Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Avengers #395

Avengers #395, "Time's End," Cover Date February 1996
Plotted by Bob Harras and Terry Kavannagh, Script by Terry Kavanagh, Penciled by Mike Deodato Jr., Inked by Emir Ribeiro and Mike Deodato

Avengers 395 Cover The Crossing

It's finally here! After 18 parts, a prologue, two foil covered specials, and countless pointless fights against unnamed Anachronauts, The Crossing finally, mercifully reaches its conclusion!

Wasting no time following up the events of Iron Man, we begin with Crystal and Vision standing over a downed teen Tony, whose heart appears to be on the verge of shutting down, causing Crystal to lower the air temperature around him to sub-hospital levels. We get a quick introduction to the team as they battle more Anachronauts, as Cap gets judo-thrown by Mantis, who is 100% back to saying "this one" instead of "I," saying that "this one will not be touched by you or any of your cursed ilk."

Avengers 395 Vision Mantis
Earth's dumbest heroes.

In the meantime, Kang sits on the sidelines, announcing his "temporal transposer is ready." He reveals his plan: to hide outside of time from his unnamed rival on earth, which he will turn into some sort of charred training ground for his time soldiers until they're ready to fight... whoever (probably Mantis's true son with the Kotati Swordsman). Back at Kang's sanctum, Tony Stark, feeling guilty, blasts his way into a prison area where the Cotati is being held.

Avengers 395 Kang
I love how bored Kang looks.

Mantis gives a speech about how Vision spurning her is what turned her evil, which is a less than objective look at those Englehart issues: Mantis joined the team while dating the Swordsman, and just sort of flirted with everybody, including Vision, who had obviously had the hots for Scarlet Witch for years by that point. Vision says if it's him she wants, then she'll have him, as he tries to solidify his arm into Mantis, ignoring that Captain America is right there, and Mantis maneuvers it so that Cap gets hit by the attack. Mantis says manipulating Tony Stark was their revenge, so that means Tony's only been evil post-Englehart Avengers!

Avengers 395 Hank Pym breakdowns Kang
"Actually it was a combination of stress and genetics."

Then, in a truly bizarre moment, Kang reveals that they tried to control Hank Pym, but that he was too unstable. Hank yells "My breakdowns! You were responsible for my nervous br-." Think for a minute Hank, you had your first breakdown in the Silver Age, when your girlfriend took advantage of your personality disorder to marry you (Avengers #60, January 1969). That was years before any of you even met Mantis! Kang is interrupted mid-gloat, however, by... Iron Man and the Cotati! Kang laughs at Iron Man, telling him it's "too late" to change sides again. The Cotati insists that if the team just thinks happy thoughts about Mantis she'll snap out of it, but Mantis breaks free of the roots encircling her and says she won't endure the Cotati's "foul violation" ever again. Gross.

Avengers 395 Mantis
Whoah, slow down there Cotati, this ain't that kind of comic.

Kang gloats that the transposer is almost fully powered, and challenges the Avengers to "do their worst." Iron Man says he can take out the transposer, and while Hawkeye is understandably skeptical, Pym says to let him go for it. We don't really see the transposer explode, but Tony hits the ground with a KRAKA-BOOM, as Kang calls everyone assembled a "fool," and disappears off earth, since he can't use it as a time hideout anymore. A dying Tony apologizes and hands over some schematics for a cool life-saving chestplate, as the team re-appears at the temple, instead of at the arctic, where they were last issue. A shadowy figure emerges in pixie boots, and it's Tuc, safe with Luna. Crystal asks who he is, and he just gives a vague "Oh, I think you know." Tuc disappears with the injured Cotati, and a moment later, a Force Works ship touches down, piloted by the Scarlet Witch, who says "we have much to discuss." THE END!


Yay, it's over! Iron Man's dead, Kang disappears, and Scarlet Witch is back! It's truly crazy that in this part of the crossover we finally figure out what Kang is trying to achieve, after months and months of build-up. Who does that? It's an action heavy issue, as the first 10 or so pages is just the team mindlessly fighting, until they remember that Kang's the guy they oughta be dealing with, and fight him for the next 10 pages. I'm more willing to forgive the team once again being cartoonishly ineffective, as Mantis and Kang are the big-bads, and it wouldn't really make sense if Black Widow suddenly pummeled the both of them, but it's frustrating to see Captain America get clowned by Mantis after months and months of the Avengers only fighting nameless goons to stalemates and getting taken down by guys with names like "Neut." Tony makes the heroic sacrifice, but I wish it had been some joint effort with teen Tony, who just spends the entire issue writhing on the ground like a baby. It would've been cool to see adult Tony working with his teen counterpart, then taking the impact himself to save his own innocent self.

Art-wise, this is one of the strongest issues of the entire crossover, with Deodato drawing plenty of dynamic action, making Kang look cool in his pink exo-armor, and generally resisting most of his bad habits. The book isn't completely free of Crystal cocking her hips suggestively in the middle of a fight or when being reunited with her daughter (truly the sexiest of moments), but for the most part there's not an overabundance of cheesecake shots or heroic slobbering (a chronic issue with his art).

Of course, the good and bad of The Crossing would prove to be exceptionally short-lived. Unhappy with flat sales despite events across Avengers and Fantastic Four (who became engaged in an Atlantis event after a long story of Reed Richards being presumed dead), Marvel editorial decided to give four of their "original" titles over to Image founders, although Todd McFarlane refused, being too busy buying baseballs and counting money. The resulting relaunch was a marginal sales success but a critical flop, and the series were relaunched again a year later. Teen Tony would be assimilated into Iron Man, so that when he came back from the Image relaunch, he had two sets of memories, but wasn't evil, or a teen.

Avengers Forever is published starting in December, 1998 (less than two full years later!), and explains away most of this story as a plot by Immortus meant to distract the team. Moonraker, the twins, and even Tuc are revealed to be Space Phantoms in disguise, as part of a master plan to occupy the Avengers until Onslaught shows up a few months down the road. Mantis re-appears in a series written by her creator in 2001 (Avengers: the Celestial Quest), and then becomes part of Marvel Cosmic post-Annihilation, joining the Guardians of the Galaxy. Without getting too in-depth about Avengers Forever, most people didn't complain about that particular "ret-con," since it didn't outright ignore a terrible story, it explained at least a few of the huge logical potholes in this crossover. Oh, and in one of my favorite moments in A:F, Hank Pym says something like "so it was you who caused my breakdowns?" And Immortus is just like "no, that was all you, Hank. I just said we caused them to mess with you."

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