With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Khoi Pham (#21-23, 27-31), Rafe Sandoval (#24), Stephen Segovia (#25-26)
Issues: Mighty Avengers (2007) #21-31
Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign officially took over the Avengers team in 2009, replacing most of them with his own ex-villains and creating the Dark Avengers. Instead of canceling the Mighty Avengers series, Marvel soft-rebooted it, whipping up a whole new team that exists as a mostly pointless international task force (since they’d be hunted down by Osborn in the US). The C-list heroes serve to elevate the status of the unlikable Hank Pym, who’d been one of the main skrull infiltrators during the Secret Invasion.
The roster is pulled together from a current list of available heroes, some starring in their own series, others in diaspora during Dark Reign. Scarlet Witch (who’s later revealed to be Loki in disguise – a neat twist), gathers them together to create a team to mostly deal with omega-level threats outside the US.
The team initially consists of Hank Pym (awkwardly calling himself The Wasp), Stature (slain Ant-Man Scott Lang’s daughter and current Young Avenger), Vision, Ronin (Formerly Hawkeye and New Avenger), Hercules and Amadeus Cho, US Agent (borrowed from the failing Omega Flight), Jocasta, Hulk (who leaves after the first story, cause he’s the fucking Hulk and screw you guys), and uh the real Edwin Jarvis, loyal Avenger butler.
Their first adventure, “Earth’s Mightiest” (#21-23) throws our heroes abruptly together to deal with a magical threat involving an evil wizard at Mount Wundagore. I’m not terribly familiar with all of the Avengers villains but a Hank Pym-lead team seems ill-matched to deal with magical threats and elder gods. Quicksilver is possessed by a magical demon and Iron Man shows up to save the day, further throwing Pym into a self-induced rage and annoyingly selfish spiral.
Quiksilver joins the team to find out more about the mysterious reappearance of his sister the Scarlet Witch. Last we saw she had magically lobotomized herself and was living in a small village in Eastern Europe after her devestating effects on the mutant population following House of M. “Chasing Ghosts” (#24) explores this team’s dynamic and situations, including Pym’s interesting pocket universe that far too easily explains a gigantic Avengers mansion that everyone can conveniently use – not to mention magic portals to just about everywhere in the world.
Osborn and HAMMMER finds a door and Jocasta is forced to shunt Pym’s lab from Earth. They have only hours to fix it, and Pym has to go to Mr. Fantastic and a specific device for aid. In annoying comic book fashion, the two have a huge ego-driven argument and go to war in “Mighty Fantastic” (#25-26). That’s right, the team’s second big mission is to attack the Fantastic Four. Good job guys.
You know a series is troubled when the artist changes along with the story arcs. Khoi Pham’s light-hearted, cherbuic faced-heroes fits the writing the best, though I particularly enjoyed Rafe Sandoval who only does the one-off issue #24. The Fantastic Four crossover is penciled by Stephen Segovia, a jarring change in style which distracts me with its weird emphasis on close-ups and eyelashes. Thankfully Pham takes over again for the next arc to at least return to some consistency.
“The Unspoken” (#27-31) could be interesting – involving a new villain who’s the old Inhuman king before Black Bolt. Way too much time and panels are spent focusing on him, however, and he’s just not a very compelling character (nearly all of #27 is spent on his backstory). It’s as rote a comic story as you get: evil villain has a powerful world-ending device, and our team must stop him.
Mighty Avengers attempts to juggle multiple storylines throughout the arc – US Agent and Quicksilver in China dealing with China’s super team and the emergence of the Unspoken, Stature, Vision, and Ronin battling the Scarlet Witch along with the Young Avengers, and Hank Pym having a bizarre conversation with some kind of space-god in which he suddenly becomes much more confident and badass.
It comes off super forced. Hank Pym is a poor man’s Mr. Fantastic, and I don’t care for Mr. Fantastic. In terms of people who’s talent is being super smart, Amadeus Cho is an infinitely superior and more interesting character – he builds an Ant-Man helmet in the first story arc and uses it effectively throughout the series.
Eventually the stories coalesce into an action-packed showdown in China versus the Unspoken and his slave engine device. The action is fun and solid, though I’m reminded of how very few of the team’s powers are actually interesting from a visual standpoint. Stature grows big, Vision phases through people. Hank Pym has…fancy guns. Hercules punches people. This team is in no way Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, though I appreciate that they have to use their wits over raw power to defeat the big bads.
Dan Slott’s main task with Mighty Avengers is to keep the series limping along even when it doesn’t really make sense to exist at all during this time. The plan clearly is to reboot Hank Pym as a viable hero, but he’s so incredibly whiny, cocky, and annoying that it’s difficult to feel anything other than contempt. Herc and Cho are probably better in their own series (which I had to skip for now as I’m just reading too damn many comics). The only real highlight is Cassie Lang and Vision. They have a cute relationship and are not fully on board with this whole dumb team. And neither am I. Thankfully the series does officially end a few issues later during the Siege event which transitions Marvel from the Dark Reign into the Heroic Age.