Sunday, August 20, 2006

Avengers #109: Hawkeye vs The Dumbest Plan of All Time

If there's anything Marvel villains love more than referring to themselves in the third person, it's ridiculously circuitous means to an end. Like Murder, She Wrote killers, they can't resort to just shooting a guy. No, they have to go back in time and poison their quarry's ancestor, killing him before he can knock up Reed Richard's great-great grandmother, thus removing their enemy from history -- BODY AND SOUL. But they can't do that without stopping by the Baxter Building beforehand and leaving a cryptic note explaining their intentions, because there's no honor in a sneak attack.

Which brings us to Champion. We're introduced to him as he stops a flight departing Los Angeles - not by mundanely having a panic attack or anything, but by leaping out of his limo and grabbing the plane's landing gear. It's okay, we're told, as he owns the airline. See what I mean about ridiculous circuitousness? He could've just called and been like "hey, hold flight 784 to New York" and his underlings would've been all "hold it how high, sir?" because he only employs those with unwavering loyalty to the Champion name, but he had to do it all dramatically. Also, he is wearing a cape. Just in case you weren't sure how committed he was to being dramatic, he put on a cape for the ride to the airport.

Meanwhile, the Avengers have just returned from a particularly ridiculous adventure involving the Space Phantom and the Grim Reaper, potential body-swapping and partial amnesia* (*a comical condensation of our last four instant-classic issues! --Rascally Roy). Vision and Scarlet Witch have finally declared their love for each other after, like, three and half years of the slowest-burning subplot in Avengers history. Quicksilver's been missing since a battle with mutant Sentinels from the sun like five issues prior. Oh, and Hawkeye's been dressed like a cocktail waitress for the better part of a year.

You know the one - mini skirt, blouse cut down to the navel, headband, protomullet? That thing wouldn't look good with boobs involved, and I'm of the opinion that boobs improve a good many things.

It turns out that Hawkeye's been in love with Scarlet Witch for a while (revealed in probably the single greatest two panels of Roy Thomas' run on the book:That is subtlety) so he freaks out, throws on his original, far better costume, and heads out into the city... to brood. This leads to maybe the best soliloquy Hawkeye's internal monologue has ever provided: "I dunno, man... what do I do now? I guess I really didn't love Wanda -- but it's so freakin' hard to lose again! I got kissed off by the Black Widow three times -- first to the Commies, then SHIELD, and now Daredevil... Witchie won't give me a tumble... I mean, what's wrong with me? I've got looks, I'm fun to talk to... why can't I get it on??" Aw, Clint, we've all been there. I've lost more girls than I'd care to mention to Communism and international spy organizations and blind superheroes dressed as Satan.

He decides to go to the park in an effort to get mugged - I swear to God - but runs into Champion. The giant - he's nine feet tall, by the way, I somehow left that out - then offers the archer a gig.Charity? How the Hell does Hawkeye usually make money? Avengers stipend? He went like a hundred issues without even having a civilian ID, here. The guy is circus folk, it's not like he's got a trust fund. If any Avenger could use the money, it's him. Or D-Man.

But I digress. Champion brings Hawkeye to his California retreat and villainously sends the Avengers a forged letter in Clint's name telling the team he's okay. So as to prevent the Avengers from snooping around a place they don't know exists and wouldn't have known anything about at all had he not sent a letter from there. Anyway, Hawkeye imparts all his archery knowledge over the course of a two-panel montage, and Champion decides to play his hand.Yes, in case cape-wearing, plane-stopping and letter-forging hadn't tipped you off, the costume cements the sneaking suspicion I had that this guy just might be a supervillain.

Alright, here's Champion's dilemma: There's a sunken ship, see, and it's got some World War 2-vintage nerve gas aboard, and Champ wants it. The problem is that it lies eleven-point-four miles off the Californian coast, which puts it in American waters by a mere point-six miles. Champion can't get to the gas without the Coast Guard interfering, and so... well, say you were a supervillain, what would you do?

A) Build a submarine shaped like something submarines aren't typically shaped like, say a giant snake or something, and mount a recovery operation underwater and thus literally beneath suspicion

B) Trick a superhero (or better yet, a team of superheroes) into recovering the ship for you, maybe by telling them that whatever was aboard couldn't be allowed to fall into the hands of some vague but threatening enemy, then seize it from them as soon as it's in their grasp, dramatically revealing your villainous intent

C) This:Yeah. He's going to sink California. Because that would technically put the boat he wants to salvage in international waters. He doesn't want to run afoul of the Coast Guard, but he's willing to risk picking a fight with the freaking Avengers. And how does archery factor into this scheme?Oh. Well, at least he admits that this is a hair over-the-top. The Avengers spring Clint at the last second, having realized that something was wrong thanks to the keen analytical mind of the Scarlet Witch:Keep in mind that, according to the narrator, the earlier training montage took "weeks." Wanda's seriously been pondering this mystery for that long. The best part of that panel, though, is Iron Man being a total dick. "Oh, of course the Vision's agreeing with her. She's totally doing him." It's like if Captain America asked how to mix a Bloody Mary and Iron Man answered "vodka, tomato sauce, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of lemon juice. Garnish with lime" without missing a beat and Thor was all "verily, it doth figure yon drunkard would know."

Anyway, Hawkeye manages to stop Champion by shooting the giant's bowstring as he fires off his California-destroying arrow, causing the missile to fly off-course. Thor immediately freaks out over how awesome a shot it was - it's one of those situations where I like to imagine Thor was thinking "ooh, yon purple-skirted archer doth fired an arrow. As if the Odinson could not have struck low yon giant with a bolt of divine thunder?" and decided to compensate for his innermost thoughts with outward complements in case his dad was watching and still on that whole "humility" kick - but Clint quits the team anyway. And Champion is never heard from again. Which is probably for the best.


googum said...

Ah, but Champion did turn up again, in a Kurt Busiek Avenger/Squadron Supreme annual. The whole thing was done like an old JLA story, except everyone split into teams and got asskicked by Champion, or his master plan of blowing up whatever. Seriously, by the end Cap has a little speech about how they can't take anything for granted; but you know the ride home with him is going to be unpleasant. Like a three-time state champ football team going out 35-3 in the first round of playoffs. Anyway, check it out: it's not great, but it's entertaining.

CalvinPitt said...

I'll admit I've thought of sinking California, but it's usually because I've had a bad day, not because I want a bunch of nerve gas.

That was great except for one thing: You reminded me that D-Man was a member of the Avengers.

D-Man, Ugh.

Ragnell said...

I laughed for ten minutes at answer C. Champion made my day.

And yes, Wanda is an idiots, but here she is the Smartest of the Idiots. Go Wanda!

Ragnell said...

(And I am foolish for pluralizing a singular noun. Oops.)

Chris Sims said...

I'm not sure what I've been doing with my life not reading stories like this, but I'm pretty sure it couldn't be called "living."

Excellent post, sir.

Richard said...

Oh God, I remember that story. Now let us never speak of it again.