Saturday, July 17, 2004

Avengers #47

(This review was originally published at Comic Book Galaxy, and is posted here for safekeeping)

By Kurt Busiek, Manuel Garcia, and Bob Layton
Published by Marvel Comics

Separated from her team, stuck in the lair of The Master, Warbird finds an unlikely ally in the Scarlet Centurion--son of Kang--who may or may not be a dark figure from her past in The Avengers #47, "In The Heart of Battle."

With so many villains and heroes already joined in what may be Busiek's most ambitious and epic story arc during his tenure on The Avengers, one might question the wisdom of devoting an entire issue of that arc to one character. Kang's armies are on the move in Europe while The Master's bio-techno-whatsisses have turned North America into both a prison and a fortress. Squads of Avengers are infiltrating The Master's compound above the Arctic Circle, fighting off Kang's hordes in France, and racing towards the orbiting Damocles Base while the U.S. military is warming up the engines of their dormant Sentinel arsenal just in case the Avengers should fail. I mean, there's a lot going on here already. Do we really have time for an entire issue about some blonde who slept with the wrong guy? Don't we have Sex and The City to deal with this kind of stuff? As soon as I saw the preview to this issue, I felt like that kid in The Princess Bride when his grandfather gets to "the kissing parts." Aw, not more kissing! I want splash pages and variant covers of mass destruction, dammit! Blood, blood, blood!

Well, after reading it, I think it's safe to say neither Sarah Jessica Parker or Fred Savage will have a problem with it. This is a war story, pure and simple.

In the beginning of the story, Warbird is unconscious in the snow from the explosion The Master detonated in his base last issue. While in la-la land, she dreams of the past events that have marked Kang's son Marcus as her particular demon. A long time ago, in an Avengers arc far, far away, it seems a guy named Marcus used his daddy Immortus's technology to seduce Carol. It was only when Marcus died later that she found out her feelings for him hadn't been real, that she had, in effect, been raped. Warbird awakes surrounded by a cadre of The Master's sea-wolves, and after narrowly escaping them, runs right into the man of her "dreams."

Sort of. Because while this is Marcus, son of Kang (who is a past version of Immortus), we're led to believe this is a different Marcus. Even though he looks just like the old one.

Confused? Well, you won't be. One of Busiek's trademark skills as a writer is his ability not only to give us a coherent and exciting account of a multilayered conflict, but to also keep the battle royal accessible to new readers. This is especially important in the case of this particular arc, because, well, Kang's in it. Kang's very existence in the Marvel Universe is enough to give your average continuity-hound an aneurysm, much less a brand-spankin' new reader who might need a graph to keep track of all the different villains and heroes involved in this arc.

This is why an entire issue was necessary to tell this story. In the beginning, Busiek gives us a clear and sober account of what could, in the hands of a lesser writer, devolve into a very temporally and sexually confusing flashback (Marcus is her lover, then her son, then her lover, then he's dead; don't ask me, I live much too far from either side of the Mason-Dixon Line to explain it). If this story had been broken up and told between scenes of battle, I would have found myself fumbling for back-issues and thinking, "Wait, I thought he was dead, and wait, no, I get it now but, huh, Kang is Immortus, but then, wait...WHO THE HELL IS RAMA-TUT?"

Warbird and the Scarlet Centurion form an uneasy alliance as they make their way through The Master's lair. Bewitched by Warbird, but knowing her past and what he represents to her because of it, the Centurion tries desperately to gain Warbird's trust, even taking a beating at the hands of The Master's goons to do so. I should point out that if you're an Alpha Flight fan, there's one panel in this part of the story which will drive you absolutely buggy with anticipation for the next few months.

"In The Heart of The Battle," is not one of "the kissing parts." In fact, the title of this issue is pretty accurate. This is a war story. This is a story about how the events of this particular world war temporarily isolate Carol Danvers and force her not only to confront one of the demons of her past, but to make a choice between what she should do as an Avenger and what she wants to do as a woman. And while it's too soon to tell, there's no doubt in my mind that the events of this issue, particularly the evolving relationship between Warbird and the son of Kang, will have some monumental effects on the stories to come in "The Kang Dynasty."

Pick up this issue, and shame on you if you don't already have the other issues in this arc. It's one of the better stories Marvel's putting out these days, and it's worth digging through the back-issues for those other issues now before you really have to dig for them later.

--Mick Martin

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