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Saturday, 7 April 2018

Avengers: Unleashed Vol. 3 (Avengers & Champions): Worlds Collide

Okay, this is a review of the latest Avengers trade paperback and this is me so you know this is going to be honest and...AND...there is science.  I'm not joking.  There is actual science here.  Read on.

Avengers: Unleashed Vol. 3 (Avengers & Champions) collects issues #672-674 of the “legacy” numbered main Avengers title (previously “Avengers Unleashed”), along with issues #13-15 of the Champions, described as the Avengers team that decided that they “weren’t going to play in the Civil War II event.”

The first thing that struck me straight away were the credits. The cover reads “Waid, Ramos, Saiz, Pina”. Now, apart from the tiny text on the back cover –that I almost missed- the writer, Mark Waid, is not credited. The credits page credits everyone but Waid.

Once a fortnight I treat myself –food and the cheapest trade paperback I can find.  This at £4.00 was the tpb I went for.  My previous reviews will show I have found the books to be a little hit-or-miss but I’m a 50+ years Avenger fan so….

My review of vol. 1: Avengers: Kang War One can be found here:

My review of vol. 2 Avengers: Unleashed Vol. 2: Secret Empire can be found here:

According to the Marvel Wikia synopsis of this story:

"The Avengers must team up with the Champions to stop the High Evolutionary from slamming Counter-Earth and Earth together."

Wow. That had me....enthused. (Just so you know, I was being sarcastic there).  But then we had Newsarama:

"The Avengers, along with artist Jesús Saiz, and the Champions, with artist Humberto Ramos, will kick off Legacy together for the crossover "Worlds Collide."

So I was thinking this has to be a big event, right?  So I thought I'd check to see what Forbidden Planet had to say:

"The Avengers come face-to-face with the Champions! The countdown for a clash of generations begins when the twisted High Evolutionary sets the Earth on a catastrophic collision course with its opposite number: the unnatural planet Counter-Earth! Can the two teams put their turbulent history aside to meet this threat — or will they be at each other’s throats? And even if they can find a way to work together, can this awesome assemblage of heroes save two entire planets from destruction?

There are billions of lives on the line, and it will take every single member of both teams to have any hope of stopping the Evolutionary — so what happens when the death of a hero changes the game?"

Almost gets your knickers wet, doesn't it? But, of course, there is the mighty Amazon:

"WORLDS COLLIDE! It starts here--the long-promised clash between the Avengers and the Champions! The countdown has started as the High Evolutionary sets the Earth on a collision course with destruction! The Avengers and the Champions are ready to meet this threat--but not everyone agrees how best to combat it! Since they were old enough to say the word ""Avengers,"" the Champions have idolized Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Now the two teams are on equal footing--and the Champs are having to walk the walk alongside their former mentors! Will their experiences in GENERATIONS help them-or tear the two teams apart?"

I got somewhat excited at the prospect of Counter-Earth because I still have fond memories of those 1972 issues of Warlock based on Counter-Earth. And the High Evolutionary was going to be the main antagonist here.  

This could not go wrong, right?

The opening Spider-Men page seemed pointless unless it was meant to get us excited.  You know like Dale Arden saying to Flash in the 1980 Flash Gordon movie:”…we only have fourteen hours to save the world!”  Oh, in that movie, just to relieve his boredom, Emperor Ming (the Merciless) of the planet Mongo declares that he will play with and destroy Earth by remotely causing natural disasters.  I’m not saying anything but remember that, okay (plot drop).

Don't get that 1980 movie mixed up with Flesh Gordon (1974) in which Emperor Wang (the Perverted), leader of the planet Porno sends his mighty "Sex Ray" towards Earth, turning everyone into sex-mad fiends. Only one man can save the Earth....

It all begins with an apartment fire and the Avengers helping out.  But the vision is obviously not happy that the daughter he created (his wife and son were apparently killed off at some time and to be honest I don’t care) leapt into the rescue.  She saved someone so why is he so angry?

The scene changes to characters at the Champions and Avengers HQs.  The ersatz Hulk is explaining something to Nova but states his calculations, written down, had “disappeared” (plot drop). Anyway, they are all watching a satellite that has taken six months to get into position to start sending back images from the far side of the Sun and that will, as far as the sceptics are concerned, put an end to all the Counter-Earth nonsense –even if their friends claim to have been there.

Here is where I thought “Yes! This is going to be good!” Because the sceptics argued why there could not be an Earth-like planet on the far side of the Sun by using science. But as the watch a 100 metre large chunk of space rock emerges and is travelling at 275 million miles per hour and will hit Earth in 51 minutes. Okay. That is when I said “WTF??” out loud. It was 02:00 hrs but who cares.

It takes 6 months for the satellite to get into position and there is no such thing as “Right Now” images from the Sun. Check out NASAs SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) pages where you can see “(Near) Live Images”

So, the Vision’s daughter, Viv, accessing the internet and all the data to give an accurate Speed of Object not to mention Trajectory of Object within seconds of it emerging and not just that but calculating that it will strike Earth over Lexington, Kentucky in 51 minutes is pure and utter fantasy. I know we have to suspend disbelief with a lot of things but this was just awful.  Maybe you turn off a credibility switch when you read comics but me…no.

What happens?  What do the Champions and Avengers do?  They shoot off to Lexington, Kentucky to intercept the massive chunk of debris as it enters the atmosphere.  Luckily no one pays any attention when I shout out “WTF?” these days.

 A few points here: after they scrapped one of the best Marvel animated series ever, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, they started up again with the “for little kids” Avengers Assemble.  The first episode opened with the Avengers trying to stop a huge chunk of space rock as it burnt through the atmosphere and was going to be an “extinction level event” (ELE).  In fact, Hyperion (baddie) was inside.

In that animated story the Avengers were throwing their best at the object which included, if I remember rightly, Captain America’s shield.  Yeah. That’ll help. In this story they try farting at the chunk of space rock to stop it hitting the Earth.  Well, okay, they were not actually farting at it but it was more-or-less the same…it’s a metaphor, okay?  And Ms. Marvel then grows giant and catches it.  I’ll repeat that a few times so it sinks in: Ms. Marvel then grows giant and catches it. Ms. Marvel then grows giant and catches it. Ms. Marvel then grows giant and catches it.

Obviously Waid never bothered Googling “space facts” after he cut and pasted the “Why there cannot be another Earth in our Solar System”.  Objects burn up on entering Earth’s atmosphere. Look up “Tunguska event” and look at the photographs taken years later when an expedition finally got to the site.

At around 07:17hrs on the morning of 30th June, 1908, a man based at the trading post at Vanavara in Siberia is sitting on his front porch. In a moment, 40 miles from the center of an immense blast of unknown origin, he will be hurled from his chair and the heat will be so intense he will feel as though his shirt is on fire. The man at the trading post, and others in a largely uninhabited region of Siberia, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, are to be accidental eyewitnesses to cosmological history.

"A century later some still debate the cause and come up with different scenarios that could have caused the explosion," said Yeomans. "But the generally agreed upon theory is that on the morning of June 30, 1908, a large space rock, about 120 feet across, entered the atmosphere of Siberia and then detonated in the sky."

Above: Tunguska -even 100 + years on still showing signs of the air explosion. Spider web slowing down something bigger and many times faster so Ms. Marvel can catch it?  Good luck with that!

“It is estimated the asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere travelling at a speed of about 33,500 miles per hour. During its quick plunge, the 220-million-pound space rock heated the air surrounding it to 44,500 degrees Fahrenheit. At 7:17 a.m. (local Siberia time), at a height of about 28,000 feet, the combination of pressure and heat caused the asteroid to fragment and annihilate itself, producing a fireball and releasing energy equivalent to about 185 Hiroshima bombs.

"That is why there is no impact crater," said Yeomans. "The great majority of the asteroid is consumed in the explosion."

220 million pounds, 120 feet wide space object travelling at 33,500 mph –Tunguska. Lexington, Kentucky: 100 metres in size travelling at 275 million mph. 100 metres is 328 feet –bigger than what exploded above Tunguska and at a speed in the millions of mph rather than thousands. Extinction Level Event.  There would be nothing for Ms. Marvel to catch (catch fer fecks sake!!!) as everyone would be incinerated or obliterated well before then.

Here is my point: you have Thor. Nova –in fact any number of super-super power levelled heroes on call to the Avengers who could obliterate or break up this space chunk before it got near to the Earth. I also thought (or did this vanish with all continuity) that there was Hyperion –Marvel’s answer to Superman who has tackled things in space before.  Were there not supposed to be at least one Avengers space station designed to deal with threats?  The Avengers quinjets can go into space so why not send up a couple to blow this space rock up?  And the two spider-men being held in the air as their super webbing catches and slows the object up….W…T…F?????

It’s the sort of silly story that used to give the early 1960s Justice League of America stories less credibility (even if they were fun!)

But we are only up to page 16! I ought to point out that as everyone prepares to take part in fantasy brain-turned-to-slush “catch the gigantic space rock Ms. Marvel tells Hercules (without that dumb-ass green lens over his eye) to “Pay attention!”  But Hercules is stunned –his club has vanished from his hands! Plot drop.

Let me explain. You can say “plot drop” or “sub-plot thread” where a writer has something happen but the story continues until…BAM! It is revealed that the pointless incident has a major part to play in the story.  Ersatz Hulk (Amadeus Cho?) and his Counter-Earth calculations vanishing.  Then Hercules’ club vanishing –plot drop. By-the-way, as I got really pissed off by this time I need to point out that Hercules did not have a club –as in mythology.  No big chunk of wood but a huge metal mace and as it was the first time I have seen him carrying it this volume rather than some ridiculously huge gun/rifle I thought “ah-ha! Note that!”

In point of fact the vanishing notes and mace were just that.  Pointless space filling.

Remember the Avengers Assemble cartoon and Hyperion being inside the meteor? There is some kind of giant minotaur-ish kamikazee ani-man inside this one (let’s not go into how he fitted in the space-rock.  Anyway, Ersatz Hulk and Hercules are left to deal with him as the Avengers and Champions split-up (old JSA style) to shoot off to Shanghai, United Arab Emirates and Seoul where the world’s largest building are being shaken to their foundations by vibrations created by the kamikazee-flown space rock and even Lady Thor’s Mjolnir is affected.

 Above: don't worry.  Due to no editing this Ani-man becomes much smaller (on and off) as things go on....
......see what I mean?
Below: Yep,Lady Thor's Mjolnir vibrates (but I'm not going there as this is supposedly a family safe blog!).

I know what you are thinking: by the time the teams get to their destinations –even if within an hour- it will be too late. No. Without the aid of any teleporters or other methods than quinjet and flying they are there within minutes –people have started to evacuate the buildings –that is how fast they got there.  They save the day of course and are back in Lexington to help Hercules and ersatz Hulk beat minotaur who reveals that the machinery in his craft (that is what was the huge pile of space junk that was hurtling down to decimate Earth) has already started doing its job –creating “a global shift in Earth’s vibratory pattern” –Viv and Falcon vanish. Both appear on Counter-Earth.

Yep, it’s all nonsense by this time because apart from some of the Champions only the Vision and Viv appear to have any real point in the story.  In case you are not a long time comics fan you may not know that the old DC Earth 1 and Earth 2, not to mention Earth 3, Earth S and Earth Prime et al were separated by vibrational patterns. It was the start of the multi-verse idea and its how the two Flash’s (Golden and Silver Ages) met up.  In some JSA-JLA stories we found images of the Spectre pushing for all his worth to keep Earth 1 and 2 from colliding.  They used a similar idea for one of the covers to this story –don’t worry I will provide the images.
Okay I promised the Spectre holding Earth 1 and 2 apart and the Marvel riff on this...

But we now know that Counter-Earth and Earth 616 occupy different vibrational frequencies. Also, we learn that the High Evolutionary has supposedly evolved himself into believing himself a god and he wants to destroy Earth –both of them- and because he is now immortal, wait even millions of years, so that he can plan and get back to creating the perfect life forms.

He (High Evolutionary) now appears to have evolved into one of those bad TV maniacs who say “I killed your entire family so now you won’t need to worry about them. You're welcome”…in fact ”You're welcome” seems to be our new High Evolutionary’s catchphrase. 

Oh, he evolves Viv into a human being. On Eath the vibrational phasing means that every-so-often more and more ani-men (men evolved into various animal types by….guess!) so the Avengers and Champions battle on while all the other heroes on Earth are on holiday or having lunch.

Not all Ani-men are bad, though.

Guess what? While Viv has been evolved and the Falcon appears to be about to suffer the same fate he is rescued.  Yes, the heroes, or chumps, realise that using Thor’s hammer they can vibrate to Counter-Earth. I sort of wondered what else was going to happen…meh. So there they are on Counter-Earth and learn that just because the ani-men are different they are not all bad (I told you!) but there are zealots (boo! Hiss! Lead weight message to reader) who will do whatever their “god” –the High Evolutionary commands even if it means their destruction.

Now, the way of stopping the collision of the two Earths once they both get to the same vibration level, lies within the High Evolutionary’s HQ and so the teams attack him there. However, the device involved is deep down within a complex inside Counter-Earth and the now no longer synthezoid powered Viv heads there. She finds the High Evolutionary’s ‘son’ who is bound to the device.

Blah blah blah he’s a nice guy imprisoned there by his dad because he showed love and compassion for the ani-men and Counter Earth (hey, lead weighted boot -even the High Evolutionary has a kid problem!).  Viv convinces him of the High Evolutionary’s plan to destroy both worlds when…in rush the heroes to attack.  Yes, not enter cautiously to assess the situation but outright attack.  So the chumps fight the High Evolutionary’s son while Viv enters the device and stops the worlds from colliding.  The Vision reaches for his daughter. She dies.

Back on Earth the Champions mourn her loss and there is some awkward dialogue between Nova –who says he is leaving- and Ms Marvel and the others. He then decides he isn’t leaving. It was grief. 

In the meantime the Vision is grieving. If there is one highlight to this story it is the Vision and his interaction with his daughter.  We learned on Counter-Earth the reason why the Vision had behaved as he did to Viv. He had recently learnt that he was still alive thousands of years in the future and that was his curse because he knew Viv had a life-span that would end and he would, eventually, need to bury his own daughter. There was some good characterisation here.  Viv and the Vision seem to be the only real characters in the story with the others just “we ain’t junior Avengers!” and “Grow up!” dialogue.  The Falcon just seemed not to be the Falcon.

Anyway, the Vision rebuilds Viv even if it is to only give him a final few minutes with a facsimile of her.  Then it happens….
See, when the heroes thought that the High Evolutionary had been accidentally killed on Counter-Earth he had not been. Neither had Viv (the human one). Both had been sent to “some other place” and the High Evolutionary can get them both back to the real Earth –but Viv is not letting the maniac escape. Oddly, as she enters the High evolutionary’s form she vanishes.

On Earth the heroes hear a loud explosion from within the one time home of the Vision family.  Rushing in they find the Vision’s new Viv –alive and conscious….and the now human Viv who has reappeared.

End of book.

The art by Jesus Saiz, Javier Pinas and Paco Diaz on the Avengers books is find.  I cannot fault it.  However, Humberto Ramos’ art has a lot to be desired.  It can look really good but his rendition of the human form is just not that good.  I know he has fans but it is all down to individual tastes.  In this case it never made me put the book down.

So what was the crap about vanishing notes and the mace vanishing from Hercules’ hands all about? If it had something to do with the Earths “phasing” and the ani-men attacks then it was puerile nonsense a bit like that green eye-piece appearing on Hercules every-so-often in the story.  There was no real continuity.

Remember the 1980 Flash Gordon movie in which Emperor Ming tossed storms and meteorites at the Earth?  Had Waid written the story with any real consideration of the plot, continuity or the characters in the Marvel Universe Earth 616 (it has been said in numerous books that there are “thousands” of super heroes just in New York –none of who were apparently watching the space broadcast or made aware of the big lump of space rock heading their way as an extinction level event…it could have been so much better.

Something destroying the satellite as it started broadcasting (near) live images. Several large hunks of space debris seemingly deliberately aimed at the Earth from where it was claimed Counter-Earth existed leading to a team-up and action on Counter-Earthy where we learn that the High Evolutionary wants to destroy Earth –both- no problem.

What we ended up with was a very weak and utterly ridiculous series of events where space and time was traversed in a couple of panels and where the Old v Young heroes clash was less like the all out battle promised and more like “I don’t like sandwiches with the crusts on!”.  Using a bit of Googled science and then throwing in utter rubbish in the same pages would –should- not have convinced anyone other than a kid of around 11 who has never “scienced”.

I still find it hard to believe that this was written by Mark Waid.  What happened –did he run out of his creative streak years ago and is it now “write junk for the pay cheque”? 

Tom Brevoort, Editor and Alanna Smith, Assistant Editor, appear to have been quite happy with this utter mess –no matter how touching the whole Vision-Viv thing was it did not save this.  No “Why did (ersatz) Hulk’s notes and calculations on Counter-Earth vanish?” or “What happened to Hercules’ ‘club’ then?” No “How are the heroes getting across the world, sorting out the vibration problems and getting back to Lexington more-or-less within minutes of having left?”  No wonder Waid was not credited as writer anywhere.  The fact that the editor and assistant editor put their names (they do not work on anything) on a trade paperback and do not miss that their star writer is not credited says a great deal.  Smith and Brevoort must have big fat arses from all the sitting and cookie eating they do (well, we know Brevoort has a big fat arse and head).

There were elements here that showed promise but the writing was either very bad or scripts were badly edited.  I would like to think the latter, however, we know Brevoort and Smith don’t do editorial work so Waid has to accept his own poor work.

The hype from Marvel and all of its butt-licking comics media lackeys built this up into a real generational conflict between young and old –just like almost every TV series and movie and comic tackling the same issues has since the 1940s –in fact, in movies of the 1930s (even in cop or gangster films) there is talk about “the younger generation with no respect” or “The older generation don’t give us no dues!”. This was a bit of a joke really.

Uh, that bitch-slap above is the generational battle. Blink and you missed it.

This is sad.  So very sad. Would Lee or Thomas or Shooter have allowed this trash as an Avengers story? No. Even as a story synopsis it would be torn to pieces.  All of these characters and all the promise and the thin plot thread that could have been expanded into a really good, entertaining series ended up as the scribblings of a once good writer who does not care.

I cannot write anything else. $17.99 US or $23.99 Canadian or £10.05p from some UK sources…no. Look on Amazon for the really cut-price copies if you really want to buy this.


1 comment:

  1. Oh my crikey. Cheery my lad. It really can't get any worse. To be continued . .