Friday 10 December 2010

Avengers #118. Giving Dormammu the Evil Eye.

Avengers #118, the Defenders, Dormammu and the Evil Eye
If many hands make light work, too many cooks spoil the broth and, in this issue, the combined forces of the world's mightiest super-teams prove to be startlingly inept when in a stew. Exposed to Dormammu's dread dimension, virtually every single person on Earth (and beyond) has turned into a monster - all except for super-heroes, super-villains and selected agents of SHIELD. Why super-heroes and villains aren't afflicted isn't clear. It could be because their super-powers make them immune but then why are the non-super-powered Dr Doom, Nick Fury and Ka-Zar similarly unaffected?

No time to dwell on such matters, the Avengers and Defenders, at last singing from the same song-sheet, head off to tackle Dormammu, by the somewhat prosaic means of a footpath. Granted, it's a footpath in space and looks a bit weird but it's still an oddly tame way for a group of the world's mightiest beings to be finding their quarry.

Sadly, when they do find him, they probably wish they hadn't, as they put up no sort of a fight at all and, before they know it, they're all out of the action except the Scarlet Witch.

Needless to say this should be disastrous news but the Scarlet Witch, who too often over the years had been a total waste of space, with her constant need for a rest after using her power in some relatively minor way, confounds all expectation and actually rids the universe of Dormammu. Thanks to one of her hexes, Dormammu's essence is sucked into the Evil Eye then fired at Loki who gets his sight back but goes insane from the overdose of evil energy suddenly coursing through him. This does hint at a truth that was always swept under the carpet in Avengers tales, that the Scarlet Witch's ability to mess things up just by pointing at them meant she should've been the most powerful Avenger of them all, able to end any fight with a single gesture just by targeting the villain of the piece. Instead, like the Wasp, too often she was gratingly futile.

Bob Brown's art in this issue's vigorous but, as in previous instalments, suffers from its inking. This time he's inked by Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia, both of whom produced perfectly good work with other artists but, for whatever reason, their styles don't mesh at all with Brown's. You only have to look at the Captain America/Sub-Mariner instalment of this tale which - inked by an anonymous hand (Frank McLaughlin?) - showed how good his work could look given the right delineator.

All in all, reading the saga from start to finish has been a bit like eating a tray of fairy cakes, insubstantial but hugely enjoyable. With Steve Englehart displaying more affection for the Defenders than the Avengers, it worked nicely because of the disparity between the two groups and because of its policy of squeezing two fights into each issue, meaning it didn't outstay its welcome. If it was an epic in terms of character numbers, it was one that stayed commendably light on its feet and that's what makes it oddly re-readable long after numerous other such "epics" have become tired with re-reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bought this issue when I was a kid. I bought it again at a comic book convention in the '90s, but it cost me $10 instead of 20 cents. When I read it as a kid I was intrigued that villain Dormammu had the head of the Human Torch. Also, His name was so hard to pronounce. I thought the drawing of Scarlet Witch casting that hex to end it all was weird looking. It could have been more powerful looking. I guess that mud stuff hindered her. You are so right that it was very compact for a cross-over event. You did not have to buy a zillion books. If only comics still cost 20 cents. Hmm...adjusted for inflation how much would that be in today's dollars? I don't think $2.99! I remember thinking the treasury editions at $1.50 were expensive back then.