Avengers 170 was cover dated April 1978 and was on sale in January 1978, sharing the spinner racks with Action Comics #482, Devil Dinosaur #1, Firestorm #2, Godzilla #9, Justice League of America #153 and Machine Man #1.
Though Hell should bar the way was written by Jim Shooter and drawn by George Perez. Although this is considered part of the Korvac saga and is included in the Korvac Saga TPB, Korvac doesn’t actually appear in this issue. The Guardians of the Galaxy do however, if only briefly. The issue opens with Captain America exercising to maintain his level of fitness, pausing only to have a conversation with the Beast who comments on how Cap and the Scarlet Witch take themselves too seriously, while he does not. Before Cap can get into full lecture mode, Iron Man walks in and asks to speak to Cap in private. Beast agrees and walks away toting a 500lb bar bell in one hand. Cap and Iron Man bury the hatchet over recent events, in a scene which at first seem to go anywhere useful.
In another part of the mansion, Vision and Wonderman play chess while Scarlet Witch receives a call from Hawkeye about the recent disappearance of Two Gun Kid. As this call happens former Avenger Quicksilver is in the Inhuman city of Attilan, deep in the Blue area of the Moon. During a conversation with his new wife Crystal, he too vanishes.
Once Scarlet Witch puts the phone down, Yellow Jacket and the Wasp pop by to deliver Jocasta, the bride of Ultron. Jocasta has been inert since issue 162, when she sacrificed herself to stop Ultron. Two delivery men bring Jocasta into the mansion for safekeeping, since Wasp won’t let a robot based on her, be kept in her house.
In a brief interlude and the reason I’m even looking at this issue, in Saugerties New York, a young Vance Astrovik is playing baseball with some friends and is almost knocked over by a truck. A large stranger passing by grabs the back of the truck and brings it to a halt. The young Vance tells the distraught driver that he nearly damaged NASA’s future as he is destined to be an astronaut. The large stranger is revealed to be Charlie-27 of the Guardians of the Galaxy. He meets with the rest of the team, where Starhawk decides they are to remain, awaiting Korvac’s attack on young Vance.
Back at the mansion, the delivery men are surprised as Jocasta awakens and begins to move, she moves to leave the mansion, clearly summoned by Ultron. Encountering the Avengers, Jocasta is confused about how she can be mobile whilst the Wasp still lives, but continues her efforts to escape.
The Vision confronts her and tries his phasing trick, but with the addition of anti-matter pods to her torso, is hurt and collapses to the ground. Unable to move or be touched for over 90 seconds, he requests that everyone else go after her. The Wasp and the Beast try to take her out and are quickly beaten and when Yellowjacket, Wonderman and the Scarlet Witch try to stop her, Iron Man intervenes.
Thor returns, trying also to stop Jocasta, but is stopped by Cap. Jocasta walks away whilst everyone starts arguing, until Iron Man points out that Jocasta is trackable and that he and Cap have planned for her escape, so that they can track her to Ultron.
Notes: Another solid issue for this run, light on Guardians or Korvac, but so very worthwhile a read in itself. Ultron is one of the great Avengers villains and his weird oedipal thing with Yellowjacket and the Wasp added a great level of complexity and pathos to a simple mad scientist and rogue technology villain that Ultron could have so easily been. Jocasta is a fun character who never got the level of exposure she should have, but that also means she wasn’t overused as so many Avengers characters have been. The brief Guardians scene was the only reason I looked at this issue, but it is a great bit of 70’s fun that deserved it’s own entry.
171 had no Korvac or Guardian’s related scenes, so I have skipped it for this blog, but it should be read by anyone who enjoys either the Avengers comic, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon or Avengers Assemble the movie. The sequel to 2012 epic Avengers film is going to be called Avengers: Age of Ultron, which should give you an idea as to this issue’s importance. Next is Avengers 172.