Okay everyone, we’ve been running The Book Closet website for four months now producing at least a review-a-day, so we’re going to reward ourselves (and hopefully, you) by officially declaring June 2015 to be: Avengers month here at The Book Closet! That’s right: 30 days, 30 reviews of the books that inspired the top-grossing movie franchise of all-time: The Avengers!
How to begin? There’s so much to the Avengers long history! Almost moreso than any other Marvel Comic, as the Avengers incorporate members from all over the Marvel Universe, that have included (but are not limited to): Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, Beast, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Hawkeye, and too many more to name here! So what counts as an Avengers story? Well, I’m going to be playing by-ear with that. Avengers books clearly count, but so do books involving the founders: Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man, and the Wasp. As well, books featuring characters that are largely recognized as Avengers count: Wonder Man, Quasar, Hawkeye. Also, storylines which directly affected the Avengers count: not every Wolverine story is an Avengers story, but the Dark Wolverine stories that tied into Dark Reign sure are!
With that in mind, I’m going to start with a Thor three-parter from The Mighty Thor #s 427, 428, and 429 guest starring none-other than the X-Men spinoff team Excalibur!
This story takes place during a time when Thor shared his consciousness with the mortal named Eric Masterson, who would go on to be the second Thor and then finally star in Thunderstrike, a Thor spin-off title.
After training with Captain America, Thor learns that the British government is trying the ascertain the Juggernaut’s whereabouts, and has such sent Excalibur to the United States with the orders to capture the him. At the same time, Loki is concerned about the Wrecker’s new power and sends the Enchantress and Ulik with the purpose of capturing him. Once they plant a psychic beacon of Loki’s design on him, the Wrecker and the rest of The Wrecking Crew stop their… um, wrecking and make their way to the dockyard.
Excalibur makes their way to the dockyard as well, when Phoenix senses the disturbance. At the dockyard, Ulik and Enchantress become invisible and watch as Excalibur begins to battle the Wrecking Crew. Passing Code: Blue (a special police task force within the Marvel Universe, tasked with fighting super-criminals) Thor arrives on the scene. When he does, Wrecker shoots him with a blast from his crowbar and places a spell on him to make him appear like the Juggernaut to Excalibur. As Excalibur attacks ‘Juggernaut,’ Thor begins to fight them off. Eventually, Shadowcat is able to phase him into the concrete dock… a move that would only inconvenience the unstoppable Juggernaut, but is conceivably lethal to other beings, Thor included.
There’s really an issue to be made here of heroes that use lethal tactics against villains that they — really –shouldn’t be lethal against. For example: guns shouldn’t be lethal against a character like the Juggernaut, so should the X-Men use guns against the Juggernaut? That one’s a fairly obvious “no,” because in our society we have a fairly visceral reaction to guns being used, and most of the heroes in the Marvel Universe don’t use guns. As a general rule: antiheroes use guns, whereas heroes find a different way, either via powers like the X-Men and Spider-Man, or skill like Captain America.
But here… Shadowcat has used a move just as lethal as a bullet against someone she thinks is the Juggernaut. Is that so different from using a gun, a knife, or any other lethal force? The fact that this isn’t Juggernaut, but in fact Thor, makes this all the more troubling. In some ways, this event could have ended up just as much a spark for a “superheroes need to be trained and mandated” Civil War-style storyline as the Stamford New Warriors incident did. Especially when you consider that Excalibur was sent by a foreign body and launched this attack on American soil, it’s amazing this didn’t spark an international incident. But that’s not the way comics worked in the ’90s.
Code: Blue surrounds the trapped Thor while Excalibur and the Wrecking Crew face off against each other.
The Enchantress, invisible to most involved, uses her powers to escalate matters further: While Code: Blue begins to battle Excalibur and the Wrecking Crew, Thor is able to free himself and begins to defend himself against Phoenix and the rest of Excalibur. Enchantress and Ulik use their magic to entrap the Wrecker’s hands and feet in stone. At that moment, Lockheed discovers Enchantress and Ulik and blows their cover. Once they are discovered, they run.
Seeing Bulldozer rushing toward Kitty, Thor saves her, and the rest of The Wrecking Crew leaves, which finally allows Thor to be shown for who he really is. Excalibur then join Thor in traveling to the asteroid where Thor last banished the Juggernaut. Once there, the heroes are taken captive and transported to another world where they discover its leader – the Juggernaut himself! After the Juggernaut sends them away, the Thor and Excalibur are taken in by the old ruler of the world, Zalaski.
Zalaski requests that the heroes to stop Juggernaut so he can regain power. Thor agrees to do so and begins to battle the Juggernaut. The two fight, and eventually Thor again tosses the Juggernaut into space, then reverts to his human guise to tell the citizens of this world that they have to learn to act of their own behalf, not under to heel of any ruler, betraying Zalaski and making the people free.
At least in theory. If real-life has taught us anything, it’s getting rid of a corrupt ruler and telling the formally-enslaved citizens to “go and be free and stuff” doesn’t usually end well, and that things are rarely that simple. But again, these are early ’90s comics, and things are being portrayed as that simple here. I wonder if this planet was ever followed up on? I’d love to see Marvel’s post-9/11 update on a planet like this, touched by Thor’s hand and then left to it’s own devices. I picture them worshiping him as a God (much as the Norse did) but descending into chaos without his guidance. Could be a good story, Marvel!
Back on Earth, members of Code: Blue transport Bulldozer to Kennedy airport. As they pass a cemetery, Wrecker blasts their van and attacks them with the rest of Wrecking Crew.
Ghost Rider arrives and takes out the Wrecking Crew. After blasting him in the back with his crowbar, Wrecker mistakenly awakens Mephisto, much to Loki’s concern. Upon returning to Earth, Eric finds two of his friends at his apartment who tell him they know his secret… but all of that will have to wait until next time!
I’ve said before that the Juggernaut is basically the most eligible X-Men villain to be transported to other titles, largely because he’s mostly devoid of the larger sociopolitical context of the X-Men: he’s not out for mutant rights, or to destroy humanity: he wants money. And he’s strong. Aside from the fact that he’s Professor X’s brother, he fits in much better as a Thor or Hulk villain, so it’s unsurprising when he’s used as such.
Bottom line: this was a fun storyline that raises a lot of questions but eventually doesn’t do anything with them because it’s the ’90s in big-two superhero fiction, and ‘dems the tropes. Still very worth reading.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“…Bottom line: this was a fun storyline that raises a lot of questions but eventually doesn’t do anything with them because it’s the ’90s in big-two superhero fiction, and ‘dems the tropes. Still very worth reading.”
June is Avengers Month!