March 1987: Avengers 280 – You may call it job satisfaction, I call it Stockholm Syndrome

Synopsis: Faithful Servant was written by Bob Harris with art by Bob Hall on pencils and Kyle Baker on inks and in the aftermath of the Siege of Avengers Mansion, house-keeper and gentleman’s gentleman extraordinaire Edwin Jarvis is in hospital. His leg is broken, most likely in more than one place and 90% of his vision in one eye is gone. The doctors are also thinking that there’s some brain damage. He’s also suffering post-traumatic flashbacks to his savage beating at the hands of the supervillain Mr Hyde.

His only visitor is his employer of many years Tony Stark. Tony is wracked with guilt over putting Jarvis in that mansion, as Butler to the Avengers. He offers Jarvis a retirement on full pay. Jarvis promises to consider it, then there are less traumatic flashbacks.

 

There’s the first night of the Avengers, when the staff of the Stark Mansion quit, leaving Jarvis to do all of the work. Jarvis, as always, stepped up.

We also see when the team’s roster changed, bringing in Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and the existing members of the team who weren’t Captain America all went their separate ways. After that meeting, Cap and Jarvis had their first of many long evening conversations.

 

There’s also the time when he was attacked by Ultron 5 and brainwashed into betraying the Avengers, which caused months of pain and isolation. This also led to his meeting the Vision. The pair bonded over a common fondness for poetry and sort of formed a literary exchange program.

He even remembers when he quit Stark’s employ when Stark succumbed to his alcoholism. Interspersed with all of this are flashbacks to Mr Hyde, then other moments, highs and lows, romance and acrimony when it falters and all of the moments in between.

He knows he will feel this fear, probably for the rest of his life. He knows the risks of the job and knows that the Avengers, who he has come to care for so much, face risks and their own fears too. He is resolved. He phones Mr Stark, informing him that once his rehabilitation is complete he intends to return to work, after all, they couldn’t get by without him.

Notes:  During one of several re-launches of the Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis added back up pages giving us the oral history of the Avengers, which was given as interviews and talking head quotes from members past and present. It was collected into a book a couple of years later and I have a copy upstairs. But in one of the sections Captain America states that as far as he is concerned, Edwin Jarvis is an Avenger. If that is the case (and surely Captain America would be the authority on that) he’s the longest-serving one. Still, it has taken until 280 to take a proper look at him. Imagine you were working as a butler for some rich drunk and you were doing well in that regard. Then he opens the house you work at to a monster, two shrinking people, a walking tank and a Viking god. But he takes it in his stride and simply tries to help those people instead. He’s the man in the background, helping, cleaning and listening.

But that really isn’t what this story is about, it’s about the aftermath of trauma. After the siege of Avenger’s Mansion, both Hercules and Jarvis were hospitalised. Hercules was taken home to Olympus and Jarvis was left in a hospital bed. He flashes back to the trauma, reliving the beating he took again and again. We see how these larger than life events affect the regular people caught up in them. The doctor talks about his injuries and all Jarvis can see or hear is Mr Hyde. I haven’t taken a beating from any monsters, but I have had moments that I flashback to, painful ones, so this felt real. He thinks about fear and how it will always be with him. As a man with an anxiety disorder, my fear is always with me, all of the time and that is without standing near the Avengers. This whole thing had a relatability to it that I didn’t normally see in this era of Avengers and I was glad to find it here.

The art was also pretty good for what was needed. There was a fuzzy quality to it, an unreality that again fit with how your brain processes the bad things and yet also made the flashbacks more dream-like. Much like the comic for February 1987, this is a comic where not much happened, but I was gripped from start to end. I loved this comic, I was struggling with what to pick, but this was the ideal choice.

Next time: It’s time to go cosmic.

 

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