Shortly after the speculator bubble burst in the 1990’s and the Ponzi scheme known as comic collecting had been dealt a brutal blow, I was speaking with a friend whose father owned stock in Marvel (the guy was a comic collector since his own childhood– I could show you a shed full of old comics you’d love to spend a few hours in) about the state of the industry. He made a remark that rang true to me: for all the talk about the terrible shape Marvel and DC were in, the books they were putting out at the time were as good as they had ever been. Tony wanted some examples of my “second golden age” of comic collecting, so I’ll add to Matt’s impressive list (ooh– I’d forgotten about Orion. The best non-Kirby Kirby book ever!) with a few weeks of the WBM dwelling in more recent history.
The Busiek/Perez Avengers stands right up there with the Thomas/Buscema or Stern/Buscema days in my mind. This issue is the concluding chapter of the four-part “Live Kree or Die” story that wound it’s way through several Avengers-related titles. The strangest thing about this crossover event is that each issue was a self-contained story! Any chapter can be enjoyed as a complete read without having to chase after other titles you might not normally pick up; take that, Grant Morrison. This issue is also wonderfully compressed, giving us a story that would have been spread over four to six issues and cost up to $18 today. I write as if those things were remarkable; back in 1998, that wasn’t the case. These days were the last gasp of accessible, story-driven all-ages books that set the bar for quality pretty high.
The first part of the book deals with the court-martial of Carol Danvers, the once-and-future Ms. Marvel then known as Warbird. She had developed a problem with alcohol that endangered her fellow Avengers on a couple missions, so the team had to drop everything to stage a drumhead trial to determine her fitness to continue with the group. Writer Kurt Busiek uses the trial setting as a device to supply the reader with all the context needed to catch up on the plot and enjoy the story, something which was once taken for granted in just about any comic.
The trial is interrupted by a signal from the moon; a group of Kree fanatics have assembled a weapon that, when aimed at Earth, will alter the genetic structure of any humans that survive its activation, turning them into genetic duplicates of the Kree and making them susceptible to the mind control of the Intelligence Supreme. The Avengers scramble for the Earth-like atmosphere of the moon’s Blue Area, leaving an embittered Warbird behind. She attempts to fly to the moon under her own power in order to prove her worth to her teammates– and fails spectacularly.