When we last left this comic book saga, a Kree Sentry had smashed its way into a medical wing of Cape Canaveral. Its quarry: the convalescing Captain Marvel.
As Avengers #90 opens up, we see the same three Avengers from the previous issue, Vision, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch, attempt to battle the sentry and protect the fallen Mar-Vell. It does not go well.
The Avengers fail and the Sentry kidnaps Captain Marvel. There is barely any time to absorb the bitter sting of defeat as these Avengers receive a call from Clint Barton. Barton appears in his Goliath persona and not Hawkeye, which is a bit disappointing for me but I digress...
Goliath informs the three plus Rick Jones that he received an emergency call from Janet van Dyne, aka the Wasp. It seems that she and her husband Hank Pym, aka Yellowjacket at this point, were aboard an icebreaker headed to Alaska to determine why a government research station stop responding to radio calls. Riding on dragonflies, the two headed inland and found an expanse of tropical jungle in the middle of Alaska. Fearing for Jan's safety and wanting to investigate this bizarre discovery on his own, Hank punches his wife (!) and knocks her unconscious. He instructs her dragonfly to take her back to the ship.
The summoned Avengers wing their way to Alaska and the out-of-place jungle. Upon arrival, they see that it is no mere jungle but a land filled with prehistoric plants and animals; animals such as dinosaurs and sasquatch-like apes. The reason for this? Ronan the Accuser and the Kree Sentry have constructed a citadel that broadcasts a "devo-ray" (no "Whip It" jokes, please) that reverts everything back to that era. The reason? Well, the Kree first visited Earth during prehistoric times (cue Giorgio from Ancient Aliens). If everything...including superheroes...were returned to that primitive and primal state, the planet would be easy pickin's for the Kree.
Among those affected by the devo-ray are Hank Pym...who has now devolved into a Neanderthal-like state and is posturing to attack the Wasp.
To be continued...
So where to begin with all of this?
Well, I wasn't all that hip on this issue. First of all, no Cap, Iron Man, or Thor. Second of all, it seems to be a great example of Plot Contrivance Theater. There's new trouble a-brewin' in an unrelated corner of the world and it just happens to be caused by the bad guys from the previous issue. Also, it's still unclear just how this all relates to a Kree-Skrull War.
Then there's the awful business about Hank hitting Jan.
One might think that writer Roy Thomas was foreshadowing the drama-laden storyarc of the early 1980s where Hank as Yellowjacket really begins to lose his mind and hits Jan once again. The consequences of domestic violence were at least talked about in that arc, but nowhere near as much as they should have been. But somehow I don't think that Thomas had any of this in mind. You might argue that Hank was already under the influence of the devo-ray when he hit Jan, acting out in a brutish and violent means as his thinking grew slower.
Still, none of it is clear and it remains very unsettling to read it through contemporary eyes.
Then again, that may be something that Roy Thomas was at least hinting at. These characters should be written as people and as people they would have flaws and ugly sides just as anyone else does. In this issue, the Vision points out that superheroes are actually great examples of misfits. Captain America is a man living 20 years out of his home time, Thor is a god among mortals, and Iron Man...well, "who knows what dark secret may lie hidden within his heart beneath that gleaming chest plate?" As loyal readers know, the answers to that include womanizing and alcoholism.
The beginning of cynicism in comics? A plash or early pang of postmodernism? Don't know if I'd go that far, but...
Like I said, wasn't a fan of this one. Here's to hoping part 3 is better.
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