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Avengers West Coast #50: Review

Nov 1989
John Byrne, John Byrne

Story Name:

Return of the hero

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers West Coast #50 Review by (August 29, 2017)
US Agent is John Walker who started out as Super-Patriot in Captain America #323 until the Commission on Superhuman Activities made him the replacement Cap in CA#333. That lasted until Steve Rogers took the job back in #351.
Almost immediately he was reinvented by the CSA as US Agent in CA#354 and made leader of the West Coast Avengers in #44. He gets a backup series in CA#358-362.

The android Human Torch was 1 of Timely Comics' best-selling trio of heroes with Captain America and Sub-Mariner. Now all 3 are active in the Marvel Age. (Although all 3 have also been the backbone of the modern retcon WWII series the Invaders.)

This version of Vision's origin will be accepted as canon until Avengers Forever 'rationalises' the previous origin and Human Torch's existence by saying that Immortus used extra-special timeline control to enable HT's body to simultaneously continue as itself *and* be turned into Vision in the same timeline.

Toro isn't in this issue apart from flashbacks, and he really is dead. But much later he will be resurrected. The Avengers/Invaders mini-series involves time-travel and a Cosmic Cube, and at the end Bucky will use the Cube to wish Toro back to life. He will surface in the Torch mini-series.

More on Agatha Harkness and Master Pandemonium and the returning Iron Man next time.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers West Coast #50 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
A lot has happened since Iron Man left the team in West Coast Avengers #31. The run can be split into 2 parts as #32-41 finished Steve Englehart's tenure and in #42-49 John Byrne took over and radically changed direction.

In #32 Wasp joined the team to help in IM's absence, and in #33 Moon Knight was made a full Avenger. #33-36 were the Tales To Astonish arc where the WCA were lured to Hungary with the suggestion that Dr. Pym's 1st wife Maria Trovaya was still alive. They faced a bevy of villains from the Ant-Man series in TTA and discovered that Scarlet Witch and Vision had also been lured there. It turned out to be another revenge plot by Quicksilver, but Maria really was alive.

Phantom Rider (Hamilton Slade possessed by the spirit of Lincoln Slade) was also involved in the above and he revealed how Mockingbird let Lincoln die during the Lost In Space-Time arc. In #37 this broke the team up. Henry Pym left to try to cure Maria whose brain had been immensely expanded to become a human super-computer. Wasp left because she was only visiting anyway. Hawkeye threw MB off the team, and MK and Tigra went with her. That left Hawk and Wonder Man, but V&SW elected to join them
Mantis popped up in that issue too. Then there was an interlude as both halves of the team (including Mantis) got involved separately during Annual #3 in the Evolutionary War that ran through all that year's Annuals. #38 was a fill-in flashback to Iron Man days, Then #39 concluded the Mantis visit in a coda to Englehart's Celestial Madonna storyline way back in the Avengers series.

Englehart left the title at this point so it was up to other writers to tidy things up in #40-41. In #40 Mark Gruenwald stalled for time as both teams, again separately, tangled with Shroud's Night Shift gang. Then Tom DeFalco plotted #41 which resolved the Phantom Rider issue. (He also tied it in to his ongoing Egyptian Gods invading Asgard storyline in Thor.) It ended with the good ghost Carter Slade empowering Hamilton as PR instead of the bad Lincoln. The Egyptian God Khonshu stopped controlling Moon Knight directly, and MK left because he himself never wanted to be an Avenger anyway. Mockingbird wandered off to figure out what to do next, leaving Tigra at a loose end.

That left Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Vision and Wonder Man as the only WCA team. But when Byrne picked up some time later in #42 Dr Pym, Tigra and Wasp were back on board with no explanation. But the Marvel Chronology Project puts several other issues in between, some of which throw some light on the subject.

In the Hawkeye stories in Solo Avengers #14-16 he and Black Widow fought AIM. They met Dr Pym and it turned out that 'Maria Trovaya' was actually a fake and AIM were using Pym's expertise to complete her transformation into SODAM, later MODAM, a female MODOK. This explains why he's back with the WCA for Avengers #302-303, Av Annual #18/2 and Fantastic Four #333. Tigra presumably just returned to the team for those adventures because she'd got nothing better to do. Wasp was with them by FF#333, and the events of Byrne's issues suggest she was here to be with Henry Pym. (The truth is probably more to do with who was on the team when these issues were published.)

Byrne didn't just reintegrate the roster he changed the dynamic too. Hank and Janet Pym were getting back together. Tigra was turning cat-like again. He slid MB into the book too as someone who was duped by the enemy into 'betraying' the Avengers. She and Hawk were still at loggerheads but gradually started to work together.

But the biggest change would be in SW&V. In #42-45 (VisionQuest) all the world's spy agencies got together to kidnap Vision, dismantle him and wipe his memory. This was because Vizh took over the world's security systems in Av#253-254 and the governments were worried about their secrets he uncovered. Dr Pym rebuilt him and loaded the Avengers database into his memory so Vizh *knows* the Witch is his wife. But Wonder Man refused to let him have his brain pattern again, so Vizh has no human feelings. In #47 Simon Williams admitted to Wasp that he has always loved SW, and wants to keep Vizh robotic so Wanda can realise that it was *Simon's* personality that she loved.

And in #44 the US Government imposed U.S. Agent as the new WCA leader, and ex-leader Hawkeye quit in #45 - Mocky went with him. In #46 we met a new group calling themselves the Great Lakes Avengers, and Hawk & MB decided to train them.

#47 saw the change of title from WCA to Avengers West Coast. (At the same time Solo Avengers was renamed Avengers Spotlight. Presumably these moves were aimed to boost sales by having the titles racked next to the main Avengers book.)

In #47-49 desperate Wanda accepted help from a source that turned out to be a gestalt parasite that has been infesting living things since the dawn of life, and wanted to possess her so that it could learn to infest mutants. The GLA came to the rescue. And Dr Pym miniaturised the increasingly cat-like Tigra for her own safety.

Meanwhile various nannies for SW&V's kids Tommy and Billy claimed that the twins keep disappearing. Wanda kept disbelieving them and sacking them.

Plus it is claimed that Vision wasn't actually built from the original android Human Torch of the 1940's. This means Immortus lied, and we saw him monitoring events in the background. And we saw someone named Mrs Raymond very interested in this too.

Now read on ...

Ann Raymond has arrived at the AWC Compound to tell them that she was the wife of Thomas Raymond, Toro, sidekick of the 40's android Human Torch. She believed what Sub-Mariner told her that her husband died fighting the Mad Thinker (SM(1968)#14). But after she heard what recently happened to the Vision she has reason to hope Toro might still be alive.

Scarlet Witch, angry and traumatised over the recent events, takes this the wrong way. She thinks the widow is accusing Vision of killing Thomas. She storms out and Vizh follows to calm her down.

Mrs Raymond relates her whole story to the rest of the team (Dr Pym, US Agent, Wasp and Wonder Man) - an amended recap of SM#14. Toro had retired from the superhero business and settled down to normal married life. Then he read how the Fantastic Four saw the WWII Torch die (FF Annual #4), and he attended the funeral (with an added bit of how Thomas rang Ann to say that strangely no heroes attended, not even fellow Invader Captain America).

(The whole thing about Namor telling Ann how her husband died isn't in the original, but that's how she knows the rest of what she tells the Avengers.)

The Thinker abducted Toro after the funeral, brainwashed him into thinking he was the android Human Torch and tricked him into doing his bidding. (This was all part of a scheme involving Egghead and Puppet Master in Av#63-65 and Captain Marvel #12-14.) (And it was Thinker controlling the original HT that got him killed in FF An#4.) In the process Toro got into a fight with Subbie which restored his memory and led him to sacrifice himself to kill Thinker. (Except of course the villain didn't die.)

The rest of Ann's story is new to us. When her hubbie didn't return she went to the cemetery and found that it had been disused for 30 years. On returning home she found Namor waiting for her. They compared stories and deduced that Thinker had set up the whole funeral to lure Thomas (with the other mourners puppets of the PM).

Wasp corroborates this by saying that in their Annual the FF left the android HT's body in Thinker's lab (and organised a memorial service without it). Then Immortus told/showed Vision (in Av#134-135) how Ultron found the body and used it to create the android Avenger with the help of HT's original creator Phineas Horton, who was killed when he rebelled.

But now Ann has read in the papers that when Vision was dismantled in #42-45 it was discovered that he *wasn't* built from the Torch. (And in #44 and #48 Prof Horton was alive and denied everything about Ultron.) So just maybe it was the real android HT that died in SM#14, and Thomas Raymond might still be alive.

Then team promise to investigate. While Janet Van Dyne takes Ann for a lie down Henry Pym contacts Sub-Mariner at the (East Coast) Avengers HQ. He confirms Ann's story and he 'thinks' it was Toro he met. Pym thinks it safe to assume that Thomas Raymond is really dead, but there's still the question of what really happened to Torch's body.

Then an alarm goes off in Hank's lab and USA and WM follow him there. They are astonished to see a miniature cat-like Tigra in a cage who's just knocked over her water dish. Pym explains how she ferally attacked him last issue and he shrank her for his and her own protection. He thinks the cat half of her is gaining ascendency again (which was supposedly cured by the Cat People in #15). US Agent confirms observing her cat behaviour in #46-47.

Simon Williams is angry that USA didn't say anything earlier, the anger increased by the way USA has been foisted on them as leader by the Government and how he keeps going off on his own secret business. The Agent says that's classified (but we know he's working for the Commission on Superhuman Activities in the Captain America series). Wasp returns to break up the squabbling.

The 4-some go to fill V&SW in on what they know. Hank says the funeral supports the idea that Vision isn't the Torch. (Even though the funeral was set up by Thinker they are obviously assuming he used the real Torch's body, which after all was left in his lab.)

V suggests that finding HT's body would clinch the matter, and examining it might give some clues about his own origin. After all 2 sources claimed to recognise him as HT:- A Sentinel in Av#102 (strictly speaking it only said his body was 30 years old) and HT's ghost in Giant-Size Av#3. But Pym counters that Sentinels are experts on mutants not androids, and Torch's 'ghost' was suspect. Wonder Man agrees with that since *his* ghost was another of Kang's Legion of the Unliving there - and *he* wasn't really dead.

Dr Pym concludes that the evidence for Vision's origin was probably an elaborate deception by Immortus who arranged for Vision to see it. And we now see the master of Limbo himself watching the conversation and confirming the idea. Apparently it's all part of a very long-running plot to *really* make him the 'absolute master of time', which is something he already pretended to be.

Time for a break while the AWC fly to Pleasantville where the graveyard is. An angry blonde is refused permission to see Martin Preston, head of Anvil Pictures. We see that he is Master Pandemomium, escaped from Mephisto's realm and ready to take on the AWC again.

Dr Pym tries to get permission to dig up HT's grave, but there are no records of such a grave in the disused cemetery. But the others have gone ahead and found a gravestone with Human Torch written on it. Vision phases down into the coffin and confirms that the body inside looks like Jim Hammond, and it hasn't decayed so it could be artificial. Wanda can't wait any longer and casts a hex ...

... And a flaming form erupts out of the earth and into the sky. Wonder Man gives chase and introduces himself in mid-air. And leads the confused hero (whose last memory is of FF An#4) back to the others in the graveyard, where he feels like he knows the Vision.

Meanwhile back in California Wanda's children have yet another nanny, and the twins have vanished again. Her search is interrupted by the doorbell - it's a mysterious old woman with a black cat. (Which we will learn next issue is Agatha Harkness and Ebony.)

But when the team and HT return to AWC HQ they don't look in on the kids and meet Miss Harkness. Instead Hank Pym tells them some more history (from a flashback in FF#238) - how Phineas Horton had a step-daughter Frankie Raye who was accidentally turned into the flaming heroine Nova by chemicals he still had in store from the creation of HT. But a significant part of the fb is that he also had a mold he used to create the android.

Henry guesses that Ultron used Horton's old mold and chemicals and spare parts to create another android. This explains why Torch just thought Vizh familiar, why the Sentinel thought he was 30 years old, and why Pym as Ant-Man was amazed to find WWII parts inside the android in Av#94 (although it never said *what* he found until now).

Now Wasp enters with a new costume for HT that she's just quickly run up out of unstable molecules (the invention of Reed Richards that enables superheroes' costumes to survive things like flaming on, or adapt to stuff like stretching). And we get a repeat of the 'even an android can cry' moment from Vision's acceptance by the Avengers in Av#58.

And then Iron Man flies in.

John Byrne
Mike Machlan
Bob Sharen
John Byrne (Cover Penciler)
John Byrne (Cover Inker)
Letterer: Bill Oakley.
Editor: Howard Mackie.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Human Torch
Human Torch

(Jim Hammond)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

(Edwin Jarvis)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)

(Greer Nelson)
U.S. Agent
U.S. Agent

(John Walker)

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Agatha Harkness, Ann Raymond, Doctor Pym (Henry Pym).

> Avengers West Coast: Book info and issue index

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