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Avengers West Coast Annual #8: Review

Sep 1993
Roy Thomas, ?

Story Name:

If volcanic winter comes

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

Avengers West Coast Annual #8 Review by (November 6, 2018)
This is the 1st and only (Avengers) West Coast (Avengers) Annual that's not a crossover. #1-2 were crossovers with Avengers Annuals. #3-4 were parts of crossovers that spanned all or most of the year's Annuals. #5-7 were crossovers with small sets of Annuals (always including the Iron Man Annual).

This issue features the Avengers vs Avengers trope which dates all the way back to at least Av An#2. And the split-the-squad-up-in-separate-chapters theme which already existed in 1940's comics like Timely's All Winners Comics and All-American's All-Star Comics.

Ultron may think his model numbering is passé but we call him Ultron-14.

He created Alkhema as a mate in #90 with the brain pattern of Mockingbird (the real 1 not the Skrull who replaced her in #91). He called her War Toy but she didn't like the name, which is why the Avengers keep using it. That story ended in #91 which is the last we saw of them until now.

Scarlet Witch is the chairman here which puts it after her election in #98. Clint Barton stopped being Goliath and resumed his Hawkeye role in #97, but he still has some residual Pym-particles to power his growth here. #98-100 are a continuous story, and the death of Mockingbird (actually her Skrull replacement) in #100 means this story can't occur after that. So I have to insert it within the 3-issue tale somewhere. The only reasonable course is to create a gap in #98 between the election and the adventure which follows.

So we know where the WCA go after this, but what about the other characters:-

Living Lightning (part-time because he's now in college) will be back in #100 for Mockingbird's funeral.

Reserve member Tigra will also be there in #100.

Iron Man is here between his own An#14 and #298.

Henry Pym's appearance here as Dr Pym is somewhat anomalous. He's already retaken the role of Giant-Man in the pre-Infinity Crusade Avengers #366 and made some other minor apps in that mode since then. But a flashback in Av(1998)#31 will explain that it took him a while to iron the bugs out of his new growth serum, which provides a reason his non-GM status here. He'll return as GM to the Avengers for their #367-368 before popping back for AWC#101 as part of an Avengers/X-Men crossover.

Wasp was previously in the pre-IC Darkhold #3-4 with Scarlet Witch, and will be with Wanda again in a tale in Marvel Comics Presents #144.

Ultron will appear in the short Blackwulf series and the 1994 Vision mini-series before featuring in the Avengers post-Heroes Reborn series. Alkhema will join him there in its later #0.

Raptor won't really make any more apps, but he'll be mentioned in the Civil War: Battle Damage Report and the 2012 Avengers: Roll Call.





 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers West Coast Annual #8 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This issue is 1 story split into chapters with different art teams.

Chapter 1: The gathering

Pencils Kris Renkewitz, inks Don Hudson and John Lowe, colours John Kalisz, letters Clem Robins

The West Coast Avengers have received a tipoff that Ultron and Alkhema have been seen in San Francisco near Coit Tower. Clint Barton is there as Hawkeye not Goliath for this mission. And they don't know that his wife Mockingbird is really a Skrull replacement (because that wasn't decided until Secret Invasion was written decades later).

Gary Wilton decides to get away from potential trouble but drops his pencil clip down an open man-hole. He goes down into the storm drain to retrieve it and spots the robotic villains. They are arguing - Ultron wants to destroy all of humanity in 1 fell swoop, Alkhema prepares to take her time and do it a few million at a time. Ultron detects the eavesdropper and pulls Gary out into the open, but he's confused by a strange aura emanating from the youth.

There's no time to investigate this because Hawkeye and Mockingbird choose this moment to drop in. As Mocky notifies the rest of the team Ultron easily stuns the duo with a blast. Mockingbird's Avengers communicard falls to the ground and Gary nicks it.

Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman, U.S. Agent and War Machine get there before Ultron can do anything else. War Machine (who still getting annoyed by being called Iron Man) fails to defeat Ultron, and Alkhema (who's still getting annoyed by being called War Toy) downs US Agent with his own shield. Scarlet Witch tries to bring the ceiling down on them with a hex but Ultron fuses the fragments back together again.

Then he uses a mesmeric ray to bend the Avengers to his will. Alkhema suggests he now use them in his plan, and he agrees. He tells the team that he's going to send them to Alaska, Mexico and Washington (the state) to plant devices that will cause volcanic eruptions and a volcanic winter that will make the Earth uninhabitable.

Ultron then turns to Gary Wilton who wasn't hypnotised. But as he makes to kill him the aura erupts again more strongly, and the youth painfully transforms into a beast called the Raptor - a human body with a bird's head, wings and feet and clawed hands plus a long not bird-like tail. This being strongly dislikes the confined space and flies away, dodging blasts from the robots.

Out in the open air Mockingbird's card comes alive with a communication from Iron Man hoping Bobbi Barton at least will talk to him because most of the other Avengers aren't happy with him at the moment (because Tony Stark had pretended to be dead for a while (IM#284-289)). He's surprised to see the bird face in the screen, and even more when Raptor tells him about Ultron's plot. But he doesn't trust the informant completely so he remotely destroys the card.

Then Stark contacts some WCA Reservist backup:- Living Lightning in college and Tigra recently returned from Australia he sends to Mexico. Wasp and Doctor Pym will go to Alaska. IM himself (or at least the armour controlled by telepresence because Tony is still paralysed) will investigate what's actually going on in SanFran and then go to Washington.

And angry Raptor swears revenge on Ultron.


Chapter 2: Let us prey

Pencils David Ross, inks Tim Dzon, colours John Kalisz, letters Steve Dutro

This chapter tells the origin of Raptor whose creation is credited to David Ross, Roy & Dann Thomas.

His parents Gary & Maxine Wilton were told their unborn baby had a problem that meant he would probably be deformed. They decided not to terminate the pregnancy - and as chemical research scientists they devised a drug that might save him and tested it on Maxine. But Gary died in a car crash, and Gary Jr was born not deformed but weak and anaemic. Maxine brought him up to avoid risk. She remarried to Roger Morely who was domineering and tried to make Gary less of a wimp, but the boy just got more timid.

1 day in his college years Gary stumbled across a street gang executing an enemy. They chased him as a witness and something made him flee into a building and up to the roof where they cornered him. But as they shot at him and he fell off the roof he was already transforming for the 1st time into Raptor. Who flew back up to the roof and made short work of the gangers.

Afterwards Raptor flew to the ground and fell asleep in a park. Gary Wilton awoke confused in tattered clothing, not remembering what had happened.


Chapter 3: Northern explosion

Pencils Scott Kolins, inks Tim Dzon and Maria Beccari, colours Maria Parwulski, letters Clem Robins

Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch have flown to Alaska, and Hawkeye has grown Goliath-sized to carry Ultron's activator to its destination and ram its pointed end into the earth. But Dr Pym and Wasp arrive (in Pym's Rover?) to stop them. At 1st Henry Pym tries to reach the heroes within the hypnotised opponents, describing how setting off enough volcanoes could produce an ice age so severe it could wipe out all life. But Hawkeye attacks him and the Witch sends a hex bolt at the Wasp.

Pym leads Clint Barton away from the device and then lets him catch him. But its only to get close enough to throw Pym-particles which shrink Hawkeye to ant-size. Clint triggers his Pym-particle growth serum to get bigger again, but not has tall as before. The particle exchange is repeated a few times, and each time Barton's height diminishes. But all this is a strain on Hank, and eventually Hawkeye manages to punch him unconscious.

Meanwhile Wasp stopped dodging Wanda's hexes and turned back to fire her stings. Sting met hex bolt and the resulting explosion sent both of them reeling. But the hex also makes Jan Van Dyne grow to normal size where she's an easier target. The next hex makes Wasp's stings backfire taking herself out of the fight.

The 2 hypnotised Avengers now wait for Ultron to trigger his activator when the volcanic eruption will kill all 4 of them.


Chapter 4: Mexican bake-off

Pencils Larry Alexander, inks Mike Barreiro, colours Maria Parwulski, letters Clem Robins

In a volcanic region of Mexico Mockingbird and War Machine arrive to plant *their* device. Living Lightning gets there in time to attack his armoured foe, but WM's Stark-tech armour is proof against LL's electric blasts. And his plasma cannon disrupts Miguel Santos' plasma body.

Meanwhile Tigra leaps from the quinjet(?) to take on Mockingbird. Greer is hampered by not wanting to hurt Bobbi, but MB is quite willing to send a telescoping battlestave into Tigra's midriff.

Lightning has recovered enough to survive Jim Rhodes' other attacks, and Tigra has done likewise to now have Mocky in a strangle hold. But WM takes time out to shoot her in the back. And then threatens to kill her unless Miguel surrenders. Fearing Ultron's control will make him do it Lightning powers down and Bobbi Barton bops him with her battlestaff. For extra security Rhodes plants a power drainer on him.


Chapter 5: Fuss and feathers

Pencils John Czop, inks Maria Beccari, colours Rob Tokar, letters Clem Robins

Iron Man is now in Washington State. And Raptor has joined him to be in on the kill. Tony Stark, from his hospital bed, reminds the bird-man that he wants to stop the Avengers without killing them. But Raptor has no such qualms, and strikes at Shellhead to get him out of the way. IM uses repulsor rays to hold Raptor off while he explains that he checked out Raptor's claim, and found Ultron's abandoned lab beneath Coit Tower. Now he's heading to Mount St Helen to confirm the rest of the story.

Spider-Woman and US Agent attack some vulcanologists to get them out of the way while they plant the 3rd activator. Iron Man arrives and blasts Spi before fighting USA. But the Agent fights back ruthlessly and Tony worries that John Walker might destroy the remote-controlled armour and kill him with neural feedback. Spider-Woman is confused to be attacked by Raptor, allowing him to take her into the air. This momentarily distracts Stark, giving Agent the upper hand. The ferocious attack, damaging Walker's fists as much as it does the armour, disorients Tony. He fires his boot jets to take them both into the air too, but instead they slam into a rock face and USA is knocked out.

Battered Iron Man staggers towards the fatal device. Overhead Raptor struggles to hold on to Spi as she keeps punching him. But he eventually drops her and she lands on IM just as he reaches his goal, and fir some reason Raptor has transformed back to Gary Wilton and fallen beside her. They are now unconscious, and Tony gets the feedback he feared.


Chapter 6: More and less than human

Pencils Vince Russell, inks Fred Fredericks, colours Rob Tokar, letters Clem Robins

Ultron and Alkhema have relocated to Oregon, and now he sends out the signal to trigger his 3 volcanic activators. But nothing happens because the Washington 1 has malfunctioned (because people fell on it) and presumably they're programmed to only go off together. Ultron sets off for Washington State to fix things, and Alkhema follows him with the prospect of killing some humans.

They arrive to find that the other hypnotised WCA'ers have inexplicably brought their captive Avengers here. Alkhema shoots down an interfering police helicopter, then suggests that Ultron mesmerise the captive Avengers (and Gary) as extra forces against any more intrusions. He does that, including to Iron Man who 'awakes' as Tony Stark recovers from the feedback.

But of course Stark isn't affected by the mesmeric ray in his remote hospital bed. Shellhead wages a futile battle against the adamantium robot. But his blows do rock the foe and he notices that this causes a reaction in the hypnotised heroes. Then Ultron has him on the ropes and is about to deliver the coup de grace when the other Avengers spring to the rescue. (Except Dr Pym who goes to free the captive vulcanologists.)

But their blows and weapons fail against Ultron's forcefield and he starts to hypnotise them again. Gary Wilton remembers bits of what happened as in a dream, but the sight of Ultron triggers his transformation to Raptor again. However he too can't break through the force shield. However (again) the interruption has freed the Avengers to attack again. But it is a blast from another direction which knocks Ultron off his feet and destroys the volcano trigger ...

... as Alkhema tips her hand. She lets her creator/'lover' know that she was the WCA's anonymous tip-off. Not for the sake of humanity - as she mentioned at the beginning she doesn't want humanity killed off to make way for Ultron's dream of a robotic world, but only because she wants to keep them around for sport.

Wanda Maximoff rallies the team to take down Ultron before dealing with Alkhema. The female robot flies off in the process chased by Raptor. But he gets too close to her exhaust flame and falls back to Earth, returning to Gary Wilton who slips away when he gets his breath back. Back at Mount St Helen IM and WM have encased Ultron temporarily in metal until they can return him to his adamantium straight-jacket (which he escaped from in #89).


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> Avengers West Coast Annual: Book info and issue index

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David Ross (Cover Penciler)
Tim Dzon (Cover Inker)

Editor: Nel Yomtov. Editor-in-chief: Tom DeFalco.

Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Hawkeye
Hawkeye

(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)
Wasp
Wasp

(Janet Van Dyne)

Plus: Alkhema, Doctor Pym (Henry Pym), Living Lightning (Miguel Santos), Mockingbird (Skrull), Raptor, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), U.S. Agent, War Machine (James Rhodes).