Friday, 11 January 2019

Avengers 313 - Acts of Vengeance

"The Ultimate Super-Villain Team-Up!" proclaims the cover. It's a phrase that many in Marvel have long wanted to use over the years, echoing the 1970s series, and here it makes an appearance in all its glory as the action heats up. But at times this is less of a team-up than a squabble.

Avengers #313

Artists: Paul Ryan and Tom Palmer
Writer: John Byrne
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colourist: Mike Rockwitz
Editor: Jim Salicrup
Ed.-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

This issue, written by John Byrne and drawn by Paul Ryan, sees the Mandarin go on the direct attack. Outside of the X-Men issues, which have barely acknowledged the wider event, the Mandarin hasn't done a great deal in the crossover. For that matter the central alliance of villains hasn't made its major follow-up assault against the Avengers yet. Instead there's a lot of squabbling which comes to blows here as Doctor Doom and the Red Skull briefly fight before the Kingpin walks in and dismisses them as children. Meanwhile the Wizard has followed the Mandarin, hoping to seize the initiative. If the intended message is that super-villains ultimately can't work together for long because of their egos, conflicting interests and different ideologies then it's been presented subtly over a long period. Such is the lack of loyalty that the Mandarin thinks nothing of firing his rings at the Avengers when the Wizard will be caught in the crossfire, then fleeing to leave his ally to be captured. The Mandarin here may be dismissive of an onlooker's "petty racism", but he's coming as a modern-day wizard in armour and is much more of the traditional cackling villain here than he was in the X-Men issues.

The Avengers continue to struggle with collapsing public support for super heroes, but this aspect of the story would work so much better had it been more integrated into the crossover rather than largely serving as a sideshow in a handful of issues. Thus once the Avengers arrive to tackle the Mandarin the crowds disappear and there's no comment at all as to what effect this has on public opinion. Instead it's largely an action piece with the Mandarin and Wizard using their powers and weapons to provide a strong challenge.

The issue also sees Magneto capturing the Scarlet Witch, stealing an entire wooden house in the process. Although he's been part of the main alliance, that effectively ended with his attack on the Red Skull and these events are more progressing a storyline that will come to a climax in later issues of Avengers West Coast. Though having writer co-ordination between the two Avengers team books is a good idea, they're still by definition set in different locations and attempts to tell a single story across them don't work well outside of formal crossovers. And this is very much looking beyond the end of the event.

It's not the only one. The issue sees Doctor Doom shot by the Red Skull and eventually explode, revealing him to have been a Doombot, perhaps all along. This is a very well-established practice of Doom, with more than one writer retconning appearances of Doom into robots (making for difficulties in constructing a chronology, though it gets much worse with Kang), but it also neatly takes Doom out of the equation, as though he's bored of the whole thing. It's slightly surprising that the Red Skull is shocked given the recent revelation that he too has an army of identical robots.

There's a real sense of things hotting up with this issue, and not just the Doombot. It's easy to forget that "Acts of Vengeance" ran over only three months, as the large number of issues can make it seem so much longer, but here in the core of the crossover things are now heading for what looks like a spectacular climax.

Avengers #313 has been reprinted in:

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