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Does Anybody Remember Mantis?,
This review is from: Essential Avengers, Vol. 6 (Marvel Essentials) (Paperback)
The Avengers have seen their share of ups and downs as a comic. Despite a stellar assembly of stars (or not) - in reality, the title often struggled to live up to what it proclaimed to be: The World's Mightiest Heroes. By the last collection of Essential Avengers (# 5), the swinging sixties by Stan and gang were over, and a new cohort of writers took over.
Steve Englehart mans this period of the Avengers with pretty good plotting, but the same problem that plagued the previous collection remains: a lack of strong villains. I have never considered Cornelius Lunt and the Zodiac group (groan) a legit threat to the Avengers - a bunch of guys in animal suits just do not make threatening villains! And Kang the conquerer appears again, and again...
Kang has always been a 2nd rate Dr Doom to me. However, we do get Thanos and Ultron 5 in this - serious baddies. With a dearth of bad guys, Engleheart does a novel turn and even summons up the undead - Frankenstein, Baron Zemo, The Ghost, The Human Torch and Wonder Man - in a strange but colorful yarn.
Much of the book focuses on Mantis (who?). This Asian heroine and the dear Swordsman - feel strained and out of place in the Marvel pantheon. Looking back now, they were hardly the stuff of Marvel legend - but they occupy a sizable part of the narrative here. Although I care little about Mantis, the storyline that Engleheart weaves is compelling enough to follow, Zodiac warts and all. I'm still confused about what a Celestial Madonna is and anyone reading the book, pls. let me know.
Most importantly, we get the Vision's origin story extensively told. And a nice origin of the Kree-Skrull war which I never knew about. This is the highlight of the book. But why Marvel had to employ so many artists and inkers - from Don Heck to George Tuska to John Buscema to Dan Adkins to Rich Buckler to Don Heck and Johnny Craig, etc - it's amazing how many artists took the reigns issue after issue. Although this affects the style and consistency - it's interesting to see how the different styles (many dated now) pan out. No artist took ownership of the Avengers during this period, which reflects badly on Marvel.
Overall, the Avengers were destined for greater things. Engleheart's sometimes convoluted storylines (remember his work on Dr Strange) may not be for everyone. But this is a readable book overall. Not the classic Avengers Assemble we've all come to love, but more like the Avengers Roll Along!