What makes an Avenger? It has nothing to do really with the heroes themselves, but it has to do with perception. You can say I’m an old man or a traditionalist or just stubborn, but when I think Avengers, I have some very specific heroes in mind, and lately, I’m not getting them in any of the comics out there at the moment calling themselves Avengers.
You could say I’m resistant to change. You could throw the Silver Age example of Cap’s Kooky Quartet at me, and say that I accepted that change without bitching, but that’s not quite true. Captain America and that trio of ex-villains still had to prove themselves in combat against Doctor Doom, Kang, Attuma, and the Masters of Evil, before anyone really believed they were the Avengers.
Here’s the bottom line. When Ultron and an army of Ultroids are incinerating your neighborhood and threatening the human race with extinction, do you want to see the Falcon with Captain America’s shield, a woman dressed like Thor, and Spider-Man, who for years the Daily Bugle has told us was a menace – or do you want Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man? What’s your confidence level?
Meet me after the jump, and we’ll see how the newest heroes to call themselves Avengers, and Champions, are working out, are they worthy?
The current line-up of what is the ‘official’ Avengers team is Thor (Jane Foster), Captain America (Sam Wilson), Spider-Man (Peter Parker), the new Wasp (Nadia Pym), the latest version of the Vision, and Hercules, who has recently forgone ancient weapons for guns for some reason beyond my understanding. The story is a continuation of one from All-New All-Different Avengers, and if there’s anything more annoying than Marvel’s new numbering system every year or so, it’s how stories connect within related titles. You should not need a map to read one story.
As much faith as I have in writer Mark Waid, it’s hard to follow with the odd art style of Mike del Mundo. The story involves the Vision’s completely illogical kidnapping of Kang as a child, resulting in future versions of the Avengers foe attacking this team, and the Vision in particular. Kang’s ultimate vengeance when he discovers he cannot retrieve the location of the baby from the Vision is catastrophic. He goes back in time and murders them as babies. Yeah, I know, chilling. Wonky painted art or not, Waid has me on this one.
These particular heroes may not be who I immediately think of as the Avengers, but this is without a doubt an Avengers adventure. True, it’s a personal battle of self-perseverance and vengeance, rather than one to save the world, but this is an Avengers story, and for the moment these are the Avengers.
First off, this is neither the role-playing game from the 1980s nor the cool Avengers/X-Men hybrid super-team from the 1970s Marvel Comics. Those are the first two things I think of when I hear the word Champions. And I have a lot of love for that latter version, so I’m not so thrilled to have this bunch taking it for their own. For the record, ‘this bunch’ are the junior squad of the latest incarnation of ‘the official Avengers,’ another title I might dispute.
The new Champions are Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, and Nova, who all quite the Avengers during the Civil War II event, then decide to do some ‘avenging’ on their own, but with more of a sense of justice (which I have to say I admire in these kids). They are joined along the way by Amadeus Cho as the Hulk, the Vision’s daughter Viv, and the time-displaced teenaged Cyclops. That last member definitely brings up the trouble with Civil War II and how you shouldn’t judge folks before they actually do something, because apparently Cyclops is a villain now… and I wonder why I don’t read comics any more.
By the third issue, Cyclops is their leader – he does have experience after all – although they still fight over it, and the team is actively seeking out causes to help and people to save, all the while still being kids and dealing with kids stuff. I dig this book, more than I thought I would, mostly thanks to the efforts of Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos (whose every panel makes me miss Impulse), who get it right. They might not be Avengers, or Champions for that matter, but they are definitely heroes, hashtag-heavy heroes, but heroes. Thumbs up.
Occupy Avengers #1-2
Just as Champions is about doing the right thing in a world tainted by Civil War II and essentially gone mad, Occupy Avengers rolls in the same vein, only it’s about “taking back justice,” or so says Marvel’s hype machine. Although it has ‘Avengers’ in the title, this one isn’t really an Avengers book, unless two Avengers-related characters as stars count. It’s really a Hawkeye book, co-starring a rebooted version of old Avengers ally Red Wolf, even though Hawkeye doesn’t seem to recognize him.
David Walker and Carlos Pacheco present an intriguing tale of these two, protecting a New Mexico town and running afoul of the Hydro-Man. The Fireheart brothers help out, and there seems to be a Native American team forming, but really no Avengers squad who could actually stand up to Ultron or the Masters of Evil yet. I don’t get the title though, why not just do a Hawkeye book? All in all good stuff, but not sure where it’s going or what it thinks it is.
The Unworthy Thor #1-2
In the pages of The Unworthy Thor we find another lost and abandoned Avenger, the former god of thunder. In the most unlikely of places – the moon – he finds his battleaxe and trolls to smash, and a creature called The Unseen that stands in place of the murdered Watcher. It tells Thor of another hammer seeking a Thor, and the quest begins. On the hunt for this new hammer, Thor encounters Beta Ray Bill, who offers up his. Here at the end of the first issue by Jason Aaron and Olivier Coipel, I am hooked. Their quest brings them into conflict with the Collector, and soon Thanos. I am hooked, not because this is a Thor I want to read about, but like other comics in these reviews, it’s good storytelling, and I’ll come along for the ride.
Avengers 1.1 #1-2
And with this series, by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson, we finally hit home the point I made in the introduction – what is your confidence in a team of heroes who don’t quite make the grade as who you think the Avengers should be? First off this is a series with the troublesome numbering system – is the second issue 2.1? Doesn’t Marvel have enough trouble with re-numbering their comics?
Regardless, this series takes place back in the day, just as Captain America and new recruits Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch took over for the original Avengers team. There was much controversy when this happened. Hawkeye was a former Iron Man villain, who usually had the then-spy Black Widow in tow, and Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were former members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants under the leadership of Magneto. These were Avengers? Back in the day, these newbies faced a gauntlet against some big-time baddies before they were really taken seriously as the ‘real’ Avengers. Later when Goliath and the Wasp rejoined, they got some slack, but it was rough for a while. This series retroactively fills in some gaps.
I am usually wary of retcons. For instance while I loved reading All-Star Squadron, I hated the concept. Here, we are presented with ‘untold stories’ of the early days of Cap’s Kooky Quartet, and unfortunately, they are not the most pleasant, but they do represent how I feel about the team currently calling themselves the Avengers. As they bicker with each other and haphazardly tackle menaces like the Stranger, the Frightful Four, and even the X-Men, and not always on the winning end, we see them grow into their role slowly. Maybe I shouldn’t be as harsh on the new new line-up… or maybe that was the whole point of this series to begin with. Recommended.