Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Few Words About The Avengers

Opinion piece time. First off, welcome back to Randy. Great reviews, and opinions to boot. Good stuff. Now then.

A few words about the Avengers.

Here's the thing: I got into the Avengers when I was a kid, around 1985 when I was 10 years old. Primarily due to Iron Man and Captain America, I thought, "Hey! Here's a couple of my favorite heroes, with a smattering of idosyncratic B-list supporting characters to boot! What's not to like?"

(No, I didn't know what the word 'idiosyncratic' meant when I was 10. You get the picture, tho.)

On a monthly basis, not only did I get Iron Man and Cap, but I got Thor, the Vision, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Wasp, Giant Man, Wonder Man, Captain Marvel, et al. It was fantastic. The idea of the B-Listers always trying to prove their worth to the A-Listers was an interesting dynamic, and to this 10 year old kid, it generated a feeling of "I could be an Avenger, if only Cap would give me a chance!"

Now, I know, hindsight is 20/20 and all, but...damn. The New Avengers just don't have that same feel. I know that because I'm older now that I can more easily see the corporate money machines driving the comics, but dammit, the Avengers were always a superteam that always had just the slightest feeling that...I dunno...they didn't all like each other, but when the time came, they would ASSEMBLE!

Now? Now, it's Brian Michael Bendis' personal playground, using all the heroes (I guess) that he felt never got a fair shake when he was a kid. How else to explain Luke Freaking Cage as an Avenger?

The Avengers were always Marvel's answer to overwhelming cosmic, magical, or Earth-shattering threats. It was grand superhero action on a wide canvas, with enough team shake-ups every six months to make you actually wonder if one of the team members was going to quit or die. Hell, even the West Coast Avengers had the same feel, and if you disagree, then you don't have the issue where Moon Knight burned his membership card, my friend. (Randy does.) (Freakin' Tigra. Bitch.)

Earth's Mightiest Heroes were just that --- the most powerful (geekly speaking) heroes Marvel had to offer. And now it's an ATM for Marvel, of which I am a confessed contributor due to my loyalty to the Avengers name. And that's precisely what Marvel's counting on.

Here's the litmus test: can you picture the New Avengers taking on the likes of the Kree-Skrull War? Hell no. Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, and Spider-Woman would be jelly smeared over the toast of whatever battleship the first Skrull that attacked them came from. The Wrecker? THE WRECKER? We've spent two issues on the Avengers taking down the Wrecker? What's next, a 6-issue arc showing the Avengers finding a way to deal with the Vulture? Please.

And don't get me started on the Sentry, who is at best a gimmick and at worst...well, at worst, he's a Superman analogue that BMB will no doubt attempt to infuse with a backstory worthy of generating sympathy. And fail, because quite frankly the Sentry is a needless, boring pile of shit.

(Note: this is not a sniper shot at BMB. I genuinely like his work on Powers, Fortune and Glory, Daredevil, and Goldfish. He's just out of control as far as the Avengers are concerned, starting with the pile of feces that was Avengers Disassembled.)

And while I have no problems with the idea of a Marvel street-level team, DON'T CALL THEM THE AVENGERS. It's not the same. It's just not.

So, here's the point:

Marvel, Joe Quesada, whoever: make the Avengers grand again. Make them a team worth reading about. Make them Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and make them the superteam to which all Marvel U heroes aspire, just like they were back in the (my?) old days. Make them the ultimate event issue every freaking month, an issue which any Marvel reader will have interest in.

I'm not saying you have to work in Thor or any of the other Avengers you've cast aside because House of M dictated it (kidding! Sort of.). Feel free to introduce new heroes, old heroes, repurpose obscure heroes. (In case you're wondering, I think the new Scorpion, for example, would make a fine Avenger.) Just stay true to the purpose from whence the Avengers were created. I quote:

"And there came a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes were united against a common threat! On that day THE AVENGERS were born - to fight foes that no single hero could withstand."

Please, Marvel.

Bring back the Avengers. Bring back Earth's Mightiest Heroes.


Blogger kelvingreen said...

Okay, as a big Avengers fan myself, I agree, and I disagree...

Yeah, Bendis is driving the title and the characters into the ground. He obviously can't write a team superhero book, as House of M further proves. He wasted two issues on a fight with the Wrecker, but I'm more upset at the pacing than the fact that it's the Wrecker. He's got the Avengers in a supporting role in their own book, with characters like Reed Richards and Emma Frost headlining instead (the other downside of which is that these team-ups with the X-Men and the Four are supposed to be exciting because they're rare, but he's doing them all the time). He doesn't understand it's a team book, so we get a Sentry solo story, followed by a Daredev- sorry, Ronin solo story, followed by a Spider-Woman solo story, by which time the full team will be assembled, around issue #18. That's just ridiculous. Busiek must be laughing.

But to be perfectly honest, I don't mind the line-up. The team has had a long history of lesser-powered characters joining, and Spider-Man and Cage are considerably more powerful than some previous members. It's easy to forget that Spidey's actually one of the more powerful MU heroes, and Cage has received a sort of retconned power boost under Bendis, which I can appreciate. But Wolverine and Spider-Woman need to go, and I'd rather have Hyperion or Gladiator join than to see more issues of Bendis completely misunderstanding the point of the Sentry.

I think the setup of the New Avengers is fine, but the writer is wrong. Take a look at how Straczynski's writing them in ASM, and you'll see a much better portrayal of the same team. I'm not bashing Bendis either, as I've enjoyed a lot of his stuff, but he just can't do this big cast, wide-ranging type of comic. He just doesn't have the mindset for it. He's much more interested in focused, personal stories and his attempt to shoehorn them into a team book are making New Avengers an interminable read.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

KG, food for thought indeed. I guess my problem with the lineup is that it's so obviously Bendis-picked favorites without much rhyme or reason...which is not to say Roy Thomas, Roger Stern, or Kurt Busiek didn't do the same thing, it's just that those gentlemen also made those favorites interesting in ways other than "This person is now an Avenger so the public must want to read about them."

And we agree that Bendis is not the guy for this book. Way too much navel-gazing, not enough ass-kicking.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous jake said...

I resent that the justification for Avengers Disassembled and the New Avengers according to interviews with Bendis and Quesada, was that Marvel didn't have a JLA type book. The question that prompted the current incarnation was "DC puts Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all on one team. Why don't we have Spidey, Wolverine, and Cap all on one team?" The plan was to make the Avengers a super-supergroup with all the biggest stars.

If that's the case, can anyone explain why Sentry is on the team instead of Thor? Or why Spider Woman is an Avenger instead of Storm or Invisible Woman? Why Luke Cage instead of Thing?

Avengers isn't JLA for the same reason Marvel isn't DC and neither should try to be. I get the impression that was the original plan, but Bendis and the powers that be quickly recognized too many of Marvel's biggest stars are already on teams (I mean, I think it's pretty stupid to have Wolverine on X-Men and Avengers, so if they added Thing, Rogue, and Cyclops it would be even more ridiculous) and trying to cram that much starpower into one book was going to focus more on "Hey, look at all the stars we have in this book" than actual storylines.

11:34 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

The problem is Bendis has no experience of team books whatsoever, and Marvel have put him on two at once (House of M the other). He writes them not like a team, but rather like a collection of solo characters, so everyone gets a chance to have some Bendis Dialogue and, oops! another issue's gone by without anything actually happening.

I was looking forward to seeing how Bendis would handle the character interplay, but he's let it take over, and if there's any book which shouldn't be a bunch of talking heads, it's Avengers. They're doing more Avengering in other books than they're doing in their own. The most recent Amazing Spider-Man was a better Avengers issue than anything Bendis has done so far.

Chris, the thing that bothers me about the "Bendis favourites" aspect of the line-up is that there seems to be an agenda behind it. Isn't this almost exactly the same cast as his Secret War team? It's one thing to have a group of favourite characters*, but quite another to shoehorn them in everywhere you can. I'd expect that if he were writing Defenders instead, we'd have the same cast. It's quite clear that Bendis is convinced that these are compelling characters who need to be in a team together. The problem is that he's not showed us why as yet.

*Here's my Avengers team line-up.

2:19 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Oh, and I got into Avengers at roughly the same time, so it was only very recently that I got used to the idea of someone other than Captain Marvel/Photon/Pulsar as the true leader of the team. :)

2:30 PM  
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