Avengers # 164-166

The Avengers are everywhere these days, riding high on Marvel’s billion-dollar blockbuster and its sundry spin-offs. However, there was a time when they were almost unknown outside of the States. You rarely saw their comics in UK newsagents, so it was a surprise when I came across these issues in a jumble sale in a seaside town, sometime in the early 1990s. I’ve never been a fan of the Avengers. To me, the whole concept doesn’t make much sense. Their leader is Captain America, who is basically just a stronger-than-average grunt. He has an invulnerable shield that he chucks at people, but that hardly counts as a superpower. It also means that the writers always have to ensure that their villains get close enough to him so that he can lob the stupid thing at them. Avengers 165 Little more than a glorified member of the military, Cap doesn’t have a lot going for him. Yet he ends up giving orders to a multi-millionaire businessman (Iron Man), an African King (the Black Panther) and, of course, an actual god (Thor). As deities go, Thor is obviously not of the arrogant persuasion since he is happy to be pushed around by a mere mortal. If that weren’t barking enough, we haven’t even yet got to the marriage of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision. The Vision is the perfect husband in many ways, except for one slight drawback. He happens to be a robot. Not much chance of kids there, you might think. Well, you’d be surprised… When it comes to The Avengers, it’s best not to ask too many questions.

Avengers 166

“We have much to talk about … my wife!” … I’ll say.

This particular run features art by a guest penciller in the shape of John Byrne. These issues are from 1977, just before Byrne took up the reins on the revamped X-Men. As is often the case with Marvel, great artwork covers up a storyline that makes little sense, but involves a lot of punching and destruction of property. Avengers 165 (the Vision) Basically, the evil Count Nefaria dupes three minor-league supervillains, “the Lethal Legion” into helping him. Nefaria offers to augment their powers, but the effect is only temporary. Nefaria is using a scientist, Professor Sturdy, to steal the Lethal Legion’s powers for himself. In the process, Nefaria becomes a supervillain that is strong enough to match the assembled Avengers.

It’s all a lot of brainless fun and conveniently, Professor Sturdy gets killed at the end, preventing anyone else from stealing other characters’ powers.

As a footnote, the story was written by Jim Shooter.  It’s worth mentioning that he and artist Byrne would not always be on such good terms. In fact, at a party some ten years later, Byrne was present while Shooter was burnt in effigy.

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17 responses to “Avengers # 164-166

  1. In my mis-spent youth, I had quite a collection of Avengers comics, along with the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Dr. Strange, the X-Men, the Hulk, and so on. I was enamored of all the Marvel comics. It’s funny, but I never questioned the absurdity of the Avengers concept, as you do here, possibly because ALL of the comics were absurd in their own way. But they were also exciting and fun and..well, literate, as far as comics go. Foolishly, I ended up selling my comic collection for a pittance years later. Now I’m laughing (and kicking myself) as all those characters suddenly have become hot commodities. Who would have thought? Anyway, thanks for an interesting post!

    • I gave a lot of mine away too but I kept these three and I think it was just because I loved the artwork.
      I didn’t notice the absurdity of it all when I was kid either. Have you noticed the way Iron Man talks to Thor in that panel above? That’s the god of thunder you’re talking to!

  2. I am actually a longtime fan of the Avengers, although I haven’t really followed any of the books that Marvel has put out in the last decade. I’m much more fond of the stories from the 1960s to 80s. There were many good stories from those three decades.

    That said, I was never especially fond of Jim Shooter’s work on Avengers. I think he had the team face way too many insanely powerful bad guys whose abilities verged on godhood (Count Nefaria, Garviton, Korvac). Shooter is also the writer who basically established the idea that Hank Pym was a mentally unstable wifebeater, something that too many subsequent unimaginative writers have returned to over and over and over again.

    I mean, I did like what Shooter did with Wonder Man and the Beast, his use of longtime Avengers foes Grim Reaper and Ultron, and his introduction of Jocasta. But, yeah, looking at his time on the series as a whole, it was very hit or miss.

    • I’m a Bronze Age fan too. There’s too much history these days and too much crossover between the teams so you never know what’s what or what’s going on. >>Sigh<< things were much simpler then.
      It's true what you say about Wonderman and he is interesting in this little story arc, obsessed with failure and not feeling up to the job.

  3. I’m a huge Marvel fan. Been collecting on and off (mostly on but I did skip the awful 90’s) since I was 10 in 1978. I have Avengers 140-300. I think you have it wrong about Captain America. He is the PERFECT and best Avengers leader, He has this combination of nobility and military brilliance. Despite being this awesome fighter he is sort of good to a fault. He is Marvel’s Superman minus the super powers if that makes any sense.

  4. I have never paid attention to The Avengers, for some reason I thought it had Joanna Lumley in it…having said that those comics look awesome, like a b-movie. I may have to look into these as well as Flash Gordon and Dan Dare (again) as the names in particular sound mental.

    • Ha ha! Of course, I forgot the other Avengers with Mrs Peel.
      That 1980 Flash Gordon film is my all-time favourite guilty pleasure, but I also like the old black and white cinema serials. They used to show them on BBC2 when I was a kid.

      • Yep…I loved the 1980 Flash with the Queen soundtrack too! I also used to watch the old Flash Gordon serials but over in the US it was shown on PBS…probably because PBS showed a lot of BBC sourced stuff?

      • PBS was great! I lived in the States from 1986-88 and I loved being able to watch old Dr Who’s there when the rest of the UK was suffering the Sylvester McCoy era. The only bad thing was that bit in the middle when they stop the program so that they can beg for donations from the public. Do they still do that?

      • Hey McCoy was my Doctor, he is well underrated and had some really strong stories towards the end. Their are always breaks in the BBC America Who it makes it very disjointed and if wasn’t so desperate to watch new episodes I would definitely wait for the box set.

      • I knew you were going to stick up for Sylvester! Ok, he was a good doctor and Survival was cool but he wasn’t the best. I remember a story he once told when someone came up to him at a conference and told McCoy he was their “fifth favourite doctor”!
        My favourite performance of his was his role at the start of the TV movie where he had a lovely weary, melancholy take on the character.

      • Apparently he said it was the only time he felt truly comfortable in the role which is ironic…I think he got lumbered with some dodgy camp in his first season which turned people off and Mel wasn’t much of a help as companion.

      • He got away lightly if you compare his era to Colin Baker’s. I always thought Colin could have been great in the role but that coat ruined his chances from the beginning. And Mel was the worst!

      • Adric ran her close at time I think lol. Yeah Baker’s coat was terrible, he does grow on me the more I watch him…it is a shame he never got to develop his character…same with McGann as well although they are rectifying that with the audio books somewhat.

    • The best! One of the first things I saw on US TV was the Jon Pertwee serial The Curse of Peladon. They were re-running in1986, at a time when it was impossible to see repeats in the UK. I was lucky enough to get Tom Baker twice – in fact, three times now that I have, ahem, all the DVDs.

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