Comic Book Classics Revisited: The Avengers (vol. 3) #22

avengers-v3-22 Welcome to Comic Book Classics Revisited, and our final chapter of my Ultron Handbook – The Avengers (1998) #22.  Up to this point, the murderous Ultron has slaughtered and entire European country, kidnapped five Avengers (and the villainous Grim Reaper), and replicated himself a whole bunch of times.  Simply based upon the cover, if you’re able to tear your eyes off of Scarlet Witch’s midriff, things don’t look so good.  But the Avengers never give up and I’m willing to bet Ultron has another thing coming if he thinks he’s got this in the bag. But, the Avengers are finding out it’s not going to be too easy to defeat him…

That's a lotta Ultrons.

That’s a lotta Ultrons.

While a small band of Avengers fight the hordes of Ultron duplicates, Justice, the injured and sidelined Avenger, has bolted from his station at Avengers Mansion after spending all day and all night studying past battles against Ultron, and underneath where the group of Avengers are battling the duplicates, the main Ultron is completing his duplication of his captives’ brain patterns.  Hank Pym is still beating himself up over something he’s not told anyone else before.  He finally reveals to his longtime love, Janet Van Dyne, that Ultron’s original brain patterns were based on his own.  It’s Pym himself, or at least some darker version of Pym, that’s committed these crimes against humanity.  Jan finally realizes that it’s this very secret that has been at major fault for Pym’s tragic and fragile psyche. hanks-secret Outside, the battling Avengers, led by Captain America, have discovered that Ultron is keeping a secret himself.  Not all those multitudes of himself they are fighting are made from adamantium.  There’s not enough of it in the world to build that many versions of the robot.  So, now, their path to the main Ultron’s lair is not littered with as much danger as originally believed.  So, after a scan by Iron Man, he discovered most are made of titanium, which Cap, Iron Man, Black Panther, and Firestar should be able to handle.  The others are made from secondary adamantium which Thor can destroy if he goes “all out”.  Thankfully, Iron Man can also give Thor a little bit of a boost by using a weaponized version of the molecular rearranger that is used to form adamantium at the time of manufacture. Inside the lair, Ultron’s task to record all the brain patterns of his captives is complete, but his “son”, Vision, has a bit of a surprise for him.  Ultron didn’t count on the upgrades that Vision has given himself over the years that allow for him to interface with computer systems remotely.  Thus, he’s able to free himself by way of deus ex machina… er, I mean his abilities to interface with Ultron’s systems.  He also is able to disable the little jolts that are keeping Scarlet Witch napping on the sly.  He offers Ultron a truce – the two of them will head off to parts unknown to find their place.  Ultron, being the sneaky bastard he is, feigns feelings and surprise that, even after all he’s done, Vision is still offering him a chance at peace and understanding.  But Ultron’s onto it and blasts Vision.  All of it was a ruse because Vision just needed the extra time to complete the hack to free both Scarlet Witch and Grim Reaper (who, in turn, frees everyone).  So, just as the six captives are about to all take on Ultron for all he’s done, that’s when the battlin’ Avengers from the outside bust through the wall of the lair in the most badass, total nerdgasm way I’ve ever seen in any comic ever…

I'm gonna need a moment to recover from all this awesome overload...

I’m gonna need a moment to recover from all this awesome overload…

So now, it’s an all-out Avengers battle against their most deadly adversary.  Iron Man jumps in to attack Ultron from behind while Cap is getting tossed and Hank is getting blasted.  Thor’s tossing his hammer and it’s bouncing right off the adamantium robot.  Ultron’s shouting like a good bad guy he is.  He’s choking Black Panther.  Vision’s had enough and basically does a 1999 version of “Come at me, bro!” only to get his wish and get encephalo-ray blasted.  Scarlet Witch tries to use her powers to mess with the internal workings, but she kinda messes up and her powers go awry and, instead of weakening Ultron, makes him even more powerful than ever!  Thor nearly gets killed by Ultron, and Hank Pym enlarges to punch Ultron but gets tossed. That’s when Justice arrives on the scene with a couple canisters of “anti-metal” which emits a vibratory field that dissolves metal.  It’s not been tried on adamantium, but Pym’s ready to put it to the test.  He calls out for his son and socks the robo-jerk right in the jaw with a fist full of anti-metal!

“Take THAT, sucka!”

Hank takes out years of frustration, crazy, and hatred on Ultron by pummeling him with the anti-metal.  As he does, every single thing with metal in it dissolves around the team – including Firestar’s bio-suit.  Panther gets Iron Man behind some concrete to protect him.  As Hank continues to punch his son’s face, he has one of those real cathartic moments (like on a religious level) until nothing is left of this version of Ultron.  After Ultron’s dealt with, the Avengers pack up, leaving the cleanup of Slovenia to the United Nations, and leave a job well done.

“Yeah, I think you got him, dude.”

And so ends one of those real key stories of what I feel is the finest run on any action-oriented series ever.  This third volume by Kurt Busiek and George Perez will pretty much live forever in the annals of comic book history.  It featured the most powerful of all Avengers teams ever – plenty strong enough to wipe out the Justice League (I’d say “in my opinion”, but it’s simply fact).  It was nearly non-stop action.  It featured so much tradition and history that it felt like the entire structure of the series came from the 70s (there was a story in these early issues in which New York celebrated the annual “Avengers Day” that had floats and parade and the whole shebang).  There is not a man, woman, or child I would not recommend this run to because these issues felt like the Marvel movies are; pushing fun all the way, with what feels like a big budget even if it was just paper, pencil, and ink.  Busiek and Perez would even pay homage to past writers: dedication Though I’m far from finished with this volume of the series in my comic Book Classics Revisited series, I should explain what happens to this team in the future issues.  In the next issue, Wonder Man, Vision, and Scarlet Witch work more on their little love triangle created by the fact that Vision is basically a robotic form of Wonder Man so they both naturally both love Wanda Maximoff.  A roster change comes along that finds a much more confident Hank Pym back in the role of leader and also breaks up the “holy trinity” of Cap, Iron Man, and Thor for a bit with only Iron Man staying on the team. The two that depart that always bothered me most were Justice and Firestar.  I loved that they were part of the team in the first place having been known better for being members of the New Warriors, and being rather young.  They grew up a bit while on the team and proved themselves as true Avengers.  It was during this time that Firestar learned that using her own powers could one day kill her, so Pym and Iron Man design that bio-suit I referred to previously to help her still use her powers to help people but no longer endanger herself.  They also talked of getting married and all that good young couple stuff.  Unfortunately they would leave, not really be too much part of the team any further (aside from helping here and there and Justice’s work with the Initiative and Avengers Academy).  Much like their time with the team, Vance Astrovik and Angelica Jones’ relationship would not last.  They eventually broke up and now often have pretty awkward exchanges when they run into each other. Whenever I get in one of those sentimental and melancholy moods about comics, I will always say that they don’t make them like these were anymore.  We live in a time in which it’s not enough to have action or fairly high stakes to what the bad guy is doing.  We need books that are more mature, and at times grittier.  We also need writers who can weave these intricate stories with really high concepts.  With all the Avengers books published in the course of a month, why can’t we just have one that’s structured like this – fun, action-oriented, and readable by all ages?  We don’t need Jonathan Hickman with his 87 Avengers on a single team, or have Marvel hire guys like Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison to tell trippy-ass stories that break the fourth wall or bring in characters that exist on different planes of existence to tell a truly good Avengers story from issue to issue (NOT trade paperback to trade paperback, dammit).  Maybe I’m just becoming one of those old fuddy-duddies. Let’s just end it there shall we? kraang1 What was that?  Anyone else hear that? kraang2 Eh, whatever.  Probably just the toilet running or something.  Or maybe my apartment’s foundation is just settling…  Hmmm, oh well!  Come back Monday as Comic Book Classics Revisited rolls on with the start of a new story! kriink

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