The Avengers, Silver-age style: lots of story, lots of action, no adult elements or themes, and done in one. What could be finer?
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Two-In-One (Vol. 2) #7|
Some of the Avengers-- Giant-girl, Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and Spider-man-- are "battling a hurricane in South America!" Well, the effects of a hurricane, at any rate: Giant-girl is holding up a bridge that would otherwise collapse, and the others are leading the victims to safety. Storm arrives ("I was busy ending a drought in Africa") and quells not only the tempest, but also the mudslides that the hurricane has set off.
Watching the Avengers work is the only other American in the village, one Cain Marko. He tells the Avengers that he's an archaeologist, but Wolverine thinks it's rather more likely that he's a tomb robber. Daunted, Marko refuses Captain America's offer to join the rescue effort, saying he has to go find food for the orphans.
Wolverine's enhanced senses told the truth. Marko is a smuggler, and he's worried that the Avengers' presence in town will interfere with his plans to rob the country of its patrimony. Still, his greed is bigger than his fear, and when his local guide, Loquito, offers him the opportunity to loot the temple of Cyttorak, which has only just now been uncovered by the mud slides, Marko eagerly accepts. While Marko attempts to pry open the stone slab sealing the entrance, Storm, Wolverine and Giant-girl approach. Wolverine's convinced he's caught Marko in the act of stealing, but the others aren't sure. As Giant-girl ambles up, calling Marko's name, he feverishly works to open the door. He gets it open just in time to escape Giant-girl's arrival and flees into the temple. There he finds an ancient idol with a massive ruby embedded in its chest. You know what happens next: he reaches out to grab it, and a disembodied voice intones that he will now wield the power of Cyttorak, and will become a human juggernaut.
Outside, the Avengers are trying to open the door that Marko closed. It's curiously resistant to their efforts. But before they can investigate too closely, the door explodes in a shower of rubble. Marko's not the man he used to be: he's doubled in size, gained ridiculously oversized muscles, and is dressed in a weird leather outfit. "I'm a Juggernaut now! Nothing can stop me!"
Storm's willing to give it a shot, though. Unfortunately her lightning bolts only serve to cave in the entire area, trapping everyone but Giant-girl in the subterranean vaults, and burying them under tons of rubble. For his part, the Juggernaut has no difficulty getting out. Seeing that Giant-girl will have her hands full (literally) digging her friends out without crushing them, he's free to make his escape from the area. He has questions to put to Loquito, who, it now seems clear, wasn't telling everything he knew about this temple.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or in this case the Red Cross refugee camp, Cap, Iron Man, Spidey, and Dr. Banner (where'd he come from?) are comparing notes. Their confab is interrupted by the Juggernaut, who arrives and begins tearing up the place, demanding that Loquito appear and answer his questions. Upon being told that no one by that name lives in the village, Marko, in a fit of pique, vows to punish the villagers for Loquito's deceptions.
Cap is unamused. He demands that Juggernaut stand down, but of course Juggy isn't impressed, and a fight breaks out. Cap, Spidey, and Iron Man do their best, but the Juggernaut is more than a match for them. Enter the strongest Avenger: the Incredible Hulk.
But not just yet. Cut back to the temple grounds, where Giant-girl has freed her friends, and just in time: a claustrophobic Storm, losing her grip on her powers, was about to flood the entire chamber. As the three Avengers rush to join their friends, the Hulk and Juggernaut trade blows. Juggernaut makes short work of the Hulk, knocking him out briefly (or so it seems). Wolverine, who Giant-girl throws into the fray with a "fastball special", fares no better, and gets hurled into a stone wall for his pains.
Storm, watching all this, tries a different approach. Alighting before Marko she tries to talk him down, appealing to his sense of decency. "You destroyed a priceless temple back there-- an archaeological treasure. We can help you make amends..." Marko pauses to consider her words, but before he can complete his train of thought, the Hulk roars back into battle, knocking himself and the Juggernaut off the cliffside into the sea below.
The Hulk swims to shore but Marko doesn't. Storm, disappointed, complains that she had almost won the Juggernaut over, but Cap reassures her that at least the Juggernaut reached the conclusion that further battle was pointless. Obviously he didn't drown, so he must still be out there, but the villagers are safe.
Speaking of the villagers, just who was it that Marko came looking for? No one is sure of the name, just that it was "Loki-something."
After several strong issues, Marvel Adventures: Avengers falters somewhat on this outing. In story terms, it's disappointingly similar to issue #5: Loki makes mischief by empowering a lout with superhuman strength and toughness, and said lout brawls with the Avengers. The central difference between the two stories is that the Juggernaut is much tougher than the Wrecker, so tough that the Avengers can't defeat him in a straight-up battle. If writer Tony Bedard ran with that idea, the story might go places, but he chickens out: so the unstoppable Juggernaut isn't stopped, but simply disappears into the water. It doesn't matter that Marko's got no reason to leave, nor does it matter that the Avengers could easily track him, and would presumably feel it necessary to do so. The story's page count is up, and so the story ends.
What's worse, any reader unfamiliar with the events of issue #5 will be baffled by this story, as there's no in-text explanation of who Loki is or why he behaves as he does. Loki doesn't even appear in his iconic costume, but remains in the disguise of a South American peasant throughout the story. The rule on this book up to this point has been to tell entire stories in single issues, and that rule is broken here, for no good reason. It wouldn't have been hard to include one panel of exposition, from Loki's perspective or the Avengers', explaining who Loki is and what he's up to.
It's a weak story, but by no means a bad one, especially compared to what we're seeing elsewhere on the racks today. Three webs.