Thursday, April 12, 2007

Meet Me at the Sphinx Part 3: West Coast Avengers #22

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.

In part one, we covered Fantastic Four #19

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 Egypt, trying to find a way back to the present. At the time, Moon Knight was a member of the WCA as well, and Hawkeye used the connection to obtain a map of the Sphinx from a priest of Khonshu. Hawkeye knew all about Rama-Tut’s time travel device from avengers records, and the Archer hoped to hitch a ride to the future in it. That’s not to say there weren’t surprises in store for the team, as they come across an unconscious Doctor Strange being carried away:

(Click images to enlarge)

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:

After checking in on other subplots, we return to Hawkeye and crew, still finding their way to the Pharaoh’s court:

Eventually, they make it to the court, but by then the Fantastic Four have already broken free, Rama-Tut has fled, and the room is abandoned:

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!


plok said...

Totally agree! Best Marvel crossover ever, thanks for reminding me!

Steve Goble said...



Brian Hughes said...

You're welcome. I've had that nugget of trivia for years, and nothing to do with it, until now.

SanctumSanctorumComix said...

Absolutely loved that cross-time adventure storyline.

As a huge fan of Doctor Strange, I had made it a point to buy an original FF # 19 to go along with Doc # 53, and then when the WCA issues came out, those went into the same "mega-pack", filed together for continuity sake.

Glad to know others love that story as well.

However, There IS ANOTHER tie-in with this storyline.

In previous WCA issues of that time-travel storyline, they travel to 1776 and witness Doctor Strange and Clea hanging out with Benjamin Franklin.

That's a part of Englehart's time-travel "history of magic in the USA" storyline that he was weaving thru his Doctor Strange stories (circa # 17 & 18).

When he left Marvel midway thru that story (leaving it unfinished), who knew that he'd be able to (sorta) tie-in to it years later in his WCA run.

ThanX for sharing this with the web!


Woody! said...

Yeah, I loved this as a kid and was impressed that three different comics, in three different decades, cold be tied together so seemlessly.

Brian Hughes said...

P-TOR- For my purposes, I wouldn't really count it unless the action takes place in and around the Sphinx of Rama Tut, and it should touch on the events of FF#19. You could argue a larger Englehart time travel tapestry, of course. THAT SAID, I've been informed of another series that qualifies. Stay tuned for further updates. The Ben Franklin story was great though, and now that you mention it, I do kind of remember the WCA tie-in. Didn't B.F. "score" with Clea? I seem to remember that, too!

Woody- Glad ya liked it!

kevingarcia said...

Very cool, but don't forget Rise of Apocalypse #3 and 4 which ALSO take place during this storyline AND explains what the explosion was inside the Sphinx after the FF escaped (spoiler: it was Apocalypse).

cease ill said...

Yes, Ben "did" although it's implied in Wolfman's wrap-up it was part of a Strygo-induced hallucination. I haven't held these WCA in my hands in 20 years but I remember them SO fondly! I tied my novel crossover into Strange's occult history tour, deciding Madame Blavatsky was almost Certainly an Englehart stop on the way!