Or – “You Don’t Need Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man In Every Issue.”

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reviewbubble.jpgThe Avengers are one of those teams that has had so many different incarnations that there’s no real “iconic” interpretation of the team. People talk about the Big Three, but the original lineup didn’t actually contain all of them. More importantly, the concept of what an Avenger IS has changed many times. The point of the original “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” mini was to reimagine the original five members of the team. The new series takes the same tack with a more difficult crew, the team of Goliath, The Wasp, Hawkeye, The Black Panther and The Vision.

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The story proper starts immediately after the events of Avengers #58, in which The Vision turns on his erstwhile creator, Ultron, and is accepted into the team. This is a turmoil-filled period of Avengers history, and in retrospect, I see several problems with the stories as written that might need a little clarification. The story starts with a prologue, as we see a government transport headed to a SHIELD lockup, with it’s cargo unknown. The truck is blown up, and the mysterious eraser-headed attackers reap their spoils…

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If that featureless mannequin is what I think it is, we may be in for trouble. More on that later. We cut to Avengers mansion, as the four remaining founders plus Captain America are on hand to inaugurate the new lineup. (Apparently, you don’t NEED the Big Three, but we get them anyway. Bonus!) Iron Man goes over the groundrules, including an ominous note about their “understanding” with the National Security Council. The team apparently treads a fine line as regards government interference, especially since they’ve inducted mutant terrorists, a gamma-powered walking natural disaster, and a known criminal in Hawkeye. Yet, somehow, the thought of an artificial life form joining the team is a cause for consternation? Gotta love the double standard, there. In any case, another question that no one has ever thought to ask is answered, as The Black Panther explains how he (a foreign national, and leader of a sovereign nation) got in…

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I also like the fact that Cap and the Panther have their masks off, though I’m not sure at this point in time that they had shared their secret identities… A minor worry, I know, but one that occurs to me. Henry Pym, for his part, seems to be worried, acting standoffish. When his wife The Wasp questions him on it, he admits that he’s worried how Cap, Thor, and Iron Man are going to judge his skills as chairman. The founders meet, and discuss how delicate the situation is going to be, even name-checking the new assistant at NSC (if memory serves, we’re about to meet the occasionally-psychotic Henry Peter Gyrich), and ending with a moment that’s both touching and chilling.

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Touching it shows the sincere, decent man that Hank Pym is… Chilling because of what happens in Avengers #59. The obvious point Joe Casey is making comes clear here. Whatever problems Hank Pym has may be exacerbated by an inferiority complex about his closest friends and teammates. And it’s really understandable, given that his peers are a god, a billionaire industrialist, and the living legend of liberty. Hard company to keep, especially for a humble entomologist.

Remember the faceless silver thing in the wreckage? Here’s where we find out whassupwitdat. Jasper Sitwell (the SHIELD agent assigned to Tony Stark at one point) is being briefed on his newest charge. In the discussion of one android, we bring up another. The thing in the truck IS what I suspected: The Super Adaptoid, an android who absorbs superhuman powers and skills, and who has nearly trashed the entire roster in the past. Jasper points out that one android has disappeared, just as another shows up to join the Avengers, and he, for one, doesn’t think it’s a coincidence.

In New York, the Black Panther addresses the UN on the eve of his being forced to take the mantle of king of Wakanda, and soon after is approached by Agent Murch of the NSC. At the time he was an Avenger, T’Challa took on the identity of “Luke Charles,” a schoolteacher in Harlem. Murch has come to tell him that (with NSC help, of course) they’ve set up this identity for him, including birth certificates, diplomas, and the degrees necessary to be a teacher. Murch tries to talk T’Challa out of his decision, even hinting that better things could be in store if he plays ball with the NSC. The Panther tells them to get stuffed, and my earlier suspicions prove true…

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch– er, mansion, Hawkeye and The Vision discuss where the team has been, and where it’s going. Most delightful is Hawkeye offering the Vision a beer, wherein we have a very “Commander Data” conversation regarding whether Vision eats and drinks. I admit, it’s kind of cool to see these characters acting in a more “human” manner. Most impressive, there’s a long sequence that consists mostly of dialogue (and flashbacks), Hawkeye telling The Vision what the Avengers have done so far, and The Vision quite distinctively explaining his powers. Just as Hawkeye welcomes Vision to the team, Agent Sitwell arrives with a slightly more abrasive form of ‘hello.’

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Now, I’m not a lawyer, but busting in unannounced with guns drawn is NOT the best way to build a rapport with your charges, Jasper. I have to say I’m not appreciative of the SHIELD handling of the situation, I mean, busting in? Flashing badges, playing hardcase? Next thing you know, you’ll want the heroes to register and operate under government control, even forcing Iron Man to work on your side…. theoretically. Thankfully, Jasper may be impulsive, but he’s not the MOST impulsive character Stan Lee ever came up with. No, that award goes to our next contestant, a man who faces armed government agents with nothing but a bow and arrows.

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You gotta love Hawkeye. Hands down, my favorite Avenger, and possessor of one of the better character arcs at Marvel. Y’know, until they killed him & all. There’s a lot going on here, most of it great, and Casey’s characterizations are top-notch. The art is crisp and fun, and if you know your Avengers history, you know about what kinda hell is about to break loose. The nods to continuity (T’Challa’s robes, Agent Murch, The Wasp’s gawdawful costume) are perfect, and I like the behind-the-scenes discussion about transferring the chairmanship to Hank. This is really the first test of Pym’s ability to cope, and without meaning to kill any surprises for the next seven issues, it ain’t gonna go well. The book, however, went VERY well, earning a rare four and a half stars, and high hopes for the rest of the series.

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Discuss this issue in the Major Spoilers Forum.

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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