Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "avengers"

Teams of Convenience

Before we leave this whole topic of superhero teams, there's one type of team that's worth mentioning and that is the teams of convenience.

Many of the great superhero teams such as the Justice League and Avengers have had constant turnover particularly in recent years. The teams, particularly in their full forms are not balanced and they're not really "super friends" at least not all of them when you get on teams with dozens of members.

On one level, the comic book Justice League and Avengers are reminiscent of many "teams" thrown together in workplaces though with far more interesting tasks.

On another, they remind us of many organizations of people who join together on occasion for common cause, whether its a volunteer fire department in rural areas or a political group. Great caution is required in these situations as the bonds that tie are weak, and the risk of schism is pronounced. Thus, as both teams have learned, establishing a sense of community can be helpful to long term survival.

While these sort of groups are not ideal, they may have just as much importance as the other two types of teams.
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Published on October 12, 2012 22:30 Tags: avengers, justice-league

Book Review: Essential Avengers Volume 1

The Essential Avengers Vol. 1 The Essential Avengers Vol. 1 by Stan Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Launched in September 1963, the Avengers were Marvel's answer to the Justice League. However, there were some marked differences from the Justice Leagues. For starters, neither of Marvel characters, Spider-man or the Fantastic Four found their way into the Avengers. Instead, the Avengers featured characters who didn't actually have their own comic book but shared their titles with other characters. The first line up included Iron Man from Tales of Suspense; Ant Man, the Wasp, and the Incredible Hulk from Tales to Astonish, and Thor from Journey Into Mystery.

The first line up comes out almost through serendipity as a result of the mechanizations of Thor's brother Loki to frame the Hulk. They decide to form a team, but quickly it becomes clear that the Avengers are no Super Friends. After the 2nd Issue, the Hulk leaves and by the third issue, the Hulk has joined with Namor to fight his former allies.

The Avengers are a team that struggles for cohesiveness with personality conflicts cropping up everywhere. Wasp even suggests that Thor get a crew cut!

However, in Issue 4, the Avemgers changes forever with the re-awakening of Captain America, who subsequently joins the team. The whole feel of the Avengers changes and the next thirteen issues are delightful as a truly great Avengers team goes to war on evil.

In Issue 17, after yet another battle with the Masters of Evil, Iron Man, Giant Man, and Wasp decidesto take leaves of absence while Thor flies off for "The battle of the Gods," and the remaining Avengers choose three new team members in former bad guys Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver with Captain America leading the team.

The last 7 issues leading up to Issue 24, feature an Avenger team where personality conflicts come fast and furious as Quicksilver and Hawkeye have an eye on replacing Cap, and the Avengers' reputation is put at risk thanks to the work of the Enchantress, and finally Cap quits in frustration but comes back when he realizes the Avengers need him.

There is much not to like about the book. Even at its height, the Avengers are not the nicest group in comics. When Ant Man summons the Avengers based on information received from the ants, he's laughed to scorn. When Iron Man misses a meeting of the Avengers, a board of inquiry is convened and he's given a one week suspension by Thor and Ant Man. And when you get into the last seven issues, I had moments where I wanted to smack Hawkeye swarmy arrogant face.

That said, there are two great reasons why this book earns five stars. A secondary reason is the villains. The Masters of Evil are a great team, as led by Baron Zemo, and the Enchantress does pretty well on her own with the aid of Powerman. In addition to that, a visit from the Mandarin and the Swordsman are highlights.

The second and overwhelming reason is Captain America. Captain America has no special powers or even a nifty bow and arrow, but he is the heart of the Avengers, and the true natural born leader. He gets testy at Hawkeye (who wouldn't?) and the contempt of the new male Avengers for him, but the fact is that he's the go-to guy, the role model. He has some moments of moodiness, but there's no one better to have by your side in battle. There's no one who's a better Inspirational leader than Captain America. And that's why the Avengers are able to continue to beat foes even after the massive power loss that Issue 17 represented.

Cap made the Avengers a great team when he joined in Issue 4, and he kept it a great team despite its comparative weakness after Issue 24. Add to that a good Commie-smashing issue and an issue where prayer was referenced repeatedly in a mainstream comic, and this book is a winner.

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Published on February 18, 2013 20:27 Tags: avengers, stan-lee

The Envious Avenger

The character Hawkeye has been a mainstay of the Marvel Universe for nearly 50 years. However, both his entrance and his beginning were quite rocky.

It all began in Tales of Suspense #57 (1964) when Clint Barton was working on the midway at Coney Island billed as the world's greatest archer marksman. In the middle of an exhibition, an emergency rose requiring Tony Stark to change into Iron Man. Everyone was impressed with Iron Man but Barton felt neglected. He thought, "I'm the greatest marksman the world has ever known! And yet they ignore me!! Why couldn't I do all the things Iron Man can do?? All it takes are a lot of mechanical gimmicks...and a colorful costume."

So that's the beginning of his career. However, he quickly got sidetracked when he foiled a robbery but the police mistakenly blamed him. Then he found himself attracted to the Black Widow and fell in with her even though the Black Widow as a sometime Soviet Agent at that point.

However, Iron Man showed he was not one to hold a grudge despite Hawkeye attempting to destroy him three times. He graciously let bygones be bygones and helped Hawkeye get into the Avengers.

At this point, the original team (Iron, Thor, Hulk, and Wasp) all took a powder leaving Captain America in charge of a team with Hawkeye, Scartet Witch, and Quicksilver.

The new team avoided continuity problems with characters in the Avengers title and their own series. In addition, it did seem to challenge some Justice League archetypes with Quicksilver providing speed like the Flash and Hawkeye having the powers of Green Arrow.

However, in one way, Hawkeye was several years ahead of Green Arrow in the sense that it would take another half decade for Green Arrow to become a more annoying character than Hawkeye.

Hawkeye's career began in envy and continued in envy. This time, the target became Captain America. Hawkeye thought, fresh off being a criminal, that he should be leader of the Avengers. While Quicksilver also wanted the position, Hawkeye made an effort at cutting down, annoying, and making life difficult for Captain America as the Avenger's leader, constantly mocking and ridiculing him.

As a reader, Hawkeye was easy to loathe. Even if you didn't know the history of Captain America in World War II or been following his solo adventures in Tales of Suspense, he'd proved himself a great teammate and a natural born leader in Avengers #4-17. Hawkeye couldn't see that. All he saw was that Captain America had something he wanted and Hawkeye despised him for it. His behavior was ugly.

However, in one way, reading Hawkeye's stories can be helpful because most of us have a little of that ugliness inside us. The difference between us and Hawkeye is that he let his ugliness hang out, while many will harbor ill will towards those who achieve more, have different gifts, or are in what we think is a better position that we are. Reading of Hawkeye's behavior in The Essential Avengers Vol. 1 served as a reminder as how ugly the green-eyed monster can be inside of me.
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Published on March 06, 2013 21:15 Tags: avengers, envy, hawkeye

Book Review: Avengers Next: Rebirth

Avengers Next: Rebirth Avengers Next: Rebirth by Tom DeFalco

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After the events of Last Planet Standing, the MC2 (next generation) Avengers were in a bind. Their forces have been depleted by injuries. American Dream was left in charge by Tony Stark designed robot Avenger Mainframe while he goes to Washington. The Avengers mansion is attacked by two former Asgardians who kidnap Kevin Masterson, formerly Thunderstrike and the Avengers, including former Supervillain/Revenger Saberclaw try to find where he is and organize a rescue.

The series had its highlights. The MC2 Universe's superstar, Spider-girl shows up big in Issues 1 and 2. There are some good moments for other characters. In the end, the book just doesn't work. The MC2 Avengers were okay at best originally. Here, the problems are several. The character of American Dream who was always an upbeat and optomistic character is down on herself and very idea of the Avengers throughout much of the first half of the series and then lets up on herself and the team with little justification at the end. Characters introduced such as the daughters of Thor and Loki aren't that interesting and likable. On top of that, the villains' plan while it's supposed to be something epic, is just stupid and unnecessary.

In the end, while there are some good moments, it just can't make up for all the weak or dumb ones in this mediocre at best MC2 title.

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Published on December 12, 2013 22:20 Tags: avengers, mc2

Book Review: What If? Classic Volume 1

What If? Classic, Vol. 1 What If? Classic, Vol. 1 by Roy Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Gold and Silver Ages, DC had imaginary stories. One off adventures that if ever seriously treated as real would fundamentally shake up the DC universe.

Instead imaginary stories had no impact. In his introduction, Author Roy Thomas wants to be clear that What If was no imaginary story.

The premise of What If is that the events DID happen, however they occurred in an alternate universe. The Watcher serves as our guide. As I read the comic, I imagined him as almost a TV host introducing the stories. The concept of the series was solid. And this no doubt played into DC's creation of similarly themed "elseworlds."

The execution could be a little inconsistent. Lets break down the six stories contained herein:

1) What if Spider-man joined the Fantastic Four? In Amazing Spider-man #1, Peter Parker was desperate for money to help his Aunt May. He decided to put on an exhibition against the Fantastic Four to earn a position on the team and some money. Spidey proves his mettle by the FF isn't interested, so Spidey swings away. In What if #1, we see that and then we see what would have happened if he had joined and how it would have altered the lives of both teams. It was okay but spent too much time explaining how individual issues and criminals would have gone differently rather than telling a greater macro story. Rating: B-

2) What if Hulk always had Bruce Banner's brain?: Another solid concept answered fairly well. It did tell a very story of Bruce Banner,the Hulk, his enemies, and his allies. The nice thing is that they acknowledged that the lack of the Savage Hulk could have a negative impact on history. An interesting story, though perhaps a little fatalistic at the end. Grade: B

3) What if the Avengers had never been? In mainstream continuity, Earth's mightiest heroes went after a combination of the Hulk and Namor in Avengers #3 as they'd been chasing the Hulk after he'd quit as an avenger in the second issue. In this story, Thor as well as Giant Man and Wasp quit. Iron Man however carries on and tries to counter the great threat represented by the two superhumans. Rarely has Iron Man ever been so heroic than in an alternate universe that brought him to an ultimate test. A very powerful story Grade: A-

4) What if the Invaders Had Stayed Together After World War II?: Roy Thomas said this could be considered more a "Why not?" story as it's possible that the Invaders did stay together and that there was a replacement Captain America in Marvel's now hopelessly confused Captain America timeframe. Good solid story. Grade: B+

5) What if Captain America and Bucky had both survived World War II?: In mainstream continuity, Bucky died at the end of the War and Cap was frozen to be thawed out by the Avengers. In this story, we see both Captain America and Bucky live through the war like normal. The only thing that remains somewhat unclear in the story is why Nick Fury ends up dying in Korea in this story and never becomes director of S.H.I.E.L.D. which is a key plot point. However, that little problem aside, this is a great story about patriotism, love, and brotherhood between Captain American and Bucky. Grade: A

6) What if the Fantastic Four had different Superpowers?: A look at how the Comic rays might have reacted differently. An okay story and nice to see Ben Grimm getting some powers he would enjoy as Dragon Fly. Grade: B

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Published on January 10, 2014 16:17 Tags: avengers, fantastic-four, marvel, spider-man, what-if

The Best Superhero Animated Series of All Time #3: Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

This is a fairly recent series that invites comparisons with the earlier Justice League series. To me, the programs took two very different tacts.

In Justice League, we already know Batman and Superman, and the other five members are introduced and we only get snippets of their backstory strewn throughout the series. This worked because those two first seasons of Justice League told 24 separate stories that were pretty much self-contained. Then when the program expanded to Justice League Unlimited, it introduced almost every character who had been in continuity in the DC universe. (I was surprised Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis weren't there.)

Avengers took a different tact. It began with a series of twenty micro-episodes which became the first six episodes on Netflix and other streaming websites which served to introduce the characters and the plot lines before they got into action.

Once the Avengers are formed in response to the events of "Break Out," the series takes off. At its most complex, Justice League had one major plot thread running through the series, Avengers would often go back and forth between two and three different plots while dealing with one-off threats. It kept mostly to the original cast in Season 1 and very slowly began to introduce other heroes of the Marvel Universe as not to overwhelm us in Season 2.

The series capitalized on existing Marvel comic stories like "Live Kree or Die." and "Secret Invasion." but managed to do so without seeming too derivative.

They managed to build believable human dynamics within the team that were believable and not overdone. Another thing I like about this series is the portrayal of Captain America. The series creators respected all he is and all he brings to the Avengers and grit and courage of Cap is definitely on display. I similarly loved the portrayals of Black Panther and Carol Danvers who have never been big players in Marvel animation.

No discussion of this series would be complete without including Iron Man's Asgardian Uru Armor in Season One.

The negatives are few. Yes, Season 2 wasn't really good as Season 1 and the Season 2 opening was bad. The series did leave Hank Pym in an odd spot after he rejoined the Avengers as Yellowjacket. But overall, I think the series began well and finished well and really set a new benchmark for superhero team series.
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Published on June 07, 2014 16:09 Tags: animated-series, avengers

Book Review: Avengers Forever

Avengers Forever Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This twelve issue 1990s Maxi-series finds a team of seven Avengers, all from different eras coming together to fight for the life of Rich Jones who, as a young man, aided the Hulk and brought the Avengers together. They're opposed by Immortus who, working for the Time Keepers, is determined to kill Jones who possesses the Destiny Force which has lead humans in many timestreams to become the terror of the galaxy. Along the way, as the Avengers cross time and space they meet the 1950s Avengers (later known as Agents of ATLAS), Kid Colt and the Rawhide Kid, and plenty of alternate universe Avengers.

They're joined by some surprising allies, most notably Kang the Conquerer who wants to stop himself from becoming Immortus because he views Immortus as weak because he serves the Time Keeperrs.

Overall, this is a surprisingly entertaining book. I say surprising because (superficially anyway), it does some of the same things that the very worst event comics do, with a lot of backstory explained, introduced, retold. One whole issue is basically Kang's complicated history and another focuses on how Immortus has been pulling the strings on every decision on behalf of the Time Keepers. There's also a lot of characters running about: too many to keep track of usually.

However, all the continuity makes the book's scope feel larger, more important. It lets you know enough so you can understand what's going on at a basic level, while also giving you the sense that there is a far bigger, more epic story going on. The last three issues really pay off, particularly the end of Issue 11.

Overall, this is an intelligent, fun, and action-filled series that stands above most similar event comics and is highly recommended.

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Published on August 06, 2014 18:20 Tags: avengers

Book Review: Avengers: The Enemy Within

Avengers: The Enemy Within Avengers: The Enemy Within by Kelly Sue DeConnick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book wraps up the latest Captain Marvel series nicely with a crossover Avengers Assemble collecting the Enemy Within one shot comic, Avengers Assemble #16 and #17, and Captain Marvel #13, #14, and #17. All but the last issue are part of the crossover event, so I'll address the true Enemy Within story first.

As the book begins, Carol Danvers can't fly anymore without aggravating a condition that could destroy her mind. However, her problems go far beyond that as the enemy who caused this begins to come after her. The thing is, when you take on one Avenger, you take on them all.

It's a solid crossover story. At five issues long, it's not overstuffed with too much going on. It's packed with action from start to finish. The story works because here Carol is clearly the lead and all the other characters including heavy hitters like Captain America and Thor play supporting roles well. There's plenty of suspense and a powerful conclusion that shows Carol's heart, grit, and determination while also bringing the story of Carol's illness because in the previous volume of Captain Marvel to a satisfying conclusion.

Issue 17 is where the book falters. It was the last issue of this volume of Captain Marvel. Leaving aside the annoyance of Marvel relauching yet another title without even changing writers, this issue was yet another Captain Marvel story where the book brimmed with its own self-importance. Worse yet, it used a one dimensional cartoonish libertarian "objectivist" as a villain to launch an attack to reign on Captain Marvel's parade. Even though I'm not an objectivist, the story came off as straw man polemics. In world, after everything Carol Danvers went through in the first five issues in this book, it was like, "Oh please, give me a break."

However, even Issue 17 wasn't without its redemptive moments as the relationship between Carol and the little girl Kit saved the issue from its own self importance and politicization.

Overall, this was an enjoyable Captain Marvel book with a great crossover story which more than makes up for a lackluster Issue 17.

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Published on September 17, 2014 22:10 Tags: avengers, captain-marvel, carol-danvers

Book Review: X-men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four

X-Men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four X-Men vs. Avengers/Fantastic Four by Roger Stern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book collects two four mini-series from the 1987 when Magneto had (temporarily reformed) featuring the X-Men in Fantastic Four vs. X-Men as well as X-Men vs. Avengers as well as the first crossover of FF and the Avengers in Fantastic Four #29 and X-Men #9.

Fantastic Four vs. X-Men has its moments as Reed initially agrees then backs out of saving the X-men's Shadowcat. The story actually works mostly as a character piece about the FF as they face the discovery of a journal that calls in to question whether Reed anticipated the accident in the FF's fateful voyage.

The height of the story is Issue 3 when Reed and the FF have to face their fears and decide what they really think. The X-men end up turning to Doctor Doom to help Shadowcat when Reed bails and that's their main part. For a "vs" comic, there was no real battling except a bit in Issue 2 and Issue 4. The story had some moments of being overwrought moments including dream sequences and Franklin Richards played a big part in it but sounded very inauthentic as a child.

X-Men vs. Avengers was another tale altogether and far more substantial. The Avengers decided to bring in Magneto to stand trial before the World Court. However, they're opposed not only by the X-men but also by a Soviet superhero team that wants to eliminate Magneto on the strength of a Soviet court ruling.

The story has two nice features: First, there are some distinctly 80s comic book features particularly the Soviet team. Also, Monica Rambeau is very good in this as the Second Captain Marvel and I enjoyed her a lot more here than in Secret Wars. The Avengers team features not only Monica Rambeau, but also has She-Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Though to round out the obscure, it features Black Knight and Doctor Druid (who actually does play a role in the story.)

There's also a great deal of intrigue. Magneto is fascinating throughout this. Roger Stern (who wrote Issues 1-3) is very capable here as some intimately familiar with both Captain America and the Avengers. The trial in Issue 4 (by Tom DeFalco) is a fascinating story with several nice twists involving Captain America.

The classic issues are just okay. They're trasparent in beig written as forms of cross-promotion. The X-men are manipulated to fighting the FF in FF #29 and then the X-Men have to fight the Avengers to save the world from a character named Lucifer. It's also intramural stuff for Marvel to say to readers of one comic, "Don't these characters look interesting. Why don't you put down 15 cents for their comic." On the upside, both were also drawn by Jack Kirby and written by Stan Lee, so there's some and playfulness.

As an aside, I have to note that the X-men come off well in either of these two stories.In Fantastic Four vs. X-men, they basically become tools of Doctor Doom in his war against Reed Richards. In Avengers v. X-Men, they try to stop Magneto from being brought to trial because he's a mutant. Why is it in every crossover the X-Men come off as only concerned with their own special interests and willing to align with the biggest evil around if it serves their interests?

Nothing here is essential, but X-men v. the Avengers is pretty darn interesting and makes the book worth reading.

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Published on January 27, 2015 18:32 Tags: avengers, fantastic-four, x-men

Book Review: Essential Avengers 2

Essential Avengers, Vol. 2 Essential Avengers, Vol. 2 by Stan Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book marks some turning points for the Avengers, collecting Issues 25-46 and the First Annual. It sees Stan Lee's departure as writer after Issue 34 (replaced by Roy Thomas) and Artist Don Heck is replaced by John Buscema in Issue 41.

The Avengers team changes, though mostly through addition. It begins with a team of Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch. In the course of the book, GoTliath (formerly Ant Man), and the Wasp are added to the line-up as well as Hercules, though Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch leave in the middle when the powers are on the wane,.

The feuding between Captain America and Hawkeye comes to an end thankfully. When Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch leave and are replaced by Goliath and the Wasp, he figures he has no chance of gaining leadership of the Avengers plus he seems to have developed a genuine respect for Captain America. He still manages to push back and challenge every other male to come on the team including Goliath and Hercules who could tear him apart.

This book also reprints the origin of the Ant Man from Tales to Astonish #27 and that's because Henry Pym plays such a "big" role in the book. He goes through a period where he can't shrink at all and is 10 feet tall and becomes the real muscle on the team prior to Hercules joining the team. He also takes on a leadership role when Cap has to disappear to deal with a long adventure in his own book. Pym is a central character and this has to got to be a high point for Pym in the role of Goliath.

Overall, the book has two big moments. The first is the first appearance of the Sons of the Serpents in Issues 32 and 33 and they make a great appearance as a sort of extension of the hatemonger character. Then, the Annual #1 is written by Roy Thomas. Those who have read the DC Archives know Thomas was a huge fan of the Golden Age All Star comics in which heroes would come together and the break up to go and fight individual evildoers and that's what he does in this story as the Mandarin heads up a team of supervillains, the Avengers split into smaller squads to take on the villains. It works really well here because they took nearly 50 pages to tell the story and split the Avengers and villains into three squads. It also featured the return of the "Original Avengers" which was silly as a gimmick because only Thor and Iron Man were returning for the issue and it was still a very fun and enjoyable issue.

Also, there's a plot regarding the Black Widow and her status that works its way throughout the book in a fairly interesting way. Beyond that, the Avengers take on a stable of solid Silver Age villains including Doctor Doom, the Super Adaptoid, and the Mad Thinker as well as battling Submariner.

Overall, these are enjoyable stories. They're certainly not on the same level as the Fantastic Four, but they're still solid tales for fans of the Silver Age of Marvel Comics.

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Published on December 07, 2015 23:12 Tags: avengers, marvel, silver-age

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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