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Avengers #69

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2003
By: Ray Tate



"Red Zone" Part Five

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Olivier Copiel(p), Andy Lanning(i), Chris Sotomeyer(c)
Publisher: Marvel

My disappointment in discovering the Red Skull was behind the cloud of biological pestilence that has devastated North Dakota in The Avengers is still rather sharp. I still think this would have been a better story had the U.S. Government required no serpent whispering in their ears. This issue does however disprove my original belief that Geoff Johns backed away from the politically unfavorable story.

Mr. Johns was definitely planning the Red Skull twist to his tale. The dialogue he gives to the Skull exhibits the kind I wish to read in JSA. His exploration of the Skull's characterization is far from slapdash but carefully considered. The battle between the Skull and Captain America is too well choreographed and well-realized by Olivier Copiel to be a product of hasty planning.

Aside from my personal disappointment, the pacing in this story would have benefited from dropping the whole She-Hulk's return to rampaging form. The explanation given involving the Jack-of-Hearts does not make sense. Gamma radiation is deleterious to the genetic code, and Jennifer could not walk around emitting such high levels without being a risk to public safety. If these doses are negligable, the type only relevant to say detection, then Jack's absorption of her radiation should not have set her off. It sort of anticipates Mary Marvel's fear of being in the vicinity of Captain Atom, but such concerns were played for laughs not drama.

I have mentioned before how the Iron Man/Black Panther schism reminded me of the early post-Crisis and animated relationship between Batman and Superman. This issue overkills the negative feelings in practically the same way every post-Crisis encounter between Batman and Superman has done. They bury the hatchet as early as the original World's Finest mini-series by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude.

The previous issues handled Black Panther's resentment toward Iron Man in an understated manner and as a result, this element enhanced the storytelling. By emphasizing Black Panther's practical bitterness toward Tony Stark in this issue, Mr. Johns undermines the story. He forces the reader to question from whence these feelings come. Iron Man and the Panther never really hung out while serving in the Avengers. Often they were not in the same incarnation of the team. They had no memorable team-ups that I can recall in either of their books. So what is the source of the resentment? Such animosity arises from accrual. Without that interlaced history, the scenes become forced. It's as though Johns wanted friction between heroes and decided these two would fulfill the role.



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