Tag Archives: Thanos

Not Those Guardians, Not That War

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken!  Dean Compton is back with you here to delve into some more 90’s goodness.  I am excited that spring is finally sprung, baseball is in full swing, and that some small indie film called Avengers: Infinity War has dropped.  You probably haven’t heard of it because it’s so obscure and there’s been almost no build-up.

OR IT’S THE BIGGEST FILM MARVEL HAS BROUGHT US YET! WHICHEVER!

We’re all very excited.  Those of us who braved the speculation crashes of the 90’s have been waiting for this movie for around twenty-five years.  If you had told me then that one day there’d be a movie based on Thanos’s exploits with the Infinity Gems, I would have thought you were Mephisto, prince of lies.  Or at least Zarathos or maybe one of those weird demons from Hellblazer or something.  Alas, here we are, though, on the precipice of what is hopefully a monumental moment for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

‘Round these parts we are more interested in the then, than the now, and one of the things that really interested me as I first started my deep dive into comic books some 27 years ago (it’s mega unfair that it has been that long) was the entire Infinity Gauntlet saga.  My first big exposure to superheroes outside of cartoons was the Impel Marvel Trading Cards, series 2 in particular, and the Infinity Gauntlet card captured my attention.  There was Thanos, basking in all the glory that comes with omnipotence.  I didn’t know what had happened, and sadly, I was too late to keep up with the original saga month to month.  Lucky me, though, as The Infinity War was about to break out!

One of the things that attracted me to Infinity War was the epic gatefold covers, many of which depicted the mightiest heroes in the Marvel Universe in a tumultuous struggle with sharp-toothed doppelgangers that looked like they had stepped out of a mirror universe from Tales from the Darkside or something.  What appealed to me even more was that the saga was so large that it burst out of the mini-series like the insides of a tomato hitting the ground, spilling out into almost every other Marvel title!  Most of you will brush this off as a lame sales grab, and, well, it was definitely a sales grab, but it was a sales grab in the best way!

Did you want to see more of Wonder Man’s inner struggle during the Infinity War? How would Sue Richards deal with the seeming death of her husband? Perhaps you wanted to see what happened to Sleepwalker during this struggle?  (Based on sales, you probably didn’t.)  The crossovers meant you could, and they meant that you could try out other titles you hadn’t really given a shot to before.  I know we’re all tired of them now, but this was still a new concept to me then.  Sort of how when I was 16 I was like, “GODDAMN, I CAN’T WAIT TO DRIVE!” but fuck, now I’d almost rather do anything else besides drive, like, y’know, writing crappy articles like this.

One team that I hadn’t gotten a handle on from the Marvel Cards I had seen was the Guardians of the Galaxy.  I don’t recall seeing any of the GOTG (yes, I’m lazy – this article is free, y’all) in the Marvel Universe Series 2 set (cue up dude in the comments proving me wrong), so when I saw the Infinity War crossover issues, I was intrigued.  Who were these guys?  They’re from the future?  Why does that Rambo-looking dude have Captain America’s shield?  (For those of you coming in here who aren’t big pads, big guns, no feet 90’s comic book fans, the GOTG were originally a super-team from a possible Marvel Universe future that eventually diverged.  You’ll see no Star-Lord, Gamora, or Rocket Raccoon here.  Get ready for Major Victory, Nikki, Charlie-27, Starhawk, and more!)

I had already picked up a GOTG issue where they fought a street gang of folks based on The Punisher (which is just as awesome as it sounds), but these issues got me very interested.  An added bonus is this is one of my first experiences with The Inhumans, one of the most underrated superhero groups of all time!

 

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I can’t be the only person who’s a sucker for superhero comics featuring sidebars of the faces of the characters located therein!

The issue takes off with Major Victory, the leader of the GOTG, berating the rest of the team for heading into the past on a mission of pure genocide against the Badoon.  The Badoon are the raison detre for the GOTG, as their attack on our solar system basically wiped out humanity, so the original GOTG united against them and their tyranny!  Somewhere along the way, though, Starhawk convinced them to go back in time and destroy the Badoon before they can destroy humanity.  Major Victory, being the guy with Cap’s shield, doesn’t think too much of this plan, but before he can thoroughly chew the team out, their newest member, Talon, stumbles in.  I’d say he seems sick as a dog, but he’s sort of a cat, so that seems wrong.

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Starhawk is giving Talon a death stare here; what’s he so mad at our cat pal about?

Talon collapses as the team tries to take him to sick bay, but as he does, he tells them to get him to the moon.  Specifically, he wants to go to Attilan, which is the secret city that is home to none other than the Inhumans and their royal family!

The GOTG speed off in that direction, but they have no way of knowing that one of the first blows of The Infinity War has been stuck.  The headquarters of The Fantastic Four (notably good pals of The Inhumans and in particular the royal family), Four Freedoms Plaza, has been blown up by unknown forces, and the fate of the FF and many other superheroes there is unknown!  So to say the least, it really isn’t the best time for a group of superhumans that The Inhumans have no idea exists to teleport into Attilan.  I know this is gonna shock you, but that’s exactly what the GOTG do!  Of course, The Innumans act calmly when Major Victory tries to explain their presence.

 

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Just kidding, y’all; these heroes are gonna fight!  MAKE MINE MARVEL!

The Inhumans and the GOTG punch on each other a bit while telling each other their names, which is legit my favorite kind of fight.  Major Victory is aware the fight is usless, though, and he unleashes a mighty psychokinetic blast that somehow convinces Black Bolt that the GOTG are the good guys.

 

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If the Care Bears were a part of the Marvel Universe, this is totally what their stare would be.

The Inhumans take Talon to the Randac Medcal Center, which, honestly, is what all medical centers should be called henceforth.  As he gets the care he needs, the other Inhumans explain to the GOTG about the explosion at Four Freedoms Plaza, and how they don’t have any idea what may have caused this tragedy.

The two superhero squads (See what I did there?  Now that theme is stuck in your head.)  don’t have a lot of time to discuss the explosion because just as the conversation starts, an array of doppelgangers of both the Inhumans and the Guardians rudely interrupts them.

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Regardless of who they are doppelgangers of, Doppelgangers are always rude.

These doppelgangers from the Infinity War are great.  The razor teeth look genuinely creeped me out back in the day, and to be honest, that look is still sort of unnerving now.  The Infinity War doppelgangers look like the people that are just like us that live on the other side of mirrors.  You can say they’re fake, but let’s be honest — deep down, we all believe in that world on the other side of the mirror, and it sprang to life in the Marvel Universe during the Infinity War.

The good news for the Inhumans and the Guardians is that these doppelgangers go down easy for now.  After Talon reveals a big secret about the future of the Inhumans to the Royal Family, the Guardians split for Avengers Mansion on Earth.  Major Victory has no recollection of these events, and if something has happened to The Avengers, then the Guardians are going to get to the bottom of it!

While the Guardians are teleporting down from Attilan, Doctor Octopus has assembled a ragtag group of villains together in the wake of the explosion at Four Freedoms Plaza.  Doc Ock has information that not only did Four Freedoms Plaza explode, but that nearly every superhero in the city was inside the building when it blew up!  He suggests the group (consisting of Doc Ock, Powderkeg, Jackhammer, Oddball, Titania, the Abosrbing Man, and Yellowjacket [Rita Demara]) attack and loot Avengers Mansion while the heroes are away.  Of course, he is just using these folks, and the good bad doctor plans to abscond with all of the advanced Avengers technology himself!

As this meeting is happening, the Guardians arrive at Avengers mansion, only to be met by the fiercest resistance possible from a slightly out of shape butler and his vacuum cleaner!

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This Jarvis is so much better than movie Jarvis. Fight Me.
Jarvis opens up to the Guardians that the explosion at Four Freedoms Plaza didn’t kill the assembled superheroes and that a task force of heroes has left Earth via mystic means.  Other heroes remain behind for now.  Charlie-27 suggests that the Guardians head that way, when a member of Avengers Mansion security bursts in to alert the Guardians and Jarvis about Doc Ock’s villain team just outside the mansion!  The Avengers security team beefs up with some weaponry while the Guardians of the Galaxy face off with what Jarvis is calling another incarnation of the Masters of Evil!  Talon points out this is a dumb name, but he’s a cat dude named after a bird’s foot, so I dunno that he is in a position to hurl that sort of insult.  Then again, Absorbing Man just calls his group that on the next page, so I guess it’s all fair game.

 

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It’s a rule in the Marvel Universe that anyone who has Cap’s shield is automatically in charge of the situation.

The Guardians spring into action with only Charlie-27 really having a lot of problems. Since he had to take care of the Masters’ most powerful member, I suppose we have to cut him a bit of slack.  Nikki has no issues with Yellowjacket, and she notes that Yellowjacket’s heart didn’t really seem to be in the fight.  There’s a lot of struggle elsewhere, and while the fracas is going on, Doc Ock sneaks off to engage in a contingency plan.  Starhawk, meanwhile, is being confronted by his doppelganger, and in what’s only a minor league asshole move for the guy if you have read a lot of GOTG, is looking forward to being absorbed by his doppelganger until he realizes that by doing so his own free will would be subverted.

 

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Starhawk is supposed to have new omniscience as “the one who knows” but he seems to be the only one during the entire Infinity War crossover who doesn’t know that getting absorbed by the doppelgangers is a really bad idea.

The Guardians take out the Masters of Evil, although they need the help of Yellowjacket’s face turn to get the job done.  Nikki and Yellowjacket take off during the battle for the inside of Avengers Mansion, and when the other Guardians finally catch up to them, they’ve been overcome by Doc Ock and a few members of the Masters of Evil we hadn’t seen yet!

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More intimidating fat dude: Kingpin or Doc Ock?

With that it’s on to Guardians of the Galaxy #29 to wrap up the Guardians involvement in the Infinity War, and this time the war comes home!  And by the war coming home, I mean a bunch of doppelgangers of both the Guardians and the Masters of Evil are gonna be such a big deal in the last part of this story that they are the only fucking thing on the cover.

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The one on the bottom left looks like a Morbius doppelganger.  RISE OF THE MIDNIGHT SONS CROSSOVER, Y’ALL!

Also, while we are looking at this cover, how could you even tell which one of those Shockers is the doppelganger?  Both have weird looking eyes, and neither have those sharp ass teeth that should have clued Starhawk in that merging with the doppelgangers is a bad idea.

Another bad idea would be to turn your back on any member of the GOTG, even one who you had previously thought defeated.  Doc Ock has no knowledge of the Guardians, so he and the other Masters of Evil are surprised when Nikki and Yellowjacket come back from their unconscious state and turn the tables on the Masters of Evil!

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Make your own “they shocked the Shocker” jokes here.

Both teams soon have bigger problems on their hands, and I mean this literally as Gargantua’s doppelganger teleports onto the scene.  Other doppelgangers of both the Guardians and the Masters of Evil start arriving left and right, leaving Doc Ock and Major Victory no choice but to have their teams join forces to attempt to repel these ungodly abominations, although Gargantua needs no encouragement to take the fight right to the razor toothed mirror men!

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Fucking Ouch

The fight seems endless, as more and more doppelgangers pour out of portals, threatening to overwhelm hero and villain alike.  Due to the actions of Galactus in another comic book, the doppelgangers all disappear like a bad memory.  Really, though, shouldn’t that be a good memory?  We forget the good stuff all the time, while we continue to torture ourselves with the bad memories late at night when we should be sleeping.  All apologies for that; it’s a tad morose to be in an article highlighted by an evil giant punching through the chest of his more evil doppelganger.  I won’t let it happen again, folks

Anyhow, with the day saved, Doc Ock is of the mindset that the Masters of Evil should take out the Guardians and resume with their plan to take over Avengers Mansion.  The Masters of Evil treat Doc Ock the way you treat your pal who just doesn’t know when the party’s over and turn on him faster than a new superhero universe popped up in the early 90’s!

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Never mind that Shocker joke you made earlier; dude himself had it covered the whole goddamn time.

All’s well that ends well, and if the bad guys are gonna chase themselves off, I reckon it doesn’t get much better than that.  Yellowjacket also stays behind, and soon she’ll head back to the future with the Guardians and even join the team!  Before she gets to bask in the glory of being in Marvel’s premiere 31st century super hero squad, there’s just one more task to complete.  Jarvis takes his duties seriously, and he insists that the Guardians of the Galaxy become the Custodians of the Castle as Jarvis walks right up to them and demands they take part in repairs and cleanup!

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Did the Fantastic Four really start like what?  A janitorial crew?  I don’t recall that, but with all the retcons they’ve had, who fucking knows?

Jarvis getting the Guardians to clean up Avengers Mansion might be the greatest moment in the history of the Marvel Universe.  Fight me if you disagree.  Or better yet, fight my evil doppelganger.  The one with the teeth.

Hope everyone enjoyed this look back at Infinity War!  It’s definitely a fun part of the larger crossover, although it could have used a bit of Thanos or Warlock to really spruce things up and make it feel more like a part of the larger crossover.  It would have been nice, but it wasn’t really needed.  Other than that minor oversight, this is a great example of how a larger crossover should spill into a book.  No one who just read this felt ripped off because some of the events wrap up elsewhere.  If you were a regular reader of Guardians of the Galaxy, it developed characters further (some of which aren’t mentioned in this write-up.  Go read the book, people!)  These three issues also did a great job displaying the Guardians to a non-regular reader.  All in all, for all the flak that 90’s crossovers get (some of which is deserved), this shows you how that 90’s mega-epic could work in a spin-off crossover if done right!

Everyone, enjoy the movie.  It’s amazing that we’re gonna get to see this, right?  Just try and remember being a teenager in 1992, eyes wide open over Thanos’s shenanigans in the Marvel Universe then, and try and think about that young person would feel if they knew what they were gonna see.  We’ve got our tickets for Saturday!  I can’t wait!

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SBTU Presents: Top 10 Biggest Avengers Moments of the 1990’s!

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.

10-THE CROSSING

Age of Innocence- Rebirth - Page 1

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:

016- Avengers #394 - Page 1

9-Spider-Man joins The Avengers

Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series II (1991) - Page 1 Marvel Universe Trading Cards - Series II (1991) - Page 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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7-Acts of Vengeance

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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.

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6-Heroes Reborn

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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

WestCoastAvengers #102 - Page 1

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…

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4-Operation:  Galactic Storm

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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.

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Get ready to play as Thunderstrike…with Thor as your backup. Who thought that was a good idea?

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.

3-Avengers Forever

Avengers Forever #4 - Page 13

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.

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2-The Last Avengers Story

The Last Avengers Story #1 (of 2) (1995) - Page 1

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!

The Last Avengers Story #1 (of 2) (1995) - Page 41 The Last Avengers Story #1 (of 2) (1995) - Page 11 The Last Avengers Story #2 (of 2) (1995) - Page 6

1-Ultron Unlimited

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.

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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!

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Top Ten Character Deaths

10 Best Super Hero Hairstyles

10 Best Bronze Age Heroes

10 Wackiest DC Covers

10 Favorite Moments of the Chase

Top 10 Avengers

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Top 10 Avengers Covers

Top 10 Avengers Super Battles

Top 10 Green Lantern Ring Slings Not in Modern Continuity

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Top 10 Who’s Who Legion Entries

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Top 10 Super Dogs

Have Yourself a Marvel Little Christmas by Emily Scott

Happy holidays, Legions of the Unspoken! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, the Solstice, Festivus, or a holiday of your own creation, I hope you find yourself surrounded by good friends, good food, and good fun. On the other hand, if you find yourself bereft of companionship or, say, in the company of a drunken relative who you’d gladly string up with some tree lights, I hope this article can bring you some semblance of holiday cheer. No matter the season, we here at The Unspoken Decade strive to find something in the realm of 90s comics to be jolly about.

I find the notion of a superhero Christmas story inherently silly, but to be fair, my previous exposure to them is limited to the X-Men cartoon Christmas special. (It’s not a bad episode of what truly is a great show, but it isn’t helped by 1. focusing entirely too much on Jubilee and 2. devoting a fair amount of screen time to Gambit and Jean Grey bickering over how much to season Christmas dinner, one of the only instances in that cartoon in which Jean Grey using her powers didn’t cause her to immediately moan loudly and pass out.)

Rogue Storm Mall
Don’t think they’re only at the mall because they’re Christmas shopping. I swear half the episodes of this show start with Rogue and Storm getting attacked at the mall.

The comic we’ll be looking at, 1992’s Marvel Holiday Special, is thankfully lacking in both Jubilee and telekinetically-thrown vegetables. What it’s not lacking in is a good mix of funny, heartwarming, and melancholy stories, some of which integrate their superhero subjects into a holiday setting better than others. For instance, if someone had told me that a Thanos Christmas story would be one of the more emotionally affecting moments in this book, I would have been perplexed, but we’ll get to that. First up is Wolverine in Zounds of Silence!

This story opens with several pages, sans dialogue, of Wolverine fighting a bevy of big baddies, from cyborg soldiers to a giant dinosaur. Then, in an ending I enjoyed no less for seeing it coming a mile away, it is revealed that Wolverine’s trials are the product of a child’s imagination, an action figure slipping from his grasp as the child is pulled away by an irate parent. This story put a smile on my face until I noticed what a state they left the vendor’s stall in:

Wolvie
Seriously, if you’re annoyed with your kid for making such a mess, how about, I don’t know, having him clean it up? I like to think Wolverine’s claws are coming out in the last panel so he can go deal with Faceless Entitled Mom.

Another fun story in this collection comes courtesy of Spider-Man, who, as usual, is running late to meet Mary Jane. He finds her just in time for them to watch the lighting of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a ceremony that is, of course, interrupted by a villainous grinch. Electro shuts down the power to the tree and threatens to make Christmas be neither merry nor bright unless he receives a payoff.

Did Mike Myers read this comic before writing Dr. Evil? Even in 1992, isn't that a ludicrously small sum of money to demand in exchange for not blacking out New York City?
Did Mike Myers read this comic before writing Dr. Evil? Even in 1992, isn’t that a ludicrously small sum of money to demand in exchange for not blacking out New York City?

I would say he has no holiday spirit, but the argument could be made that by demanding a wad of cash, getting into the Christmas spirit is exactly what Electro is doing. Spider-Man employs his own methods in an attempt to turn Electro into a holiday spirit, slinging insults and ornaments at his foe in equal measure. The giant tree’s topper and a dose of Electro’s own voltage put an end to the crisis, and Spider-Man is free to return to his evening of paying for being Spider-Man.

Seriously, I do not understand the appeal of this relationship for Peter Parker. Every time I have ever seen him with Mary Jane, she is giving him a hard time for making the world a safe place for kids to enjoy comically large candy canes. Maybe it was one thing when he was keeping his web crawling ways a secret, but past that, you knew what you were getting into, lady.

Of course, I don’t blame the character so much as the well-worn trope of the lady character whose sole job it is to get annoyed with her fellow for doing whatever it is he has do, affecting everyone from Mary Jane Watson to Skyler White on Breaking Bad. (If you ever doubt that lady characters get the short end of the stick, check out the amount of vitriol directed at the latter because she didn’t want her husband to be a meth kingpin.) But that’s a discussion for another time. For now, let’s just get back to puzzling over that child kissing rather than eating his candy cane.

Shopping
Maybe Mary Jane should just drive up to Westchester and go to the mall with Storm and Rogue.

The Punisher is up next, and while I scoffed at the idea of a Punisher Christmas story, it works much better than it might by not having the Punisher experience some sort of schmaltzy softening. Christmas does serve as the setting for the story, but it’s still just Punisher being Punisher. No saving orphans or handing out gifts to doe-eyed street urchins here. He does take a decidedly less fatal route than usual to solving his problems, but only because of a bet rather than some sort of forced holiday epiphany.

Punisher wants his pal Microchip to fix up his van to take down some drug dealers, but Microchip will only acquiesce if Punisher can take down a ring of Salvation Army bucket thieves by non-lethal means. There may not be anything sentimentally Christmas-y in this story, but we do get Punisher in a Santa suit.

I would read a comic of nothing but the Punisher awkwardly making small talk as a bell ringer for seven hours.
I would read a comic of nothing but the Punisher awkwardly making small talk as a bell ringer for seven hours.

Punisher tracks down the organizer of the bucket raids and sticks to the letter of the bet with Microchip, using a combination of tactics, such as standing there and smiling while the dude throws everything in his office at him and spraying himself with a solvent that will paralyze him when it comes into contact with his skin. Microchip argues that his methods violate the spirit of their bet, but Punisher, well, just doesn’t give a fuck.

I’m honestly not sure how Microchip expected him to take the guy down. To be fair to Punisher, he does actually try asking him nicely to turn himself in, but that goes about as well as you’d expect. It’s commendable of Microchip to attempt to get Punisher to be less murder-y, but the showdown went about as non-violently as he ever could have hoped, and he totally owes Punisher those van upgrades in my opinion.

If the Punisher can acknowledge people celebrate holidays other than Christmas, anyone can.
If the Punisher can acknowledge that people celebrate holidays other than Christmas, anyone can.

Perhaps my favorite segment in this collection involves a character that I, as someone relatively new to comic book fandom, have had very little exposure to, Doc Samson.  Samson visits his former yeshiva to tell the kids the story of Hanukkah, but because small children are pretty much assholes, he is forced to spice up his tale with some of his super-powered colleagues. This story had me chuckling from start to finish, and there’s not much I could add to it that would make it funnier than it already is, so here’s a few pages sans snarky commentary to give you a taste:

Samson 1Samson 2

I laugh every time I look at Wolverine studying that bottle of 10w30.
I laugh every time I look at Wolverine studying that bottle of 10w30.

I say that these kids are assholes, and they are, but they also remind me a little of myself when it comes to the kinds of stories I enjoy these days. It’s funny how, once you started reading comic books or genre literature, it’s difficult to go back to stories where, like, people just talk and do regular things. I think as fantasy, sci fi, etc. get more popular, we have become far accepting as a society of the idea that these genre works can have just as much depth or show us just as much about the human condition, only with the added bonus of dragons and zombies and people who can shoot lasers out of their hands. If given the choice, why wouldn’t you read those stories instead?

The most bittersweet story in this comic comes courtesy of an unlikely source, Thanos. (I was certainly not expecting this tale to hit me right in the feels, but I suppose it’s because it’s unexpected that the emotion was so affecting.) While cleaning out an old headquarters like he’s having a garage sale, Thanos comes across an old doll he gave to Gamora when she was a child and reflects on memories long past.

The birthdays and Christmas may be for Gamora's benefit, but those tea parties were all for Thanos.
The birthdays and Christmas may be for Gamora’s benefit, but those tea parties were all for Thanos.

Sometimes while reading I get caught up in frivolous background details, and in this case, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Mad Titan himself procured Christmas presents for a small child. Did he thumb through the toy section of the Sears catalog? Did he send one of his robot minions to Macy’s? What criteria did a godlike being use to decide what a five-year-old girl would like to play with?

This is fun stuff to ponder, but it can lead you down a rabbit hold that leads to some weird places, and the next thing you know, you’re contemplating how he had “the talk” with Gamora or who bought her tampons for the first time. I’m probably the only one who went off on that particular tangent, and Christmas can be scarring enough as it is, so I’ll just get back to the story then, shall I?

Thanos recounts how a creature with a vendetta attempts to take him out, only for Gamora to throw her doll and distract the would-be assassin long enough for Thanos to off him instead.

I still can't figure out how you got one green doll - where are you going to get another one??
I still can’t figure out how you got one green doll – where are you going to get another one??

Thanos says that he should have known from her sentimentality that Gamora was going to make a bad assassin and orders that the doll be incinerated with all the rest of the stuff he does not have time to take to Goodwill. He acts as though he is indifferent to Gamora turning against him, but his manner betrays him. He is clearly lying both to himself and the minion with whom he apparently shares intimate memories.

Nothing
Strong men also cry…strong men also cry.

Christmas is such a dichotomous holiday, existing both as “the most wonderful time of the year” and the loneliest. Sometimes all the things we get only make what we’ve lost stand out in stark contrast, and being surrounded by loved ones only highlights who isn’t there. The idea that even a creature of unimaginable strength and power is susceptible to these feelings is both comforting and humbling, and ultimately there is great beauty in the notion that the ability to care for others cannot be wished or willed away.

So learn a lesson from Thanos this holiday season and give all the love there is in your heart to those who deserve it most. Don’t forget to include yourself on that list too! This is one of the few times of year most people actually get some time off to recuperate, so treat yourself to something fun!

Since few things are more fun than 90s comics, be sure to come back tomorrow for Dean’s article on some more holiday Punisher stories. That’s right, our gift to you this festive week is even more of your favorite heroes and their holiday hijinks! It’s been a real pleasure to take a close look with you at some of the best comics the 90s had to offer, and I can’t wait to do it again in the year ahead. See you then!