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Monday, January 30, 2006

Dollar Comic Review: Avengers #214

It's a grand tradition in the world of comics that whenever two heroes or teams meet, they have to have a fight before they can team up and get anything done. It's often explained away as a misunderstanding, like that time Spider-Man snagged the Silver Surfer's board by accident, but in the Marvel Universe, where the "hero" label can be applied to your gamma-powered rampaging engines of destruction, psychopathic vigilantes and demons from Hell, it becomes a little bit easier to manufacture a nice hero-on-hero punchout.

At least, that's how it works in the senses-shattering slugfest that is Avengers #214:

"Three Angels Fallen"
December, 1981
Writer: Jim Shooter
Pencils and Cover: Bob Hall

The Plot
Blue Blazes, just take a look at that cover! It takes a bad dude to put Iron Man into a hammerlock and shoot soul-burning hellfire into his eyes, but that's just how the Ghost Rider rolls. At the time, this was the single most badass thing to ever appear on the cover of a Marvel comic, and I'm reasonably certain that it still ranks in the Top Five. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Coming in a few issues after the Trial of Hank Pym, the story opens with Captain America giving himself a pretty strenuous workout while ignoring Tigra, much like the rest of us do. Cap's working through the stress of having to kick Hank off the team for reasons that we're all familiar with, and I'm far too proud to go for another tired joke at Hank Pym's expense. We've all been down that road before, and it always ends in tears. Suffice to say that the Wasp kicks him to the curb on Page 5, and we can move on to the real reason we're all here.

The scene changes to the desert of the Southwest, where Johnny Blaze is sitting on a rock feeling bad for himself when he decides to change into the Ghost Rider and vent his frustrations on the rich guy driving around with his girlfriend on the highway below. The rich guy turns out to be none other than Warren Worthington III, also known as the Angel from the X-Men and Ghost Rider's old teammate in the bizarre and short-lived Champions. Unfortunately for Warren, the Rider's in a bad mood, and after wrecking the car and scaring the bejeezus out of his girlfriend Candy, Ghost Rider challenges the Angel to a race, which he wins handily, celebrating his victory by setting the Angel on fire.

Candy figures that's as good a reason as any to call the Avengers, and so they roll out to New Mexico to bring the Rider down. Things, as you may be able to tell by the cover, do not go as planned, and Ghost Rider beats the crap out of four of Earth's Mightiest Heroes with a liberal dose of hellfire and motorcycles to the face. But of course, everything works out (relatively) okay when the Angel shows back up and convinces Johnny to calm his ass down before Thor has to settle things Simonson-Style.

Highlights

  • I'm not sure if they mentioned this technique in the truly awesome Mighty Marvel Heroes Strength and Fitness Book, but Captain America's workout pretty much consists solely of beating the crap out of robots with boxing gloves for hands. Me, I just wonder how they can type with those things.
  • Iron Man's drink of choice? Dr. Pepper. Thor's, of course, is Perrier.
  • The Ghost Rider's behavior may seem a litte shocking, considering that the other comics I've discussed with him involve a previous iteration, where he's pretty much whiny-ass Johnny Blaze with a flaming skull. This story, however, takes place after a little thing called Ghost Rider #63, the issue where the creators just decided to say "screw it" and made the Ghost Rider a demon from hell who drags longtime foe The Orb out into the desert and leaves him to die a broken shell of a man. Now THAT's comics!
  • When Captain America gets the word that Angel's been taken out, he takes a quick look at the roster and sees that he's down two members, but figures "Surely Thor, Iron Man, Tigra and I can handle this 'Ghost Rider.'" I got news for you, Steve: If you, the Invincible Iron Man, and The Mighty God of Thunder can't take somebody out, I don't think Tigra is going to be a whole lot of help.
  • In the second-best scene in the entire comic, Johnny Blaze sees a kid hanging off a water tower, about to fall to his doom, and decides that "I can't reach him in time! No one could... Except... The Ghost Rider!" Problem is, there's that whole Vengeful-Demon-From-Hell thing discussed above, but Johnny decides to take the risk, focusing all his thoughts on the child. The Ghost Rider summons his flaming motorcycle and leaps into action, promptly speeding out of town in the opposite direction. Saving falling children is Iron Man's job, kid. Ghost Rider's got vengeance to exact.
  • Tony Stark Has Seen It All:

    I imagine the scene a few panels later where the Ghost Rider sent the flames of Hell Itself through Iron Man's eye-slots was slightly more impressive.


Defining Moment

The scene where Ghost Rider abandons the kid falling off the water tower is big contender, but for sheer Badass Panelitude, it just doesn't get better than the scene where Ghost Rider talks trash to Thor, asking him what the heck kind of god he is that he won't let mortals worship him, prompting Thor to let loose with a bit of the ol' long-distance smoting. That's when the Ghost Rider puts his Master Plan™ into effect, outrunning Mjolnir on his motorcycle, then grabbing onto it as it soars back towards the Thunder God:

What happens next will echo throughout history as one of the most awesome moments in the history of Marvel Comics. Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit to you...

THE GHOST RIDER BIKE-KICKS THOR IN THE FACE.

Attention Readers: YOU HAVE NOW BEEN ROCKED.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm old enough to have bought this issue of Avengers off the racks as a wee chalk, and let me tell you... perhaps the only thing that makes this issue rock harder than it does is reading it when you're eight years old.

I think that Avengers #214 might have been the first and only comic book I've ever owned that simply disintegrated from repeated readings. That's the mark of a great comic, if'n you ask me.

Sadly, this is probably the best Ghost Rider had ever been or ever would be.

I'm Chalk!

1/31/2006 3:32 AM

 
Blogger Frosty Snowbro said...

I've always loved the classic "misunderstanding" against heroes. It became a stable in comics that exists even today. And I own this issue too.

1/31/2006 5:24 AM

 
Anonymous carla said...

*insert not only Tony Stark 'Drink of Choice' joke here but also the sound of wailing guitars for that Bike Kick*

Right on.

1/31/2006 5:26 PM

 
Blogger CapVsBats said...

I wanted to mention this issue (and the following Shooter issues) during that crazy Comics Club where we discussed Event Comics ad nauseum, but I just didn't have the strength.

To me, this comic was the very beginning of the Shock and Awe Era of Comics. It would be followed by an issue where the Molecule Man makes Thor's Hammer, Cap's Shield and the Surfer's board all disentergrate. Awesome stuff!

Then Shooter would take the same approach and apply it to Secret Wars, thus writing the best Marvel Event comic ever. Fun, character driven, mystery driven comics...

...Now we have Spider-Man the Other. :(

1/31/2006 5:42 PM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

"The Other" would be way better if Ghost Rider jumped on Mary Jane and Aunt May while they were wearing Tony's old armor and burned their souls away with hellfire.

FACT.

1/31/2006 11:58 PM

 
Anonymous Wil said...

A story where Aunt May ends up in Iron Man armour and has her soul ripped away by Ghost Rider's hellfire would bring me back to Marvel.

In fact - Aunt May should be the next Super Adaptoid!

3/03/2006 8:52 AM

 
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12/13/2008 1:24 AM

 
Anonymous viagra online said...

if I have the money to pay this surely I will pay, this saga in avengers is really cool, my old brother have one years ago and now this thing is so expensive.

7/14/2010 4:37 PM

 

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