Or – “The First Avengers Book In Months That Didn’t Leave Me Angry Or Confused…”


Friday night, my pal Jason at Gatekeeper Hobbies (Huntoon & Gage, Topeka! Ask ’em about Matter-Eater Lad and see how many of them look frightened!) had a graduation or a family wake or a beer bust or something, and asked me to cover his shift. While going through a couple of long-boxes and organizing a couple of years worth of books that were meant to be purchased (but obviously were NOT) by the local library, including a ton of Archie, Sonic The Hedgehog, G.I. Joe, as well as a decidedly NON-all ages run by Grant Morrison on Batman, I ran into six months worth of all the Marvel Adventures titles. Seeing old-school fave-rave Ego, The Living Planet on the cover of this issue, and having heard a bit of internet gossip regarding the quality of the story, I snapped it up. And I will tell you, this is the most enjoyable single Avengers issue since the New Avengers Annual a couple of years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently incorrect about a dark and complex story. Far from it, it’s just that Marvel has been in a spiral of dark and complex since MA1.jpgabout 2002, with Morrison’s huge Planet X followed by Avengers Disassembled followed by House of M followed by Decimation followed by Annihilation followed by Civil War followed by The Initiative followed by World War Hulk, the secret Avengers epic and some new take on the extinction of mutants. Somebody at Marvel loves them some labyrinthine plotting, and as much as I love Brian Bendis, he’s been writing the same story for about four years now: everything you know is wrong, all authority is corrupt, and the poor beleaguered heroes never quite get all the information. Granted, it seems to be all an extension of the same arc, character-wise, but it really tends to grate on one’s sensibilities after a while. Iron Man acts like a supervillain, beating other heroes to a pulp, incarcerating and depowering seemingly on a whim, while allowing those who AGREE with him unprecedented latitude (you’d think SHIELD might have nepotism clauses.) This story, done in one, is like a breath of fresh air, with a cast of heroes who get to act like heroes, and a few interesting character bits that play off regular M.U. continuity.

We kick off our festivities with the Avengers (whose roster includes team leader Captain America, Giant Girl, (a.k.a. Janet Van Dyne [!]) The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Storm, and Wolverine) dealing with a series of natural disasters. Iron Man has to handle a tornado single-handedly (though apparently Storm has given him tips to defuse the situation), while Giant-Girl saves innocents from a tidal wave. Storm, for her part, is trying desperately to refocus the weather patterns…


Even the Hulk is used to good effect, his enormous strength harnessed to catch most of the rockslide by ripping up a series of power lines and making a “windbreak” to stop the boulders. Captain America ascertains that the greatest danger has passed, and assembles his team. In an attempt to figure out what’s going on, a calmed-down Bruce Banner wears a very Kirby helmet to check out the source of the ecological problems: a new, planet-sized mass has entered out solar system, and it’s throwing the gravity of all nine planets out of whack. But what troubles Bruce the most is the life signal he’s picking up. “You mean signals,” corrects Wolverine, but Banner, hilariously, replies “No, I’m capable of using plurals when I need to.” Heh. He is literally reading ONE LIFE SIGN on the entire approaching planet. The Fantastic Four’s files have a name for it: Ego.


See, here, that smug “I’m a futurist” crap works, as Iron Man TOTALLY HAS been working on such a craft (it’s actually been ready for a couple of months, he reveals) and we’re off! The team blasts into space, but Wolverine thinks the occasionally excitable Doctor Banner should wear the virtual reality helmet that keeps him calm, as having him Hulk-out would be very bad for the space-ship and that pesky “we need oxygen to breathe” part of their journey. Banner replies that he can’t, as he’s still working feverishly to translate whatever strange signal Ego is sending to Earth….


Do I detect a little jab at the dark and gritty subtext of every regular Marvel Universe title? I believe I might, yes. And, honestly, it’s rightfully given, as we’ve heard every single summer for the last three years that “The Marvel Universe will never be the same again!” and there’s only so many times we can have different permutations of the heroes fight against each other. It’s nice to see them working TOGETHER. The entire world waits in awe, as the greatest menace they’ve ever seen approaches, and only the Avengers can save the day. Banner figures out the proper waveform, and excitedly calls out “Get ready to hear the communication of the largest life form in the known universe!” Nonsense syllables suddenly coalesce into, “…aby. That light in your face? Lemme block that for you.” Iron Man interrupts, asking if he really heard Ego just say “Baby?” Cap suddenly realizes that the mountains and crags of Ego’s surface look like…


…a face! And this scene becomes unbearably hilarious (at least in my head) if you give Ego the voice of Barry White or Isaac Hayes. “Awwww, yeah, we got it goin’ on, don’t we, baby?” Heh. Banner swears that his interpreter is only taking the signal and turning it into the closest human equivalent, and Iron Man says that it’s not funny. “Have I ever made a joke BEFORE?” replies a deadpan Bruce. Good point. Since nobody can quite wrap their minds about the Herb Tarlek planet, none other than Spider-Man is elected to radio back to Earth with an update, but his message “Ego wants to get with Earth, but she ain’t having any” is garbled by static. Tony and Bruce continue to scan, and find a few more interesting things about the Living Loving Planet.


“Creepy older planet” nearly had me snorting Diet Coke out of my nose, but it gets better. Captain America starts to compose a message, but can’t quite find the words to deflect an unwanted come-on, and so hands off to Storm. “Attention: Planetoid Ego! The planet you are hitting on is home to millions of sentient life forms!” But Ego isn’t listening, telling Earth “I got this place in the Crab Nebula, we could get away for a few eons.” The entire team is appalled, most of all Iron Man, who points out that its “waaay too early to play the ‘weekend trip’ card.” HA! Banner suggests that they land on Ego to get his attention, but Storm can’t think of anything short of a nuclear explosion that would get his attention. Wolverine can, grabbing Banner’s eject button and shooting him out into space on a direct course with Ego, triggering his transformation to The Hulk. “Wolverine, that was out of line!” barks Cap, but Wolverine responds with “I saw you grin, America!” “That was a twitch!” replies Cap. Iron Man and Storm exit the ship as well, and start trying to get Ego’s attention with lightning and repulsor bolts, but he’s in full-on playa mode.


Anybody else reminded of the late, lamented “H-Dogg” Herbert Kornfeld? This doesn’t quite beat Zombie Howard the Duck, but it’s absolutely hysterical. “Don’t waste your time on Golden Boy, there…” The Avengers make landfall, and start breaking things, in a desperate attempt to gain Ego’s attention, and the Hulk (who, oddly, gets it in a way the other Avengers don’t) smashes entire mountainsides, bellowing “You hear Hulk, stupid planet? EARTH NOT INTERESTED IN YOU! EARTH JUST WANT TO BE FRIENDS!!!” And I’m officially gone, at this point. This is one of my favorite issues since Agents of Atlas ended, bar none. Suddenly, Ego becomes aware of their efforts as a Iron Man triggers a volcanic eruption. Ever smoooove, Ego apologizes to his new “lady,” saying “I got some kinda indigestion down in my southern hemisphere,” but he suddenly realizes that there are MILLIONS of signals coming off of Earth, and that the planet is literally covered with humans, their settlements and technology. Worst of all, he realizes that these creatures are now on his OWN surface as well. Ego’s disappointment is obvious to the Avengers, who rush back to their ship, as Ego makes his apologies.


“Oooh, yeah, now who is that healthy number six over there flashin’ all that bling? A-hem!” says Ego, refocusing his attentions on Saturn. He really needs Galactus to be his wingman again, the better to fend off Jupiter, who never gets asked out because of her girth and great red spots. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) “Keep going, creep! You don’t deserve a planet like Earth!” shouts Giant-Girl. “Calm down, Janet,” says Tony, always the know-it-all. “So you’re on HIS side?” she accuses. I love this book. The team returns home to a tickertape parade, and Giant-Girl whispers to Captain America “When are we going to tell them that Ego really left because he thought our planet gave him cooties?” Cap replies that this will never happen… It’s an all ages title, so they couldn’t say it, but technically I think she gave him something worse than cooties, something that rhymes with ‘grabs.’

Every Marvel Adventures issue is self-contained, and as such, they accomplish something that’s hard to find these days: a sense of completion at the end of the book. We’ve seen nine issues of the various Avengers books post-Civil War, but none of them have advanced in time more than a few hours (or a couple days in the Initiative.) We know nothing more than we did at the beginning, and Ultron/Elektra/Henry Peter Gyrich are still being all evil up in their various joints. There’s none of the satisfaction that comes when a plan really comes together, because Mr. Bendis has mastered the skill of writing for the trade, and everything is a six-issue arc these days. We occasionally need a one-issue story, to cleanse the palate, as Wayne would say, and a little dose of humor wouldn’t hurt, either. Civil War may have temporarily upped Marvel’s sales, but it really crushed the light-heartedness and fun that has been a part of the Marvel Universe since the very beginning, from Johnny Storm’s practical jokes on Ben Grimm, to Spider-Man’s quips in every fight, to Hawkeye’s archly mocking dialogue, and I, for one, miss it. This was an excellent book, with brilliant writing as always by Jeff Parker, with good-looking art that wasn’t Leinil Yu scratchy nor Frank Cho overly-slick. Plus, it was genuinely funny, and the characters stayed true to themselves without drowning in pathos. That’s something for Marvel to consider, hmm? Maybe you DON’T have to torture everybody to make comics? Certainly part of my rating is based on my sour reaction to the other Avengers books I’ve covered lately, but I can’t see any way to give this issue less than 5 out of 5 stars, and I’m considering adding this title to my pull list…


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.

Previous post

DC Comics Solicitations for August 2007

Next post

The Greatest Batman Film Ever Made! Gets a Sequel


  1. Brent F.
    May 21, 2007 at 2:11 pm — Reply

    I got a Barry White meets Leon Phelps vibe from Ego. Great stuff! It’s a shame the main Marvel books can’t be this fun.


  2. May 21, 2007 at 2:19 pm — Reply

    “Oooh, it’th a laaadeeeee…”

    I miss Leon Phelps sometimes. I also talk like Leon Phelps sometimes for no reason at all.

  3. Maximus Rift
    May 21, 2007 at 4:44 pm — Reply

    While I do enjoy darker angles in stories, you are right. It’s been 3 years since 616 went in a downward spiral and there better be light at the end of the tunnel. I also had been snubbing my nose at Marvel Adv. titles until (oddly enough) Avengers #14 where Giant Girl (I love Janet like this) is unmasked.

    A comic like this is refreshing after looking at the other DC/Marvel titles. I guess dark is the new cool and were staying this was until the next trend comes up. Makes me miss JLU and wish Bruce Timm did something similar with Marvel and Avengers

  4. Brent F.
    May 21, 2007 at 5:46 pm — Reply

    I think the tone of DC is considerably less darker than the bulk of Marvel’s. Even Batman’s toned down the gloomy guss factor.

  5. Haseo
    May 22, 2007 at 12:04 pm — Reply

    Wow, if a story is all it takes to keep the Hulk calm…..

    Why didn’t anyone think of this beforehand?

  6. May 22, 2007 at 12:13 pm — Reply

    Thinking isn’t high on Marvel’s hero priority list right now. Manufacturing conflict, at whatever cost, is.

  7. May 24, 2007 at 5:45 pm — Reply

    Marvel Adventures is the universe where the Avengers didn’t turn on Hulk in Avengers #2, or so I like to think. Instead using their combined cleverness to channel him. Resulting in a less traumatized and full of hate Hulk, and a less hopeless Banner.

    I think #12 is the most purely funny of the series, but they are all enjoyable, especially the Parker issues.

    Marvel Adventures Iron Man #1 was fun as well. Stark as Steve Jobs, rather than Doctor Doom.

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section