AVENGERS #215-216: Molecule Man

UPDATED

I’m starting withe the panel above because it so typifies the late ’70s/early ’80s style, where they’d have panels where everyone got to say something about the same thing.  It was a quick way to establish major power sets or a general sense of the character.  And I thought the panel above was a real cute example of it.

The team takes on the unbelievably powerful Molecule Man, and Tigra gets her Purple Man moment…

Tigra had just barely arrived on the team before she got captured by this very creepy dude and implicitly held as a sex toy. I have a whole slideshow on this site devoted to Avengers getting captured and pinned to walls (mostly), and that happens in this issue: They get stuck in an odd looking toothlike trap by the Molecule Man, which you can see on my old site, here.  This was a fairly profound moment for Tigra who, up to now, really had not ever been written as a mature character.  Her fate, as Owen’s plaything, is truly creepy and dark, and ends up having somewhat lasting implications for the character–.so much so that at the end of this story, she quit the team.

This is about as creepy-perverted as 1980s Marvel Comics got. Much later, in the pages of Alias (by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos), Jessica Jones would be captured by Purple Man and much more implicitly (and repeatedly) raped while under mind control. That was a MAX title. But it was just as disturbing here, even if they couldn’t treat it as deeply or deal with the ramifications as clearly.

Between this and the Hank Pym/Janet Van Dyne story, The Avengers may have been the most progressive and forward-looking comic of 1981.

This story is also important for leveling up Molecule Man…

He shatters Cap’s shield, Thor’s hammer, and Surfer’s board.  Can’t think of many (any?) characters who have been powerful enough to do that.  After he does all that, Iron Man’s secret identity is blown again.

Then he puts them in a death trap.

They escape, of course, and win the day.

BONUS: Editor and writer Ann Nocenti makes a guest appearance!

Creators: Jim Shooter and Alan Weiss
Grade: A

For the complete history of the MU, year by year, go here.
And see my Ratings of Runs on comics here.

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