Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogathon 02: Avengers Disassembled

[Discussed in this post: Avengers #500-503, Avengers Finale.]

I didn't actually begin reading Bendis's Avengers stuff until New Avengers #23, a random Civil War issue that I picked up at my university's bookstore because I wanted a comic to read. Everything before then, I've gone back and read in trades, so I don't have a firsthand experience with Avengers Disassembled, a story that I'm told may have pissed off a lot of the hardcore Avengers fanbase. If that's the case, then I love it even more. Pissing off the fanbase is good, it shakes it up a bit. You shouldn't cater to them anyway, you should be doing new things and making people feel uneasy.

I actually don't understand their complaints, for the most part, because I really think Avengers Disassembled is one of Bendis's strongest stories that I'll be looking at today. Hey, we're starting on a high note!

Your enjoyment of this story may depend on how much you agree with Bendis's goal: to destroy the Avengers. He gives the Avengers the worst day of their lives and just devastates them. Jack of Hearts returns from the dead to explodes at the mansion's entrance; Tony Stark address the UN drunk; the Vision is controlled by something and unleashes an Ultron attack; She-Hulk, in the process, goes berserk; the Kree invade... Scott Lang, the Vision, Hawkeye? All dead. The Wasp, She-Hulk, Captain Britain? All seriously hurt. Things get fucked up.

It's effective because it all happens so fast that it catches us as off-guard as it does the heroes. No one has any time to really figure out what's going on or to catch their breath. The team just gets wrecked, pure and simple.

The ultimate revelation that the Scarlet Witch is behind it all, having snapped when she remembers her children, doesn't really bother me much. Some people hate it -- and the death of Hawkeye -- most of all and that's the reason they dislike this story so much, but it makes enough sense to me. Wanda has a lot of power and that alone could play some tricks with her brain -- toss in having and then losing two kids, and, well, who knows what will happen. That we aren't given many clues is a slight weakness of the story, but I think the clues are there: she shows up on every cover, and she's at the UN but then doesn't rejoin the team later... very minor, subtle clues.

For all those who complained that Bendis just didn't 'get' the Avengers, Avengers Finale is so dripping with sentiment and nostalgia that you know that's wrong. I mean, it's just over-the-top as characters remember their favourite Avengers moments -- conveniently in chronological order with no repeats! Avengers Finale is a decent book if you want to see a variety of quality artists. After the David Finch-drawn "Disassembled" issues, it's a lovely change of pace.

Yes, I hate Finch's art. It is ugly and horrible. I hate it less here, because it almost matches the ugliness of the events being depicted.

Now, one of the things I want to explore with these posts is the idea that Marvel lately, particularly in the Bendis Avengers stuff, has been a company where stories are less stories with strong content and more teases for what happens next. So, in each post, I'll be weighing the content and the promise of future content.

This is a story where the content far outweighs the promise of future content, because there is no such promise -- at least not in the story. I know that Bendis was telling people in interviews to wait and see, they've got stuff planned, but there's no indication of that in-story except something about Magneto trying to help his daughter. So, I think that ratio is pretty favourable.

The death of Hawkeye is a little problematic, because I still can't figure out why he dies here. The Kree are invading, he gets shot in the back, which sets his quiver on fire, so he rushes a Kree soldier and uses its jetpack to crash them both into the Kree ship, which causes it to explode? What? Couldn't he have just taken the quiver off? Ah well, he's back now, shut up all you whiners.

There isn't a lot to Avengers Disassembled, but there isn't meant to be. It's meant to be a quick, harsh read as the Avengers are just beaten down into the ground -- and it feels that way for the reader, too. We get a few glimpses of Bendis's attempts at team writing and he's still new at it, so it's not great. But, a good start to his run.

In 30 minutes: The Pulse: Thin Air.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]