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Avengers Annual #16: Review

Jul 1987
Tom DeFalco, Bob Hall

Story Name:

The Day Death Died!

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers Annual #16 Review by (March 7, 2017)
As usual this Annual is divided into chapters. Chapters 2-6 detail the 5 individual battles. Bob Hall & Tom Palmer are the artists on the top and tail chapters 1&7, but different artists handle the others:- 2 - John Romita Jr & Bill Sienkiewicz. 3 - Keith Pollard & Al Williamson. 4 - Marshall Rogers & Bob Layton. 5 - Butch Guice & Kevin Nowlan. 6 - Ron Frenz & Bob Wiacek.

Grandmaster misstates how Contest Of Champions ended. It said he *won* 3-1 (although an intense scrute of the actual match reveals a 2-2 draw). Death was then obliged to return Collector to life. But she had neglected to mention that it would require an equal life in exchange - GM's own. Or he could sacrifice all the assembled heroes in his place. But GM honourably gave his own life for his 'brother'.
It is possible that in the moment he surrendered he had devised the greater game he could play here.

A previous Legion Of The Unliving was recruited by Kang in Av#131-132 & Giant-Size Av#3, none of them appearing in this later collection.

A problem with dead people in the Marvel Universe is that so many of them turn out not to be. This has happened to so many of the characters (eg Bucky, Green Goblin, Nighthawk) in this LOTU that many including the Marvel Chronology Project believe them all to be duplicates. They make an exception for Hyperion who they say is the evil Squadron Sinister version who was killed in Squadron Supreme #8. But ironically it turns out he already *was* a duplicate of the Supreme version created by Grandmaster for Av#69-70.

This Annual and the Avengers seem to have forgotten about Espirita. In West Coast Avengers Annual #2 the WCA took poison provided by the Collector to enter Death's realm to rescue the East Coasters. But Espirita didn't die. This dangling plot thread will be picked up in Silver Surfer #3.
Surfer will call on the Collector to grill him about the plot, and why Elder Champion attacked him in SS#1. Collector says he did what GM asked because he owed him for CoC, and because GM would return Collector's wife Matani to life. He did, but Matani committed suicide again as she had done before - because she was tired of her long life.
Collector claims to know nothing about Champion's motives, but we readers learn otherwise. And SS finds Espirita trapped on Collector's spaceship, and returns her to Earth.
And then in SS#4 we learn GM's real plan - when Death exiled him, making him immortal, it also made *all* the Elders Of The Universe immortal. And later that he still intends to destroy this universe so that the EOTU can survive into the next 1.
Death will appear next in Solo Av#5/2 to relieve John Kowalski of his War Is Hell role. But then she'll be dragged into the Elders' plans in SS#10.

Thor leaves the Avengers for a long storyline involving Celestials starting in Th#386. (#383-385 were out-of-sequence fill-ins.)
Steve Rogers resigns as Captain America in his #332 and leaves the Avengers too. John Walker takes over as Cap from #333.
Captain Marvel cameos in CA#332 and then joins the rest of the team in the last page of Av#285 where they try to find the missing SR.
Sub-Mariner rejoins the team in #286.
Wasp goes back on vacation. She won't be back in this series until #305. But in the meantime she'll spend time with the WCA starting in their #32.

The WCA will return to their #25. Moon Knight will officially join and Wonder Man will decide to stay. Tigra's not in that issue but she'll be back for #26.
After SS#3 above Espirita will hang around for WCA#25 but then leave. In Av Spotlight #24/2 she learns that her powers are a 'gift' from aliens not God and abandons her Espirita id and returns to being Firebird. She apparently has a reserve Avenger status and will also show up after that in Av#305.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers Annual #16 Synopsis by Rob Johnson

The Avengers (Black Knight, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Dr Druid, She-Hulk and Thor plus the on-leave Wasp) have just fought the West Coast Avengers (Dr Pym, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Tigra and Wonder Man plus thinking-about-joining Moon Knight) in the land of the dead while Silver Surfer sought out Death herself. The 2 sides had been recruited by Elders Of The Universe Collector and Grandmaster, but now it seems it was all a plan by GM to defeat Death.

They now unite against the GM but he easily repels them with the power he has stolen from Death, who is confined in chains of energy. And he explains what really happened:-

He reminds them how Collector was killed by Korvac (Av#174 during the Korvac Saga). And how Grandmaster and Death recruited heroes to battle for them in the Contest Of Champions mini-series - the prize being his 'brother' Collector's life. He claims that at the end of that conflict he devised a greater plan, and deliberately lost the game - letting Death take him.

While dead he studied Death. When he was ready he telepathically contacted Collector, and they concocted the stories that would bring the Avengers here and pit them against each other. It didn't actually matter who won. The true object was to get Death's attention - concerned with the damage being done to her realm. The distraction allowed GM to overcome her.

But that's not the end of the plan. He repeats the accepted origin for Elders Of The Universe, that he is the survivor of 1 of the earliest races in the universe. Now he intends to create a new universe for the Elders to rule. He uses Death's power to create 5 life-bombs which he sends to the furthest corners of the universe. When they explode they will start a chain reaction culminating in a new Big Bang which will destroy this universe and begin a new 1.

But the supreme game player can't resist accepting a challenge from Captain America - in fact he expected it. And he has readied a new Legion Of The Unliving - dead Marvel supercharacters. The Avengers must try to destroy the life-bombs, and the Legion will try to destroy them. GM even sends them all to the appropriate destinations. But he is confidant that he's going to win the game this time - for reasons we will learn later.

Dr Pym, Hawkeye and Thor find themselves in part of Hell facing Executioner, Nighthawk and Swordsman.

Nighthawk swoops on jet-wings towards Henry Pym. Hank enlarges 1 of the miniaturised weapons he carries - a gas grenade launcher which he fires at his foe, hoping it will be enough to overcome the power boost Kyle Richmond gains when not in sunlight. He then produces a shield to deflect Nighthawk's wing lasers back rip through his wings. But the blasts also start to bring the roof down, so Pym whips out a brace to hold it up - allowing Richmond to pierce him with a large stalagmite. The roof collapses, killing them both - but the dead guy didn't care.

Thor faces his old foe Executioner and his mighty axe. But he doesn't want to strike back at him because Skurge died in his place defending a bridge against a demon horde (Th#362). However Thor realises that this shade doesn't have the honour of the Asgardian, so he has no compunction beating him up.

Hawkeye has to dodge blasts from the techno-sword of his old trainer Swordsman. And the sword also chops up any arrows Clint Barton fires off. Until the archer sends an electro-arrow which shocks the enemy unconscious when it makes contact with his metal sword.

There's no time to defuse the bomb so Thor uses Mjolnir to create a vortex surrounding it and himself. When the bomb goes off it only destroys the Thunder God. Hawkeye is the only hero left.

Meanwhile Captain Marvel, Moon Knight, She-Hulk and Tigra are on an Earth-like planet with their life-bomb hovering above a lake. CM turns into her light-form and streaks towards it but she's intercepted by Drax the Destroyer and the original Kree Captain Mar-Vell. Both of them start absorbing her energy. Until She-Hulk throws a tree at them which knocks the dead guys aside. Weakened Monica Rambeau flies away to recover.

Green-hued Drax turns his attention to green She-Hulk while Moon Knight is attacked by the Green Goblin. And Tigra is pulled into the water by Death Adder. Mar-vell chases Monica until she turns and shoots back at him, just as Shulkie sends Drax flying.

But Jennifer Walters turns her back to help Tigra and Drax slams into her from behind, breaking her back. Goblin throws pumpkin bombs at Moonie containing hallucinogenic gas. And then his finger-blaster takes the hero out. Tigra escapes from the lake into a tree. As Adder follows she leaps down and knocks him off a branch. But as he falls his tail gets her with lethal venom.

CM uses her remaining energy to destroy the bomb. Shulk and Tigra die together with the satisfaction that they won. And Drax, Goblin and Mar-Vell join forces to rip her energy form to shreds.

The Silver Surfer materialises alone in space but he soon locates the life-bomb surrounded by a forcefield which repels him. Nearby Michael Korvac is sitting in an armchair on a floating rock. It was he who created the barrier and he boasts of even greater Power Cosmic than Surfie. When SS declines the offer of champagne while they wait for the universe to end he hits him with a cosmic bolt. When that doesn't work he smothers Surfer with rocks until he is the centre of his own planet.

But very soon Surfer blows the planet apart. A fragment knocks Korvac off his seat, and this allows SS time to blast through the forcefield. But Michael leaps on to the Surfboard to stop the final blow. And he causes Surfer's body-shell to dissolve, leaving Norrin Radd exposed to deadly space.

But Norrin is still in control of his board. And Korvac realises too late that they are aimed at the bomb. The collision destroys them all.

Black Knight, Dr Druid, Iron Man and Mockingbird are next, in the ruins of an alien civilisation. They split up to look for their bomb.

Druid is attacked by Dracula. His martial arts are useless as the vampire turns to mist. Then it is a battle of wills. Druid lasts a long time but eventually Dracula controls him - and then snaps his neck.

Mockingbird faces Red Guardian. She uses her currently-favoured tactic of taunting the man while evading his blows until he makes a mistake. And then knocks him out with her battlestaves.

Terrax fires cosmic energy blasts at Iron Man and also uses his power over earth to bombard him with big rocks which damage his armour. But IM absorbs the energy and then sends it all back to his foe. Terrax is defeated but Tony Stark's armour is fused and he falls to the ground.

Black Knight has to fight his mentor the original Arthurian Black Knight Sir Percy of Scandia. They and their magic swords are equally matched and the battle continues unabated.

Mocky joins Stark as he removes his useless armour. Now he uses his scientific smarts to try to defuse the bomb. Dracula attacks them but Bobbi Barton sacrifices herself to give Tony more time. But it's not enough and the bomb goes off. And a 5th of the universe is destroyed.

Captain America, Wasp and Wonder Man seek the last bomb in a snowy waste. They face Baron Blood, Bucky Barnes and Hyperion.

Cap is attacked by his ex-partner Bucky who is angry because Steve Rogers left him to die back in WWII. A biased account of the event, but which strikes Steve's conscience. Cap can't bring himself to do more than just hold off Bucky's blows. Wasp contends with the Nazi vampire Blood. She strikes his oversized and oversensitive bat-ears. Meanwhile the 2 superstrong men pummel each other, until Hyperion sends Simon Williams flying with a mighty punch that shatters ribs and breaks an arm. But Wondy refuses to give up.

Cap has evaded Bucky and switches to old foe Baron Blood. And Wasp isn't held-back from blasting Barnes with her stings. But slowed by the cold the diminutive heroine allows herself to be outmanoeuvred and KO'd with a punch and then crushed to death. Distracted Steve Rogers is about to be bitten by the vampire when Cap flips him over and impales him on a stalagmite. Hyperion grabs Wonder Man and propels them both through the planetoid and into the nearby sun.

As the sun flares up Captain America is left to get past Bucky to the bomb. He overcomes his personal feelings for the sake of the universe and savagely beats his friend. And then smashes the bomb with his shield.

Now Cap and Hawkeye find themselves back with Grandmaster and Death, to learn that they are the only survivors. They have no time to process the loss, especially Clint for his wife Bobbi, because GM announces that was only round 1. He creates 4 more life-bombs for the remaining 4/5 of the universe. And brings his whole Unliving Legion back, swelled with the recently-slain heroes.

Hawkeye's anger explodes at the sight of his dead wife. He fires a stream of arrows but the Elder easily dispels them all. Cap slaps him to bring him to his senses. They need to find a way to beat the villain ...

... and Hawk has an idea. He hands his bow to Cap and produces his 2 remaining arrowshafts. To 1 of them he attaches 1 of his special arrowheads. And he proposes to the supreme game player that they cut to the chase. Forget all the fighting and just reduce the whole thing to a 50/50 game of chance.

Clint shuffles the arrows behind his back and brings them back into sight with their heads hidden in his fists. If the Elder picks the 1 with the modular head attached he wins. GM just can't resist. He chooses ... and gets a headless shaft.

His disappointment makes his concentration slip, and allows Death to slip free of her energy bonds. And she sends him away.

Cap is gratefully relieved that the gamble worked. But Hawkeye admits he cheated, like the carny member he used to be. GM did pick the right arrow, but Clint pulled the head off as the Elder took it. It's there in his hand.

Then Death sends them away too ... back to the baseball stadium from the WCA Annual where they find all the other Avengers returned to life.

Grandmaster is also alive. He's been exiled from Death's realm so now he is truly immortal. He watches as they resume their baseball game. And his anger at the frustration of his plan fades as he gets interested in the game.

Bob Hall
Tom Palmer
Bob Layton (Cover Penciler)
Bob Layton (Cover Inker)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Clint Barton)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

(Jennifer Walters)
Silver Surfer
Silver Surfer

(Norrin Radd)


> Avengers Annual: Book info and issue index

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