Shock and Awe
writer: Bob Harras
penciller: Steve Epting
inker: Tom Palmer
colorist: Gina Going-Raney
I was sleeping over at my friend Stan’s house. I’d brought some comics over to show him (he was a dabbler) and to read before falling asleep. As I lay there on the floor in my sleeping bag, a single halogen lamp for light, my mind was blown by what I read in Avengers #347, which was the conclusion of a nineteen(!) part storyline called “Operation Galactic Storm.” The previous 18 parts had been underwhelming, with the story sinking under its own weight and having no real coherence. So for the story to end in such an unexpected and thought-provoking way was a real shock.
The issue was done by writer Bob Harras and penciller Steve Epting. As a teen I was no big fan of Steve Epting, nor Tom Palmer’s overwhelming inking style, but looking at their work now I have a great appreciation for its clarity and solidity. And Harras has committed many sins during his time in comics (his overbearing approach as editor of the X-Men titles driving long-term writers away, his role in DCs New 52), but he (along with his co-plotters Mark Gruenwald and Fabian Nicieza) deserves great credit here for delivering an ending to a story that is way better than it deserves to be.
Even as a sophomore in high school I recognized there was true life allegory involved in this story. I had by that time studied World War II, and knew about the debate over the use of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is echoed in the Wonder Man issue. The conflict in Avengers #347 also had World War II themes (namely the punishment of Nazi war criminals after the war had ended), but was also pertinent to the Gulf War and the “Operation Desert Storm” that the event's title plays on. At that time, President George H.W. Bush did not go so far as to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and some might argue that decision came back to haunt us, while others might call it prudent (to use one of Bush's favorite words).
Just as that decision had long-term real-world consequences, in comics, this fundamental disagreement between Captain America and Iron Man would become a recurring theme. It led to the 2006 Civil War miniseries, which of course then became the basis for one of the best MCU movies, 2016's Captain America: Civil War.