Let’s talk about the Avengers, shall we?
The Avengers are a loose confederation of heroes brought together to avenge the wrong-doings of threats that require the combined strength of gods, monsters and men alike. Some of Marvel’s finest tales have come from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and I’m proud to have quite a collection of them. I won’t say they’ve all been great (oh, The Crossing!), but it’s certainly a staple of the Marvelite diet.
So where are they? What are they doing? What’s new in Avengers Town these days? secret Invasion says they’re all in the Savage Land (sans Ms. Marvel and whatever alter-continuity that BND-Spidey lives in… oh, Wolverine too… and Iron Man… wait, let’s stop while we’re ahead.). Mighty and New Avengers have been sort of ‘mid-season clip show’-ing through their storylines, pointing out the secret Skrull in the background and showing just how far down the rabbit hole this Invasion really goes. Ultimates 3, well… let’s face it, Loeb’s been writing the way 5th graders play with action figures and the story so far really hasn’t been ‘plot heavy’ to put it lightly. So are there any Avengers stories going on right now?
Good News, everyone! Yes, there are and we have satellite titles Avengers: the Initiative and Younger Avengers Presents: Hawkeye to thank for it (thank you!). Yeah, I know, these issues are a few weeks late, but go see if you can’t find your copies and read along with us as we try and nail down what makes an ‘Earth’s Mightiest Comic’.
For those of you who have been following Avengers; the Initiative, you’ve been treated to an oddball assortment of characters and stories that have almost a loose connection to current continuity. They had the best tie-in to World War Hulk, one of the most interesting looks at the whole Initiative program (in fact, debatably the only book that takes a look at the Initiative program), all the while keeping up their own interesting secrets and storyline. It all fits in and I’m always guaranteed some new facet of the current Marvel Universe by this book. It’s something I miss from the Avengers titles, a sense of where we’re at and how the ol’MU is set just by looking in on this little band of heroes. It’s why our old school Avengers could offer membership to anyone and everyone, hosting all comers to the Big Show. Reading the Avengers should be a snapshot of the larger picture with heroes coming and going through their lives and through the Avengers Mansion to make sure they can smack around the ocassional cosmic threat or nefarious plot. Avengers: the Initiative does this with great skill and this issue is no exception with a peek into the mind of Skrull-Pym.
Retracing just some of his steps, Slott brings us all new material with the inner dialogue of Skrull-Pym berating the dimwitted and gullible humans around him who fall for every new security measure they entrap themselves with. We outstep our own morality to keep ourselves safe and as Benjamin Franklin once said, “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” For all our new security, this allows Skrull-Pym to put a Skrull in every state. Muhahaha.
Meanwhile, the 3D Man passes on his name and glasses to former Avenger, Delroy Garrett (aka Triathlon), who arrives as a new team leader in Hawaii. And yes, as either a planned or unplanned nod to They Live, his specs detect Skrulls, just as the original 3D Man did back in the day. A fight breaks out as the glasses do their detecting thing, of course, and 3D Man is teleported to Camp Hammond ot warn everyone… including Crusader.
Now, we’ve seen Crusader throughout the book and all the way back in Marvel Team-Up, where this particular Skrull picked up the Cosmic Cube Ring by the sadly deceased Freedom Ring. So yes, a pre-Secret invasion Skrull on Earth has the power of the Cosmic Cube in ring form and has currently entered into the Initiative. See how awesome this book is?
Now, we’ve followed his paranoia of getting caught and fearing other Skrull infiltration within the program. It’s good intrigue, it’s played on a lot of the thrill of the thought bubble as he’s fretted and pondered and BOOM! Here’s the 3D Man to call him on it. In a panic, he forces the ring to hide him, somehow, someway and when 3D goes to tell them what he’s seen… EVERYONE AT CAMP HAMMOND IS A SKRULL!
On one hand, HOLY CRAP! If that’s true, then boy are we hosed! This is huge into the plot of the Invasion and it’s paced with just the right amount of panic, suspicion and surprise to make it interesting within the book and as part of the greater storyline at work. Well done, sirs! My hats off to Messrs. Slott and Gage! On the other hand, it’s a great cliffhanger with no teeth if it’s not true. If the Cosmic Cube ring pulled this little stunt, it can only affect reality within a radius of roughly 15 feet (4.6m) around him, giving him a 30-foot sphere of reality he can alter (thanks, Wikipedia!).
Since everyone’s crowded around 3D Man, it could just be Crusader trying to hide himself, but give them a page or two of movement away from them all and the truth will out.
so this issue had it all, smaller plot, larger story and it reminded me a little of why I like the Avengers, which is exactly what Young Avengers Presents Hawkeye did for me as well. Now, you’d think that the last story about the one Young Avenger who really didn’t get much in the way of a legacy passed down to her to follow (well, as much of the rest of them did) would be kind of a bland little story, something to round out the rest of them (which honestly have had their highs and lows based on the strength of the character and the writer on board). Mr. Fraction, of whom I’ve sung the praises of before, not only adds a little depth to the rich girl who waltzed her way on to the Young Avengers, not only folds in a little influence from the New Avengers, but tops the whole thing off with a nod to one of the finest moments of Avengers history.
Let us begin: Kate Bishop and Eli Bradley are on a date and it’s not going well, when suddenly a ninja attacks.
Let’s read that again; Hawkeye and Patriot are testing the waters of romantic interest when Ronin shows up to test the skills of the girl who took his name. A fight ensues after Eli gets knocked out (yeah, he thinks that’s weird too) and Ronin (OH WHO COULD THAT BE NEW AVENGERS READERS?!?) thinks Kate’s good enough to bring his- I mean, ‘her’ bow to see him at a secret date and time. Her boy trouble is put on hold to hold her chin up high to this mystery man who we all know as Clint Barton. Some archery is shown off as she is encouraged to take the ‘robin hood shot’ something that she thinks cannot be done. With a lesson in taking chances no matter how impossible they seem, Clint makes it perfectly and Kate loses her bow to its original owner. she goes home ot sulk but winds up going out with Speed, the other kid on the team that’s not exactly on the up and up, who after a few drinks and dancing, tells her she should steal the bow back. A bad idea? YES, but what did Clint teach us earlier? She not only gets in and steals the bow, but overhears a little of Clint talking to Luke Cage of what these young Avengers mean to him. How their needed in this day and age.
“The Avengers have always been about tradition, Kate,” he tells her. “–About unity, about family — About legacy. I know, because I got to experience it firsthand. i was one of the first Avengers that people didn’t believe in, doubted, and despised a little.”
The Avengers are about trust. These people, when chips are down will rally to Cap’s cry and Assemble in a heartbeat. Personal differences don’t matter when danger rears its ugly head and in the end, the hero will out. This is the kind of legacy I think Clint’s talking about here, the tradition of a hero rising to the occasion no matter what. While as exciting as Disassembled was, it didn’t do it’s job as even in the wake of their worst moment, Avengers came together once more. You cannot break these people as they are Earth’s Mightiest (says so, right on the label!). And most importantly, they are a family. When a guy busts out of the ice after years and years to a brand new world, he had to make a new family and captain America did. He took in people he himself put faith in, which brings us right back around to trust.
These two books gave me back a sense of what an Avengers comic could be, the strength of character and sense of peril that could truly call on all men to heed the cry to Assemble.