PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Comics

Marvel's Avengers #1 Defends Old School Avenging

Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor return to their Avenging roots, but not without doubts.

Avengers #1
Jason Aaron, Ed McGuiness

Marvel Comics

2 May 2018

Other


Superhero comics often go through cycles upheavals. There's an accepted status quo that acts as a baseline, of sorts. Then, every once in a while there will be some upheavals that try to shake up the system and introduce new reforms. Some of those reforms stick. Some fail spectacularly. Most just fade into the background. Eventually, though, that familiar status quo returns to maintain the core appeal of a series.For the Avengers, the traditions established by Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man act as the pillars of Marvel's top-tier heroes. The membership of the team may fluctuate every other week with Wolverine showing up one day while Squirrel Girl shows up another, but the core identity of the Avengers emerges from these three heroes. Every now and then, there's an effort to shake things up by bringing in new characters. No matter who shows up, though, be it a time traveler, a teen prodigy, or a Skrull agent, the Avengers are still built around these three iconic heroes.

In recent years, this core underwent plenty of upheaval with Thor becoming unworthy of Mjolnir, Captain America becoming a Hydra agent, and Tony Stark languishing in a coma. Some of those plots are still controversial and not necessarily for the right reasons. Whatever the controversy, though, it's only ever a matter of time before the Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Thor Odinson regain their roles as the Avengers' trinity of heroes.

Jason Aaron, who was behind some of the upheavals, and Ed McGuiness are now tasked with bringing that core back together and moving them forward in Avengers #1. At a time when the Avengers: Infinity War is topping the box office, the stakes are higher than usual for a new Avengers series. There are still lingering scars from the events of Secret Empire and Civil War II. There are also some extenuating circumstances that bring the Avengers together once more.

Despite these strained particulars, though, the stage is set for the classic core of Avengers to return and Aaron makes good use of it. The events that kept Steve, Tony, and Thor apart aren't ignored. They even acknowledge the sentiment that the world around them is changing, both in terms of world-destroying threats and with respect to the growing diversity among the superhero community. However, even in musing over such changes, this classic trio finds a way to reaffirm that there's still a place for them.

It certainly helps when new threats emerge in the form of dead Celestials falling out of the sky. It's a threat that's not quite as random as it initially seems. This sudden catalyst for such a classic reunion has a basis in the events from Marvel Legacy #1, which introduced the Avengers of 1,000,000 BC. It's a concept that, even within that single issue, hasn't had much impact on anything in the present time to date. Those connections begin to emerge as the Avengers, new and old, begin to assemble.

While it's a refreshing scene, especially to those still recovering from the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the spectacle is somewhat scattered. Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are the driving force of the story, but there's also a supporting cast that's caught up in the same plot. That cast includes Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, and Ghost Rider. It's a potent mix of heavy hitters and a few emerging stars, but there aren't many opportunities for then to contribute.

They're still in a position to assemble, as Avengers do. Their part in the story, though, is somewhat disconnected from the personal drama going on among Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. They don't do much to influence the uncertainties that Tony expresses about the future of the Avengers. Those uncertainties are almost as important as the threat of Celestials falling out of the sky, if only because it keeps the story from becoming another generic excuse to get the Avengers to unite.

(Marvel.com)

Avengers #1 doesn't present itself as a simple reunion. Aaron dedicates just as much time discussing the place of the Avengers' old guard in an era where they're shortcomings and vulnerabilities catch up to them more and more. To some extent, their legacy works against them. New threats learn from old threats, adapting and evolving their attacks. They're now at the point where they can make Thor unworthy, turn Captain America into an agent of Hydra, and render Tony Stark comatose.

None of this is lost on the team. At one point, Tony even expresses doubt that he, Steve, and Thor should be the ones to re-assemble the Avengers. That doubt reflects the sentiment that old heroes need to step aside in order for new ones to emerge. It's a sentiment that has fueled a lot of the controversies surrounding these characters, going all the way back to the events of Original Sin.

While the events of Avengers #1 acknowledge that sentiment, it does little to actually address it. Some of that is due to the unavoidable distraction that comes with Celestials showing up out of nowhere, but it still leaves some questions unanswered. The assorted side-plots that put other Avengers in a position to assemble later on do little to help find those answers. One minute, Tony is pondering some important questions that have real implications for the future of the Avengers. The next, he just jumps back into his old role with his fellow Avengers to confront a new threat.

That threat is still intriguing in its own right, thanks to the tie-in with the 1,000,000 BC story line. It also helps that McGuinness's artwork makes it the kind of cosmic spectacle that warrants having these classic heroes take on their iconic poses once more. There are layers to the story and Aaron does plenty to establish the potential for this latest round of upheaval. It even says something about the extent of recent upheavals when it's just refreshing to see classic heroes reunite and feel relatively confident that it's not due to Skrull agents.

Overall, Avengers #1 does plenty to get the Avengers back on track, but doesn't do much to address why they got off track in the first place. There are important conversations to go along with the major events, both in the present and in the distant past. Most of those discussions remain incomplete, but there's still plenty of opportunities to have those discussions, preferably when there aren't dead Celestials lying in in the middle of major cities.

6 out of 10

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.