AVENGERS #167-177: The Korvac Saga (1977-1978)

What are they looking at?  Well, it’s a space ship belonging to a little team you might have heard of recently…The Guardians of the Galaxy!

This is also the “real” beginning of the Korvac saga.


That’s Korvac’s background, as narrated by the Guardians.  Technically, the character began lurking in the pages of The Avengers back in #159, but he was barely in it and we didn’t know who he was.  In #167, he’s still an unnamed mystery, but the Guardians’ appearance marks the beginning of what is easily one of the top three Avengers cosmic stories of all time.  It’s well worth getting in trade.

Say what you want about how Jim Shooter treated creators during his run as the boss of Marvel Comics, but personally I think he was responsible for Marvel’s most creatively abundant period: The late 1970s and early 1980s.  Then he left, and a slow slog and slide began–I’m not a fan of the Rob Liefeld era–and the company was literally and creatively bankrupt until Joe Quesada arrived to save them all.

Henry Peter Gyrich–the plaid-wearing special agent of the NSC–first appearend in Avengers #165, but all he does there is show his ID and walk around for three panels looking important.  This is the first time he meets The Avengers.  Fans of this era remember him well as the first pain-in-the-ass superhero cop to grace the cover of an issue (#211, one of the best issues of all time).  He got them to change their lineups, hire black folks (you’ll see that soon), and generally provided a great Colonel Flag to the Avengers’ A-Team.

But we can’t just include ol’ Henry.  #168 is chapter two in the great Korvac Saga, and the action begins to kick into high gear…Including the seeds of the Marvel Civil War:

Think about it: The arguments are the same.  Iron Man is rich and does what he’s told, toes the line, and expects the same.  Cap is a selfless hero who believes that duty and honor should be its own reward.

The late 1970s was a time marked by missed deadlines.  Marv Wolfman (the book’s editor at the time, before he left after a fall-out with Jim Shooter in the 1980s), Sal Buscema and Peter Hunt do a forgettable fill-in issue (#169) that interrupts the classic Korvac Saga.  Skip it.

I don’t usually fall for cover teasers, but this one got me.

I love, love, love the cover to #170.

I had to know why Cap and Iron Man were fighting to save the Bride of Ultron.  I should say, this was one of my first bagged-and-boarded issues I every purchased and at the time (probably around 1980) I knew who Jacosta was, but I hadn’t read the Bride of Ultron yet.

So this issue took me to school….

The great thing about the Korvac saga was all the subplots. As part of the build-up, Avengers members start disappearing all over the place and folks started talking about some big danger coming. Here’s Ms. Marvel arriving on the scene, not yet a full member, to do the Avengers a favor.

I’m not sure why Beast didn’t like her.

Interestingly enough, as I was paging through this issue I noticed this little inset on the Bullpen Bulletins page, of Ms. Marvel in her “new” costume.

Notice her “old” costume looks a lot like Captain Mar-Vell’s costume. And fans of 2012 #1 issues know that Carol Danvers recently dropped the “Ms.” moniker and took up the Captain mantle…Along with the Captain Marvel costume, but with a dash of sash…

Above is a panel from #172. It is technically part of the Korvac saga, but it doesn’t figure into the big story very much.  I’m including it because, even though they left the front door open, this counts as a break-in because Gyrich wasn’t invited in.

Another great subplot: Hercules and Black Widow coming to join up with the team again.  And they’re dating.  These are two of the biggest sluts in Marvel history.  Natasha has banged Avengers like Hawkeye, Daredevil, Hercules, Bucky, and Iron Man.

And Hercules, of course, has traveled the universe screwing all kinds of ladies.  He’s a bigger Lothario than Captain Kirk.  But he’s also been with quite a few Avengers-types: Black Widow, She Hulk, and Tigra.  And Northstar, so he’s a true Greek bisexual.

Who did I miss?

But I digress.  Numbers 173 and 174 are the Korvac issues where the Avengers are, yet again, collected by The Collector.  This may be a little bit of a retread storywise, but it’s the best Collector story of all time…And this was the first Collector story that I personally read.

It’s interesting that the Korvac saga, which is really just The Avengers trying to find a cosmically-powered being and stop him from destroying the universe, is spit up over a year because there are several other stories told while Korvac is ongoing.  Marvel hadn’t really done this kind of thing before, and it seems to have been mostly due to the fact that creators were late getting their pages in.  So Jim Shooter, who prided himself on getting his books out on schedule, figured out how to deliver original material, in-continuity, without sacrificing an ongoing story.

Plus, we learn that Scarlet Witch can’t…

When they get back from being collected, the team figures out that the evil Korvac lurks….In the suburbs.  And they go after him.

And finally, the original Guardians and The Avengers join shafts for the dramatic end to the Korvac series.

Creators: Jim Shooter and George Perez (#167-168, 170-171); Marv Wolfman and Sal Buscema (#169); Shooter and Sal Buscema/Klaus Janson (#172); Shooter (plot), Dave Michelinie (writer), Sal Buscema (layouts), David Hunt (finishes) (#173); Bill Mantlo and Dave Wenzel (#174); Shooter (plot, and script for #177), Dave Michelinie (writer), Dave Wenzel (#175-177).
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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