hand. In the end though after some tortured soul searching, Jarvis phones Iron Man to tell him he will be resuming his role as butler at Avengers Mansion.
I call this the “odd story out” because it’s not written by or drawn by the team of Stern/Buscema like all the rest. It’s actually written by long standing X-men editor Bob Harris, who did eventually write the Avengers in the mid 90s. I’m not sure if it’s a fill in issue or something as it seems very odd to have Stern off the book for a single month, especially with a story it seems he could have written and would have fit with his overall story. Maybe he couldn’t meet a deadline or something. That stuff did happen back in the day, although not as much by this time thanks to Shooter’s influence as editor and chief.
I did hear rumors that Stern didn’t get along with his editors from time to time, so much so that I believe that’s why he was fired from the Avengers title to begin with. This could have been the opening shot of what eventually would be that dismal. I would love to sit down with him sometime and ask what happened that caused this issue, as it really does stick out in some ways like a sore thumb.
Although this collection of Stern/Buscema issues isn’t as well known as “Under Siege”, it’s still extremely well done and important to anyone that likes good Avengers stories, or just good superhero stories in general. I’ll admit that it’s not as cohesive as some of the other story arcs this team undertook, what with some filler issues containing Wasp leaving the team, Monica’s decision to lead, and Jarvis’ decision to stay, but even those stories are well done and add to the overall fabric of the tale.
It’s a team of Avengers at a crossroads, unsure about their direction in the wake of a devastating loss, and all of their members are working through some sort of personal issue. Then comes a second ambush of sorts with the attack by Zeus and the gods on the heels of the Masters of Evil one, and again, the team is caught off-guard and has to struggle from clear disadvantages to win the day. It makes for high drama and when coupled with the first rate art of a master at his craft, it really becomes something special.
I won’t lie in saying you should run out and pick this series up today and read it. Even if the pairing of Stern/Buscema seems interesting to you, I would start with Under Siege and Council of Kangs first before tackling this trade. However, if you have read those and enjoyed what they had to offer, I would highly recommend finishing off their run by reading their work on Assault on Olympus. It’s a really great capstone to one of the best Avengers writer/artist duos that ever had the chance to pen Marvel’s premiere superhero team up book!
Andy’s Read Pile Grade: B