Monday, July 5, 2010

The Avengers #32

TITLE: The Avengers #32

PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

COVER DATE: September 1966


20 pages


So this is the first of three reprint issues from Giant-Size Marvel Triple Action #2 that we'll be reading and reviewing. I was actually quite pleased when this issue came into my possession late last year, as the three stories are all ones that I haven't read yet.

My Avengers collection starts around issue #90, with a handful of earlier issues sprinkled here and there. Most of those early issues feature two of my favorite characters, either the Vision or Kang, including their first appearances. This story that we're reading today includes neither, so it's a new one for me.

Who do we have in this issue? Well Hawkeye's here, and any Avengers story worth its salt features Hawkeye. Hank and Janet are back, but Wanda and Pietro seem to be missing. And as always during these early years, Cap is leading the way.

"The Sign Of The Serpent!"
  • Writer and Raconteur: Stan Lee
  • Artist and Bon Vivant: Don Heck
  • Letterer and Patron des Artes: Artie Simek
  • Scapegoat, Junior Grade: Irv Forbush
Before we actually get started, there's a helpful tip from Stan about something we should be aware of with this issue.

I did a little googling about this issue, and it would appear that it never did win any prizes, so I'm assuming that Stan Lee is using a bit of his trademark hyperbole. In fact, it might be a good idea to turn on our patented Hyperbole Meter so we're not caught off guard and accidentally hurt ourselves when we come across it.

We barely even get a chance to introduce it and it's already going off!

So here come the Avengers back from their latest adventure when they're their own headquarters!

That's right, deactivation codes are for wimps! Who needs 'em when you can use your own super-powers to shut it down. Which then begs the secure is your base when your defensive measures can be thwarted with cutting edge stone age technology like a shield and a bow and arrow?

They don't get much of a chance to rest however, before Hank goes into one of his "woe is me" episodes. It seems he's been stuck in an enlarged state and is depressed about not being able to shrink back to normal size.

We're hitting the yellow on the meter, I'd look out if I was you Hank!

It may seem like Cap has lost his mind, but it's all part of some tough love as he tries to get Hank to snap out of his depression. A page and a half of fighting later, and Cap is able to break through to Hank and make him realize the his problem will not by solved by moping around. Off to the lab goes Hank, as Cap receives a kiss from the Wasp in thanks.

So now that everything's hunky-dory with the Avengers, let's check in with the general populace of New York City as the Sons of the Serpent are in the middle of a new recruiting drive. Who are the Sons of the Serpent, you ask? Well let's check in with the old Hyperbole Meter.

Hello? Is this thing on?

I guess old Stan was ahead of time as the Sons of the Serpent just don't sound that crazy today. In fact, there's a certain modern day "patriotic" political movement that they'd probably be right at home in.

Yep, the Sons of the Serpent are looking to rid the country of all of those "furriners".

And who is that working undercover to get inside the inner serpent circle? It's none other than Natasha Romanoff, giving the Black Widow her first (if brief) appearance here at the Random Longbox.

I guess this thing is working after all, and we're pushing the red zone. Let's check back in with the Avengers to see what all the commotion is about.

Wait a minute...Did Hank just hit Janet? It was just an accident, but honestly...there's just no place for a "chattering female" in the lab. After all, Hank is under a lot of pressure to get himself back to size. Janet's a strong-willed woman, however, and she storms out of Hank's lab as she will not be talked to in such a fashion.

A quick call to Tony Stark, and Hank soon has the the star of Stark's Baltimore Plans and Research Division to come over and lend a hand. Coincidentally enough, Hank's new assistant is African American. I smell trouble brewing with the Sons of the Serpent.

That didn't take long. Luckily for Bill, Hank heard the struggle and comes outside just as the Sons of the Serpent are making a hasty retreat. Enraged by their actions, Hank calls a stop to his labwork so that the Avengers can be assembled to take on this venomous group personally.

Captain America decides to check in with Nick Fury to see if S.H.I.E.L.D. knows anything about these jokers, while the rest of the Avengers strategize about the best way to take 'em down.

The next day, the Avengers call a press conference to announce that they are declaring war on the Sons of Serpent. After their recent attempt to kill a travelling foreign dignitary, they can't wait any longer. Luckily for them, they don't have to as Captain America is soon sucked up into a mysterious looking cloud.

It turns out it wasn't a cloud after all, but the hidden base of the Sons of the Serpent. And now that he's on board, he gets a personal introduction to the sons themselves.

Alas, they're just too many snakes and Captain America is soon captured. It's all part of the Serpent's plan, as now that they have an Avenger at their mercy they're using him to blackmail the rest of the Avengers to stay out of their business...or else they'll never see Captain America alive again.

So with their backs against the wall, how quickly do the rest of the Avengers get their stuff together to take the fight to the serpents in the cloud?

Unfortunately you'll have to get the next issue to find out, as Hank has a plan and it involves making the world think that the Avengers have gone soft.


Now if you remember, right off the bat we were told to expect one of "the most deeply-moving, off-beat thrillers of the year." We never did get the ol' Hyperbole Meter up to the red zone during the course of the story, but I imagine if we fired it up now, that prologue blurb would be enough to do the trick.

Stan Lee was nothing, if not the mediums greatest pitch man. He's in full force here, as I found this story neither deeply-moving, or very off-beat. I think even calling it a thriller is a bit of an overstatement.

I can definitely see the story that Stan was trying to tell here, and it's a story worth telling, but I'm not sure Stan's your man. I realize that you have to view a story in the context of the era in which it was written, but...

We have a story dealing with the serious topic of racism, but how are we supposed to take it seriously when this is how the Avengers deal with the female members of their own team.

Quiz time...which one of these statements was actually said to the Wasp, to her own face no less.
  • "Butt out of this lady!"
  • "Look lady -- I know you've been trying to help and I appreciate it -- But it's just no good"
  • "And I'll get one -- A top notch scientist -- Not a chattering female!"
The answer? All of 'em!

So all of Hank's blustering about the injustice and bigotry involved with what the Sons of the Serpent stand for, and that's how the Avengers treat a fellow hero just because she's a girl? Remind me to tell Hank and the boys about pots and kettles and the color black the next time I see 'em.

Don Heck handles the art chores on this issue, and while he's not one of my favorite Avengers artists, he does okay with this issue. The story doesn't leave a lot of space for visual fireworks, but he has some good action panels when the story picks up.

A regular reader (thanks Thelonious Monk) recommended that I pick up The Defenders #21-25 last year when the I reviewed another Defenders issue, and the Son of the Serpent are the main villains of that story arc. Now I'm doubly curious to track those down to see how these jokers and this topic are handled by the likes of Steve Gerber writing the story.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics


  1. And if I ever come across these Avengers issues, I'll be sure to pick them up.

    --Thelonious Nick

  2. ...and you're one of my fastest readers too!

    Thanks for the continued reading and posting.

  3. Dear Father Christmas

    I have been a good boy all year and what I really really want is my very own Stan Lee Hyperboly Meter to attach to every single Stan Lee comic that I own. Can I also have a Stan Lee Syllable-O-Meter for when Smilin' Stan breaks out his thesaurus to learn new words to hype his works?


  4. Thankfully, the possibilities are endless with Stan.

    I'm pretty sure I saw a Syllable-O-Meter packaged with a Silver Age Alliteration Alarm at the Marvel Bullpen Second Hand Store.

  5. Well---did you get'em, or am I going to have to offer you mine? 22 and 24 were just way too good.

    Yah, the way women are talked down to for many years is a depiction that always turns me off. you can tell we grew up in an era that considered these issues more progressively. Valkyrie and Hellcat were in one of my first comics (Defenders 61!) and I guess I never thought girls were yucky.

    Your comment about the political party reminds me of the hullabaloo over an issue of Cap last year, just before Borders stopped carrying it.

  6. I haven't found those particular issues yest, but I did stumble upon an awesome dollar book sale in Kentucky over the summer and picked up a bunch of issues to give me a solid run from #39-60.

    I hate to excuse the rather outdated social and moral views as a relic of another era, but I'm sure Stan meant well, so I guess we can.