Or – “Where Ya Want The Fake Cake Fulla Snake?”

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One of the joys of being a comics geek are the moments where you get to say “I know this story!” or “I remember where this happened!” ‘Earth’s Mightiest’ continues it’s quasi-“Behind The Music” look at Avengers #58 through 61 (so far) and gives us the full Paul Harvey (that’d be… The REST Of The Story) on the decision to allow a previously murderous synthezoid to join up, on the impromptu wedding of Henry Pym and Janet Van Dyne, on the reasons why intelligent men (not to mention the Vision’s artificial computer brain) didn’t recognize Henry with a different mask on. Moreover, it’s a look back to a time when interpersonal problems were considered big enough to carry a title, and when an attack by the Circus of Crime, while not THAT threatening, still meant something bad was happening. Plus, follow-up on Black Panther’s assassin and teaching career, in this, the penultimate issue of AEMH:II (pronounced “Aim High.”)

aemh1.jpgWhat Has Gone Before In The Previous Six: The Vision, former homicidal android, has developed emotions, turned to the side of nobility and sided with those his “father” would have him destroy. The Black Panther has come to America from Wakanda, and unbeknownst to his partners, has taken on the identity of schoolteacher Luke Charles in a rough school in Harlem. Hawkeye the marksman is in the midst of a painful almost-breakup with The Black Widow. Giant-Man has had a psychological break, thanks to a nasty case of PTSD and some inhaled chemicals, shown up claiming to be someone else (who killed Hank Pym) called Yellowjacket. The Wasp has tried to actively save him from himself, and agreed to marry him, even in his unhinged state. Meanwhile, The Super-Adaptoid is running amok, The Circus of Crime has infiltrated the wedding, and SHIELD may be down a man or two…

Princess Python’s giant mutated snake-creature has enwrapped poor Janet Pym, threatening to crush and/or eat her, and the Avengers are powerless to stop it. The other guests have left the wedding, and Hawkeye has been detained in the kitchen. T’Challa and The Vision can’t get to her without threatening her… Yellowjacket wants to react, wants to move, but his mind is being filled with images of a life that he doesn’t claim any more.

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Not just outnumbered, Maynard, but outgunned AND outcrazied (and this is a group that includes a man called “The Clown” without a trace of irony). I can’t believe that Hank wore his Yellowjacket costume OVER his Giant Man costume (unless there was some sort of magical Pym particle switch when he grew or something). To quote Buddy Baker (Animal Man, not the racecar driver), hasn’t he ever heard of hygiene? Hawkeye breaks free, kicking in the door to save the day… about five minutes too late, as the lovebirds are reunited, and the villains in custody. The Black Panther and wedding guest Captain America confer with Nick Fury about the conspicous bodybags he’s hauling away.

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T’Challa obviously realizes what happened (as do readers of last issue), recognizing the work of Wakanda’s mysterious assassin, The Death Tiger. A few days later, “Luke Charles” is busy playing “To Sir, With Love” in Harlem. His put-upon student Delroy, takes more abuse from the local thugs, especially their leader, a schmendrik who goes by the nom de guerre of “The Mack.”

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“Luke” knows that Delroy is nearing the end of his rope, and tries once again to talk to the lad, letting him know that violence is the first refuge of the incompetent. He urges Delroy to contemplate the consequences of any actions he might take, and Delroy looks him straight in the eye, and icily responds “I have.” That’ll freak you out, right there, a fifteen year old calmly considering murder. The Vision arrives as Delroy leaves, indicating that Captain America suspected he might know more than he let on about the dead SHIELDies. T’Challa admits as much, but asks the Vision to back his play, and the synthezoid decides that he’ll keep the secret. Hovering above the city, Nick Fury’s helicarrier is the site of a different kind of secret-keeping, this time about the nature of Hank Pym’s loss of control. Fury blames Jan as much as anyone, but Hank won’t have any of it.

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Awww… That’s sweet. It’s kind of a shame this had to happen to Hank so relatively early in his career. He’s never really recovered from the stigma of being “addled,” both in the minds of other Avengers, and more importantly, in the minds of Avengers writers. Back in Harlem, Mr. Charles has a quick talk with his principal about Delroy, and she reminds him again that teaching is a marathon, not a sprint, and any lessons he may have learned may take time to sink in… or maybe, he’s already lost.

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As Black Panther starts to leave his classroom, the Death Tiger strikes! “You will die anonymous, a lost king,” says the bad kitty, but The Panther has his own ideas. A fight ensues, with The Panther barely holding his turf against an armed and armored foe. He manages to get the Tiger off balance, but Death Tiger doesn’t play fair, aiming for a defenstration…

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Tiger’s barely visible words there are just taunts, implying that the Panther can’t hang with his mad fightin’ skillz, yo! (He doesn’t actually talk like that, speaking better English than I do, but kinda if you pretend that he’s voiced by 50 Cent. Or, alternately, Carrot Top, whichever.) Panther’s only response to the question of whether he’s the Tiger’s equal? “Let’s find out.” He gets sliced a few times more, and is almost winning, when the Tiger trips him and faceplants the young king into the concrete. The Tiger saunters in for the kill, still contemptuous of the Avenger. “You have learned the final lesson, T’Challa…”

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OH MY WORD. Delroy stumbles forward, confused, muttering “He… he was gonna…” I sincerely hope that this young man didn’t just kill someone. We won’t know until next month, though. Back at Avengers Mansion, Hawkeye takes the call from the Panther reporting the attack, and grouses in Hawkeye fashion about the number of albatrosses around the Avengers’ collective neck. The Vision listens silently, then morosely adds the presence of a untrusted android that the public fears and hates screwing up their days as well. As he sullenly passes through the ceiling, Hawkeye remarks “He’s got a dark side, doesn’t he?” Standing on the roof, The Vision is the first to see the danger that’s coming their way…

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Uh oh. The Adaptoid seems to have recovered all his power templates, including (if the hat wings are any indication) the power of Thor. There’s gonna be a fistfight tonight, boys and girls, and I suspect that it won’t be a pretty one, either. I hope that they don’t sweep Delroy’s new-found courage/tragedy under the rug next time. The boy at least came close to killing someone (though it was in defense of another human being). Maybe this will be the step that puts him back on the straight and narrow?

AEMHII maintains their streak of excellence this month, focusing on the turmoil of the Panther and the return to sanity of Giantjacket, but not skimping on the rest of the team members. This is one of the oddest, and yet most compelling Avengers lineups in history, at least for me, combining the science of Giant-Man, the logic of the Vision, the emotional core of The Wasp, the calm presence of The Black Panther, and Hawkeye’s Sagittarian tendencies. I’m sad that it’s ending next issue, but I’m still pleased to report that #7 ranks a solid and impressive four stars out of five.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Sean
    June 3, 2007 at 9:04 am — Reply

    Yeah! I liked it a lot as well. I like the old school art style. This is the first AEMHII I’ve read, sooo I should probably pick up the first 6.

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