Lots of Avengers in this one: Tigra, Wolverine, Storm, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor. What are they all up to? Read on...
The Avengers are idly patronizing a Manhattan street fair. In between kitschy paintings, folk art, and romance novels, Tigra finds a old necklace. It's dirty, so she cleans it with a little rubbing, and ala-ka-zam: a genie appears and, in return for his freedom, grants Tigra three wishes!
Well, you probably guessed the genie would appear. You probably won't guess what happens next: Tigra doesn't wish for anything. Tigra just stares at him, frozen and silent, while the Avengers and the genie (whose name is Brank) become more and more agitated. Finally, Brank, overcome with impatience, flies off. He'll still grant the wishes and all, but his first concern after centuries of freedom is to take revenge on his old foe, the Hulk.
I bet you didn't expect that last to happen either.
With Brank gone, the Avengers get their act together. Thor and Cap leave to try and track down the Hulk. Meanwhile, Tigra explains why she didn't make a wish. She's read enough "genie literature" to know that Brank would undoubtedly grant any wishes in an ironic and malevolent fashion. "If I wish for ten million dollars," she says, "it will probably fall from the sky and crush me!"
During this explanation, Iron Man has called up Bruce Banner on the communicator. "Tigra accidentally set a genie free form some sort of magic necklace, and the genie blames the Hulk for trapping him there. Know anything about it?"
"Not a thing. Are you sure he said the Hulk?"
"He even said Incredible Hulk."
In any case, now that the Avengers know where Banner is – Avengers Tower – they head over there post-haste. They arrive just in time to rescue Banner from certain death, as Brank got there ahead of the team and threw him out the window. Tigra and Storm pull him to safety, which annoys Brank a good deal. Fighting and exposition ensue: Brank helpfully explains in several years time, Bruce Banner will travel back in time to the early sixteenth century. There (then?) he tricked Brank, a genie tyrant, into a contest of strength, which the Hulk easily won. To punish Brank for his cruelty and greed, Banner imprisoned the genie in an amulet. Now that Brank is free, he means to have his revenge on Banner, the Hulk, and any who get in the way.
Brank is so powerful that even while monologuing he can give the Avengers a run for their money. The Avengers' superpowers are novel enough to him to keep him busy, but not powerful enough to defeat him. The Avengers appeal to Tigra to wish Brank into submission, but she refuses: "Magical wishes are too dangerous! I wish you all would understand that!"
Oops. Now they do understand that. They all agree that Tigra's strategy is the right way to go, and Tigra is down to two wishes.
Still, Brank is nonplussed enough by the Avengers' might that he retreats, for the moment. The Avengers know he'll be coming back soon, and do the responsible thing – they flee the city to the country, so when Brank makes his move there won't be any innocent people caught up in the fray. Out at Tony Stark's mountain cabin, Tigra stays up all night racking her brain, trying to think of a wish she might make that Brank couldn't twist awry, but can't come up with one. Lack of sleep makes her dopey: the following morning, when Wolverine eats all the sausages, Tigra angrily wishes he hadn't done that.
Oops again. Now the sausages are back, Tigra has only one wish left, and Brank knows where the Avengers are. He appears, the size of a giant, and the battle is on.
This time he's not holding back. He destroys Tony's house with one stomp of his foot. He turns the Hulk back into Banner with a touch. He animates all the trees to fight for him. And he turns intangible when the Avengers try to hit him.
Is this the end for our heroes? Of course not. With no other option, Tigra makes her last wish: "I wish for a magic genie-capturing lamp that never fails, works instandly, and traps genies for all time without causing harm to anyone else!"
So much for Brank. He disappears, giving a respectable "Noooooooo!" as he goes.
All's well that ends well!
(Except Tony lost his house. Tough break, man.)
This one is a real delight. My summary really doesn't do it justice. For all of the Avengers present, there's still opportunity for them to use their powers against Brank in interesting ways. Tigra catches a falling Banner, borne up by a Storm-induced updraft; Wolverine relies on his healing factor to protect him as he shields his teammates with his body; Banner tricks Brank (in the past) into a contest of strength while still in Banner's form.
Beyond this, the story never unfolds as I predict. Left turns abound, beginning with the first one, namely that Tigra is savvy enough not to make any wishes. This could have been annoyingly meta, but Tobin handles it well, and provides enough examples of Tigra refusing to wish, and imagining wishes that go poorly, that the climactic wish that finishes Brank also comes as a surprise.
Best of all, no Avengers behave like children in this issue. That's worth the $2.99 right there.
Only one quibble: where do Cap and Thor disappear to, and why don't they come back? The Avengers seem to forget about them as soon as they go off to find the Hulk. And if Iron Man could simply call Banner on his communicator, why did Thor and Cap need to leave at all?
I think this is an editor's clumsiness, not a writer's. The cover of this issue features Thor and Cap, so the editor – Nathan Cosby, if you're keeping score at home – insisted the story feature those two, even though there wasn't really room for them. So they make token appearances, and then off they go. I'll let it slide: I agree that characters on the cover should appear in the book.
All of this does imply that the covers are done before the story inside the book is. Seems strange to me, but I ain't gonna tell Marvel how to run a comics company.
If every Paul Tobin issue was this good, we'd forget all about Jeff whasshisname who used to write this title. Five webs.