Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Comic Book Review: Avengers #138

TITLE: Avengers #138


COVER DATE: August 1975

COVER PRICE: 25 cents

18 pages


I actually don't remember too much about the actual content of this issue. What I remember most is the situation surrounding the purchase of this issue, which was revealed in the previous post as the very first back issue I ever bought.

FUN FACT: I bought this issue for a buck and a quarter. According to the 38th Edition of The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, it's now worth about 12 or 13 dollars. A tenfold increase, and it only took 24 years! So let's son will be going to college in about 15 years, so if this book appreciates at the same rate...hopefully he'll be able to fill up his tank with the profits from this issue. Although that's assuming gas doesn't rise. Of course, by that time we should all have flying cars or jet packs. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll use old comic books for their fuel source.

So yeah, I don't actually remember a whole lot about what happens in the actual issue. I think Wasp gets injured in this issue? I seem to recall a bedside fight in a hospital with a tornado-like villain around this time. The Beast had just joined the team as well, if I remember correctly.

"Stranger In A Strange Man!"

  • Story: Steve Englehart
  • Pencils: George Tuska
  • Inks: Vinnie C.
  • Lettering: Charlotte J.
  • Colorist: G. Roussos
  • Editor: Len Wein

I wonder why so many initials in the credits? Is this issue so bad, that they don't want full credit attributed to them? Let's find out.

We open with The Avengers leaving a hospital in a torrential downpour where a gravely injured Jan Pym, a.k.a. The Wasp, lies near death. She was apparently injured doing battle with The Stranger from the previous issue. See, my memory isn't so bad after all.

A crowd of reporters and onlookers await outside as Thor, Iron Man, Moondragon, and The Beast emerge from the hospital.

Half of the crowd is fawning over Thor, while some ne'er-do-wells complain about the "freaks" on the team. That would be the bald woman and the gorilla, for all of you keeping score at home.

Yellowjacket storms out of the hospital in a rage, and in my favorite part of the issue, he hails a cab for the Avengers to take back to the mansion. Forget the fact that Iron Man's suit probably weighs several tons, and that Thor's cape probably takes up the whole back seat itself...I wonder who drew the short straw and had to sit next to the Beast. I'm sure all that fur smells real nice up close and personal after standing out in the rain for the last three pages. Alas, we'll never know as George Tuska only draws a close-up of Yellowjacket inside the taxi.

You gotta love New York City taxi drivers, as this one even hassles Yellowjacket.

Back at the Avenger's mansion, they are assaulted once again by the mind blasts of The Stranger. They manage to deduce that The Stranger is trying to find out the location of the Scarlet Witch, who is off on a secret honeymoon with The Vision.

They devise a plan to split up to try to draw out The Stranger into a physical confrontation. After arguing about which team gets Moondragon (who knew that both Iron Man and Thor had a thing for bald ladies), it is decided she will go with Thor while everyone else waits back at the mansion.

At least Moondragon has the good sense to speak up for herself, only to be blown off by Thor who dismisses away the chauvinism. Welcome to The Avengers, Moondragon...may you never tire of the "sport" between comrades.

Thor and Moondragon are successful in drawing The Stranger into another mental confrontation. This allows Iron Man to track and locate its source. They decide to take a quinjet this time around, instead of a taxi, and are off to confront the real Stranger.

Thor and Moondragon continue to fight the phantom Strangers, with Moondragon showing that she's not to be trifled with. This scene includes one of my favorite lines of the issue as her power is described as

Raw, raging energies ripple from her shaven skull--

Apparently George Tuska wasn't reading the script too closely as all of the raw, raging energy appears to be coming from her hands.

Meanwhile, the other Avengers catch up to The Stranger's ship and board it, only to be met with lasers that criss-cross the breadth of the interior of the ship, just four feet from the floor. You gotta love those old villainous booby traps. So specific, yet so random. I'm assuming that the measurement of four feet will be significant later on somehow.

The Stranger (the real one this time) attacks as the Avengers are paralyzed by the four foot high lasers. Lucky for them that The Beast is agile and dexterous enough to jump over and dodge the lasers. He ducks around the corner with The Stranger in pursuit.

The Stranger catches up to him, only to be confronted by the gangster John Santo (as played by Edward G. Robinson in the 1940 Warner Brothers Classic movie Brother Orchid). How The Beast knew that using his image inducer in this fashion would startle the Stranger enough into dropping his mental projections, I can't quite figure out.

But startle him he does, and he drops his thought form to reveal the real mastermind behind this whole affair...The Toad!

Really? The Toad? I guess they thought they'd bring an X-Man villain to play off of The Beast, since this is his maiden adventure with the team, but that's the best they could come up with? At least the four foot high lasers of death make perfect sense now!

The Toad then manages to play punching back over the next two pages while throwing a temper tantrum. Yellowjacket really tears into him, taking out all of his frustrations over the grave condition of his wife. Reading Yellowjacket's dialogue in that panel makes me wonder why none of the other Avengers ever held an intervention for his anger issues. That would've saved Jan from alot of trauma a couple of years down the road.

In fairness, I'm giving The Toad the short shrift as it is revealed in short order that The Toad has used Arkon's technology when he was stranded on his planet to build a ship to fly "cross distance and dimensions". He returned to the prison planet of The Stranger. Breaching the planet's defenses he plundered it of all of his machinery and installed it on his ship, boasting that the "thought form" was the easiest of all to master. All of this he did for one ask for The Scarlet Witch's hand in marriage, as he has had a crush on her since their early days in The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Who knew that The Toad had the intellectual heft to build dimension crossing spaceships and equipping them with technology that alters mental perceptions? You learn something new every day.

The Avengers then head back to the mansion with The Toad as their prisoner, throwing another tantrum.

Relax little guy, I'm sure someone of your talents will be able to break out of whatever prison they hold you in so you can steal Tony Stark's technology and maybe build a time machine to woo The Scarlet Witch before she got married!


I think the main thing to take away from this issue is one of two things. Either the Toad was way smarter than I ever gave him credit for, or he was written way out of character here.

I think I'm going to go with the latter on this one.

Overall, this wasn't one of the strongest Avenger issues I've ever read, but this title ended up being the first one that I seriously collected, so there must've been something there that the 15 year old version of me found entertaining.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the other Avengers book I bought that day (#265) was the one that hooked me. I wonder how long it will take the allmighty randomizer to pick that one for me to review.

Until then, have fun reading...

Related links for your surfing pleasure

  • Steve Englehart's official website
  • Marvel's official Avengers site

    All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics


  1. Two bits of trivial correction:

    1) If memory serves, this was long before the time every oddball mutant hero had an image-inducer in their pocket. Hank McCoy had only recently become the hairy beastial Beast. He hid his fur behind latex and makeup skills. In this rather feeble plot, Hank slipped around the corner and somehow donned the full EG Robinson latex mask in moments. True, he had the costume-disguise created earlier as a gag introduction to his Avengers' try out, but that is some fast makeup artistry.

    The Toad, on the other hand, did have an image inducer.

    2) The Toad didn't invent any of that super-de-dooper stuff. The real Stranger had collected Magneto and assorted Evil Brotherhood Mutants. Magneto and the cool kids escaped, abandoning Toad. Toad had enough patience and mental wherewithal to steal and employ some of the Stranger's gizmos.

  2. Hey Murray! Thanks for the extra color commentary.

    I always hated the image inducers when it came to mutants. It always seemed like "having your cake and eating it too". Why set up a mutant with a rather obvious mutation, only to hide it and not deal with it out in the open.

    Isn't that kind of the point of creating that character in the first place?

    I think I'd much rather see mutants adopt the Beast's strategy of just carrying rubber masks of 40's noir film stars in their back pockets.