Saturday, March 31, 2007

Old-School Civil War, Day Eight: Like the Battle of Appomattox, But With Dormammu!

I'm reasonably certain that, with this post, I've written more about the Avengers-Defenders War than Steve Englehart. I don't know how to feel about that, but let's just say I'm drinking a little bit right now. Now then, if you haven't been keeping up with this ridiculously long after-action report of a largely inconsequential summer-long crossover written a decade before I was born, make with the clicky on the big picture and it'll dump you on the backlog.
All caught up? Rad. Okay, when we last left our heroes, they stood beneath an enormous flaming effigy of Dormammu. Which is a pretty common thing to see if you're Doctor Strange, but decidedly foreign ground for the likes of, say, Hawkeye. The world was going all evil and melty and topsy-turvy, like a threepenny opera gone horribly awry, and the assembled teams were given a deadline of "one earthian hour" before their entire dimension fell to the Dread Dormammu and all his ill-defined magics. And then civilians started turning into monsters.

Strange casts an unusually wordy ward of protection on the Avengers and his buddies in the Defenders so as to prevent them from turning into monsters before assuming collective leadership of both squads.Cap takes umbrage to this - he didn't single-handedly punch Hitler in the gootch by taking orders from guys in skirts with dainty little mustaches, after all - and votes to stick around this dimension and punch some damned monsters.He's concerned for the well being of the crazy monsterized populace - I mean, Iron Man's shooting the furry Nosferatu right in the chest not three feet away and he's one of the good guys - but Strange is gung ho about hanging out in the Dark Dimension. Which isn't surprising, considering he got himself a fiiiine bitty on one of his trips out there. Sure, it's a dimension of all-consuming evil, but it's got the odd foxy blond hanging around, and that's a definite plus when you're a faintly creepy mustachioed lifelong bachelor like Steve Strange.

Besides, like nine-tenths of the earth is now covered in monsters.

Cap's fears are alleviated when SHIELD rolls up in one of their many bafflingly 1960s modes of conveyance - in this case, some kind of submarine-looking helicopter situation.God bless the Nick Fury Stock Pose. That is a man forever striding directly at me, gun held high. Confident that things are now in reasonably good hands, Cap consents to wander off to another dimension to beat the living Christ out of a flame-headed demigod, and Strange busts out his second big teleportation spell in two issues.Once again, Strange banged out a quick memo to Englehart that said "the words to my teleportation spell are barely pronounceable in their native language. Let's not trouble the letterer with it, okay?" so we're treated to an elaborate handjive in the place of an elaborate spell.

Seconds later, SHIELD is rocked by one of its own turning into a lizard person and promptly getting stun-glocked into submission. Nick Fury - manly enough to self-narrate while his slampiece turns all scaly.

Meanwhile, in the Dark Dimension, Loki stands by while Dormammu wanks endlessly about how unceasingly awesome the Evil Eye is. As a sidenote, I'm utterly shocked I've gone this long without saying something about how the Evil Eye looks for all the world like a Fleshlight. Just throwing it out there.

Anyway, Loki takes offense to Dormammu's use of the term "behold" mid-rant, as he is still all kinds of blind. How blind? Brother don't even have irises. It's amazing how lenient those Comics Code guys were back in '73.

Dormammu, finally sick and tired of Loki's constant bitching, lowers the boom and drops a trump card so gigantic it doubles as a decor piece in the Goddamn Batcave - he knows the Avengers getting roped into this mess was all Loki's fault.That Evil Eye - what can't it do?

Dormammu's speechifying is cut short by the arrival of a decidedly chunky-looking Watcher, popping up to underscore this as A Very Important Event.Apparently, his policy of non-interference doesn't apply to trips to McDonald's.

Elsewhere in the Dark Dimension, Thor sees something that freaks him right the Hell out."Odin's blood" is a pretty weird exclamation of surprise, when you get down to it - I very rarely yell things about my dad's fluids, and for good reason, really. What's got Thor so shaken?

Well, see, the Dark Dimension's sort of like Canada. It's really big; it's full of vast, empty spaces; it's a bad idea to wander off the beaten path lest you get lost in some horrible backwoods; the Expos don't exist in either place; and it's protected by one doofy group of super-powered creatures that'll be up your ass ten seconds after you get there - Canada has Alpha Flight, the Dark Dimension has the Mindless Ones.

The Mindless Ones really dig fighting - it's all they're good for, really. Well, fighting and having one rectangular eye in the middle of their circular face region. But mostly fighting. Hulk knows a good target when he sees on - in this case a crotch the size of a municipal mailbox - but Strange is quick to point out that physical combat won't drop Mindless Ones; it merely excites them.

With that in mind, he grabs everyone he's got handy that can shoot some sort of wacky energy beam and scatters the Mindless Group with a concentrated beam of lightning and magic and repulsor beam and Vision-head-crystal laser and Swordsman's dumb trick sword.

Threat eliminated, Mantis chimes in thusly:This One feels that forty minutes have elapsed after glancing at her freaking watch. Way to be handy, you weird Mary Sue, you. Good contribution.

Back in the non-Dark Dimension, we're treated to a whirlwind tour of the Marvel Universe, where everything is going to crap in a hat.You know, considering Karnak's entire skillset is knowing the exact point at which to hit something so as to kill it frigging dead, Gorgon probably ought to listen. Or just ask Black Bolt to tell the monster a secret. Whichever.I like that Ka-Zar doesn't even think twice before throwing his sabretoothed tiger at a problem. Probably uses Zabu to open up cans around the house. And you've got to love the ego on Ghost Rider - Satan's never hassled anyone but you before? Not even, I don't know, Jesus? Cocky bastard. Is Dracula pageant-waving to me? I can't figure out what the Hell kind of hand gesture that is. Adam Warlock appears to have been besieged by an Eeyore-style personal storm cloud. Thanos was probably going to shoot the bejeezus out of that guy, monsterized or not, and now he's got an excuse.

The heroes in the Dark Dimension rush Dormammu, who uses a spell augmented by the power of the Evil Eye to knock all the Defenders unconscious in one fell swoop, including Hawkeye - which means the spell was pedantic enough to include a guy who wasn't even technically a member of the team. Thor, of all people, busts out an "Avengers Assemble" and the guys still awake continue their charge.

Dormammu turns the ground to quicksand, trapping everybody but Thor, Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch. Yeah, that includes the Vision.The guy who can turn intangible is stuck in the mud. Weird.

Swordsman busts out his sword's handy flamethrower to solidify bits of the muck for the team to hang onto, so as to not, like, die, and the three characters left standing press on.

Dormammu drops a whammy on the trio, turning them into their comparatively harmless civilian identities.Man, that's a bad shirt Stark's rocking.

The trick doesn't work on Wanda, as her powers are mutant in nature and thus innate. But how the Hell is she supposed to drop a guy with the powers of, like, three gods taped together?

Well, Loki finally remembers that he can shapeshift into a fly - a power not used since Thor #108,according to Rascally Roy Thomas - and he busts out of his cage and tags Dormammu from behind. At the same time, Wanda beans him with a hex bolt, which causes the Evil Eye to fall from Dormammu's grip, absorb the flame-headed prick and shoot Loki square in the kisser.WHICH DRIVES HIM INSANE. And also gives his sight back. You win some, you lose some.

Both villains successfully aced out and the world returned to normal, there's only one loose end left to tie off - why the Hell did Vision get stuck in the damn mud? Normally, that guy won't shut up about how awesome his powers are, and he's getting bogged down by some damn quicksand for no reason?

The Watcher asks him pretty much just that, and the Vision replies
Oh, come the fuck on! That's it? Did anybody No Prize that one? Because it's screaming out for some fanwank like "the quicksand was made of unstable molecules!" or somesuch.

I do like that Thor's clearly thinking "yonder robot doth be full of the refuse produced by mine own chariot-pulling goats."

And, aside from some needlessly dramatic poeticizing on the part of the Watcher, that's that - six months of abject madness birthed from the lunatic pen of Steve Englehart and a mod squad of pencillers and inkers, converted into 10,441 words by a man with nothing better to do.


xrundog said...

As your entertaining commentary points out, the storyline makes little sense. Anything with Dr. Strange was pretty much always like that. I'm reminded why Spider Man was one of the few Marvel titles I read consistently at the time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

The Mutt said...

Vision's problem with the quicksand was a subtle hint that something was not quite right with the android. I can't recall the timeline, but Englehart had Vision freezing up in confined spaces and around smothering liquids for a few months leading up to the reveal that he was actually the original Human Torch. This one thinks he remembers that right.

SanctumSanctorumComix said...

"the mutt" could be correct, but I also seem to recall this being addressed as "Vision 'hearts' Scarlet Witch soooo much that he either;
a) froze up for fear of losing her
b) used his Computron3000 brain to compute that ONLY the Scarlet Witch could end this, but she needed incentive"
(Pompous, freakin' toaster! Like the end of EVERYTHING isn't incentive enough).

But that is just something that I recall reading later on.
(Perhaps it was a few issues later, or perhaps it was a Roy Thomas or John Byrne retcon that mentioned this situation.)

Sadly, I've read Waaaayy too many comics to recall what and where this was.


Oh, and the thank goodness you didn't include a link to go with that FlEshlight comment.

Gotta think of the children.



Jon said...

"...Englehart had Vision freezing up in confined spaces and around smothering liquids for a few months leading up to the reveal that he was actually the original Human Torch."

Huh. I'll be damned. I haven't finished reading Englehart's run yet, as I don't think they've been collected in a big Essentials book, but that's... that's kind of stupid, really.

H said...

I've always felt the conclusion to the story was flat, but the journey there was so awesome it didn't matter.

That said, had you been able to write Loki's dialog, things might have been different.

kelvingreen said...

I love that spread of the villains in their lairs, with Doom and Dracula all "I don't know what the fudge is going on, but you monster guys are not coming into my country, buttwipes!" Marvel villains are so cool.