New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books; explaining, reviewing, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium.
With the first batch of Star Wars comics out of the way, it’s time to dive into the world of Marvel Superheroes, and where better to start than with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? But before we can get into all the Avengers New, Mighty, Dark and Uncanny, we should probably look at how the old Avengers fell in Avengers: Disassembled!
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Brian Bendis
Art by: David Finch, Olivier Coipel, Alex Maleev, Steve Epting, Lee Weeks, Michael Gaydos, Eric Powell, Darick Robertson, Mike Mayhew, David Mack, Gary Frank, Mike Avon Oeming, Jim Cheung, Steve McNiven & George Pérez
Collects: Avengers #500-503 & Avengers Finale
WHAT’S THE STORY?
Like many Marvel Heroes of the time, the Avengers were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in the early sixties. Unlike their theatrical counterparts, they were less aligned with government agencies (S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury) and more just a band of heroes teaming up to fight crime. Their number included Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Ant-Man and the Wasp (the originals, not Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne, like the movies).
Over the years, they faced all manner of threats, from aliens to super-villains to the gods themselves. Their membership expanded exponentially, but many of their number are not heroes you’d be familiar with (if you’re not a comic fan). Sure, followers of the MCU will know of some of the bigger names from the movies, but the roster also includes dozens of heroes that general audiences probably would have never heard of.
I could list them, but it’s probably easier to just stick this cover of Avengers Classic #1 (a reprint of the original issue with an updated cover by Art Adams) and let you see for yourself:
As you can see, for general audiences who have only seen the movies, much of the Avengers roster still remains untouched and unknown, and you could probably argue that the lack of big names on the Avengers was hurting their book sales.
Enter Brian Michael Bendis. Now something of a controversial writer, at the time Bendis was well known for his acclaimed runs on Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil and Jessica Jones (/Alias). His stories tended to lean more towards street-level heroics, and in time, he would adapt the Avengers to fit that type of story.
But first, he had to get rid of the old guard; the giants, the gods, the cosmic beings. So, at the very beginning of his run on the primary Avengers title, he wrote a bunch of them out of the story, with an event so devastating some were left dead, and others hung up their costumes. Of the older Avengers, only Captain America and Iron Man would move forward onto the new line-up, freeing up space to bring in more famous heroes such as Spider-Man and Wolverine, who, despite being some of Marvel’s most popular characters, had mostly kept to themselves (or in Wolverine’s case, kept to the X-Men).
The result was a fresh look at the Avengers that, for better or for worse, changed up the group dynamic forever.
Real Name: Wanda Maximoff
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: X-Men #4 (March 1964)
Believed to be the mutant children of Romany couple Django and Marya Maximoff, Wanda and her older brother Pietro were abducted at a young age by the scientist known as the High Evolutionary to awaken their powers.
While Pietro gained superhuman speed, Wanda gained the power to manipulate probability and even reality itself, through her ‘Hex Bolts’ and tap into a demonic force known as ‘chaos magic’.
When their powers became evident, they were inducted into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants by another man who believed himself to be their true father, the mutant terrorist known as Magneto.
After a few bouts with the X-Men, the pair renounced their villainy and joined the Avengers, who were looking for temporary replacements for some of their founding members. As Avengers, Wanda and her brother found a new purpose, and Wanda even found love in the form of the synthezoid Vision, with whom she, for a time, willed children into existence. Now a free agent, Wanda struggles to control her immense powers and their devastating potential, while also using them for the betterment of humanity.
WHAT’S THE PLOT?
It’s the worst day in Avengers history.
A dead Avenger blows up Avengers Mansion. Tony Stark seemingly relapses into alcoholism, putting his career on the line. Vision’s AI is corrupted, heralding the return of Ultron. She-Hulk loses control, going on a rampage. And to top it all off, the Kree are invading Earth.
As threat upon threat piles on, it soon becomes evident that this may be more than the Avengers can handle.
Stark thinks these events are all somehow related, but if so, who is targeting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? How are they able to cause such carnage? And more importantly, why?
I have mixed feelings on this comic.
It’s important. Undeniably so. It’s the day everything changed for the Avengers. Writers going forward would step away from the campy, soap-opera superheroics and instead begin focusing on blockbuster stories and (for Bendis’ run, at least) more down-to-earth tales.
As for the story itself, as the subtitle Chaos implies, it’s pretty chaotic, but not necessarily in a good way. It’s just tragedy after tragedy, which is in a way, the point, but there’s not much of a narrative flow going on. It reads like “How can we destroy the Avengers are quickly and as pointedly as possible”, before trying to tie it all together in issue #503. There are numerous deaths that feel rather empty because there’s no breathing room for any of it. In the space of four issues (not counting the epilogue), we see three prominent Avengers die, two put into a coma, and several turned (briefly) into antagonists of the story, thus writing them out as well.
The actual script suffers from similar problems, with the dialogue often being way too wordy and over-the-top.
The final issue, Avengers Finale does a lot to make sense of events. It’s much more sombre and honestly feels like a whole different level of writing compared to the final Avengers main series issues that have come before it. It’s well-paced, emotional, nostalgic, looking back on everything the Avengers have lost, but also all the great stories they’ve had.
But is it enough to make up for the frantic nature of Avengers #500-503? I’m not so sure. Especially if, like me, you’re reading it on Marvel Unlimited, in which case you might not even realise Avengers Finale exists (it’s a one-shot, rather than part of the series, so finishing #503 doesn’t direct you to Finale).
Similarly, while I like David Finch’s art, in the main story it just feels… wrong. While the story isn’t exactly cheery, the art is gloomy and muddled and doesn’t capture that ‘classic Avengers’ era that this story is meant to be capping off. It just doesn’t capture the tone of the book (fortunately, that’s not the case in New Avengers).
The art picks up in Finale, as an array of different creators lend their talents to illustrate Bendis’ commemorative issue, but again, the epilogue story in many ways doesn’t really work without reading what happens before.
I very nearly gave this comic a thumbs up. As I said before, it’s important, and it’s necessary reading to understand why the Avengers broke up before going into New Avengers. But is it better to read the book itself than just look up what happens online? I can’t really say for certain, and for that reason, I give it a…
Thanks for reading! Have you read Disassembled, and if so, what did you think? And who’s your favourite Avenger? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you enjoyed this post, feel free to give it a like and even click that follow button for more New to Comics content!