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West Coast Avengers #31: Review

Apr 1988
Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom

Story Name:

The Friday night frights

Review & Comments

4 stars

West Coast Avengers #31 Review by (May 2, 2017)
In #27's lettercolumn Mark Gruenwald floated the idea of changing this book's name from West Coast Avengers to New Avengers. This issue summarises the completely negative response. 1 of the most frequent arguments is - what do you call the *next* Avengers title? They obviously never foresaw All-New or All-New, All-Different. MG promises not to change to NAv, but in #47 this will become Avengers West Coast.

As far as I know this is the only place that suggests Khonshu has had previous servants who acted as Fist of Khonshu.

Moon Knight and Tigra began a relationship in #27.

Iron Man is in the middle of a storyline in IM#225-232 called Stark Wars (but later collected as Armour Wars I). In #225 he discovered that Justin Hammer had sold stolen Stark armour designs to various villains (and some not-villains), and he set out to disable all that armoury.
In IM#226 the WCA asked him why he was aggressively pursuing certain villains but he asked them to trust him. IM then mistakenly went after hero Stingray, and Tony Stark pretended to fire him. In WCA#29 he felt guilty about keeping secrets from the team. And in IM#227 they questioned him about Stingray and the fake firing, but he again just asked them to trust him. In IM#228 he had the fight with the Captain because he disabled the Guardsmen at the Vault (allowing some prisoners to escape). Now here he again won't discuss things with the WCA, and in IM#229 he will refuse to end his crusade. And after he causes an international incident by accidentally killing Russian hero Titanium Man he will be thrown off the team.
But at least that solves the problem about which of the 7 team members to leave out of the 6-head corner box on the cover.

Arkon débuted in Av#75-76 intending to cause atomic war on Earth to provide energy for his other-dimensional homeworld, but Iron Man provided a power source instead. In Av#84 Enchantress tricked him into fighting the Avengers. He sought an energy source again in Fantastic Four #160-163 where he pitted 3 alternate Earths against each other. In X-Men Annual #3 he got Storm to provide power. And in XM An#5 XM and FF helped him fight off Badoon invaders.
Arkon doesn't say what his 3rd type of bolt does - it's black and even more powerfully explosive.
Arkon will crop up next in Dr Strange (1988) #12-13 where Enchantress uses him against her assigned target DrS during the Acts Of Vengeance event. And he'll be back in our #75 pitting the team against the FF in a war against Thundra.

The modern Phantom Rider is Hamilton Slade possessed by the spirit of his ancestor Lincoln (Ghost Rider #56). He does have ghostly powers but doesn't remember anything about it when the spirit releases him. Presumably he was so-possessed in his previous outings in Hulk #265 and our #8 and #29.
He will continue to harass Mockingbird in various issues of this series until #41 which will reveal that he's also possessed by the 1st PR, Lincoln's brother Carter - and the story will conclude.

Texas Twister will get Victoria Star back with Hawkeye's help in Solo Avengers #18.

The (East Coast) Avengers have had their current lineup consistently since after the WCA An#2/Av An#16 meeting. In Av#286-290 they've been fighting an an array of robot/android villains in the Heavy Metal arc - the Captain aided them in #290 after his fight with Iron Man. Then Thor rejoined them in his #390, also guesting Captain, at the end of a story arc featuring Seth and the Celestials. Thor doesn't appear here but he will be along in their next app in Alpha Flight #61 and their subsequent own issues involving the Council of Cross-Time Kangs, by the end of which *all* the Avengers will have quit.

Everybody except Tigra will be in IM#229 where they sack IM. In his subsequent issue Tony Stark will allow the 'fired' Iron Man to be apparently killed, and then he will 'hire' a 'new' guy in a new red&gold armour. Before he returns to the WCA in #50 he will get shot & paralysed, but then recover.
After IM#229 Hawkeye will embark on his half of the split book Solo Av#1-9. Not so solo because Mockingbird will be in 5 of the stories, and Wonder Man in 2 of those. And then he'll have a tale in Marvel Fanfare #39.
After that it's back to our #32. In the issues that follow Wasp will have an extended visit, and Vision & Scarlet Witch will get dragged into an arc that will bring back Henry Pym's supposedly dead 1st wife. The revelation of Mockingbird's 'crime' will split the team as she, Moon Knight and Tigra go their own way. Dr Pym will leave to look after his wife, but V&SW will join Hawk and WM. Steve Englehart will bring his creation Mantis over from Silver Surfer. But then he'll quit the book and take her to Fantastic Four. Mark Gruenwald, Tom DeFalco and Ralph Macchio will tie up loose ends, including the Phantom Rider story, in #40-41 before John Byrne takes over.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

West Coast Avengers #31 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
The Phantom Rider rides his white horse through the driving rain up Spirit Peak. He presses a secret button on his belt and machinery opens the door of his secret cave. Inside he greets the haggard Texas Twister.

We learn that Twister has been delving into the world of demons since #8 where he discovered that his girlfriend Victoria Star/Shooting Star had been replaced by 1. He's come to his Rangers teammate for help in getting her back. But the Rider has his own agenda.

He claims to be the same Phantom Rider that Mockingbird 'killed' (by not saving him from a fatal fall) in 1876 in #23, after rejecting his love. But now he is truly a ghost and he's back for revenge. He adds his Commanche magic to Twister's ritual chants and together they will summon a demon to do their bidding. But what they get is ... Arkon.

PR thinks the spirit's barbarian garb means he is some Amerindian being. But Arkon says he's come from Polemachus to kill Wonder Man. PR can work with that - he tells Arkon to go after Mockingbird as well. But the other-dimensional ruler ignores him and stalks off - PR and TT's magic may have drawn him to this particular spot, but he came to Earth of his own will.

Another white-garbed figure, Moon Knight, consults his god Khonshu on the subject of the Phantom Rider. But the Egyptian deity knows nothing on the subject - and previous Fists of Khonshu have never encountered him. Marc Spector noted in #29 that Mockingbird had 'death on her mind'. He knows of nothing to cause that since he met her, and wonders if it stems from the encounter she had just then had with PR.

Tigra interrupts his musings and they kiss in the moonlight. But Iron Man interrupts them - he's come to this lonely spot to think things over. Marc taunts him about working for well-known playboy Tony Stark. And Tigra thinks what a shock he'll get when he becomes a full member of the West Coast Avengers and discovers that IM is TS. Angry Shellhead is about to start a fight with the unarmoured Knight when they are interrupted in turn by an arrow from team leader Hawkeye.

Marc and Greer leave to find somewhere more private. The 2 original(ish) Avengers chat. But Tony doesn't want to confide in Clint Barton, and flies off to do more thinking. And he won't be back until #50!

Clint's wife Bobbi/Mockingbird joins him. He may not have been able to get Stark to tell him what's bothering him, but it reminds him that Bobbi wanted to tell him something in #28. But she brushes it off as not important.

Dr Pym calls them in to take a call from the East Coast team (Black Knight, Captain Marvel, Dr Druid, She-Hulk and Sub-Mariner). They join Wonder Man as CM relays news they've received from the Captain (Steve Rogers' new identity) of how he was attacked by Iron Man in the Vault super-villain prison (in IM#228). Clint promises to find Stark and get to the bottom of this.

But before they can act the building is hit by an unnatural lightning bolt. They all, including MK and Tigra, dash out to see Arkon on their patio. Mockingbird wonders what the hero from the movie that Simon Williams (WM) plays the villain in is doing here. But Hawkeye recognises him as the real Arkon, who is angry with Wonder Man because it is forbidden to make images of the Imperion of Polemachus. (Several comics artists are in trouble then.)

Arkon challenges Simon to a duel to the death, but Hawkeye orders the whole team to pile in. However the villain has a nuclear device which he will trigger if they interfere. (But it will be perfectly safe during the fight.) Williams accepts because he's (almost) perfectly confidant of winning. After an exchange of blows Wonder Man grabs Arkon's shield and destroys it.

But just then Mocky sees Phantom Rider ride past. She sneaks off to follow him, and her memories remind us of the plot. During the Lost In Space-Time story (#17-24) the somewhat-crazy 1876 PR Lincoln Slade fell in love with her, kidnapped her and drugged her into forgetting her past and loving him in return. (Behind-the-Comics-Code-scenes the result was what we'd term drug-facilitated date-rape.) When she was freed from his control she pursued him and deliberately let him fall to his death off a cliff. (And later saw him dead and cremated.)

Bobbi had met a Phantom Rider in the present in #8. He was a member of the Rangers who was assumed human, although he claimed to be a ghost - a claim which he repeats now. Mocky doesn't believe him - Lincoln Slade pretended to be a ghost too, but during her time with him she learned of the tricks he used to make it seem like that.

They start to fight on another clifftop, and the Phantom demonstrates his ghostly abilities such as walking off the cliff and standing in midair. MB tries to expose his trickery, but this time it seems to be for real. And PR taunts her with telling her husband what she did - which was against the strict no-killing Avengers code that Clint lives by.

Arkon has a quiver of 3 kinds of 'lightning bolt'. He says the golden bolts open portals like the 1 which brought him to Earth. But the scarlet bolts are explosive, and he hurls 1 at Wondy. Simon tries to talk the Imperion down. He says Arkon caused a media sensation when he appeared on Earth (in Av#75). And Simon's movie was the 4th that have been based on his image.

This only enrages Arkon more and the fight continues. But WM reminds him that he never stays on this world for very long so he's a mystery to them. How were they supposed to know he would be offended by the movies? As both combatants sag bruised and exhausted Simon promises to tell the studios about it.

The Imperion says Wonder Man fought with honour and he will take him at his word. He uses 1 of his golden bolts and is away home.

Meanwhile Phantom Rider has Mockingbird hanging by her fingers over the edge of the cliff, in a reversal of the roles in #23. He makes to stamp on those fingers but then pulls back. He says she hasn't suffered enough yet, and climbs on his horse and rides off.

Bobbi swings her body to and fro and then lets go to land on a stairway that snakes down the cliff face. She doesn't tell the others what happened when they meet up with her.

Al Milgrom
Mike Machlan
Paul Becton
Al Milgrom (Cover Penciler)
Mike Machlan (Cover Inker)


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