Or – “Interludes With People I Don’t Really Like All That Much…”
There was a time when certain characters belonged to certain franchises, and you wouldn’t SEE The Beast as an Avenger because he was “owned” by X-Men editorial. Those days are mostly gone, and the current lineups of the various Avengers teams include active members of the X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and even the majority of the long-gone (and much lamented, in my mind) Defenders. Most interesting/problematic is the transitioning of Jemas-Quesada era concepts like Marvel Boy and The Hood into main-event status with the Avengers. When your team consists of pretty dang much everyone all at once, it has the potential to do more damage to your franchise than the structure can bear. How does the next big arc of the flagship Avengers title deal with that imbalance?
By adding a couple more guys, of course…
Previously, on The Avengers: After Norman Osborn’s devastating tenure as head of Superhuman Affairs (or whatever the position is actually called), The President gave Commander Steve Rogers domain over the Avengers and the superheroes of the Marvel Universe. Rather than try and make Tony Stark, Henry Pym and Luke Cage co-exist, he wisely gave each of the strongest Avengers leaders their own team to work with. Iron Man’s squad was immediately thrown into battle against Kang The Conqueror and a cadre of future villains, including The Maestro, the Next Avengers, Spider-Girl and an ancient Iron Man himself. The time-travel madness ended with none of it ever having happened, and a stern warning issued to Iron Man about the menace of Ultron, as well as Noh-Varr of the Kree joining the team as The Protector. This issue promises another Marvel heavy-hitter appearing (which isn’t a spoiler at all, since they’ve been touting “Red Hulk Joins The Avengers!” for about three months now, but first, there’s a bit of housekeeping to do.
We open in the Himalayas, with a mysterious man finally finding the foundations of the city of Attilan, long ago torn free from its’ moorings by Black Bolt and relocated to the moon. He kills his mountain guides and digs his way into the under-city to find a lost treasure: The Reality Gem! For those who remember The Illuminati series of a couple years ago, the leader-types of the Marvel Universe arrogantly decided that only they could keep the gems safe, which for Black Bolt seems to have meant sticking it in his cellar and leaving it behind when he moved. Because that’s fun… The man is revealed to be Parker Robbins, The Hood (UGH.) who uses his newly-found power over reality to teleport away in search of more power. I’m really bothered by this plot-thread on a number of levels, not the least of which is that the original miniseries was pretty terrible, and that this turn of events is all-but-ridiculous. The existence of the Illuminati alone takes the Marvel Universe to an ugly place where all the superheroes with any leadership ability at all were transformed into Machiavellian jerks who believe that the ends justify the means, but this is leading us to believe that they’re not only ARROGANT, but rock-stupid, to boot.
Elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, an angry Wonder Man is having trouble controlling his powers of great purpleness, with burst of energy lancing out everywhere and coherence issues (in all senses of the word) abounding. Iron Man and Thor find him on top of a bridge, and Wondy lashes out at them, raging that their Avengers teams only lead to death and destruction and all sorts of mean, nasty stuff. He’s absolutely right, of course, and even points out the incredibly high body count in recent years (pretty much all of which has taken place under the pen of this issue’s writer, I might add) as Iron Man and Thor try to refute his argument. Wonder Man teleports away, leaving the founding members to muse about how much they miss The Wasp, which is admittedly a very touching moment in the middle of vignettes of random intent. The Hood finds the power gem hidden in the Baxter Building, then teleports away to the desert, where he punches out the first thing he sees: The Red Hulk. The shot is so powerful that Reddy seemingly flies across the country and crashes into the middle of an Avengers meet-and-greet as they welcome The Protector into their ranks. “In… finity…” mumbles the monster as we fade to black.
I really want to love the Avengers title, and the lineup of characters is a strong one. But just a decent roster doesn’t make a team book work, and the first arc of this series was such a mish-mash of madness that there was really no making sense of it, and this issue serves as a series of coming attractions the range from the sublime to the just-plain-dumb. The Hood is being foisted on us (again), the Red Hulk has yet to prove his staying power to me as a character, the Illuminati sub-plot has holes you could drive a Quinjet through, and Wonder Man’s heel turn, while interesting, seems arbitrary. I like JR Jr’s art this issue, which may or may not be attributed to Tom Palmer on inks, but the wheels are spinning in empty space for the most part. Avengers #7 is disappointing across the board, and even the good parts aren’t enough to make me happy to spend four bucks on a series of what amount to trailers, leading to 1.5 out of 5 stars overall.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: What effect does having 40 members across 4 titles really have on the Avengers franchise?