Best Moments in Comics

Avengers #270

Story title: “Wild in the Streets!”
Writer: Roger Stern
Artist: John Buscema

The Avengers, including Captain America, Photon, Hercules, Wasp, and the Black Knight, have just returned from a battle with Kang the Conqueror in another dimension (which could be more like a time-warp, considering how Kang operates, but you get the idea), and now find that they have to deal with the demonstrations that were being held against Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, the sovereign of Atlantis (who was also involved in the battle with Kang), at the time he was being inducted into the Avengers as more of a regular member. Trouble is, the public hasn’t forgotten how he turned to crime during the Silver Age, though he did reform after a few years, and tried to make amends for his past errors. While there are those in the public who side with Subby, a bunch of shady lawyers, whose operations, as one puts it, are “built on risks,” are planning a lawsuit against him in attempt to swing the public’s opinion further against him.

Meanwhile, matters aren’t being helped by the fact that Moonstone/Karla Sofen, at the time she was still a crook, was trying to incite the crowd further against Namor by pretending to be a widow whose husband was murdered by the prince of Atlantis, and this provokes them to yell out “murderer, muderer!” in chorus against Namor. Captain America soon investigates, and makes it clear to the incited crowd that Namor is no such thing. Moonstone is trying to slip away, and to create a diversion, she cripples a police helicopter flying overhead, forcing Namor to go to rescue it. The Wasp soon spots and goes after Moonstone, leading to a duke out in the sewers, where Moonstone’s teleported to. Black Knight/Dane Whitman goes to help, and fells Sofen with an unexpected gimmick in his sword, that being a reversal of the polarity of Moonstone’s laser beam, which knocks her unconscious. Meanwhile, Sub-Mariner’s saved the occupants of the helicopter, and upon pointing out to the crowd who Moonstone is, much, if not everything, is calmed down, though there are still some people in the crowd on the negative side regarding Namor who think it’s all just a staged publicity stunt.

Returning to the Avengers mansion’s conference room, a lawyer arrives to let them know about the lawsuit being filed against the prince of Atlantis, who makes it clear that he wants any trial against him to be held no matter the turnout, and that it should be made public record. However, at the same time, there comes a problem: invaders such as Attuma have returned to menace Atlantis, as Namor finds out at almost the same time from a messenger. Deciding that he’ll have to put any plans for a court hearing on hold while he goes to investigate, Namor leaves for his undersea kingdom, while Black Knight tells Hercules that he hopes things don’t end up leading to disaster, should Namor not return.

This was an issue I enjoyed a lot, not just with the suspense elements included, but also with the legal problems being staged for the heroes to have deal with. This story of course, took place sometime after Sub-Mariner’s reformation following the stint he’d had as a crook in the Silver Age, during which time he’d even had a fixation on Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four. (Much to the annoyance of her now husband, Reed Richards, to be sure.) He began to reform as the Bronze Age came around, and moved on past his infatuation with Sue, eventually becoming accepted by the superhero community once again, and by the mid-80s, he was volunteering for membership, regular or reserve, with the Avengers. Not everyone was happy about this, of course, as some public opinion showed at the time, and so, as expected, there were mass demonstrations against the prince of Atlantis, but also in his favor too, and he had to calmly face the problems, both legal and in public opinion, to regain his trust and reputation as a friend of the human race.

While I can’t say I’ve ever been impressed with Moonstone as a villainess, given that she began as a “crooked psychologist” cliché, her part here was still written well. In a manner of speaking, she got away at the end – but was still being forced to agree to working with – the Absorbing Man and Titania, who wanted her to help them out on another crooked scheme of theirs, and extorted her services by warning her that they’d be willing to do to her what they did to the police officers they replaced. (“You don’t wanna know!” Carl Creel gloatingly tells her. Yikes, neither do I!)

Janet Van Dyne’s role here was also great, as the Wasp went after Moonstone to try and stop her, with the Black Knight catching up to lend her a hand. Dane Whitman had just been beginning in the role, and there were quite a few unexpected things he found out regarding his trusty sword that certainly amazed him. And Namor, happily, managed to overcome the procedures being conducted in an attempt to bring about his downfall on land, and to stop the menace against Atlantic as well.

This was a good issue also due to the excellent inclusion of the battle with the legal system that Namor had to face at the time, and Roger Stern’s work here, and also Mark Gruenwald’s editing and John Buscema’s penciling, was quite a joy. Man, this is a good book!

Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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