“The Old Order Changeth!” exclaims the first page in total Stan Lee fashion. Welcome back to Comic Book Classics Revisited. We’re closing out this week by taking a break from our Ultron Handbook to take a moment to look at when two other characters to be featured in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron movie joined the Avengers – Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Let’s jump right into The Avengers #16, shall we?Continuing from the previous issue, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, and Giant Man are deadlocked in a battle against the Masters of Evil (which, back then, were pretty much the primary villains of the Avengers and appeared in more than half the first 16 issues of the series). The Avengers are held at bay by a somewhat vague threat from the Masters of Evil against the general public who are stuck in the middle of this battle zone. Iron Man tells Thor it’s time to go to Plan-D, the Avengers’ last ditch plan which calls for Thor to whip his hammer around so fast, it creates a dimensional space warp that disorientate Black Knight and the Melter and ultimately whisks them away. Seeing this, Enchantress and Executioner escape.
Elsewhere, the Avengers take on Melter and Black Knight far away from the city where they can fight without concerned about hurting innocents. What the villains don’t realize is that they are actually not in normal space and still in a different dimension. Not realizing this means their weapons ultimately backfire. Melter’s beam doesn’t work and Melter’s gun are captured. After quickly defeating Melter and Black Knight, the Avengers return to their own dimension.
Back on Earth, Captain America is solemnly burying one of his deadliest foes, Baron Zemo. In the previous issue, Zemo was killed in his final battle against the Star-Spangled Avenger. Cap and forever-sidekick Rick Jones prepare to leave, but are attacked by what’s left of Zemo’s mercenaries and the plane they planned to use to escape (what appears to be South America or Africa) is destroyed by an errant grenade. Meanwhile, at Avengers Mansion, Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant Man lament that half the Masters of Evil have escaped again. Also, since Thor is doing some sort of Trial of the Gods (as would be seen in Thor’s own series), the three remaining Avengers decide maybe it’s time to take a break because superhero-ing around is serious business and they are all tired.
Suddenly, gas fills the meeting room and when Iron Man investigates, they see it is coming from a trick arrow sticking on the room’s door. Iron Man has his suspicions about who could have done this, and it turns out he’s right as the Avengers find Hawkeye with a tied up Jarvis. Hawkeye claims he’s here as a friend. He explains he never wanted to be an outlaw or an enemy of society, but when the police labeled him as such, it was too difficult to prove himself. So, now he wants to show his worth to a team like the Avengers. After using three arrows to cut Jarvis out of his ropes, the Avengers are quick to offer him full on membership.
Next the Avengers call Namor and offer him a chance to win respect from the surface world by giving up his dreams of conquest. Namor shoots down the offer despite being honored by the offer. Next up, in an isolated chalet in Switzerland, Quicksilver rushes to his sister, Scarlet Witch, to give her a newspaper discussing the Avengers looking for new members. They see this as their chance to show they are truly heroic and not evil lackeys of Magneto in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. So they write a letter to the Avengers to say they wish to join.
Back in New York City, the Avengers hold a press conference to introduce their newest member, Hawkeye. Hawkeye’s reception is pretty warm and friendly, but the press is concerned with the word chosen by Iron Man, “replacement”, as it gives indication there will be some members leaving. Hank and Jan seem to already be on their way out the door, though nothing is certain yet. Iron Man collects the mail to see if any other applicants have mailed their resumes.
In the jungle, Cap and Rick run into some more deadly animals as they try to find a way home. They come across a guy about to be attacked by a leopard, but Cap saves him. When the man speaks English, Cap and Rick realize they must be getting closer to civilization. Moments later, Rick and Cap are in the man’s jeep heading for an airport to return home. At the waterfront in New York, Tony Stark meets Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. The press is also there and excited to speak with two more potential Avengers. As Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch wait to be interviewed, Rick and Cap arrive back in New York. When they drive up to Avengers Mansion, they find that a crowd has assembled out in front of the headquarters. Inside, Cap sees that new members are inside the headquarters.
After Iron Man explains why the new members have been brought in, Cap is surprised to hear the Golden Avenger is on his way out with Hank and Jan. Cap reacts like a girl who’s just been blindsided by her boyfriend calling her and telling her he wants out of the relationship, but Iron Man calms him by saying they aren’t breaking up the team, just bringing on replacements. Outside, a huge crowd has formed to find out who is part of the new Avengers team. Foes of the Avengers express their own interest in the developments coming out of New York City. As Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Hawkeye talk to the adoring public, Iron Man, Giant Man, and Wasp are tearfully saying their goodbyes to being Avengers.
And a new day in the history of the Avengers is born!
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it like a billion times more before it’s all said and done… The Avengers used to be a big ass deal. This was the first time the lineup changed. Each subsequent major change to the roster meant an entire issue built around trying to figure out who should be on the team. It built suspense for fans. It was a tradition like none other at Marvel. To be invited into this family was a big deal. I mean check out how much they love each other:
It meant something to be an Avenger. It wasn’t a team you could just walk onto. It was a fraternity that the entire world watched with hopeful adoration. So, ya get it? It’s a big deal to be an Avenger.
Then came the new millennium. I will remember a lot of discussion at conventions and in articles about what Brian Michael Bendis was doing with the New Avengers series. All I kept seeing was how he grew up realizing the underlying tone of the Avengers was change. So he made the Avengers live up to that by bringing in dozens of new Avengers during his long run. Once upon a time, you’d get excited for the lineup change issue because we’d be guessing along with characters as to who would be selected. As the newer series came along, Jeebus, change wasn’t even possible to keep up with. It’s a big reason why I sided with the Avengers instead of the X-Men when I was growing up. It used to be so easy to know who was on the team and who wasn’t. Now, pick up an issue of Avengers, Hickman’s got a team of about 42 Avengers running around as central characters to the plot. It’s glut, pure and simple.
Okay, again putting away my soapbox. And speaking of soapboxes! This issue is a classic from Stan Lee himself. You can tell, too. It’s overflowing with fun and, for a lack of a better word, positivity. It’s a world I want to live in and be able to elbow my buddies and ask them if they heard about the new Avengers lineup yet. Maybe it’s why I keep going back to comics for that escape. It’s just a good place to be where the good guys win and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. That’s why we all love Stan Lee. He created the world and characters we all love.
Okay, enough of that… I do have one thing to point out that made me giggle a bit. This issue was penciled by Dick Ayers with the layouts done by Jack Kirby. However, take a look at this frame:
Okay, what’s wrong with the above image? We’ve got Tony Stark getting ready to change into his Iron Man out fit. What’s wrong with this? He’s doing it in secret because this was still during the time when no one knew each other’s secret identities. That all seems okay. Yeah, the door’s open and people could quickly just walk in on him, but that’s not what I’m referring to. CHECK OUT THE COSTUME! He’s IRON Man. Why is his leg parts draped over the bed like a pair of cotton slacks?!? It also looks like the top part has waves in it like a shirt that isn’t laying totally flat. In fact, it only looks like his helmet is made of metal. All the rest of it looks like fabric.
Maybe we should start calling him Not-So-Iron Man.
Alright, let’s wrap today’s article up and look forward to next week when we not only start the week that ends with Age of Ultron hitting theaters, but we also start the final featured story of my Ultron Handbook. It’s a 4-parter from the late 90s during that bitchin’ Kurt Busiek and George Perez run. Avengers fans all over the joint know what I’m going to start next… That’s right, come back on Monday and we’ll dive into part 1 of the “Ultron Unlimited” story arc!