Avenge This!

Thanks to Civil War and Secret Invasion there are more Avengers comics being published than there are Avengers fans.   … Well, that may be a slight exaggeration.

But the reality is that about half of the mainstream Marvel titles published are Avengers comics.   Theres:

  • New Avengers
  • Mighty Avengers
  • Dark Avengers
  • Avengers: The Initiative
  • Thunderbolts (well, tangentially anyway)
  • Captain America
  • Invinicible Iron Man
  • Amazing Spider-man
  • Dark Wolverine
  • Young Avengers
  • Ms Marvel
  • about a dozen different Dark Reign mini’s.

That’s a lot.   And I may be forgetting a few.  After Civil War, Avengers Initiative stood out by far as the best series of the bunch.  I think the quality has gone down slightly recently, in part because of the departure of the original characters on the book, and maybe even a little because the original creative team is gone.  That isn’t to say that Christos Gage isn’t doing a good job, but it just hadn’t felt like the same book for some time.

Since Secret Invasion, Dark Avengers has become the most talked about book in the line.  I would say that has a lot to do with the fact that this is Norman Osborn’s book.  Yes, he is in EVERY Marvel book these days, but this is the one that gives you the full scope of his megalomania.  And I kind of love it.

That said, I think Mighty Avengers is going to be the book to watch.  New Avengers has mostly felt impotent since Civil War.  That may be because Bendis is stretching himself thin with all the books he’s writing.  Or it could be because he created a team of Avengers where Power Man was the leader.   (I’m going with that last reason.)   And yes Dark Avengers are the new hotness, but I’m not sure where the book is really going, other than pissing off Marvel’s heroes.  

But Mighty!  This book will be a sleeper.   The purpose of Mighty has always been to show a more classic Avengers team.   Dan Slott has retained that concept for the most part.  There’s a Wasp, Stature (filling the Giant Man role), US Agent (basically Cap), the Vision, Hercules and Quicksilver.  And they even have Jarvis, the Alfred of the Marvel Universe.   But as cool as it is to have a classic Avengers during the bleakness of a post-invasion, Dark Reign era, that isn’t what the book is about.

Mighty is all about two words: Hank. Pym.

Just as Dark is Norman’s book, Hank is the star of the show here.   The team has reformed around him, and despite being a Founder, this is his first time leading them.  But what is truly fascinating is that I’m not sure if this is the story of Hank Pym’s redemption, or if it is hardcore evidence that he should never be a leader of men.

Pym isn’t really painted in a very good light here.  He’s just as unstable and driven as he ever was, or even more so.  Together with Spider-woman, he was one of the faces of the Invasion.   His imposter helped kill both one of his best friends, Bill Foster and his ex-wife Janet Van Dyne.  And now that Janet is dead, so are his chances of fixing his relationship with her, for apologizing for the way he mistreated her.  And so in lieu of Janet, he’s developing a relationship and possibly even a morbid fixation with her robot clone, Jocasta.  This is a man who is set to explode.  It’s just a matter of when.

But the series truly came together for me this past week, in Mighty Avengers #25.

MIGHTAVN25_COVIssue 25 is the first of a 2-part story called Mighty/Fantastic, pitting Hank’s nearly virgin team against Marvel’s First Family.   And it isn’t your typical mix- up/ heroes fight/ heroes team-up story.  Hank Pym and Reed Richards are officially squaring off.  

Without giving too much away, the story begins with Hank calling Reed to return a piece of technology which he co-invented with his friend Bill Foster.  When Foster died, his will left the device to Hank, but for reasons that don’t actually make sense, it went to The Thing instead.  Hank needs the device urgently, and would like it returned.   Simple enough request.   Except Reed tells him flat out “NO”.   From there it degrades into a battle of wits and insults where Reed tells Hank how he sucks and isn’t trustworthy.   Hank responds with his own criticisms, including how Reed created Clor/ Ragnarok and gave the Skrulls the keys to Earth.  What’s truly interesting here is that contrary to the norm, Hank is completely in the right.   When you get right down to it, Hank Pym’s only intentional mistake is beating his wife.  Which just makes him a dick.   Meanwhile Reed’s arrogance, for all the good he’s done, is entirely culpable for such tragedies as Clor, World War Hulk and the Secret Invasion.

And in fact, as the argument progresses, I got the sense that Reed’s speech has less  to do with Hank Pym’s mistakes than with Reed’s need to ignore his own.  In the end, two of the smartest men of the planet are fighting like a pair of 9 year olds over a swing set.  Surprisingly, Reed doesn’t bring up the whole wife-beating incident.  Instead he delivers an intellectual pimp-slap so devastating that both the Avengers and the FF are stunned into silence.   Hank’s response:

Dr. Richards?

Yes, Dr. Pym?

it’s on, bitch.

And indeed, it is on, like Donkey Kong in a marathon.  The scene is so awesome I wet myself, changed my pants and wet those too, just because I could.   Mighty #25 is far and away my favorite book of the week, amongst some seriously stiff competition.

For the first  time since it debuted, Mighty is no longer irrelevent.  Get on board now, because if Slott is going where I think he’s going with this, it will soon be the true stand out Avengers title on Marvel’s slate.  If only because Hank is bound to go insane at some point; possibly Giant-ing up and going Godzilla on NYC.  

Plus it’s the one place that you won’t see Norman Osborn in every issue.

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