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The Reaper and the Robot

Wonder Man is in for a shock when he discovers his “dead” brother, The Grim Reaper, is walking the Earth again. Meanwhile, people in the countryside are becoming robots and the an arch-enemy of the Avengers is behind it.

Avengers West Coast #65-68

Avengers West Coast #65

Wonder Man’s brother Grim Reaper is revived by Nekra, who he kills in the space of a few panels, and begins going around killing a bunch of people and sucking their life force so he can “live” longer.

Elsewhere, Hawkeye is trying to get in some midnight training when he is interrupted by the U.S.Agent. As the two exchange their pretty standard child-like arguments, U.S.Agent totally owns Hawkeye yet again.

He's been a member for 20 issues and has owned Hawkeye like 4 times already.

Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver show up and manage to get the two to break it up but they refuse to shake hands and make up.

Again, that’s it for this issue. A whole two pages. The main story continues with Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch encountering the Grim Reaper who escapes them.

Meanwhile, Hank and Jan’s car break down and they try to get help from a farmhouse where the couple are oddly enough robots. Ultron-13 watches the couple from a monitor. Elsewhere, The Human Torch discovers Toro’s place of death from Namor in disguise as the Mad Thinker.

The next day sees Iron Man and the U.S.Agent trying to prevent a crowd of protesters from being sprayed with malathion from a helicopter spraying fields. The U.S.Agent is annoyed that this is Avengers business and suggests that they should just let the crowd get sprayed rather than waste their time when they could be doing something valuable for the country. Iron Man can’t believe what he’s hearing and questions how anyone, even the U.S. Government, could insist U.S.Agent be an Avenger.

As Iron Man stops the helicopter from spraying and saves it from crashing, the U.S.Agent tries to get the crowd to leave but the crowd get angry and protest that they’re also spraying at night. One protester gets particularly worked up over it and gets a jab to the stomach, courtesy of the Agent.

Yeah, that's what all the great Avengers do. Hit civilians.

Almost immediately afterwards, the Agent begins listening to the crowd’s pleas that the secret night-time sprays are giving them an “odd metallic rash”. The U.S.Agent, seeing first hand this rash, sides with protesters and tries to get the helicopter pilots to talk but is eventually restrained by Iron Man who flies away with the Agent in arms.

After a flight of the Agent complaining about Iron Man and the Avengers not looking into his new found passion – the odd rash and night-time sprays – the two arrive back at the Avengers compound where they’re greeted by Tigra who tells them Hank and Jan are back and are calling a meeting. Tigra flirts with U.S.Agent who once again feels awkward.

Tigra flirts with U.S.Agent.

As the Avengers gather around, U.S.Agent notes the absence of the “has-been” Torch. Hank reveals the robotic heads of the two farmers they encountered previously. U.S.Agent instantly connects this to the rash he saw earlier but is instantly shot down by Hawkeye. U.S.Agent tries to attack Hawkeye but is restrained (no doubt he would’ve owned him again) as Hawkeye calls the U.S.Agent a “poor man’s Captain America”. The Agent replies reminding Hawkeye he was actually Captain America. Which I think is another continuity slip-up by Roy Thomas… doesn’t Walker have a whole cover identity as Jack Daniels?

Wonder Man gets worked up during this and storms off to find his brother instead of looking into the robots. The remaining Avengers break up into groups to check out local farms in the area. Hawkeye, however, instead is following through on some of the U.S.Agent’s suggestion that he earlier dismissed. Tigra and Quicksilver uncover him doing so and Hawkeye reveals he didn’t want to tell the Avengers because The Agent would get the credit for it.

The three enter a sewer which leads to an underground hideout where they are attacked by Ultron-13. It turns out Ultron’s plan is to turn humanity into robots so he can rule over them. While this is happening, he reveals that the three now-captive Avengers are being sprayed with the same spray that will turn them into robots.

Meanwhile, Wonder Man tracks down Grim Reaper and after a battle, and an appearance from Nekra’s angry brother who is quickly killed, the police arrive as Grim Reaper escapes. When they ask Wonder Man if he knew who he was fighting, Wonder Man denies knowledge of the attackers identity.

Avengers West Coast #68

As Hawkeye, Tigra and Wonder Man are changed into robotic slaves to Ultron-13, Grim Reaper shows up and oddly enough teams up with Ultron despite the latter’s plan effectively meaning there would be no more life on Earth for Grim Reaper to drain.

Hank Pym and the Scarlet Witch are later attacked by the robotic Avengers and luckily enough Iron Man, U.S.Agent and The Wasp arrive to help them out. Before attacking the robots, Iron Man points out that despite their differences, U.S.Agent is still an Avenger and he was actually the one who was right about connecting the spraying with the robots.

The team are later joined by Wonder Man and manage to subdue the robot Avengers. U.S.Agent obviously goes for Hawkeye and is shocked that he can’t own him so easily now that Hawkeye is robotic.

If he kept at it I'm sure he would've owned him again.

The team with help from Iron Man’s uni-beam and Scarlet Witch’s hex power discover the robots weakness is infra-red light (Hank had hypothesised they were weak to some form of light before being attacked). With the team recovered, except Hawkeye who still has a robot arm, they are unable to remember their captor, meanwhile, Ultron and Grim Reaper discuss plans to unleash the robotizing gas at a parade.

The team attack Ultron’s base (even though the last issue none of the team remembered who or where they were captured) and U.S.Agent is tricked and almost killed by a robotic little boy.

So... now imagine how poorly Hawkeye would fair against the little boy.

As the team destroy the base after failing to locate Ultron, U.S.Agent comments that he doesn’t like Iron Man giving the team orders. Wonder Man stays behind in hopes of locating his brother. He does. Grim Reaper reveals he has no intention of siding with Ultron-13 since his plan is obviously not beneficial to him.

Grim Reaper makes a deal with Wonder Man to allow him to go free if he helps the Avengers stop Ultron. Wonder Man reluctantly agrees as he and Grim Reaper attack Ultron on a blimp over the parade. While down on the ground the other Avengers battle out-of-control robots in the parade. Eventually, Wonder Man – with the “help” of half-robotic Hawkeye – defeats Ultron and Grim Reaper and eventually passes out falling asleep from exhaustion after the battle. U.S.Agent insists the team let him sleep because he has certainly earned it.

These issues are fine. They’re fun and interesting. Nothing wrong with them. There’s not a great deal to say, except it must surely be a joke in the writer’s room about how easily Hawkeye is always beat by U.S.Agent. I do feel Roy Thomas doesn’t really know what he wants to do with the U.S.Agent character on the team. At times he makes the character almost likeable and then other times make him such an unattractive character. And people talk about U.S.Agent being a jerk, Hawkeye is like the ultra-jerk in this story. The ending issue is lacklustre which I find is often the case with Roy Thomas’ “epic” stories. I haven’t really discussed Paul Ryan’s art yet. I think he can draw really good stuff (see U.S.Agent + Tigra panel above) but sometimes the art is just ruined by the inking (see U.S.Agent getting attacked by child page). Roy Thomas on Avengers West Coast is obviously not my favourite moment in U.S.Agent history but despite Thomas’ inconsistent take on the character there are some good moments with the character in this story.

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