Avengers/Squadron Supreme Annual 1998 #1: Review

Jul 1998
Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco

Story Name:

To challenge a Champion

Review & Comments

Rating:
4.5 stars

Avengers/Squadron Supreme Annual 1998 #1 Review by (October 23, 2019)
Len Kaminski helped Kurt Busiek with the script. Mike Banning, Vince Russell, Bob Wiacek and Paul Neary joined Avengers regular Al Vey on the inks. Dave Lanphear did the lettering with Richard Starkings.

This 1998 Annual is ascribed to Avengers and Squadron Supreme. This was similarly true for many of that year's Annuals such as the Captain America/Iron Man Annual and more unusual choices like the Alpha Flight/Inhumans Annual.

The villain Porcupine's armour is displayed with honour because (in Captain America #315) Alex Gentry died helping defeat the Serpent Society.

The puppets of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were used by their adoptive father Django Maximoff to control them in Avengers #182.

The Squadron Supreme may be the other Earth's Avengers but they were originally created as analogues of DC's Justice League of America.
Dr Spectrum, Hyperion, Power Princess and Whizzer are obviously based on Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman and Flash. Skylark is Black Canary but the added artificial wings make her Hawkgirl as well. Shape is supposedly Plastic Man. Haywire and a Moonglow were added later without specific pastiches, but the current Moonglow is actually Arcanna the Squad's version of Zatanna.
While Hawkeye is describing the Squadron's history we see images of some former members:- Amphibian (Aquaman), Cap'n Hawk (Hawkman), Golden Archer (Green Arrow), Nighthawk (Batman), Nuke (Firestorm) and Tom Thumb (Atom).
Haywire mentions Inertia (like him with no DC counterpart), and I could throw in Skymax as an equivalent of Martian Manhunter.

Splitting teams into subgroups has long been a staple of Annuals. Quite often members of 2 teams have to fight each other. Pairing members from each team as allies is rarer. I am reminded of a few of the Justice League/Justice Society annual team-ups, such as JLA#91-92 which links the equivalent heroes from both worlds.

The Brain Mine wasn't a product of the Eternals but something the Deviants used against them. We 1st encountered 1 when they rendered Ikaris unconscious with it in Eternals v1 #4, and we last saw them in use when the Deviants used several to mind-control the Avengers in their #370-371.

The Wand Of Watoomb 1st showed up in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 where sorcerer Xandu used it to almost defeat Dr Strange. Many of its other apps also involved Xandu who wanted it to revive his dead love Melinda. In its most recent app in Secret Defenders #8 live Melinda turned against Xandu as he fought Strange and Spidey again.

Wizard invented his Anti-Gravity Discs in Fantastic Four #42 and possibly he was last seen using them in ASM#215. His Wonder Gloves débuted in FF#78 and were probably last specifically mentioned in FF Unlimited #5.

The Star-Blaster (or -Blazer) was used by the Zodiac Cartel in Av#120-122. Their leader Cornelius Van Lunt also had it in West Coast Avengers #26,29 when the rest of Zodiac were killed by Zodiac LMDs.

Nth Projectors were used by the Nth Commandos of Nth Command (a subsidiary of Roxxon) to explore other timelines for financial gain. They got involved with Project PEGASUS in Marvel Two-In-One #53-58 resulting in the being called the Nth Man. The Nth Command continued with more shenanigans in MTIO, Captain America and elsewhere. Meanwhile Nth Man went on a rampage destroying other universes until he reached the Squadron Supreme's home in SS: Death Of A Universe where he was stopped but with a side-effect that the Squaddies here were ejected from that universe to Earth-616 by an Nth Barrier. And they wound up in Project PEGASUS in the pages of Quasar.

Magdalene and Swordsman do walk out of the Marvel Universe here never to return. Except that they get cameos in Avengers/JLA #4. But time is going haywire (if he'll pardon me borrowing his name) there and the rosters and costumes of the teams keep changing.
Coincidentally the Wand Of Watoomb is 1 of the 12 Artefacts Of Power at the centre of that crossover mini-series.

When the Squadron Supreme return to their world, known as Earth-S, they will find it run by a totalitarian government the Global Directorate in the SS: New World Order 1-shot. They will take on the roles of Freedom Fighters aided by the Nth Man, now reformed and known as Mysterium. The Directorate will be defeated in issues of the Exiles series.

Haywire will resurface in the Av: Celestial Quest limited series where he will try to persuade Death to bring Inertia back to life. Death refuses and Haywire commits suicide by Death.

Imus Champion will cameo in Av#10 and then be the master villain in #1-5 of Black Widow's 2010 series.

Before the Avengers get back together for #8:-
Firestar & Justice will star in a tale in #2-4 of the anthology title I Am An Avenger where Loki makes them fight future versions of themselves (from the Avengers Academy era). Cap, IM and Thor will get dragged into #4.
Cap will suffer an American Nightmare in his #9-12, with villain unsurprisingly Nightmare, and then cameo in Fantastic Four #9. Meanwhile Thor attends Betty Ross' funeral in Hulk #467 (Cap and others are probably there but you can't tell).
Some time in all that Scarlet Witch is dragged through time for a cameo in Avengers Forever #11 (editorial comment says it's circa Av#8 but the image suggests it's before she changes her costume in that issue).





 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers/Squadron Supreme Annual 1998 #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Justice is admiring a statuette of Ant-Man riding an ant in the Avengers Mansion trophy room. (We see the Porcupine's armour, 3 Ultron heads, puppets of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and the Casket Of Ancient Winters (which Thor dropped off for safekeeping in the current Avengers #5). Justice is still amped-up about being an Avenger while Firestar would still prefer if the couple could take time off from the super-hero biz to sort their lives out. So Angelica Jones downplays Henry Pym's status while Vance Astrovik bigs the founding Avenger up.

Then Justice realises they're late for a team practice session. Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch and Thor are battling robotic opponents trying to reach a shutoff button within 15 seconds. Guests Magdalene and Swordsman are taking part as well. Cap asks Wanda Maximoff to manifest Wonder Man to help them but she says he only appears in times of genuine need. When the 2 ex-New Warriors turn up Justice disables all the robots telekinetically. But his celebration of victory is cut short when Steve Rogers tells him the exercise was supposed to test agility and reflexes.

The currently-hologrammic Vision has been monitoring progress and says he got enough data to analyse the participants' performance. Cap will discuss the results individually later. Vision also suggests that Justice's intervention may have reminded them to always expect the unexpected. Vance's spirits rise again at this 'compliment'.

Cap has a word with Magdalene and Swordsman. He tells them and us that Firestar and Justice have been promoted from reservists to active Avengers (to fill the slot left by Warbird in #7). He asks them if they want to become reserve Avengers, but they repeat what they said in #4 that they aren't from this reality and want to find their own place in this world - so they leave.

Before the team can continue with the next exercise they receive a psychic message from Moonglow of the Squadron Supreme desperately calling for help. Vision immediately contacts the FAA to arrange a flight plan for a quinjet to Project: PEGASUS where the Squadron are based. Restricted by his hologram status he will remain behind on monitor duty.

En route Hawkeye explains to the newbies the Avengers' fraught history with the other hero team from a parallel timeline who have a habit of being mind-controlled into fighting our lot. After a 'crisis' in their universe (SS: Death Of A Universe GN) many of their members got trapped here (on Earth-616). Quasar, in his #17, introduced them to Project: PEGASUS. Firestar and Justice missed out on #5-6 where the Squad were brainwashed *again* by the Corruptor.

As they approach the Project the quinjet is grabbed by Dr Spectrum's power beam, and Hyperion tells the Avengers to go away because they've got the situation under control. Tempers flare and a battle is imminent when Moonglow steps between them and says she called the Avengers here. Hyperion immediately backs down, but impulsive Haywire can't resist using his tanglewire to tip Hawkeye's arrows out of his quiver.

It turns out that someone tried to mind-control the Squadron again, and it was during this that Moonglow sent her plea. But they threw off the attempted domination and tracked the source to near Sausalito. When the Avengers arrived Hyperion thought *they* might have been possessed. (Who knows why didn't Moonglow didn't tell him about contacting the Avengers?) The teams agree to jointly investigate.

The quinjet and a PEGASUS shuttle fly them to Marin County where they land. They can't detect anything suspicious until a very tall bulky armoured figure accosts them. Hawkeye recognises him as the billionaire Imus Champion from original Av#109 where Clint Barton taught him archery until he discovered that Champion was going to trigger the San Andreas Fault to destroy California. (Needless to say the Avengers stopped that.) But in Marvel Comics Presents #125-126 he was dying of a rare disease and supposedly *did* die in an explosion (although we know he survived into #128-130). Champion here says he faked his own death and bought a biotech company to develop a cure. He also reveals what we already know that he was behind the Corruptor and used the Avengers/Squadron clash as a diversion while his men 'liberated' items from a crashed alien spacecraft.

But all that is in the past. *Now* he just wants to test his prowess against the mightiest heroes of 2 worlds. To ensure that they fight him he points to a tower in the distance. If he reaches that he will trigger 20 bombs in major US cities that will release nerve gas. All the heroes have to do is stop him. Any attempt to leave or send a warning message out of the electromagnetic dome enclosing the arena will set off the bombs immediately. Then he vanishes because he was only a hologram.

Hyperion can't use his heat-vision to detect the foe because the EM-field is causing to much interference. He could zoom in with his atomic vision but only if he knows where to look. Cap suggests they split up into teams to search. As neither side really trusts the other he and Hype agree to pair members from each team. Vance is overjoyed to be taking part in a classic adventure until Angel dampens his mood by reminding him that the nerve gas could kill millions. Then she notices an ant.

The 1st pairing to meet Champion is Hawkeye and Haywire. Clint thinks the Squaddie is as brash and full of himself as he himself was when he 1st joined the Avengers. But then when Haywire says his girlfriend Inertia died back in their universe it elicits sympathy from Barton who lost Mockingbird (Avengers West Coast #100). Champion interrupts with an Eternal Brain Mine which he has modified to act remotely. It causes Haywire to uncontrollably emit his tanglewire. Then a press of a hidden button on the ground causes a plastic trap to engulf both heroes, and the tanglewire starts to smother the archer.

Next up is Moonglow and Scarlet Witch. Wanda admits that she hasn't learned much magic and instead relies mainly on her mutant hex power, which however seems to be changing lately. Moonglow says she senses great magic power within the other. Again Champion interrupts, this time with the mystical Wand Of Watoomb. Moonglow hurls a magic blast which the Wand absorbs and returns amplified, taking the Squadron's sorceress down. The Witch's danger brings forth Wonder Man. Simon Williams attacks Imus Champion but is defeated by a simple judo throw! And a thrown stone KO's SW.

In midair Hyperion and Thor compare the (dis)advantages of secret identities. Hype says he gave up being Mark Milton but now thinks that made him lose touch with humanity. Thor has been without a human identity for some time but now has a new 1 forced on him (Jake Olsen in #2 of his new series) but he hasn't told the Avengers yet. Hyperion spots Champion and dives to the attack, only to be sent back into the sky by a punch from a Wonder Glove which Imus paid Wizard to make for him. It takes the Glove plus a staff 'acquired' from the Egyptian God Seth to put Thor down. Hype returns to fly Thor to safety, but he makes the mistake of trying to lift the God by the hammer Mjolnir. And falls, crushed by its magic weight.

The next team are a triplet of Dr Spectrum, Iron Man and Whizzer who fly along with Stanley Stewart supported by a platform generated by Spectrum's Power Prism. Stan is missing the wife and daughter who are (alive) back on their home Earth. Champion emerges from some bushes to yank the 'power line' connecting the platform to the Prism. Whizzer falls off and DrS is thrown sideways. But the speedster recovers fast and whirls a cyclone to take their foe's breath away. However Champion uses another of Wizard's toys, an Anti-Gravity Disc which attaches to Stanley and takes him up towards space. Whizzer manages to detach it but then has to be rescued by Iron Man from falling. Spectrum generates armour and a big sword but Imus counters with a Zodiac Star-Blaster set to produce ultra-violet rays, Joseph Ledger's Achilles heel. Tony Stark returns with an unconscious Whizzer but the enemy sets of an EM pulse which crashes IM's armour's system.

Power Princess asked to be paired with Firestar. Princess Zarda sensed that Angelica is unsure of her role in the Avengers. Angel admits that she's only here because her boyfriend Vance wants to be. Zarda suggests she might be happier with someone whose goals aligned more with hers. But then they spot Champion, who agilely dodges microwave blasts and fists. He lures PP into a position where she has to use her shield to save herself from Firestar's blasts. This allows IC to give her a Wonder Glove punch and take the shield for himself, which he uses to chop down a large tree on top of the other female.

He now returns to where Hawkeye and Haywire lie unconscious and takes Clint's bow. But then the remaining heroes Cap, Justice, Shape and Skylark find him. Champion leaps up to catch flying Justice and diverts his TK blast to hit Shape. Then he fires an arrow to hit Skylark's throat which causes her sonic power to go wild rendering Justice, Shape and then herself unconscious. Captain America is the last man standing. They spar but then IC reveals that his armour is a modified version of Porcupine's, and like that 1 it can emit a sleep gas. And Cap falls too.

Champion then stalks to his tower. He intends to 'obey' his rules and detonate the bombs. But when he pulls the lever nothing happens. And Ant-Man makes himself known and explains that his ants have chewed through the relevant wires. Then Pym expands to Giant-Man while continuing to say that he's tracked all the bombs and alerted the authorities. All the Avengers and Squaddies turn up and reveal that this was the plan all along - they were only playing for time. Firestar had the idea of sending a message out via ants. Champion surrenders and is arrested by arriving cops. But he says he'll be back after his lawyers get him out.

As the Squadron prepare to return to Project PEGASUS Iron Man gives them a surprise. Among Champion's collection of artefacts they've found an Nth Projector like the 1 which caused the crisis in their Graphic Novel. They may be able to use it to go home.

Days later they are joined by Magdalene and Swordsman. Magdalene's interdimensional portal-creating ability should combine with the Projector to break through the Nth Barrier which seals off the Squadron's universe. The Squad are sent home in their spacecraft so they can safely materialise in space near their Earth. But Haywire elects to stay on Earth-616. Without Inertia there's nothing for him to go back for. However Magdalene generates another portal for her and Swordsman to use to find another world to belong to.


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Carlos Pacheco
Al Vey
Tom Smith
Carlos Pacheco (Cover Penciler)
George Perez (Cover Inker)
Tom Smith (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Richard Starkings.
Editor: Tom Brevoort. Editor-in-chief: Bob Harras.

Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Giant-Man
Giant-Man

(Hank Pym)
Hawkeye
Hawkeye

(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)
Thor
Thor

(Odinson)

Plus: Dr Spectrum (Squadron Supreme), Firestar, Haywire, Hyperion (Squadron Supreme), Imus Champion, Justice (Vance Astrovik), Magdalene, Moonglow, Power Princess (of SSOA), Shape, Skylark, Squadron Supreme, Swordsman (Philip Javert), Whizzer (Squadron Supreme).

> Avengers/Squadron Supreme Annual 1998: Book info and issue index

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