Hello there, Legions of the Unspoken! It’s that time again for a meeting of the minds with the other fantastic members of the Super-Blog Team Up! Make sure you click through and read all the great articles!
For our go-round, we decided to do an episode of The Spoken Decade, which is our term for the podcasts we do. This go round, Dean Compton & Emily Scott tackled THE RISE OF THE MIDNIGHT SONS!!!!! Have a listen, enjoy, and comment, people!
Super Blog-Team Up:
The theme for this Super Blog Team-Up is Magic! Take a look at these magical blogs!
Welcome to another fabulous edition of not just The Unspoken Decade, but that nifty blog crossover epic we call “Super Blog Team-Up!” This go-round we at SBTU have decided to utterly enthrall you with some of the most violent and spectacular clashes of all time, as we present VS!
Here where it’s always 1996, we bring you two of Marvel’s heaviest hitters when it comes to firepower. One is James Rhodes, better known as the operator of he most offensively-powerful armor this side of a Hulkbuster, War Machine! The other is the son of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, sent to a far future to cure his techno-virus, he has now returned to the present day as the telekinteic cyborg warrior known as Cable!
Personally, I have always wanted a Punisher/War Machine/Cable team-up. They could call it “big guns, bigger attitudes”. It writes itself! WHERE ARE YOU, MARVEL? GET THIS DONE.
The fight between Cable and War Machine takes place over the first few issues of War Machine’s first solo title. Written by Len Kaminski and Scott Benson, penciled by Gabriel Gecko, and inked by Pam Eklund, War Machine #1 hits our reality in April of 1994 (according to the copyright indicia) as an attempt to sort of stretch the parameters of the super hero game. The first issue has James Rhodes getting caught up in an international incident that ties the hands of most of the other heroes. It also sports a die-cut foil cover that is sort of hard to display on the internet.
War Machine’s armor is probably my favorite Iron Man armor ever. I mean, just look at it. Right there on that cover, you can see two guns on his wrist, a giant cannon on his shoulder, and what appears to be a missile battery on his other shoulder. Beautiful. Also, you just know that his chest circle fires SOMETHING AWESOME.
In real life, I tend to be a defense first guy (as a fan of the 2015 WORLD CHAMPION Kansas City Royals, how can ya blame me?). In my genre fiction, give me the guy who has little protection who comes out with every gun he has firing as he simply overpowers his enemy with a fierce barrage from his armada! That’s War Machine in a nutshell, although I am underselling the brilliant strategic mind of one James Rhodes as well.
The selling point of these early issues of War Machine is that James Rhodes isn’t gonna sit idly by as the technicalities of the world prevent him from taking the fight right to the bad guys. After he makes a connection with a famous international diplomat, Vincent Cetewayo, who is looking to start a corporation known as “WorldWatch” that would help deal with international crises before they develop, James is intrigued. He refuses Cetewayo’s offer at first, but after reading his book, James seems to be coming around on the idea. Of course, then said international diplomat is kidnapped by the regime he once fled, Imaya. Due to the fact that this African nation is full-fledged member of the United Nations, many heroes are paralyzed by international law as it prevents them from acting…
The angry phone call Rhodes is on doesn’t seem to get Fury on the line, as Rhodes quickly shows up at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ with harsh words for Nick Fury.
C’mon War Machine, how could you possibly figure that Fury wouldn’t know who you were and what you were up to? It’s his game!
It’s insanely hard not to side with War Machine here. It isn’t like Fury doesn’t go off half-cocked when he feels like it, the UN and S.H.I.E.L.D. be damned. Now that War Machine needs some help, though, Fury is acting like these rules are suddenly sacrosanct. That’s government bureaucrat types for ya, amirite? Also, ain’t it against international law to, y’ know, just kidnap a guy off a hijacked airline? Oh, UN, you’re so delightfully unwieldy.
After seeing that he’ll get no help from Fury in regard to this, War Machine says the line that seemingly has to be said in nearly every action flick and story:
War Machine plows into Imaya, taking out soldiers and warplanes left and right. He’s doing very well against these instruments of war, which might be ironic because he is a War Machine. Or is it just meta? I dunno, Alanis Morissette forever ruined all of our understandings of ironic. (Also, if you think that joke is too old, you’re the one reading a 90’s comics website, pal.)
While War Machine’s attack may make for impressive viewing, X-Force’s leader Cable doesn’t like it.
So it appears Cable has taken umbrage with War Machine going solo in a War Zone. Apparently, Cable is the only guy allowed to do what he wants with big guns, a gleam in his eye, and a devil-may-care attitude. When it isn’t him, Cable is super concerned with geopolitical events and how a solitary man with an advanced suit of armor trying to rescue a man destined to be tortured and killed could upset the entire balance of power in Africa!
Now, before we can get to laser fights, Cable and War Machine have to try and win the debate. I’ll spare you my opinion of who is right, but I’d love to know yours in the comment. (Here’s a hint as to whose side I am on; it’s War Machines’s.)
This exchange of philosophy does nothing to change the mind of either Cable or War Machine, and so we get Cable and War Machine throwing down! We also get Cable spouting a line that’d lead one to believe he was trying out for a Viagra commercial.
Cable draws first blood, knocking War Machine down and into some boulders. War Machine doesn’t take this lying down, however, and quickly takes over on offense. He separates Cable from his firearm, which leads to the most ineffective strategy Cable has ever employed against an opponent.
The back and forth is fairly evenly matched, but just when it appears that Round 2 is about to start, a new competitor enters the ring and it becomes a triple threat match!
That’s where War Machine #1 leaves off, and Page #1 of issue #2 may be my favorite page by Gecko in either issue. But first, the cover to War Machine #2!
Not only is this a great page artwise to me, I love the succinctness in getting all three of the players across. With just three panels, you know who everyone is, what their motivation is, and how they are feeling about the situation. One can even reasonably assume that Deathlok is housing two personalities based on what we see here, which he is.
What we really need, though, is a two-page splash showing us just how badass all these guys look together.
Basically, we get the same conversation that Cable and War Machine have been having, but now Deathlok is thrown in, and he is on War Machine’s side. This sits none too well with Cable, who decides to use that awesome gun of his (for real, I could talk for hours about Cable’s guns. Ask Emily.) to solve a problem. That problem’s name is Deathlok!
War Machine tries to play peacemaker, but all that does is rile Deathlok up in his direction.
War Machine finally uses his massive firepower to overcome the both of them, as he attempts to talk some sense into these guys. It’s sorta funny how all of a sudden after breaching international borders and shooting down Imayan warplanes in Imayan airspace that War Machine now fancies himself the voice of reason. Of course, seeing as he is the only 100% human guy here, maybe he’s the only one we can trust. One way or another, War Machine incapacitates them both, and then he gets to deliver a lecture because to the victor go the soliloquies.
For those of you placed your wager on “the three guys yap until Imayan ground forces show up,” head to the window and collect. You have to wonder what sort of resistance they could possibly put up to these three, seeing as how War Machine just single-handedly thrashed their entire goddamn air force. I do suppose that being in the military in a despotic dictatorship probably just has you going out in your tank even after a solitary armored figure has taken out all your air support. Your choice is get killed by War Machine or get killed by your superior in the ranks.
Cable, though, can teleport, so he has lots of choices, including the choice to allow Deathlok and War Machine to reap what they have sown without him around.
And that’s the end of the Cable vs. War Machine showdown. It’s a rather typical Marvel hero vs. hero fight, in that there is no clear winner, although it’s a little less like a typical Marvel hero fight because Cable and War Machine are at odds from the start and there is no misunderstanding between them before they pal up and head after the baddies! I suppose Deathlok is the one who handles that role with ol’ Rhodey here.
The rest of the early War Machine story arc is good. You get to see War Machine take on a nation’s entire armed forces as he teams with Imayan freedom fighters to liberate their country. Cable plays a small role by evacuating Cetewayo to the camp of said freedom fighters. If he had just done that to start, there’d have been no fight! But then again, I wouldn’t have this article, either. Hmmm.
For real, though, scope out the rest of this early War Machine arc if for no other reason than to just see this image explained:
Now that you have had a nice fight here, maybe you should go take a gander at the other folks playing along with Super Blog Team Up! Check out the links below:
Hello, Legions of the Unspoken! I hope that you are better than me and have enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron by now. We went to the Ultimate Marvel Marathon, only to find out that the big enchilada, Avengers: AoU, would be in 3D! I am not sure I have related this before to the Legions, but I have vertigo and therefore cannot handle a 3D movie! So we sucked it up and left early.
To date, I still have not seen the movie. I am sure I will, but to placate me until then, and to satisfy all of the guests taking a gander here due to the Super Blog Team Up, I am going to give you the top 1990’s moments for The Avengers. Now all of these moments won’t be highlights or the best stuff that happened to them, but they will certainly be the ones that stood out the most, had the most impact, and generate the most buzz, good or bad, to this day.
Aren’t you glad I warned you that there’d be stuff you hated on this list? Don’t you wish that either the warning had come sooner or that this had come later? This is legendarily bad. So bad that we are still talking about it not just as the worst moment of Avengers history in the 90’s, but it is probably the worst moment for the Avengers period. In this story, we learn that Tony Stark, Iron Man, has been working for Kang for years and is a traitor to the Avengers. The Avengers have issues defeating him, so they go back in time to retrieve a young Tony Stark to beat the current Tony Stark for them. That makes no sense, and after this story, it is almost NEVER MENTIONED again. After Heroes Reborn/Return (which we’ll see more of later in this article) Tony Stark is just back. Of course, that’s the worst thing that happened in this story. Other awful things happened, too, such as the Wasp looking like this:
9-Spider-Man joins The Avengers
This one is controversial and creates a huge schism for superhero fans. I first learned of Spidey’s status as an Avenger by the 1991 trading card above. Should Spidey be an Avenger? There are several story arcs in the 80’s dedicated to such an idea, but it isn’t until 1991 that it finally happens! Of course, it wasn’t easy, as at one point in Avengers #316 he gets offered a spot on the team, only to have said offer be rescinded.
It would be just 13 issues later when Spidey would be brought in as a reserve Avenger, complete with one of those “WHO WILL BE IN THE AVENGERS” trademark covers the group likes to do so much. Spidey even gets to stick it to J. Jonah Jameson without webbing up the Daily Bugle Publisher’s mouth.
My two cents on Spidey being one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is that he should be in…but only as a Reserve Avenger. That makes sense to me, as Spidey is always fun to see team-up with folks once in awhile, and he’d be there if the situation was large enough, anyhow. Seeing him month in and month out is just no fun, though.
8-At one point, there were 8 simultaneous Avengers-related titles on the shelf at once.
The 1990’s are said to be the decade of Image Comics and the X-Men, and rightfully so. The Avengers, however, were no slouches. Despite spending most of the decade as perceived 2nd-tier players, you could get 8 titles related to the Avengers! Of course, some of these were solo titles that were not Avengers titles, but I cannot imagine Quasar, Thunderstrike, or Wonder Man getting titles without their Avengers connection. In the opposite manner, Mighty Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America certainly could have stood on their own without any Avengers ties, but the fact that these three guys are “The Big Three” of The Avengers means that even in their own books, being an Avengers is an integral part of the character. Throw in Avengers and Avengers West Coast, and you’ve got 8 books in the year 1993 to choose from to get an Avengers fix.
7-Acts of Vengeance
This one is a bit of a cheat, as the event actually begins in 1989, but it crosses over into 1990 just enough to garner it a place on this list. If more of it had happened in the 90’s, rest assured it would have a higher spot. As it is, the idea of the greatest supervillains of the world switching partners and taking on other foes is a great one, and it led to some awesome stories everywhere from Spider-Man to Punisher, with stuff like Daredevil taking on Ultron in-between. We also got a sweet John Byrne FF#1 homage cover. As one cover blurb states, it was the “ultimate Super-Villain Team-Up”. Read that in a Vince McMahon voice, please.
Marvel was slumping from the loss of the speculator boom, and their flagship titles, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers, were slumping not just in terms of sales, but in how they were seen by the audience. As stated earlier, Image Comics, X-Men, and Spider-Man (among several properties) had taken the eminent position in the marketplace. This led Marvel to throw a Hail Mary by reaching out to Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to re-tool these properties and bring them back to the audience as cool and hot properties. Heroes Reborn resulted in great sales, including the best selling issue of Avengers of all time, but the sales were not quite what was needed to pay the salaries of Liefeld and Lee. There was harsh criticism of the books as well, especially Liefeld’s Avengers and Captain America. About midway through Heroes Reborn, Marvel asked them to take pay cuts. Lee acquiesced while Liefeld balked and walked. After a year, the deal was done, and we’d get Heroes Return, but Heroes Reborn might be the loudest Avengers moment of the 90’s, and it almost certainly generated the most revenue in Avengers comic book history; the movies, of course, are another story.
5-Avengers West Coast Disbanded
When I started reading comics regularly, there were two branches of Avengers. This made Avengers seem awesome and very important. Avengers West Coast was also consistently more entertaining than its east coast cousin when Roy and Dann Thomas were at the writing helm, while the Bob Harras Avengers title just sort of floundered. I didn’t see the end of Avengers West Coast coming. I remember being shocked when I read about it in Wizard or Hero Illustrated or some such magazine. I was upset, and I didn’t understand why they’d trash this legacy for Force Works. I liked FW all right, but it was no Avengers West Coast to me, and while much of that grandeur surrounding The Avengers has been restored, I wonder why in the last decade of umpteen badrillion Avengers books named everything from New to Secret to Pet Avengers, why we couldn’t have gotten the return of Avengers West Coast…
4-Operation: Galactic Storm
A huge part of the history of The Avengers is the role that the mega epic plays in their history. If they didn’t have any, we could not refer to them as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and they probably would not be the center of the movie world. The Avengers mega epic menagerie includes great stories like The Korvac Saga, The Thanos/Warlock/Mar-Vell Saga, The Kree-Skrull War (to which Operation: Galactic Storm was sort of a sequel), The Avengers-Defenders War, and more. Operation: Galactic Storm is one of the biggest editions to the cosmic cabinet that holds these mega epics…LITERALLY. The story goes on for 19 parts through 7 different titles, and it has epilogue stories that even include a Silver Surfer issue. While it is unwieldy at parts, and it was definitely stretched too thin, the ongoing saga has that epic feel that The Avengers really didn’t capture as often as they should have in the 90’s. There’s also a giant moral theme that permeates the story and the epilogues, and it also spawned a really crappy video game.
Emily Scott will be taking a closer look at Operation: Galactic Storm later this month, as we are celebrating The Avengers all month long! She will be crafting a 2-parter because that’s what passes for a mega epic around here.
I’d call Avengers Forever confusing, but that would sort of be like saying that race cars go fast. That sort of description is appallingly insufficient. Avengers Forever centers around Kang, The Destiny War, Rick Jones, Immortus, and a cast of different Avengers from throughout time as they run into other Avengers throughout time. I have read this three times, and that’s honestly the best way to put it. Actually, a better way to put it might be a love letter to Avengers continuity. It is confusing, but it is also quite a fun book, and it is beautifully done by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino. Just enjoy getting to see cool stuff like the Avengers teaming with Killraven against Martians, as seen above, and Two-Gun Kid vs. Kang, and you’ll be ok. Try and make too much sense of it and you will have a headache that can only be destroyed by Ant-Man. Enjoy it as a romp, and well, you get a romp.
2-The Last Avengers Story
Peter David crafts a dark tale that isn’t saturated in grim and gritty nonsense that Ariel Olivetti renders in an eye-pleasing darkness that seeps into everything. The Avengers aren’t what they used to be, kids, and what they used to be was kids. David’s story highlights the inherent advantages that villains have within the superhero paradigm. He also shows us a world gone mad, heroes broken for different reasons, and the fate of the children of several of the heroes. Also, we get Cannonball in this for some reason. I guess in this timeline, he grows up to be an Avenger instead of Cable: The Sequel. In the end what passes for The Avengers gather to make their last stand against an assemblage of their greatest foes, and many of the Avengers who are left simply don’t make it, but hope remains for those who do. Darry Weight will take a closer look at this masterpiece later this month!
In my mind, this isn’t just the greatest 90’s moment in Avengers history, but this is truly the greatest moment in Avengers history, period.
That. That’s it. That panel epitomizes The Avengers. Even their heaviest hitter, Thor, is war-scarred, having battled all that Ultron has to offer. Captain America and Firestar are beaten down too. Despite the hardship, despite the war they have just gone through, and despite their fatigue and injuries, The Avengers are here to do a job, and that job is saving the world. Ultron is at his uttermost worst in this tale; in contrast, the Avengers have never been better, shone brighter, or come through against more horrendous odds. That, to me, is what The Avengers is all about. When things look bleak, they find a way. When the odds are stacked against them, they unstack them. When the worst villains show up, they get confronted by the best heroes. Those heroes are…THE AVENGERS!!!
Just want to give an honorable mention here to the Infinity Saga. I had it on the list, but it’s really more of a Marvel Universe story instead of just an Avengers one. One could make the same argument for Acts of Vengeance, but it ended in an Avengers title. and so I justified it. While the Infinity Saga did crossover into the Avengers titles, it was more or less contained within the three mini-series under the “Infinity” heading.
Thanks for enjoying our top ten! Now, Assemble with these other fine folks in the Super Blog Team Up!