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Avengers #164: Review

Oct 1977
Jim Shooter, John Byrne

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Story Name:

To fall by treachery

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers #164 Review by (July 8, 2014)
Iron Man is supposedly absent this issue because Tony Stark is having problems in his own series. When this was published the reference was probably to the takeover of Stark International by Midas in the same month's IM#103. But the Official Index continuity places us between IM An#4 and IM#95. It could be that TS already knows that he is being investigated by the Washington defence committee that he faces in IM#95. IM is referred to as the Avengers chairman here. He took the chair in #150 pending elections. We didn't hear more about it, but the OI has listed him as chairman ever since, and it was mentioned in #158. The team will question his commitment next issue, but he'll continue to lead for a while yet. Alice the scientist may be Alice Nugent who will appear as Henry Pym's assistant in IM#194. She'll later become Dr Spectrum in a new Squadron Sinister in Thunderbolts.

There is a brief mention that Vision isn't around, but it doesn't say he hasn't yet recovered from Ultron's attack in #161-162. Captain America and Beast were up and around in #169 and #163. Now we see Scarlet Witch this issue, so Vision will be the last to recuperate. We'll see him in a healing tank next issue, and back in action in #166. Hank Pym improved his and Jan's powers in Marvel Team-Up #59-60 (also drawn by John Byrne). They are both faster and stronger when shrunk. Wasp's bio-electric stingers are more powerful, and Yellowjacket has incorporated his cellular disruptor gun tech into his superhero suit, powered by his wingbeats. I say in my synopsis that none of the Avengers (apart from the absent Thor) currently know that Iron Man is Tony Stark. However later continuity implants in Avengers Classic #3 amd Mighty Avengers #21 say that Henry Pym found out between #3 and #4.

Nefaria has finished with the Lethal Legion now, and they won't appear again in this trilogy (except in flashback). The semi-powered Erik Josten will crop up as a smuggler named the Smuggler in Spectacular Spider-Man #49-50&54. But he'll gain his next real super-identity as Goliath when he gets another dose of the Zemo treatment and also some of Hank Pym's growth serum in IM An#7. Nefaria's meddling will have a long-term effect on Living Laser. His power will go out of control and he'll blow up in IM#152-153. Then he'll return in energy form in IM#211. Whirlwind will just continue to be Whirlwind, next in the crowded Defenders #63-65. He'll return to this title as 1 of Egghead's Masters of Evil in #222, and later as a cog in the new Baron Zemo's MoE.

The synopsis already mentions the most relevant parts of Eric Josten's past history - getting turned into a substandard Wonder Man by Zemo and losing the name Power Man to Luke Cage. (Cage started off in his own series Hero For Hire and then changed his name and book title to Power Man with #17 - the original PM challenged him and lost in PM#21.) Living Laser is another old Avengers foe from #34-35. He was last seen in #153 and Annual #6. Whirlwind was originally a recurring enemy of Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish, but his enmity carried over into the Avengers title including his stint in Ultron's Masters of Evil in #54-55&83. He last fought the team in #139 (and tried to jailbreak in An#6).

Count Nefaria 1st showed up as a Maggia boss in #13. He made a few more appearances since then, but was so far best known for being the father of Whitney Frost/Madame Masque over in Iron Man. Now he's bent on making a splash as a supervillain in his own right. Nefaria's 4 scientists only really appear in this trilogy, but some of them do crop up in a couple of flashbacks. In IM#153 it's just Living Laser remembering them enhancing his power behind the scenes here. But they're also in a flashback in Nefaria's last appearance in Uncanny X-Men #94(-95) (also pencilled by Byrne). There they have applied power enhancements to Nefaria's minions the Ani-Men, an earlier part of Project N. Presumably it was after this that they abandoned him after not getting paid, because he'd gone broke.

Regarding the title, it's actually the villains who "fall by treachery" of Nefaria. John Byrne is here to pencil this trilogy. This is the 2nd villain team to be called Lethal Legion, although nobody in this issue, including themselves, calls them that except on the cover. The original Lethal Legion was assembled in #78-79 by Grim Reaper. Living Laser and Power Man were in that group too, along with Man-Ape and Swordsman. Grim Reaper will also be responsible for Lethal Legion III in West Coast Avengers v2 #1-2. Power Man will make it 3 for 3 in his new guise as Goliath, and Man-Ape will be there too along with some new recruits. Teams IV (in a Secret Wars II tie-in in Marvel Age Annual #1!) and V (a supernatural version) will be totally unrelated, but Grim Reaper will be back to gather a 6th team in Dark Reign: Lethal Legion.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers #164 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
The scientist Avengers Black Panther and Yellowjacket are working with Tony Stark (who they still don't know is Iron Man) trying to understand Wonder Man's physiology. Stark has brought in a biochemist named Alice to help. Which annoys Beast because he is a biochemist, and they're just ignoring him.

The consensus of opinion is that Simon Williams' cells are now miniature fusion reactors - he's made of living energy. He didn't die in #9, he went dormant as his human cells broke down to be replaced by the new ones. His body now only simulates normal human functions.

Beast leaves Avengers Mansion, tired of being (he thinks) the least-useful member of the current team. But not knowing what else to be except an Avenger. But then a bunch of admiring females mob him - they just love his blue fur.

Count Nefaria drives past, reduced by bankruptcy to driving his own Rolls Royce. He seeks out Erik Josten, the villain who used to be Power Man until Luke Cage took the name off him in Power Man #23. Nefaria offers to increase Erik's power level, and Josten accepts. But 1st he must break 2 other supervillains out of jail.

A few days later Bob Frank, the WWII Whizzer, reads about the prison break and then hears that the trio are now robbing a nearby bank. He decides to race out and stop them, but nearly collides with his daughter Wanda, Scarlet Witch, who has come to visit. She chides him for risking another heart attack. She reminds him he's retired as a superhero, and now has a job working for Tony Stark.

Power Man and the other 2, Living Laser and Whirlwind, are robbing the bank on Nefaria's orders when Captain America, Wasp and Yellowjacket appear. But Cap is slugged by Josten, and even Wasp and Yellowjacket's enhanced powers (see Marvel Team-Up #59-60) don't stop the Laser. Black Panther drops from hiding onto Whirlwind, but the spinning villain shrugs him off.

Things look bad until Scarlet Witch gets there and hexes a water main to break and douse the bad guys with a powerful jet of water. Power Man thinks it's time they made their getaway (with the money), and Laser foils pursuit by setting fire to the tarmac on the road.

We switch now to the secret laboratory in Nefaria's basement. 4 scientists are working there on something called Project N, although they threaten to leave as they did before if the money they were promised doesn't materialise. The Count shows them on a monitor his 3 henchvillains arriving with the loot.

The top boffin Prof Sturdy worked on the machine Baron Zemo used to create Wonder Man (#9), and the lesser copy Power Man (#21). They intend to use similar techniques to increase the powers of the 3 villains. But ominously for Power Man and friends Nefaria comments that their increase will be short-lived.

The next day Captain America wants to hold a postmortem on why they failed to catch the bad guys, and why their performance lately has not been stellar. Simon apologises because he was watching a Mets game at the time. No-one knows where Beast is, T'Challa mentions Tony Stark has been having trouble lately which has kept Iron Man busy. But Wanda complains that they need their chairman IM to lead them.

Beast turns up - he's been partying with the girls he met! But further discussion is interrupted by a car smashing through a wall - thrown by Power Man. The 3 villains have been souped up and they're spoiling for a fight.

Wonder Man squares off against his inferior copy Power Man, but loses confidence when he finds that PM may now be his superior. Hank Pym is looking after wife Jan, who was struck by the car. Wanda casts a hex to knock the villains over. Beast repeats Panther's tactic of leaping on Whirlwind, but even Davey Cannon's doubled rotary speed can't shake this guy off.

However that doesn't stop Power Man plucking him off and punching him out of sight. Angry Yellowjacket hits PM with his now-built-in disruptor sting, and Erik feels it! He lifts a slab of road to drop on the hero. But finds he can't hold it up as his power fades away. Living Laser also loses his power and is decked by Black Panther. And the Witch fells the non-whirling Whirlwind with a flying metal garden seat.

Beast has made his way back to find the battle over. Panther reasons that they didn't win, the villains lost because someone tricked them. Just then the ground lurches up beneath their feet. And the staggered heroes see Count Nefaria striding towards them in a supervillain costume.

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Barberoids 1 cover original artwork on ebay

John Byrne
Pablo Marcos
Phil Rachelson
George Perez (Cover Penciler)
John Tartaglione (Cover Inker)
Letterer: Denise Wohl.
Editor: Archie Goodwin.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.


(Hank McCoy)
Black Panther
Black Panther

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)

(Janet Van Dyne)

(Golden Age)

Plus: Doctor Spectrum (Alice Nugent), Power Man (Erik Josten), Whirlwind (David Cannon).

> Avengers: Book info and issue index

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