A story that had everything going for it ends with a deafening whimper.
Writer: Rick Remender, Daniel Acuña
Comic Book: Uncanny Avengers #22
Publication Date: 2014-09
It’s easy to get distracted and not just because we live in an age of Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and Netflix. In the heat of a conflict, it’s easy to focus too much on certain aspects of that conflict and allow important details to fall to the wayside. When bombs are going off and guns are shooting, the little things that don’t involve the immediate impact of shrapnel and bullet wounds naturally become less relevant. In the Marvel Universe, a major villain gaining the power of a god is one of those conflicts that demand a higher level of emphasis. But there is a point where this emphasis ends up negating other pressing conflicts.
That’s not to say that Kang the Conqueror wielding the power of a Celestial isn’t the most pressing conflict of Uncanny Avengers #22. Kang has already revealed that he has had his hand in every aspect of this conflict that began with the Apocalypse Twins and doing a victory dance within the remains of a dead Celestial. However, there are other battles, personal and otherwise, that have helped make Uncanny Avengers the site of some of the most epic struggles in the Marvel Universe that don’t involve Skrulls, Thanos, or a botched spell by the Scarlet Witch. While some of these struggles have been hopelessly convoluted by an overuse of time travel and a blatant rip-off of X-men: Days of Futures Past, this doesn’t make them any less important.
Unfortunately, the importance of these struggles are essentially lost in what was set up to be the final showdown between Kang and the Unity Team. The battle between Kang and Havok is the only part of the struggle that gets any meaningful depth. Everything else involving the battle against Kang’s dimensionally displaced army, the looming Celestial looking to turn Earth into stain on its shoe, and the Apocalypse Twins gets tossed to the wayside like a dress shirt that is worn once to a wedding and never worn again. There were so many battles converging in this conflict, but none of them had anything that wasn’t completely forgettable. Consequently, the whole impact of these battles fell flat, acting as empty calories in what was supposed to be a full-course meal.
This is what makes this final battle so jarring compared to the battles throughout this story. Since the struggle against Kang and the Apocalypse Twins began, every battle and conflict was filled with the depth and detail that made it so compelling. There was a personal and emotional dimension. It wasn’t just a bunch of random characters fighting, trying to fill an explosion quota typical of a Michael Bay movie. There was meaning and depth. Aside from the battle between Havok and Kang, there was little reason to pay attention to the other skirmishes. In the end, they really didn’t make much of a difference. They might as well have been Brett Favre’s backup quarterback.
And while the battle between Havok and Kang had an emotional element with Kang holding Havok’s daughter hostage in the timestream, the emotions never got all that intense. There was plenty of burning hatred on Havok’s part, but there was little else beyond that. It’s not like Kang is a difficult person to hate in the first place. Adding to it makes about as much a difference as him throwing a lit match into a raging bon fire. There is a clear effort made to make Havok’s daughter the driving force the emotional center of this battle. However, the underlying circumstances make this next to impossible.
The problem with using Havok’s desire to save his daughter as the emotional center of this struggle is that she’s the product of a relationship that is too recent. Havok and Wasp as a relationship is younger and less developed than a standard fling at a summer camp. They’re not Reed and Sue Richards. They’re not Cyclops and Jean Grey. Wolverine has had one-night stands that have been subject to greater development than these two. There are little to no fan clubs, Tumblr groups, or fan fiction stories surrounding these two, yet they’re presented as though they are the most iconic couple since Superman and Lois Lane. Convoluted time travel and retcons can account for a lot of poorly constructed concepts, but they can’t give a relationship depth when it has no legacy to build on.
There were still plenty to work with in terms of making this final battle as epic as it was set up to be. But any chance of this battle measuring up to all the various plots that finally converged was lost when the struggle ended abruptly, leaving more conflict than resolution. There was no final gasp or Rocky Balboa style triumph. Kang just up and left. Despite having the power of a Celestial and boasting how he outsmarted everyone, he just shrugged and left when it stopped being easy. It amounted to the most epic battle of the conflict ending with an epic whimper.
Every other major element from this story played little to no role in the resolution, having been lost in the less-than-final showdown between Havok and Kang. The Apocalypse Twins, who at one point had been such an overwhelming foe, are taking out of the picture with just one shot. All those dimensionally displaced characters, both allies and enemies of Kang, disappear as casually as him. Little gets resolved. It’s like the finale of an action movie ending when everyone decides to have a coffee break.
That’s not to say that there weren’t meaningful moments. The concept and themes of this final battle were all present. They just lacked refinement and organization. There were some character moments, but they were painfully few and exceedingly underwhelming. Uncanny Avengers #22 had so much to work with. Too much was overlooked and too little was developed. While it didn’t throw everything away, it didn’t do nearly enough to make for a satisfying conclusion to the conflict.