The discussion has gone on for decades, has been ‘decided’ by more than a few corporate crossovers, some legal, some not, and it will be argued for decades more – who’d win, the Avengers or the Justice League?
Now the purpose of this article is not to bring up this old who’d win bugaboo and start barfights the world over, honestly. The real reason I bring it up is that by comparing the two teams is the best way to show what makes the Avengers stand head and shoulders above their counterparts at DC Comics, in other words, what really makes the Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
League Vs. Family
The Justice League of America, even at its best, is less a team, and more of a collection of solo superstars. Superman can take care of himself, as can Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and so on. They are professionals, and solo acts for the most part. Even if Superman were to see his friend Batman in trouble, he is more than likely to think, “He can handle it,” than to go to his aid. The only point at which this theory may be thrown out of balance might be with Green Arrow and Black Canary, or Hawkman and Hawkwoman – because of their relationships.
Relationships, on the other hand, are key to the Avengers. As I mentioned last time, they are not just a group of superheroes brought together to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand, they are, in a very real sense, a family. They are friends, they live together, they train together. There are lifelong friendships, relationships, even marriages, and legacies among Earth’s Mightiest.
Unlike the Justice League, there is much more to lose with the Avengers when it comes down to battle. When friends, family, and loved ones are in danger, things get dicey, people play for higher stakes. Take down the Wasp in the midst of combat and Hank Pym, in whatever his identity of the moment, will destroy you. The Avengers protect their own. Nobody wants to be the guy who has taken down the Scarlet Witch and now has to face an enraged Vision plummeting at him. Me, I’d rather step in front of a runaway train or accidentally trip the Hulk. You do not want to be the guy that Thor has to say this to: “We would have words with thee.”
There is much to be said for the fact that the team lives together. Whether it’s the traditional Central Park Mansion, or the Island, the Tower, the Compound, Hydro-Base, or the super cool Infinite Mansion, this has always been the case. The team lives and trains together as a fighting unit. This was first demonstrated during the days of Cap’s Kooky Quartet and continued through the team’s history.
Notably the Justice League doesn’t have a Cannonball Special or even a Plan B, they just attack and hope for the best. How many times have we seen Captain America shout orders and refer to ‘attack formation XYZ’ or somesuch. This is a trained machine. The Avengers don’t play around. The combination of preparation, training, helping each other – it’s all about teamwork, baby, another hallmark of the Avengers.
Whole Lotta Avengers
Let’s talk about the team. The Avengers, at this point in their history, have a membership that consists of almost a hundred heroes, living and dead, former and current, full and honorary. That’s a whole lotta Avengers. All that really means is that the Avengers apparently don’t take membership all that seriously sometimes and hand out ID cards like they were Skittles.
Let’s narrow down the field a bit. There’s a whole lot of honorary Avengers out there. For instance, when the original Guardians of the Galaxy were stranded in the 20th century, they were granted honorary status. In my opinion, not Avengers, no honoraries. All the post-Civil War Avengers Initiative teams, the Young Avengers (sorry folks), Force Works, Avengers Academy, the Fantastic Four, New Warriors, the Great Lakes Avengers, Dark Avengers, any of the 1950s Avengers, any future and/or alternate versions, and any folks recruited in one-time emergency situations – are also not Avengers for my purposes. Sorry, I’m putting my foot down.
Also I would even go so far as to say if you weren’t on the team for more than a year, let’s not count you either. So say goodbye to Darkhawk, Rage, Sandman, Echo, and even some of my faves like Moondragon, Hellcat, and most notably, the Hulk. All out of the running.
The Big Three
We have narrowed the field quite a bit, down from a hundred maybe to two dozen or so. Who’s left? The hardcore Avengers, more or less, the folks who when you hear the name ‘Avengers,’ these are the folks you think of. But who would be my dream team? The true Earth Mightiest Heroes and what do they each bring to the table? Here’s my team.
Just like the Justice League has its trinity, the Avengers have their Big Three. Any Avengers team must have at least one of them, preferably two, and if going up against the big guns like Ultron or Kang, all three. I’m talking about of course Thor, Iron Man and Captain America.
Iron Man is the man behind the team, the genius, the financier, and the tech guy. The Mansion, the quinjets, those are all his toys. Maybe not the greatest leader, but that’s what Captain America is for. He’s the super-soldier, and the inspirational rallying force behind the heroes. He’s trained many of the team, and is their figurehead. Thor, he’s The Big Gun, or to paraphrase Moondragon, the god slumming. Even when the likes of Count Nefaria, Graviton, Ultron, and Kang the Conqueror have defeated the Avengers, when Thor shows up, these baddies tremble.
Next up on the dream team would be the couples – Dr. Henry Pym (in any of his various superhero identities) and the Wasp, and the Vision and the Scarlet Witch. To me, more than the big three, these four are the Avengers. Most of the major storylines of the last forty years, as well as the team’s sense of family come from these four characters. They were the pillars that held the team together and like the big three, rarely has a line-up existed without at least one or two of them.
Each of them has even led the team at one time or another, and all of them alone are powerhouses. The Vision can stand toe to toe with Iron Man or Thor, and Hank Pym’s scientific expertise falls into places where Stark’s don’t. Both the Wasp and the Witch have grown from their damsel in distress Stan Lee origins to formidable Avengers who can stand on their own. Any or all of them are a perfect combination for the team.
I’m not even counting story possibilities. As I mentioned, there are seriously hundreds of Avengers stories propelled by the backstories and actions of these characters. Surely storytelling must be a factor in what makes certain heroes Earth’s Mightiest, right? If so, there is no denying that these four belong in this list.
Rounding Out the Dream Team
The old joke used to be that the Justice Society’s battle cry was “Atom, wait!” because he was always charging the enemy without thinking. My next pick is in that spirit because no one in the Avengers means blind courage more than Hawkeye the Marksman, and yeah, he’s done his share of running madly into battle head first with both Kang and Ultron.
I love old Clint Barton. He’s probably my second favorite Avenger behind Hank Pym. But you have to realize his main super power is not his mad archery skills, it’s sheer audacity. He’s not stupid. He’s not jumping into the fight without thinking, he’s always got something up his sleeve. Think about it, he used to fight Iron Man with a bow and arrows! If that’s not audacity, I don’t know what is.
What he brings to the table besides his skills with weaponry (not just the bow, he was also Ronin, remember), is leadership as he led the West Coast Avengers throughout its history, he was trained by Trick Shot, the Swordsman, and most importantly, Captain America, and he is apparently not afraid of anything, including death by Kree. The Avengers without Hawkeye is a joke as far as I’m concerned.
There you go. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Dr. Henry Pym, the Wasp, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye. When you see these heroes together, you immediately think the Mighty Avengers, and this team also can handle anything thrown at them.
You can add in anyone else you want, other regulars that come immediately to mind would include the Black Panther, She-Hulk, the Beast, Wonder Man, and/or Ms. Marvel, but these characters truly are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.