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Avengers West Coast #53: Review

Dec 1989
John Byrne, John Byrne

Story Name:

The plan proceeds

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers West Coast #53 Review by (November 21, 2017)
Previously Marvel has had other kinds of Event:- The epic story confined to 1 title (eg Kree-Skrull War in Avengers). The multi-issue crossover between 2 titles (eg the Avengers/Defenders War). The mini-series involving heroes from many titles (eg Secret Wars I). And the same with added tie-ins to many titles (eg Secret Wars II). Recently they had the crossover through all a year's Annuals (Evolutionary War and Atlantis Attacks). Meanwhile the X-Men pioneered another type with multi-issue storylines spanning all the X-titles - Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants and Inferno with an increasing number of tie-ins in non-X titles.

The Avengers family now try that last trick. As in Inferno, and less obviously in the earlier 2, the core family issues are distinguished from the others. Avengers, Avengers West Coast, Avengers Spotlight, Captain America, Iron Man, Quasar, Thor and strangely damage Control get a full Acts of Vengeance banner while Alpha Flight, Amazing Spider-Man, Cloak&Dagger, Daredevil, Dr Strange, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Moon Knight, New Mutants, Power Pack, Punisher, Punisher War Journal, Spectacular Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, Web of Spider-Man, Wolverine and X-Factor just get corner stickers.

The main plot unfolded in the core titles and the side issues just had random attacks by unexpected villains. But some of the core issues were just as weakly-connected (eg Iron Man #151-152 just had villain attacks (and the bannered #250 was nothing to do with AoV at all)). And some of the side issues had major stuff:-
The Superhuman Registration Act (that featured in FF#334-336 and was mentioned in several other AoV issues) and Spider-Man becoming Captain Universe weren't connected to the main plot but 'just' coincided with the Event. The Uncanny X-Men issues featured the return of Psylocke as Lady Mandarin working for cabal member Mandarin.

Iron Man left his #251-252 heading for the AWC to investigate the random attacks. But he doesn't mention that here and it's up to Henry Pym to suggest some overarching plot. (This is probably because this issue was published before the IM ones.)

I'll cover what happens next in the whole AoV in #54. But I'll mention here where the various chars will next appear, which exposes some continuity problems.
The team never do find the U-Foes. 3 of them without Vector will next be in the graphic novel Avengers: Deathtrap, the Vault. Then Vapor will be in Superia's female army in CA#389-391 before they all recombine for Darkhawk #6.
Loki and Magneto will tend to many other bits of AoV before returning for #54, starting with the rest of CA#365.
Ann Raymond, Human Torch and Immortus will just continue on in this series.
AWC Annual #5/5 is a humorous story involving Dr Pym, Scarlet Witch, Wasp and Wonder Man with US Agent which says it occurs between #53 and #54. For want of anything better to do with it the MCP put it next, presumably before the team split up on their errands.
The 4 Avengers will do stuff with the East Coast team:- Dr Pym will help out in CA#366 before he, Scarlet Witch, Vision and Wasp are all in Av#312 (along with Loki and Magneto). Then DrP is in CA#366 before they all (except Vision) return West for #54.
The 1st problem with this is that the members left behind are still looking for the U-Foes when they get back, despite all the things that happened in between, including lots I haven't mentioned.
1 of those was Iron Man and Wasp getting together with Cap, She-Hulk and Thor at a public meeting in New York about the Superhero Registration Act in Cloak&Dagger #9 before Av#312.
Another was Wasp and Wonder Man testifying at the Congressional Committee on the same subject in Washington in AvSpot#28/2 before our #54.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers West Coast #53 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
What's been happening before this in the Acts of Vengeance event?

There's this mystery villain who we've not yet been told is Loki. (Although Thinker dropped a hint in Avengers Spotlight #28/2 when he deduced his identity and asked what his brother (ie Thor) would do when he finds out what's going on.)

He has approached 6 master villains (Dr Doom, Kingpin, Magneto, Mandarin, Red Skull and Wizard) individually with the idea of being more successful if they attack heroes who aren't used to them. And he gave them a place where they can meet reached via a mystical doorway he created for each of them. The members of this cabal supposedly each believes he's in charge. But Loki secretly has a master plan.

The villains supposedly exchange foes in a tit-for-tat manner so that none of them has to appear to work for another. They don't normally do the jobs themselves but hire minor villains who are also directed to fight non-standard foes. And 1 of Loki's 1st acts was to arrange a mass breakout from the Vault (AvSpot#26/1) so there'd be plenty of minor villains to go around.

To mix things up a bit Loki also approaches minor villains directly and suggests to *them* the idea of winning against heroes who don't expect them. So far the Serpent Society (Captain America #365/2), Absorbing Man (Quasar #5) and Boomerang (AvSpot#27/1).

He also tried to recruit other villains:- Thinker turned him down but will later work against him. Sub-Mariner also declined (CA#365) but Loki left him a doorway in case he changed his mind.

Av Annual #19/3 will look back and give an overview of the events in the crossover, filling in some of the gaps with new flashbacks. But the opening salvoes in the published issues were:- Loki recruiting Dr Doom in the last page of Thor #410 (after Thor had bollixed up Doom's plan to use the power of Mjolnir to take Latveria back from Kristoff Vernard). Loki helping Wizard escape from the Vault as long as he lets lots of others out too. (This also dragged in Damage Control in their v2 #1, and Hawkeye and Iron Man stopped various escapees in AvSpot#26/2.)

The sequence of events here is based as usual on the work of the Marvel Chronology Project.

Early skirmishes were:- Dr Doom sending Grey Gargoyle against Grey Hulk in his #363. Kingpin sending Graviton against Spider-Man (Amazing SM #326). DrD sending demonic Hobgoblin against Dr Strange (DrS Sorcerer Supreme #11). Spectacular SM #158 is the 1st time we see a cabal meeting and the magic doors. Wizard sent Trapster who was successful until Spidey gained what he doesn't realise are the powers of Captain Universe. Then in Web of SM #59 it was time for DrD to send Titania to fight.

DrD planted a device that followed the Fantastic Four around and attracted villains to attack them in FF#334-226. In #335-336 this played havoc when the FF went to Washington to testify to a Congressional Committee that was considering a Superhero Registration Act that would allow the military to draft super-characters. This Act is mentioned several times during AoV.

Meanwhile DrD sent robots to sink the artificial Avengers Island. Only Quasar and the Avengers staff were there to unsuccessfully defend it in Av#311. Now homeless, in the 1st part of CA#365 Cap and Thor went to ask the FF if the Avengers could lodge in the Baxter Building (again), but in FF#334 they found the team had left for Washington. Then Jarvis suggested using the basements of the old ruined Mansion.

Also in that part of CA#365 Loki tried to recruit Red Skull as well as Namor.

Then in Quasar #5 Q and Stingray salvaged stuff from the base on the sunken Island. Loki gave Absorbing Man's ball and chain powers like Mjolnir, and Q had to stop him stealing some adamantium. Meanwhile Cap recruited some (female) reserve Avengers to help with the salvage operation and transporting stuff to the old basements. In AvSpot#27/2 Stingray discovered that various imprisoned robots had escaped from the base, and the reserves had to recapture 1 of them - Thinker's Awesome Android. (This may have been 1 of the aims of the attack on the Island as many of the escaped robots reappear working for cabal members.)

In Q#6 Q returned Venom to the Vault. He captured escapee Klaw but Living Laser freed him. Q followed LL to the Blue Area of the Moon where Red Ghost tried to infiltrate the Watcher's house. Later Captain Marvel recaptured Klaw.

Then in AvSpot#27/1 Loki suggested Boomerang tackle Hawkeye rather than Iron Man. In DSSS#12 Some unspecified members of the cabal sent Enchantress to take DrS out of the picture. And in AvSpot#28/1 Vault escapees Angar and Screaming Mimi used their sonic powers to make people think they were Hawkeye and Mockingbird while committing robberies. Hawk and MB stopped them because deaf Clint Barton was unaffected. And in an early part of AvSpot#28/2 Thinker, who had stayed in the Vault because he deemed it safer there, turned down Loki's offer but then escaped on his own because AoV plus the Registration Act threatened some of his long-term schemes.

In IM#251-252 Kingpin paid Wrecker to kill Iron Man. When he failed Wizard hired Chemistro to finish the job. But Chemistro's brother Curtis Carr helped IM defeat his foe. IM decided to go ask the Avengers West Coast what's going on.

In ASM#327 Magneto personally fought Spider-Man to see if his new powers were a late-emerging mutation. And in SSM#159 Wizard sent Brothers Grimm against Spidey. Dr Doom schemed to usurp his new power.

And in DSSS#13 Enchantress tried again by pitting Arkon against DrS.

Which brings us up-to-date.

The man we don't know is Loki is still pretending to be the servant of the cabal of major supervillains he has brought together - in this case Magneto. He gloats that they have succeeded in pitting other supervillains against heroes who unfamiliar with them, and soon the heroes must fall to this stratagem. But Magneto declares he doesn't *care* about this plan. He has his own agenda for the good of mutantkind and to reclaim something personal. He leaves the meeting place now by his personal door.

But Loki muses that he tolerates Magneto only for as long as it suits *his* plan. He too leaves and enters a throneroom where he ponders that plan and mystically views a vital part - the Avengers West Coast. (His view seems to be centred on Scarlet Witch but that's a red herring.)

Dr. Pym is explaining to Iron Man that Wanda Maximoff has been in a trance since they returned from the end of Atlantis Attacks (FF Annual #22). (Chronology puts more stuff between the 2 issues than was probably intended.) Wonder Man isn't surprised that her mind has withdrawn after the recent events in her life:- Her android husband Vision had his mind (and body) erased and rebuilt so that he no longer has emotions and doesn't remember being married to her. (He was also proven *not* to be the WWII Human Torch who has turned up 'alive'.) Then their twin boys were revealed to be only fragments of Mephisto. (All this in #42-52.) Then in Atlantis Attacks Wanda was brainwashed by Ghaur as 1 of the 7 Brides of Set.

Simon Williams also has a solution. He had previously refused to have his brain pattern recopied into the Vision. But now WM believes that this would restore Vizh's personality and his love for Wanda, which in turn would bring the Witch back to them. Wasp reminds him that he originally refused because he loves Wanda and wants her to see that it was *him* within Vision that she loved. But Simon can't put that before Wanda's well-being.

But Vision settles the argument by saying he doesn't *want* Simon's brain pattern. And he doesn't believe it would solve Wanda's problem anyway. In fact he thinks it would be better if he went away and rejoined the East Coast team.

We now take a wild detour to 16th Century England and a meeting between Queen Elizabeth and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots in the Tower of London, discussing the upcoming beheading. Our 1st indication that this may not be the history we know is the presence of Immortus. It is confirmed when we learn that it is Elizabeth who is to lose her head, and Mary is now the 1st Stuart ruler of England.

But then Immortus deletes the timeline somehow and returns to his base in Limbo. Removing such divergences is all part of his plan to become absolute master of time (as he mentioned in #50). And he too is monitoring the Scarlet Witch as a vital part of his plan (as also seen in #51).

Now Vision is unemotionally explaining that he's moving east because he thinks that team has greater need of him with the current lineups. Wanda is irrelevant to his considerations.

But the sudden appearance of another woman cuts off the other Avengers' protests. She turns part of herself to cyanide gas and tries to kill Scarlet Witch, but Wonder Man flies Wanda out of the way. Iron Man sucks the gaseous villain through his palm into a holding tank within his armour. But she converts her substance to a monomolecular mist which can seep out of the tank into his other systems. So he has to quickly expel her.

Then metal hands reach though the floor and pull IM down. Sounds of metallic battle ensue, followed by a metal body propelled out of the hole in the floor and through the roof into the sky.

The android Human Torch is chatting to Ann Raymond outside asking her about how her husband, his WWII sidekick Toro, died. They see the body shooting out of the building and flaming Torch flies after it. But another flying form tells him to forget about Ironclad and worry about himself. A blast of radiation causes HT temporary pain but he is soon fighting back.

Ann rushes to the building to see what's happened to the rest of the AWC, but she's met by Wonder Man carrying Wanda and coughing Hank Pym outside. He explains that Vapor is attacking again and he's left IM and Vision to deal with her. Wasp has followed him and says that she recognised the 2 villains as members of the U-Foes who fought the East Coasters in Av#304 (but none of those here were there).

At that moment Vapor turns into something explosive and does so.

Meanwhile Ironclad has landed miles away. Rather than try to make it back he decides to cause some mayhem to attract the fight to *him*.

While Torch is fighting the guy who shoots X-rays (and is actually called X-Ray) he sees smoke rising from Ironclad's position but he also sees the Avengers Compound on fire. But X-Ray won't let him go to either place, blaming him for the death of the 4th U-Foe Vector. Jim Hammond is confused.

Mean-other-while the AWC can't put the fire out because Vapor keeps fueling it. Dr Pym tries a drastic measure - he tells Wanda that Vision is in danger. She suddenly awakes but deludes herself that Vizh has returned from his white body to his green & yellow version and that this means her husband is back. A quick hex douses the flames and turns Vapor human ...

... and Vector turns up to rescue her. Now it's her turn to be confused because the CCTV at their (destroyed) base had shown him being killed by the AWC. The 4 had been part of the Vault breakout in AvSpot#26/1. They had split up and agreed to individually head to the base. Vector says that he got there last and he too saw the video of his 'death', and guessed where they'd go.

Vector covers Vapor's escape (as she regains her gas-power). X-Ray meets them with an unconscious Torch (who he assumes is the FF's Johnny Storm). The 3 realise they've been set up and head off to find Ironclad.

At this point Henry Pym says he can't contact the East Coast team. (We know it's because their Island base has been sunk in Av#311.) Dr Pym proposes that Iron Man, Vision and Wonder Man go find Torch and go after the U-Foes while he, Scarlet Witch and Wasp go to New York to find out what's happened to their friends.

But Wanda insists on staying with her husband. Who changes things by saying *he* will accompany the team to New York because that had been where he was going anyway. And Wanda can come with. Hank agrees, but shares a premonition with Wasp that the simultaneous attack on them and something happening to the other team suggests something bigger is afoot.

John Byrne
Keith Williams
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)

(Loki Laufeyson)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Ann Raymond, Doctor Pym (Henry Pym), Immortus, Ironclad (Michael Steel), U-Foes, Vapor (Ann Darnell), Vector (Simon Utrecht), X-Ray (Jimmy Darnell).

> Avengers West Coast: Book info and issue index

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