Monday, December 7, 2015


Writing: Walter Simonson | Penciling: Mark Bright | Inking: Mike & Valerie Gustovich
Lettering: Oakley, Heisler, Parker | Coloring: Evelyn Stein
Editing: Mark Gruenwald | Editing-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: The High Evolutionary's Gatherers activate former Avenger Jocasta to gain intelligence on Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but Jocasta gets a distress call out to the Avengers' old telephone line. The Avengers' computer summons all available reservists to respond, and a group of interim Avengers is formed. This team rescues Jocasta and learns of the High Evolutionary's plan, then they head beneath the sea to investigate.

The Avengers find the nations of Lemuria and Atlantis at war, but Captain America convinces them to make peace and turn their energies against the High Evolutionary. As the combined Atlantean/Lemurian force attacks the Evolutionary's submarine, the Avengers sneak aboard and sow mutiny among the Evolutionary's men. This draws the attention of the Evolutionary, who battles the Avengers. As the fight proceeds, the Beast uses the Evolutionary's equipment to evolve Hercules into "more than a god", and Hercules and the Evolutionary destroy each other in final combat.

Jocasta sacrifices herself to blow up the High Evolutionary's submarine, vaporizing his genetic bomb in the process before it can be detonated. The surviving Avengers return to New York.

Continuity Notes: The Avengers either disbanded or disappeared (the story is unclear) in AVENGERS #297. The substitute Avengers consist of: Captain America, the Falcon, the Beast, Hercules, the Hulk, and Yellowjacket.

Hercules recalls the Masters of Evil's siege of Avengers Mansion in AVENGERS 273 - 277.

Beast and Hulk arrive together from the pages of HULK #350.

Jocasta quit the Avengers in issue 211, and was later apparently killed in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #93, however it's revealed here that the High Evolutionary's men found her robotic components and rebuilt her.

A leviathan attacked Atlantis in AVENGERS #293 and the Atlanteans were led to believe the Lemurians sent it. Apparently this coincidence has nothing to do with the High Evolutionary, though he uses the opportunity to blast both warring forces with a sterilization ray.

Captain America recalls that Thor encountered the High Evolutionary in THOR issues 134 - 135.

Speaking of the Thunder God, it would be revealed a few years later, during the Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz THOR run, that the High Evolutionary and Hercules were discorporated into another dimension, and Thor would be involved in returning both of them to life.

Circa 1988: As noted above, the formal Avengers team does not exist at this point in time. The fill-in Avengers are almost all "of the era":
  • Captain America is in his guise as "the Captain" following the United States stripping him of his regular identity.
  • Hercules wears a suit of goofy armor rather than his standard attire depicted on the issue's cover.
  • The Hulk is gray and intelligent.
  • Beast has returned to his blue furry form since we last saw him at the crossover's start in X-FACTOR ANNUAL #3. He seems to retain some degree of his super-strength, though.
  • Yellowjackets is a woman wearing Hank Pym's old costume, who was once a member of the Masters of Evil.
  • Falcon and Jocasta are pretty much exactly the same as always, though!
Also, the Avengers' current headquarters is Hydrobase, a hi-tech island compound off the coast of Manhattan.

Atlantis is currently ruled by the warlord, Attuma.

Yellowjacket declares at one point that she's going to give the High Evolutionary "Excedrin Headache number 356." (Which is actually an ad campaign that dates back to the sixties and probably still exists today, though I mainly remember it from childhood.)

The High Evolutionary's Plot: Per one of the gatherers, we get our best explanation yet for what all this mess has been about: "Today, man's evolutionary progress is blocked by the materialistic society that he has created! So the Master has graciously decided to aid mankind's next great leap forward.

"Beneath the depth of the Pacific Ocean, the technicians have nearly completed the genetic bomb. When Eliminators and Purifiers have finished their tasks... the bomb will erupt... and the entire human race will be ready to receive the sacrament of genetic elevation. A million years of biological progress, compressed into a moment!"

Captain America elaborates: "...the High Evolutionary's plan is to reactivate Krakatoa in order to fire his genetic bomb into the air... where the jet stream will carry its deadly contents around the world, raining down on land and sea alike... a deadly dust that will affect every man, woman and child on Earth."

Furthermore, we learn this issue that the Purifiers and Gatherers were humans recruited by the Evolutionary to his cause under the promise of the genetic purification of the human race. (Yes, Cap compares the Evolutionary to Hitler, don't worry.) However, unknown to these humans, they have been taking orders from the Evolutionary's mutated animals, the New Men, which doesn't sit well with them when they find out.

My Thoughts: Thus ends "The Evolutionary War", from the pen of a good writer and the pencil of a good artist, with a not-so-great story. Though I'm not sure that's entirely the fault of Walt Simonson. His basic premise is fine: the Avengers infiltrate the High Evolutionary's submarine, have a knock-down, drag-out fight with him, and win the day. Seems like the spectacular ending anyone would want from an otherwise uneven crossover.

The problem lies with the story's length: it's fifty-one pages. All the previous stories in this event averaged something like thirty-five or pages, and the remainders of their annuals were dedicated to backup stories specific to those characters and teams. But I guess somebody decided that not even the extra length (compared to a typical comic) of an annual story was enough for this finale, so we get a massively overlong tale which throws in extraneous pieces such as Jocasta and the Atlantean/Lemurian war to fill up space.

(Seriously, what is the point of Jocasta being resurrected on page one when she dies again on the final page??)

Also, while Simonson has a pretty good grasp on these characters' voices, I'm not sure he quite has the Avengers' ethics down -- or he's just ahead of his time here, as these Avengers remind me of something out of a modern-day comic or perhaps an AVENGERS film. It's not that they're corrupt or anything like that; they just don't hold enemy life in as high a regard as I'm used to. In one scene, they concoct a scheme to turn the High Evolutionary's human soldiers against his New Men, and when the soldiers barge into the New Men's cathedral and begin slaughtering them with blaster rifles (it's explicitly stated in dialogue overheard by the Avengers that their goal is to kill all the New Men), the Avengers move along to the next phase of their mission, clapping each other on the back for a job well done.

Later, when Jocasta gives her life to destroy the Evolutionary's submarine, all his men are still on board (this is obliquely verified by Avengers' dialogue which references more than one person aboard the sub rather than just Jocasta). As far as I saw, the Avengers made no effort to evacuate the craft; they simply allowed all hands to perish with it while saving their own skins by flying away in their Quinjet.

So we close out "The Evolutionary War" with a bloated, overlong story starring a group of unusually callous Avengers. But at least the artwork was nice! In particular, M.D. Bright draws a great Captain America and a great Beast.


  1. (Yes, Cap compares the Evolutionary to Hitler, don't worry.)

    If anyone doesn't get punched in mouth on the cover that's just idle chit-chat.

  2. Love this cover. Just old school comic goodness. Almost worth the mess of a story just for that. Almost.

    This is also one of the few instances where I like furry Beast in the yellow/brown X-Factor costume. Not sure why, though.

    Callousness aside, I also really like this mix of Avengers. I wouldn't have minded seeing them in the actual book for awhile, frankly (sans Hercules dumb armor, of course). And something about the conclusion of this story occurring in the annual of the book that had no actual team at the time, causing Simonson to cobble together one just for this issue, makes me smile.

    Oddly enough, this was probably the first chapter of "Evolutionary War" I ever read (and the only, for a long time), and you're right that what's presented here, the overly long intro aside, works as a pretty effective conclusion to the story. The problem, as I'm really only learning now, is that almost nothing in the preceding chapters built up to it. Even after I eventually filled in some of my "Evolutionary War" reading with the X-book annuals and nothing made sense, I just assumed the annuals I hadn't read contained the connective tissue that would tie it all together. Well, as yours reviews have shown, not so much.

    The Avengers either disbanded or disappeared (the story is unclear) in AVENGERS #297.

    It's unclear in this story, or in #297? I seem to recall #297 making it clear that the team disbanded in the wake of Dr. Druid's Nebula-influenced manipulation of the team, with a freaked out She-Hulk walking away, Thor taking a paralyzed Black Knight to Asgard, etc. But maybe I'm giving it too much credit.

    1. I agree with you on the cover, though I find it funny that we get a Sal Buscema cover for a comic drawn by M.D. Bright. Seems like it would've been the other way around. I love Sal, but he's never struck me as the sort of "cover art draw" you'd use for something like this.

      I actually haven't read AVENGERS 297; what I was getting at above is that this particular story doesn't explain what happened to the Avengers. It simply says that they don't currently exist.