The Avengers, Issue #34: “The Living Laser!”
Written by Stan Lee; Artwork by Don Heck. Cover Art also by Heck.
In this issue, we are graced with the very first appearance of…
Who is “one of the most deadly super-foes in the annals of Marveldom”, owing this to his ability to point a powerful laser at his enemies and zap them…
The Living Laser robs a bank in the opening pages, but then laughs at the police attempt to capture him and throws the open duffel bag of money off of a roof, scattering the bank notes in the wind and watching them float down into the street as the cops are left scratching their heads in bemusement.
Later, the Avengers decide to investigate the crime scene, and Janet runs into her old pal Lucy Barton. As it turns out, Lucy’s family owns the bank and spots a man named Arthur Parks in the gathering crowd. Seeing him alarms Lucy, and she confides her fears to Janet, who in turn is spotted by the lurking Arthur. Arthur, in a sick, twisted sort of way, falls for Janet at first sight. Oh, and Arthur Parks happens to be the Living Laser.
With Janet van Dyne as his new love interest, Parks begins his plotting on how to win her love; he surmises that he must show her how much more powerful he is than Hank Pym – Goliath…
Speaking of… back at Pym’s lab, Janet and Hank encounter Bill Foster – Pym’s scientific aide. Foster ran out on Pym in the previous Avengers story arc where Goliath was acting super weird in an attempt to bluff his enemies, and Bill wants to apologize and get back to work with Hank. This is when the Living Laser shows up, cutting a deadly beam through the roof of Pym’s facility as his entrance. The Laser really doesn’t put up much of a showing for himself, and Goliath easily subdues the “super-foe”.
Cap and Hawkeye show up and volunteer to take the criminal to jail in their Avengers jet. They tie him up with rope and throw him into the back seat before immediately forgetting about the guy, who uses his lasers to burn through the ropes – and the bottom of the jet – and escapes. Captain America and Hawkeye totally drop the ball here. I mean, that is totally irresponsible and the destruction that the Living Laser goes on to sow throughout the junkyards of New York State – a plane graveyard, an old defunct tug boat and a condemned building – lies solely at the feet of these two goofs.
Chasing after the Living Laser, the Avengers (sans Goliath), finally catch up to him at his headquarters. The daft duo of Cap and Hawkeye stumble into a contracting prison cell of deadly lasers, and the Wasp is captured by her calculating admirer as she struggles to figure out the laser prison’s contraptions.
The Avengers, Issue 35: “The Light That Failed!”
Written by Stan Lee & Roy Thomas; Artwork by Don Heck. Cover by Don Heck & Jack Kirby & Frank Giacoia.
A continuation of last issue. Roy Thomas shows up on the Avengers scene here, as Stan Lee begins to relinquish his writing duties.
The Living Laser has run off with the Wasp to build WMDs and ally himself with shady fascist political movements from South America.
Goliath shows up at the Living Laser’s hideout to find Captain America and Hawkeye stranded. Cap’s shield has even been disintegrated by the laser prison, and Goliath frees the two helpless heroes in no time. Learning that they allowed Parks – the Living Laser – to escape with his beloved Janet really pisses Hank off, and he some harsh words are exchanged between the remaining Avengers. Eventually they all set off to find the villain, but there is still a chip on Pym’s shoulder.
For his part, Arthur Parks has made some dangerous friends. He’s agreed to build a massive laser cannon with which to overthrow the current dictator of the small South American country of Costa Verde. His allies in this venture – two disguised crime lords of the country – plan to take over after the current leader has been executed, and then steal Arthur Parks’ superweapon. For his part, the Living Laser plans to double-cross the two crime lords anyway, and possibly rule the country for himself. His main goal, it seems, remains to be the acquisition of fortune and power with which to impress Janet van Dyne, who is still trapped in a miniature terrarium. These developments have brought the Living Laser, his short term political allies and the captive Wasp down to beautiful Costa Verde, where eventually, the other Avengers catch up with them.
Some fresh frame work by Don Heck popped up in this issue.
After Goliath, Captain America and Hawkeye put up quite the showing for themselves as they fight off hordes of South American criminals outside of Parks’ new base of operations, the fresh mammoth cannon that the Living Laser has developed makes quick work of the heroes, and they find themselves captured once again.
Before the Living Laser can manage to fire off his cannon, Goliath reveals to us that he’s been working with Bill Foster towards finding a cure for his constant state of erection – :p – and successfully shrinks himself down to Ant Man size in order to escape from his bonds. He immediately heads straight for the Wasp to free her before delving into the Laser’s cannon in an attempt to screw with its machinery before the villain can shoot it at the prison tower where Cap and Hawkeye are still trapped.
Just before the weapon is fired, Hank succeeds in his goal and the weapons suffers a core meltdown and explodes. The Avengers can now safely make their way back home to New York. The Living Laser and his dictator pals that survived the explosion are taken out by the local police, who have been inspired by the Avengers’ (read Goliath’s) actions to swear off the yokes of Communism and instead live their lives under the freedom of a democratic system…
Everyone is happy that Hank has his original powers back, and I’m sure they’re all hoping that he will stop being such a grump from now on.
Back at home, Clint meets up with Natasha – the Black Widow – who isn’t pleased with Clint running out without telling her – a mild domestic ensues where Natasha is throwing a vase at Clint – and Captain America is startled by a mystery visitor while he is doing his chores…
The Avengers, Issue #36: “The Ultroids Attack!”
Written by Roy Thomas; Artwork by Don Heck. Cover art also by Don Heck.
As it turns out… the surprise visitor is none other than the Scarlet Witch!
The Scarlet Witch has returned to Avengers mansion with urgent news: Quicksilver, along with everyone in Transia, Transia have been abducted by aliens…
As the Avengers assemble at the Stark Mansion in preparation for a flight across the Atlantic, Hawkeye formally introduces Black Widow to the team. He nominates her for induction into the team, but Goliath shoots that idea down pretty quickly and things get quite heated between Hawkeye and Goliath. I loved it, and thought it was quite nice.
On a course set for the Balkans, the Avengers jets takes off across multiple panels – nicely done, Don Heck! – and the Black Widow has been allowed to tag along for the mission.
In Transia, led along by the Scarlet Witch, the Avengers enter the alien stronghold and discover a supercomputer inside named Ixar. Ixar has been siphoning information out of the town of Transia’s Burgomeister (the town’s mayor). He’s uncovered a lot of information concerning the Avengers, as Wanda and Pietro both call Transia their homeland and have an extended history with the current Burgomeister. Ixar’s ultimate goal here is to capture the Avengers and somehow isolate their super-powered molecules for use in the creation of his own bio-engineered super army! In fact, Ixar already has quite a sizeable force of these bio-engineered Ultroids at his disposal, led by a sergeant named Ultrana – who turns out to be the false Scarlet Witch who led the Avengers here in the first place.
The Ultroid army attacks the Avengers, capturing them all. As the Black Widow isn’t an Avenger, she is instead sent off for immediate execution.
The Avengers, Issue #37: “To Conquer a Colossus!”
Written by Roy Thomas; Artwork by Don Heck. Cover Art by Gil Kane.
After a long action packed battle with the Ultroids, the Avengers have been captured.
In the stasis tubes that trap each individual Avenger, Ultrana is asked to tell the origin story of Ixar. Turns out he’s the last survivor of a galactic war that ended in a ‘climatic’ battle where Ixar was mortally wounded. His Ultroid creations were forced to computerize his mind, and so here we have Ixar the supercomputer.
During the long-winded Ultrana’s story, Goliath manages to shrink himself down to microscopic size, and escapes his stasis tube, freeing the other Avengers shortly afterwards. Captain America links up with the Black Widow, who has yet to be executed.
Another epic battle ensues, resulting on Ixar killing off all of his Ultroids and using their bio-matter to build a giant, 15-foot tall colossal Ultroid that he downloads his sentience into. This new Ixar Ultroid manages to overcome all but Hawkeye and Black Widow, who both escape into the deeper holds of the alien spaceship as Ixar plots to end the other Avengers once and for all.
Hawkeye and Black Widow find the holding area of the Burgomeister, who seems to be living in relative comfort. They make a weak connection to the life of Transia’s leader and Ixar, surmising that the mayor is actually important to the alien cybrid that is Ixar. They determine to hold the Burgomeister hostage, and it actually works! Ixar turns out to have downloaded some of his being into this Burgomeister/Ultroid cybrid, and definitely does not want any harm to come to his political puppet.
Ixar ends up calling Hawkeye’s bluff, as he knows the Avengers are bound to their code of honour and will not commit anything resembling murder or execution. Natasha sighs and asks Hawkeye to leave the room. After he’s gone, she turns around and calmly states that she’s no Avenger and that she wouldn’t hesitate to slit the throat of this Burgomeister puppet at the drop of a dime if it meant her life or the life of her allies. She’s so god damned cold in delivering this to Ixar that the computer folds and let’s the Avengers and the citizens of Transia, Transia go before unceremoniously speeding away from the planet.
Natasha, that was so hot…
The Avengers, Issue #38: “In Our Midst… An Immortal!”
Written by Roy Thomas; Penciled by Don Heck; Inked by George Roussos. Cover Art by Gil Kane.
As the Avengers get home, things go back to normal for the most part. This coming ish is heavy with cameos… Also, George Roussos helps out with the inking here, taking some of the work load off of Don Heck – and it shows.
You gotta respect Hawkeye willing to fight a 10-15 foot giant for his girl’s honour. As the Avengers wait for Black Widow to show up for an Avengers induction hearing, S.H.I.E.L.D. abducts her and asks her to join them. The plan is to have her working as a double agent behind the Iron Curtain… Black Widow accepts, and this is the last we see of her this issue.
The Avengers are left high and dry too. I can’t help but feel this was all orchestrated by Captain America. He’s in normal contact with Nick Fury, and the ceaseless infighting between Goliath and Hawkeye over the topic of Black Widow’s induction seems to be wearing on him.
In the end, Hawkeye claims to have given up on the team once more, and in an interesting development, Wasp accompanies him as he walks out! Imagine how much that must piss Goliath off… They go so far as to go on a lunch date together, and then confide in each other quite a bit throughout their conversation. This is one of the reasons I’m digging the change from Stan Lee to Roy Thomas – I’m seeing a lot of interesting character development.
To get to the meat of this issue, we have to travel all the way to Olympus, where Hercules and Ares are sparring. Ares and the Enchantress – who Ares has been banging – have hatched this really weird cuckoldish plot where Hercules is supposed to drink a love potion disguised as water that will make Hercules the Enchantress’ slave. In the end, Ares is chucked for the more powerful and handsome Hercules, who fell for the ploy and finds himself hopelessly in love with the Enchantress.
The Enchantress, for her part, still holds a grudge against the Avengers – even though Thor isn’t really an acting member of the team anymore – and so her plan is to use Hercules to defeat them. After some hard inconclusive fighting, the Avengers manage to snap Hercules out of his sorcerous enchantment, and the Enchantress for her part can’t bring herself to hurt Hercules. He must have a huge cock…
In the end, the Enchantress struggles to cope with her feelings for Hercules. Zeus, up on his high Olympian throne, mirrors Odin’s temper and banishes Hercules to Earth 616 for breaking Olympian rules. The Avengers happily accept Hercules into the team with wide open arms – even Hawkeye, who has been fighting for Black Widow to join, doesn’t flinch at this – and Hercules is happy to shack up in the Avengers Mansion while he figures out how to atone himself in the eyes of Zeus so that he can eventually go back home.
These issues have made me really excited to get back to the Avengers. I feel like Roy Thomas is bringing this team out of stagnation. We’re seeing so much character development here that I really have nothing to complain about. Most think that Thomas’ lack of ability to create dynamic characters is a huge hindrance, but I feel that his ability to develop and move forward existing characters more than makes up for this.
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are back. Hercules has joined the team. Goliath has his original powers back. This all bodes well for prospective action in the coming issues.
We also see Clint and Hank enhance their dislike for each other. Clint and Steve are forming a lasting friendship. Clint and Janet seem to understand each other. Natasha proves to be an American Patriot. The Enchantress has feelings too.
All of the last two paragraphs have been brought on by the much-maligned Roy Thomas. Don Heck also has broken the ice with some amazing panel work that we have yet to see done by any other artist, and Heck is often criticized too. His art may be sketchy, but here we see him making panel layouts evolve for the better.
I guess I’m just saying that we shouldn’t discredit the two creative minds that have brought us these five issues without giving them a little credit.
We are going to take our first look at The Fantastic Four! It’ll be a single issue – which means it will be a lot quicker to come for you all than this Avengers run has been – and we get to see the evolution of Ulysses K into the Master of Sound!