“It’s never too late to start all over again
To love the people you caused the pain
And help them learn your name
Oh, no, not too late
It’s never too late to start all over again”
(“It’s never too late”, Steppenwolf)
As you might know, I am writing these articles way ahead of releasing them. They are part of my media science degree. In November 2017 Brian Michael Bendis announced that he would leave Marvel (after 17 years) and work exclusively for DC Comics. I don’t think I have to tell you that this is huge. Ultimate Spider-Man was one of his first projects for Marvel and is one of my favorite incarnations of Spider-Man.
Bendis also created Miles Morales, Peter Parker’s successor and in 2004 he started writing Avengers. He did for the Avengers, what Claremont did for the X-Men. Some even compare Bendis’ influence with Kirby or Lee. This is the reason I wanted to take a closer look at the stories he wrote and how he reinvented the team. To do that I follow the podcast Bendis Assembled – if you want to take a journey through everything Bendis did with the characters involving the Avengers, this is where you should start. You can also check out the Legendary Runs Podcast (e.g., episode 45, where they talk about Alias)
So I began reading Avengers Disassembled. This storyline starts with issue #500, ends with #503, and fades off in Avengers Finale #1 before Bendis starts from square one with New Avengers #1. I learned, that one particular X-Men, who was introduced way back in the 60’s played a vital part in the upcoming adventures of the Avengers. So I decided to integrate this stories into my project, and here we are, talking about the Avengers in a column dedicated to the X-Men (we might do it again for AvX).
Storytelling and Artwork
How do you take apart one of the best superhero teams in the Marvel Universe? As we see at the end of issue #501, there are a lot of characters who were at one point in Marvel’s history part of the Avengers.
The story focuses on Hawkeye, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Janet aka Wasp, She-Hulk, Jarvis, and Captain Britain. They are at the Avenger’s mansion. Hawkeye and Ant-Man discuss who there “can’t have”’s are: “the one girl you know you can’t have.” Out of a sudden, a shrill alarm goes off and warns them of an intruder. Was it disrespectful to talk about colleagues or villains like that? Either way, the signal disrupts the discussion as to say enough of that. The one punishing them is Jack of Hearts.
Don’t you know who that is? Welcome to the club! Due to vigorous research (reading the first couple of paragraphs on Wikipedia) I can say, that he is not just a mighty being, but also a miserable one. He has to wear a customized suit, so he does not explode and spends a lot of time every day in a contamination cell, also to preventing him from a spontaneous explosion. He should be dead – and the way he looks he still is – and walks calmly onto the lawn of the mansion. Scott walks up to Zombie-Jack and tries to talk to him. But he explodes in a colossal fire-blast, pulverizing Scott.
Parts of the mansion are destroyed as well, so the others are buried under the rumble. Captain America and Falcon arrive at the scene, as a Quinjet, flown by the Vision crash-lands on the remaining parts of the mansion. Vision walks a couple of steps, dissolves, melts to be exact, and pours out five metal balls which transform into Ultron robots. They can miraculously contain this threat just at the moment as She-Hulk goes rogue – unable to process all that is happening. The anger takes over, and she rips Vision’s dead body apart. Not horizontally (at the waist) as you might expect, but vertically – exposing the “organs” of Vision. And that is just the beginning.
A few hours later, as Wasp is taken care of in the hospital (still shrunk and in critical condition) Cap and Hawkeye go back to the mansion, to find every Avenger ever ready to investigate the situation. However, the day is not over yet. A fleet of Kree ships attacks the mourning group. The interesting thing is that SHIELD’s Helicarrier cannot detect the fleet – the first clue something is not right here.
During the huge battle, Hawkeye is severely injured and as I understand it, hit with an explosive arrow or something similar. Before the thing can explode, he takes a Kree and with the aid of his Jetpack flies into the mothership. His sacrifice does not go unnoticed, as the Kree are connected beings and if you take out one of their motherships they all are defeated (please let me know if I am wrong since I am not a Kree-Expert).
After the battle, Doctor Strange appears and tells them that all of this is some kind of chaos-magic interference. Not a trick – it all happened – but magic is involved.
Before we get to the big bad guy, let’s talk about what exactly happened.
The Avengers are no more. In the Avengers Finale #1 special one-shot, the core Avengers, at least those still alive, assemble one last time at the ruined mansion. Everyone gets to tell his or her favorite part of their rich history. Each contained within one two-page-spread and briefly summarized. Even if you have not read most of those stories (as I have), it is a very emotional situation. Saying goodbye and knowing, it’s over. At least in this constellation. Scott is dead. Hawkeye is dead. Jack of Hearts is dead. Wasp is injured and in the hospital.
Also, this magic trick made Tony Stark (who is the Secretary of Defense at that time) seem drunk, though he had not one drink in weeks or even months and is now discredited. He loses a lot of his money (he is no longer able to finance the Avengers), and some of his friends don’t trust him anymore.
Bendis managed to not only destroy the Avengers and there home physically, but he also does it on an emotional level. Trust that the person next to you has your back is one of the most fundamental things of a team. Especially a team like the Avengers. With this trust gone, what else can you do than hit the pause button?
Remnants of the Past
As I said before, I know Bendis mostly from his Ultimate Spider-Man run. One of the best things about him as a writer are his dialogues. They feel natural, authentic and it seems supernatural how he implements complex, heavy topics into conversations. Even the way characters talks, tells you a lot about them. I think you can pick any speech bubble and can name the character who said it.
This is important because the character responsible for all of the destruction and chaos is, as I said, from the 60s. And though we have met her in previous stories and talked about her, a lot has happened in the last 30 years to her. I am talking about **Scarlet Witch aka Wanda Maximoff**.
As the others are talking about her, they reveal her tragic past. She is apparently one of the most powerful magical beings in the Marvel Universe, able to reshape reality itself. The reason SHIELD could not detect the Kree with their sensors is that she created them. She thought them into existence. Out of thin air, she can create everything she can imagine, and it becomes a reality. This might also be the reason why Jack of Hearts, who should be dead, appeared at the beginning of the story.
It is essential to understand this concept: she can manipulate reality. She did this before. Mind, that I did no research on this topic, mainly because I want to be at least surprised a little bit when we get to this story later. However, as I understand it, Wanda wanted to have children and created a pregnancy out of pure will – with her magic abilities. She had two children and even gave birth to them. Still, they were not “real” children. We are not discussing the concept of what is “real” in this context. After the birth, a woman, whose name I don’t know, repaired this mistake and so Wanda’s children were gone.
Cut to the current situation and Wanda has fled into a world of imagination. Recreated her children in her mind to play house. She has lost control over her powers and, as Doctor Strange points out, imagination is the enemy. Everything can happen. With the Eye of Agamotto Strange can restrain Wanda, and she becomes unconscious.
The last image we see with her is as Magneto comes out of nowhere, spreading his hands left and right, floating in the air – looking like Jesus himself (in purple, with cape and helmet). In surprise and disbelieve (Magneto should be dead as well, but faked it) none of the Avengers does anything. They give Magneto his daughter, and together they fly away.
This was one of the best-crafted scenes I have read in comics. Everything that happened leads up to this moment. You didn’t have to read all of the previous stories, because the characters reactions are enough to draw you in. It is remarkable. The artistic skill, which is able to pull off all those emotional scenes is magnificent as well. Every word, every panel, every facial expression hit. Beat after beat after beat. And then it ends.
One thing that intrigued me the most in these few issues is the way Bendis took the Avengers apart. They take hit after hit after hit. First, an explosion, then a crash, attacked by Ultron-Robots and the Kree – all major opponents of the Avengers and Wanda uses them all to destroy the team. Bendis didn’t just took the Avengers apart, he ruptured their very core. Then he used what was left, to pick up the pieces and reinstate a new team.
Next week we will take a close look at another X-Men-related storyline, written by Brian Michael Bendis: House of M.