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CSBG Archive

Almost Hidden – Assault on Olympus!

Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.

I want you folks to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.

A few people asked me about Roger Stern’s Avengers run, with a couple specifically asking for the “Assault on Olympus” storyline. This is actually being collected in a trade in about a month and a half, but eh, it’s still uncollected now! And at the very least, it’ll give you a reason to buy it when it does get collected next month!

So let’s take a look at “The Olympus War,” from Avengers #281-285, by Roger Stern, John Buscema and Tom Palmer!

The set-up for this storyline is as follows…Hercules was not very happy having to follow the orders of the Wasp as leader of the Avengers. So one night, when Hercules had been plied with liquor by some bad guys, Hercules ignored Wasp’s orders not to try to attack Avengers Mansion (which had been captured by the Masters of Evil). He was then beaten nearly to death. He survived but was trapped in a deep coma. Time moved on (as it tends to do) and Wasp left the Avengers and Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) became the leader and the team’s lineup changed (Wasp and Hercules left and Thor, Doctor Druid and She-Hulk joined).

Well, right before Avengers #281, Hercules vanished from his hospital bed! And when #281 begins, the nurse accuses Thor of kidnapping him. Thor denies it and realizes who was ACTUALLY behind it. Like Hercules, Thor was not great at following orders, so he spirited away to take care of things on his own. This left the Avengers to debate the issue…

The fellow enjoying himself at She-Hulk’s expense is Dionysus. Yep, the Greek gods have set their sights on the Avengers and they are PISSED!

After they take down the whole team (Thor is taken down separately) we see what the deal is…

Not good. Not good at all!

In the next issue, the remaining Avengers who were around during Hercules’ tenure on the team, Namor and the Wasp, are sought out. Neptune himself grabs Namor, but Namor gets loose in the River Styx (what a cool idea – Namor in the River Styx!).

the mysterious stranger sets the plot up…

Just when the Avengers escape and think they’ve found a way to rationally discuss stuff, well, this happens…

Here’s an example of how cool things get – the Black Knight ends up wielding Cap’s shield along with his ebony blade!!

By the time this war is over, the Olympians know that they have been in a fight! Hercules wakes up, and that is not necessarily good news for the Avengers (remember, he was beaten nearly to death – expect some brain damage!). All in all, this was a dynamite-paced five-parter by Roger Stern, getting in tons of awesome ideas while being aided brilliantly by one of the top art teams Marvel had at the time, John Buscema on breakdowns and Tom Palmer on finishes.

Sadly, this would be the last full storyline by Roger Stern. He was fired from the book in the middle of the next story over a disagreement with the book’s editor, Mark Gruenwald. It’s really too bad – but at least he had this really awesome send-off!

Be sure to pick this baby up when it goes on sale on the 21st of September! Heck, you can pre-order it now on Amazon!

25 Comments

This is a fun storyline, glad to see it’s finally being collected. Any idea what that disagreement between Stern and Gruenwald was?

Gruenwald wanted The Captain in charge of the team and Captain Marvel both demoted and I believe also significantly scaled back, power-wise. All three things happened during Walt Simonson’s subsequent run on the book.

So basically, you had two writers at loggerheads over a character near and dear to their respective hearts. Gruenwald was writing Cap and obviously Captain Marvel (Stern’s own creation) was a favorite of Stern’s.

Seeing those Tom Palmer inks is an instant time warp back to 1992 for me.

Reading between the lines of the Gruenwald and Stern columns that appeared when the writer changeover was announced, it seems that Stern also didn’t like the idea of Doctor Druid going evil and Monica being essentially useless against his power play and, more generally, being less competent in the field. And indeed, that’s what happens almost immediately in the first post-Stern arc: she’s not being depowered, she’s being portrayed as lacking in basic heroic fortitude.

In any case, it’s really very visible where Stern’s script/plot is being altered in that “Heavy Metal” storyline, which suddenly goes from “Avengers vs. Robots” to Ralph Macchio (and likely Gruenwald) tying up a bunch of loose ends from a Cosmic Cube story by Peter B. Gillis in a recent Cap Annual. Starting in the second part of the story, Monica suddenly gets a lot les spowerful, being taken out by a whiff of nerve gas while the other Avengers have no trouble. And suddenly it’s not just Druid, but half the team plus Namor condescening to her for her “frailty.”

I wasn’t that fond of Stern’s too-perfect heroine, but the way she was written out of the book was at the other extreme. She wasn’t portrayed as making mistakes from inexperience or as not having a handle on all her vast powers, both legitimate ways of making her a bit less of a story breaker. Rather, Monica is suddenly a physical weakling in battle who can’t stand up for herself to any of the male characters, something that made no sense given the character’s background as a former officer who quit the service due to her perception that sexism was keeping her from being promoted. She was a clumsy effort a model minority heroine, yes, but that doesn’t excuse the equally clumsy form of kneecapping that occurred immediately after Stern departed the title.

Just huge solid chunks of awesome in Stern’s Avengers run. This comes right on the tail of the Masters of Evil story, which came soon after the Vision one, etc, etc

sad this was roger last bit on the avengers. but glad its seeing print finaly though never cared for thor wearing that gold helmet.

This story often gets overshadowed by the awesome Masters of Evil story before it, but this one is almost as good in my opinion. I just re-read it a couple years ago and was amazed at how well it stood up and what a great story it is. Glad it’s being collected soon, because anyone that liked Under Siege is pretty much gauranteed to like this.

I think Thor was wearing that helment because of Hela’s curse, wasn’t he? That he would never DIE, but that he would suffer all of his injuries. I think, in the (ugh) Mephisto versus mini, Cap took Thor’s helmet off, and it was strongly implied that he looked utterly horrific without it.

Sigh, this bit isn’t too long before poor, poor Marrina gets transformed and killed off, is it? I get the feeling I’m probably the only one who cares about the “sea pixie,” though :)

Take it and run,

Anyone other than me NOT like Palmer’s inks/finishes. I LOVE me some John Buscema, but I have ,for decades now, thought Palmer inks diminished Big Johns’s work. Always have and always will prefer Klein or Sinnott. That being said, always appreciate the Buscema love.

If only you had included what happened soon after the Black Knight got Cap’s shield. Him vs. Zeus. Ah… overall, just one of the best Black Knight issues.

I can understand the desire to scale back Captain Marvel’s powers. She was fast enough and powerfull enough to take out most enemies before they even knew she was there. But the way she was treated after Stern was fired was absolutely terrible, and an insult to the character as she had been portrayed up until that time.

Killing off Marinna was a pointless waste, as well.

This story made me a comic fan for life.

Avengers #276 was my first comic, at the tail end of the Masters of Evil storyline. There were some done in 1 issues, then this story. I’ve probably re-read it like 15 times an yes it does hold up.

The end of an era! After this we had a year of Walt Simonson, writing the worst arc of his career. It culminated with the giant sized issue 300 in which the new team struggles to survive against the unimaginable foe of… THE NANNY!!!! The Fantastic Four lost Byrne (they wouldn’t even let him stay till 296, the anniversary issue), Thor lost the usually magnificent Simonson (his avengers work seemed to be editorially driven), and Marvel became number 2 behind DC. I’m compressing time somewhat, but everything seemed to go to hell after they fired Jim Shooter (and you should check out his blog here http://www.jimshooter.com/ It’s fantastic!) Stern really hit his stride at Avengers 255, when Buschema and Palmer joined the book. Everything after was gold.

At least the post-Stern treatment of Monica Rambeau explains the gag in Nextwave where Monica has a flashback to the Avengers and is treated in a sexist manner by Cap!

Yep. Those who complain about Jim Shooter ought to check what difference his presence (and absence) actually did for Valiant, Acclaim and Marvel.

This is an amazing book. It’s 5 issues that really feel like 5 issues, it’s a big story, no decompression.

It’s also incredible how quickly they ruined it all when Stern left.

Yep, Monica Rambeau was a bit of a Mary Sue, though not the domineering kind. She was so reasonable that she’s always been a little bland. The only time she ever had a little bit of dramatic intensity was when it was hinted that she and Starfox had a thing for each other. But it never came to anything.

A pity, a interacial relationship with an alien guy that could give people orgasms at a distance could really spice up a character in great need of spicing up.

Just a brilliant story. The fact that Stern could follow up the Masters of Evil arc with something of this calibre simply proves his greatness as a writer.

I’m a huge Stern Avengers fan but this story doesn’t do that much for me……

I nominated Stern Avengers …. Quite a bit of the end of it is now in print: there’s the FF crossover annual is in one of the Byrne FF trades, theres several issues in the Secret Wars 2 HC, then the Kang Time & Again Trade, then Under Siege and then this.

I’d love to see some of the earlier stuff in print especially the Vision takes over the world story and the battle against Terminus.

MARVEL: Avengers Classic/Visionaries: Roger Stern trades?

It reads like a Bronze Age book, fer sure. Every sentence that wasn’t a question ended with an exclamation point, and even some questions had ?! for punctuation. Hahaha. Way too much character exposition. Namor’s was a good example of this. Cap was just so stiff. “Zeus, you must listen!” And 10 + years later, when Busiek and Perez did Avengers, it reverted a bit back to Bronze mode. I liked those Stern/Buscema/Palmer issues as a kid. I liked the revolving cast. Stern started with Starfox. Added BK and Namor, just took them through the paces but it was fun back then, if a little simple. Which is fine. Stinks about Gruenwald’s interference. Not one of his finer moments. He was only human, and we all make mistakes. Though he wasn’t, in my opinion, as good a writer as Stern.

Stern, Buscema, Palmer.

That to me is probably one of the best teams ever on the Avengers.

Big John is missed and Palmer’s inks are def some of the best to ever grace a page. He truly enhances anyone else’s pencils without smothering them.

The isssues are also in the now out of print DVD-ROM 40 Years of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes , which contained every issue of the core Avengers series (including Annuals) up to New Avengers (first series)#12

yes one of my favourites ever! Glad it’s being reprinted.
The lineup here is solid: Cap, Monica, Thor, She-Hulk, Black Knight, Namor, the Wasp and …ummm Druid.
Buscema’s work still looks amazing!

I don’t see it as Big John’s best work. He did layouts/breakdowns/rough pencils, Tom P did the finishes, so it does have a little smothering, if only because John didn’t give it his full treatment. Still powerful stuff, and you know it’s J Buscema under there, but it’s not as pretty as his full pencils or even his own inks would have been. Much of the bounce, the sheer athleticism inherent in his figures is buried a bit here. For that, his Conan stuff is better, I think. But even 75% John Buscema puts the book high up there in quality. She Hulk, hoever has since seen better days. VVut Thor’s throw down is pretty cool. Stern nailed that. Hew characters announce a beat down,or at least a brawl, as good as ol’ Goldilocks. ‘Tis on.

I might give the trade a shot since I’ve only ever read the last issue of this story.

And I read part 3 and 5 of the following Heavy Metal story and enjoyed it quite a lot back then, and always wanted to read the whole thing. Reading about the Stern/Gruenwald conflict and how Monica was turned to crap for no good reason makes me want to read it even more, just to see how it all played out. But I’m guessing it wont get collected. Back issue bins it is!

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