Welcome to the last of a three-part series examining one of Marvel’s strangest crossovers, a story that took 24 years to complete and spans Fantastic Four #19, Doctor Strange #53, and West Coast Avengers #22.
West Coast Avengers #22, Written by Steve Englehart with art by Al Milgrom, was but one chapter of a sprawling epic time-travel tale. The WCA was split up and scattered throughout time, and Hawkeye, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Tigra were in ancient
The Avengers leap into action, attempting to rescue the sorcerer, but reinforcements arrive, and as the Avengers battle, a second group of automatons show up to take Strange to the sarcophagus as seen in Doctor Strange #53:
The green robots never appeared in Doctor Strange #53 or Fantastic Four #19, but Englehart had to dish up some action scenes without the Avengers being seen by the Fantastic Four or Doctor Strange. There was a panel in Doctor Strange #53 that shows two shadowy figures approaching Doc just after he fell to the automated defenses. Neither of the shadows has an antenna, as the four gold robots do, so I can only guess that Englehart extrapolated from that a second group of robots that the WCA could battle for a couple of pages.(Panel from Doctor Strange #53)
The West Coast Avengers finish off the robots and catch up with Doctor Strange just after his astral form has escaped his imprisoned body and drifted away. Wonder Man tries to free the imprisoned mage, but to no avail, and team leader Hawkeye decides to move on:
The Avengers enter a monitor room where they see the FF and the Pharaoh on screen. Hawkeye decides to try to help them and travel back to the future in their time machine – the same time machine the Avengers were using before it was damaged! Unfortunately, more robots arrive to slow them further:
All of the delays have cost the Avengers dearly, as they are just crucial seconds behind the Fantastic Four and Rama-Tut:
It's déjà vu all over again, as the FF flee the rumbling, self-destructing Sphinx, with the WCA arriving mere seconds too late:
Finally, as scenes we’ve already seen in Fantastic Four #19 and Doctor Strange #53 play out, the West Coast Avengers are scant moments too late to catch the FF as the time platform lowers:
Of course, the West Coast Avengers eventually make it home, but not after a few more issues and a lot more difficulty. It’s fun to compare these three stories and see how well Stern and Englehart built on to Stan Lee’s original story. Roger Stern had it easier, since he was writing a character who could act without being seen or heard, while Englehart had to come up with delays and distractions to keep the WCA perpetually one step behind, so as to remain unseen.
This concludes Again With the Comics’ look at the Sphinx of Rama-Tut, and all the time-travel nuttiness within. I hope you enjoyed it! What’s nice about a stunt like this is that it can’t be planned or marketed, it’s just pure creativity in action. Just another example of how fun comics can be!