byzantine's The Avengers #48 - The Black Knight Lives Again review

A bit of a let-down

Following a very strong previous issue, this is a bit of a let-down. The Brotherhood subplot continues but nothing of particular significance takes place. Dane Whitman gets a more detailed origin story and inherits the mantle of the Black Knight. But doesn't really get to shine here. So what do we have here?:

- Magneto tries to convert Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to his cause. Only to repeatedly hear them proclaim their loyalty to the Avengers. Magneto is loosing his patience. "The Avengers! How quickly I tire of hearing that word!" He attempt to remind the twins of their "old friendship". But they are quick to point that they were his pawns, not his friends. 

He next threatens them with death. But even Magneto himself is aware those are empty threats. They are too useful to simply dispose. The Toad evidently has no such hesitations. He is attempting to convince Max to kill them and get over it. "Kill them, master, for daring to defy you! Let them pay the supreme penalty for allying themselves with the accursed Homo sapiens!" ... "Kill them both -- now! We need no one, you and I!"

Max seems aware that for all his powers, he can't succeed on his own. Which probably explains his need for a Brotherhood to begin with. On the other hand, Mortimer seems quite bloodthirsty. His famed infatuation with Wanda is absent here. But I have to wonder at that statement of needing no one. He has just experienced a long period of living alone with Mr. Eisenhardt. The result was becoming a punching bag. Why would he like to stay alone with his tormentor? 

- Pietro uses a hidden communication device to alert the Avengers on the situation with Magneto. But forgets to give a clue about their location. Not much of an SOS when people don't know where to find you. Anyway, Edwin Jarvis reluctantly responds to the signal. Jarvis had just completed his tasks for the day and was about to head home. He is surprised to see that no Avenger is actively responding. 

Jarvis is later able to summon (1) Hawkeye from his solo patrol in New York City, (2) Hank Pym and the Wasp from their vacation in Las Vegas. But can't reach Hercules in Olympus. So the active roster of the issue only features three Avengers. 

Good old Jarvis once again helps his Avengers with a situation. This little scene implies that Pietro's distress signal would have been entirely ignored if Jarvis had just declined to respond. Nice to remember the real hero of this book. Edwin would next be seen in #54 (July, 1968). As the Crimson Cowl!

-Another scene is devoted to how hard Clint is taking the recent resignation of Captain America. Which comes off as melodramatic at best. He wonders if Cap was what made the Avengers tick, whether the once mighty Avengers are washed up without him. Concluding with an over-the-top statement: "Can we make it without Cap -- the greatest leader a fighting team ever had?"

A bit later, Hank Pym attempts to take charge as leader of the Avengers. Hawkeye openly questions his authority: "I don't seem to recall Cap leavin' you in charge when he quit us". Since when did Cap have the authority to appoint his own successor? Though he certainly attempted to do so in the previous issue. Cap had noted serving as a placeholder until the original Avengers could take over again. He specifically mentioned Pym as the one currently responsible. 

Rather poorly thought out scenes. Both of them. They are trying to milk the situation with Cap for drama. But the first makes Clint sound like a Cap groupie with a hopeless infatuation for his idol. The other sets the stage for arguments over the leadership position. But it has two main faults. First, Hank is supposed to be one the legendary founders that Hawkeye is supposed to be emulating. What happened to his oath? Second, Janet is also a founder. Why doesn't she pull rank over Clint? Why isn't she even considered as candidate for chairperson?

In any case, the scenes resolve nothing. Hank Pym remains the chairperson from #47 to 57 (October, 1968). With Thor serving in this position in #58. 
- In Las Vegas, Hank and Janet foil the plans of J. B. Desalvio, an inventor using a miniature magnetic device to fix roulette games. Janet quickly deduces what is going on. Hank uses his ants to steal the device. Resulting in Desalvio loosing his money. They then have to respond to Jarvis' call. By switching to insect size and flying to the nearest airport. Janet is frustrated because her clothes are made of unstable molecules. But her expensive fur wrap isn't. She hates to leave it behind. 

A smiling Hank convinces her than she can have fun by shopping for a new one. She resigns herself to it. But has one question: "If Sue Richards has problems like this".

Easily the comedic highlight of the issue. First the decent use of deduction, creative use of ants and nasty surprise for the villain of the piece. Then the downside to size-changing and the amusing banter of the resident couple. 

-On Olympus, Hercules keeps investigating the disappearance of his fellow Gods. He discovers a single building destroyed. The Temple of the Promethean Flame "whose fires must ever burn that the very gods may live!" He quickly figures what happened to the Gods. The Olympians have been cast "into a nameless limbo". But he has to wonder if this work of one of their many  "primeval" enemies. Or if "the immortals themselves" destroyed this temple. In effect committing suicide by their own free will. 

He is left trying to locate an enemy to fight, defeat or destroy. Unable to cope with the alternative of a mass suicide. But only his own voice echoes around.

Thomas plays a bit with concepts of ancient mythologies, such as the flames of Prometheus. Though they were a gidft from an immortal to humanity. Not something needed for the Gods themselves to survive. But this is an early hint that Marvel's Olympians existence is not particularly peaceful. A tale which leads to several battles of these deities. Far more interesting is the notion that even immortals may tire of their existence and seek to end it. . Which is the thought that even Hercules seems to fear. "Who wants to live forever?"

- In the dungeons of Garret Castle, Dane Whitman uses a secret passageway to escape. Leaving Norris alone. His memories reveal his origin. The previous issue had Black Knight/Nathan Garrett fall to the ground, seemingly dead. This issue reveals that Nathan was not dead yet. But had many bones broken and was critically injured. He managed to crawl his way to the nearest phone and seek help. Calling his only living relative: Dr. Dane Whitman of the Willowton Research Center.

Dane takes care of his injured uncle. And listens to his last request: "You must swear to use my researches for good... as I used them for evil!" So, the wish for redemption of a dying man causes Dane research the secrets and scientific achievements of his uncle. Create a new flying steed (Aragorn in his first appearance) and train himself as the new Black Knight. 

A decent ending for one Knight and a good origin for another. Too bad it only covers three pages. But Tuska offers some of his finest work in this issue when depicting the pained face of Garrett and the first flight of Aragorn.

- The issue deals with a pointless battle. The new Black Knight flies all the way to Avengers Mansion, trying to inform them of the fate of their two missing members. But Hawkeye figures this is Nathan Garrett in a new armor attacking. So he starts sending arrows flying at the Kniht. Not even trick arrows. This is the real lethal kind. Forcing Dane to respond in kind. So 6 pages are devoted to a pointless battle, based on a misunderstanding. The fight has its moments but lets face it, no epic stuff here.

The battle ends when Hank is falling from a height. Dane responds in time and manages to rescue him. He is glad than nobody was killed. Starting his words with a "Thank the Lord" (!!!). He certainly sounds Christian here. Hmm... the "Infinity Crusade" saga (1993) evaluated Dane as a deeply religious hero. I wonder if speech patterns like this led to that conclusion. 

- Dane explains himself to the Avengers leads them straight to Garret Castle. But Magneto and the Brotherhood have already left. Hank demands more info from their new ally. Dane reacts badly and flies away in a huff. Leaving the trio of Avengers clueless.

The finale doesn't really make sense. Dane was ready to hunt down Magneto one moment. Then quits everything and flies away. He would next be seen in #54 (July, 1968). There is something more which doesn't make sense. Where the heck is he heading? He is flying away from his own headquarters. Speaking of said headquarters, where is Norriss. He was last seen stuck in the dungeons. The Brotherhood did not take him with them, the Avengers fail tom release him and Dane is flying away. Don't tell me he is left forgotten within the castle walls. 
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