Comics 411 6.18.14: Greatest Avengers Lineups Edition
Posted by Steve Gustafson on 06.18.2014
Which Avengers lineup was the greatest of all-time? Plus news and thoughts on the possibility of a major Marvel Universe reboot coming, Adventures of Superman getting cancelled, a review of Uncanny X-Men Special #1 and more!
Welcome back to the Comics 411! My name is Steve Gustafson and this is a corner of 411mania reserved for those interested in talking comics! As always, I want to thank everyone who took a few minutes to read and comment last week. Check out my Hollywood gossip (and anything else!) Hollywood 5 & 1 and my weekend movie recap The Big Screen Bulletin!
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Another cool episode of DC ALL ACCESS!
COVER VS COVER!
Last week we had two Flash covers! Both dramatic. Which one would you have bought? The results:
Looks like you all are fans of Tragic days! This week we have two covers that share one thing in common. The creepy grin. Preacher on top and Swamp Thing below. Both creepy in their own right but which cover gives off a more creepy grin atmosphere?
Last week the poll centered on Marvel's Most Twisted Father & Son Dynamics! Who took it?
NORMAN/HARRY OSBORN 34.42%
LEGION/PROFESSOR CHARLES XAVIER 15.81%
MR. FANTASTIC/NATHANIEL RICHARDS 7.44%
SKAAR/THE HULK 3.72%
BARON ZEMO/BARON ZEMO 1.4%
Looks like Norman isn't getting a Father's Day card! Pretty solid voting across the board. I thought Skaar and Hulk would have done a little better but overall, about what I expected. Here's what you had to say:
Gold Any Ranger: "Hmm, all those relationships are Marvel. None DC. Maybe because DC likes to kill off fathers. Jor-El, Thomas Wayne, John Grayson. Although, DC does have a few. Commissioner Gordon/James Jr. Bruce Wayne/Damian Wayne. Oliver Queen/Connor Hawke. And technically, Bruce with Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake."
CyberVenom: "I like the choices but my pick is David Banner and Bruce. That's some effed up ess right there!"
W. Ryne Hall: "The continuity snarls that abound in Cyclops and Cable's relationship alone make it the most dysfunctional of that list."
JusticeBringer: "Legion/Xavier wins this for me. Legion shape-shifted or telepathically disguised himself as Xavier then raped his mother and killed Xavier while attempting to kill Magneto, resulting in the Age of Apocalypse. Granted, Legion is far less lnown than the AoA event, but without that insane relationship and exchange, it never happens.
If not for the rape thing, I'd award it to Norman Osborn/Harry Osborn. Norman knocked Harry's fiancee, stole her, and later planned for Harry to die tragically as a superhero to garner support for himself. That's just... damn. Also, Cyclops didn't abandon Cable. Both Scott and Jean had their minds pulled into the future to raise him."
redhotrash: "As always, awesome column. As for the father/son duo, I was legitimately bothered a bit by the Ultimate Magneto/Ultimate Quicksilver relationship. Just a uncomfortable read through and through. Magneto in most continuities wouldn't get voted for father of the year, but cripes the Ultimate version was brutal."
Thanks for the comments! This week we swing things over to talk about the...
GREATEST AVENGERS LINEUP!
Avengers Assemble! With Marvel's Avengers getting so much love from mainstream audiences thanks to their juggernaut movie franchise, I thought it would be fun to look at several Avengers lineups over the years and see which one stands out as being THE BEST! I'm going to leave out CURRENT teams and spin-offs and just look at past teams.
Judge and vote by the lineup, storylines, impact, and your personal feelings!
THE FOUNDING TEAM
This lineup only lasted two issues, with Hank Pym switching from Ant-Man to Giant-Man and the Hulk departing entirely, but they made an impact. They were accidentally brought together by Rick Jones to combat Thor's brother Loki, the Avengers weren't exactly big on teamwork but they created the Marvel formula of super-heroes joining together to do the work that no single hero could have done.
Members: Thor, Iron Man, Wasp, Ant-Man, Hulk
CAPTAIN AMERICA JOINS THE TEAM
Issue #4 saw one of the most iconic events in Avengers (and Marvel Comics) history. The discovery of the frozen body of WWII legend Captain America, floating in the ocean! The theme of Captain America adjusting to a "strange new world" was set and he was quickly drafted into the ranks of the Avengers. He gave the team the much needed leadership they were missing.
Members: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp
This team was a little strange. After the founding members left, "Cap's Kooky Quartet" was born. While they weren't powerful, this team had character. Cap brought together a crew of former criminals and managed to take on the Masters of Evil, Kang, the Mandarin and Dr. Doom. Impressive when you realize they didn't have a true powerhouse on the team.
THE WEST COAST AVENGERS
Is this one cheating? Who cares? My list and I've always LOVED the West Coast Avengers. Spinning out of the main Avengers team, this LA-based squad was the idea of then-chairman the Vision, who hand-picked heroes for the squad. The original lineup, led by Hawkeye, consisted of Tigra, Wonder Man, Iron Man (James Rhodes), and Hawkeye's on-off-on-off love interest Mockingbird. As the team grew, they added , Wasp, Hank Pym, USAgent, War Machine, Spider Woman, Moon Knight, Living Lightning, the Thing, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Human Torch, and Firebird. They weren't always the strongest but they were driven and worked as a team to overcome threats. Sadly, they imploded in the early '90s but they gave us some of the most entertaining stories from that era.
Members: Hawkeye, Tigra, Mockingbird, Wonder Man, Iron Man.
KREE/SKRULL WAR TEAM
The Avengers that were involved in the Kree/Skrull War are among the most recognizable as any. Some with a twist. This team featured several longtime members and founders, notably Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, in his first outing as the shape-changing giant Goliath, and honorary Avenger Captain Mar-Vell. This squad is a great example of a team that doesn't look strong on paper but rised to the occasion to conquer seemingly insurmountable odds.
THE KORVAC SAGA TEAM
Throughout the '70s, the lineup of the Avengers fluxuated around a core group of members and I always liked the one that fought during the "The Korvac Saga". Most of the decade featured a small group of Avengers often joined by one or two guest stars who would come and go depending on the story. It was pretty cool that all these members came together during Korvac's ascension and gave us the Beast/Wonder Man friendship and the long-running subplots as the Hank Pym/Ultron/Vision/Wonder Man family tree. After Korvac was dealt with, the team went back to "normal" but gave us an excellent story.
MID/LATE '80S ROSTER
This period was a mixed bag. They had some great character additions (Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), She-Hulk, Namor, Black Knight, and Hercules) and some that weren't so hot (Dr. Druid) but they were there for one of my favorite storylines the destruction of Avengers Mansion by the Masters of Evil.
Members: Captain America, Black Knight, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Hercules, Wasp, Namor, She-Hulk, Thor, Dr. Druid
HEROES RETURN TEAM
After the "Heroes Reborn" experiment, Marvel learned you couldn't go wrong with giving fans what they want: Great Avengers storylines with a great lineup. They got off to a great start by snagging Kurt Busiek to write and George Perez to draw. We got most of the classic Avengers team members we loved and a couple new recruits. By issue #4, things were really cooking.
THE NEW AVENGERS
I like to call this the Moneymaker team. The New Avengers were launched in the wake of the seminal "Avengers: Disassembled" storyline and introduced some Marvel mainstays to the Avengers who had long avoided membership among Earth's Mightiest Heroes. You had Captain America and Iron Man along with Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. You could also squeeze Sentry and Echo/Ronin on that list. As you can imagine, this era of the Avengers was had strong characterization and high energy stories.
Members: Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Echo/Ronin.
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Uncanny X-Men Special #1
America's Most Wanted mutant Cyclops has branched out and started his own school to propagate his Protect-Mutants-at-all-costs philosophy. Now someone has captured him and the X-Men, Nova, and Iron Man have gathered to find out who is the culprit. Sean Ryan and Co. presents a story that will be continued in Iron Man Special #1 and Nova Special #1 in the coming weeks.
I am not a regular X-Men reader so if you are like me who is not reasonably familiar with the recent X-Men characters this mini-series may become confusing at times. A little history would be helpful. There is really no major story here, certainly not a conflict worthy of a larger crossover. As this issue ends there's no clear villain or driving force to the story beyond rescuing the aforementioned Cyclops. The crossover element itself is minimal; Iron Man appears for only a couple of pages and Nova not at all.
This series comes off as remarkably average. Even Death Head falls victim to uninspired dialogue and plot. You could swap him out for any nameless character and not miss a beat. I'm not sure where this story is going but it's off to a very ho-hum beginning.
The art is more of a mixed bag. Ron Ackins work is inconsistent, though I can't quite tell if it's him or the three different inkers on this book.
I'm always leery of comics that function as "specials". Sometimes they enhance an ongoing series, other times detract. It's too early to tell where this series will fall but so far I am leaning toward the latter.
This week's issue offered a major twist, and another step in the evolution of another well know Gotham vigilante. It starts out with Professor Pyg and his henchmen walking down the street, armed and dangerous, headed towards a confrontation of some kind. We then move to the room where crime boss Carmine Falcone has Catwoman tied up after his men captured her in the last issue. There's a flashback scene to five years ago when Falcone and Catwoman last met, where Catwoman clawed his face and left it permanently scarred. With Catwoman, bound and seemingly helpless, Falcone reveals that he was told Batman and Gotham were ripe for the picking, and that he came back to regain control and put the 'animals back in their cages'. And on cue, Pyg and his cronies crash the place o pay Falcone back for blowing up Pyg's lab.
While this is going on, we're taken back to Wayne Manor where Alfred's daughter is recovering from getting run through with a sword in the last issue. She tries to get up and leave, but her father and Bruce don't let her leave. As far as she knows, Batman brought her to the house her father works in to recover, a house whose owner is gracious enough to let it's butler treat his injured daughter there. She's completely oblivious to the idea that it was so easy for Batman to bring her there because he lives there, too. I'm guessing she'll be back on her feet and out of there before she can figure it out. As Bruce leaves Alfred and Julia, he's met by Jason Todd, who entered the house while no one was paying attention. Bruce asks him to go after Barbara Gordon, who is in South America chasing clues behind what made her father see a gun in the hand of the man he shot in the first issue. Bruce is worried that Barbara is too close to this, and may take too many risks and get herself killed. Jason agrees to go after her and, if need be, keep her from getting in over her head. As Jason leaves, Alfred calls Bruce to let him know there's a situation on the news involving someone he knows. The news goes to a ongoing hostage situation, which also happens to be where Pyg and his crew have attacked Falcone.
In the meantime, we get a cutaway to the Cluemaster and his minions, arguing over the attempted hit that he put out on his own daughter. The henchmen swear that they did the job, which leads to the Cluemaster pointing them to a news report about the shooting victims, none of whom is his daughter Stephanie. He also shows them a blog post being written by someone about the Cluemaster and his plans for mayhem in the city. We then flash to Stephanie in a public library, where she's using the computer there to file another post damning her father for his crimes. It's there that she say to us that she's going to spoil all his plans (that's a tip off to her eventual vigilante name, the Spoiler, for those who don't know). The librarian tells her it's closing time and she retreats to her hiding place.
The story ends with Batman crashing the hostage scene, and with he, Catwoman, and Falcone taking down Pyg and his goons. On the outside, the corrupt Commissioner Forbes instructs the cops to go in and shoot to kill, but to only target Batman. When that's finished, Catwoman strikes Falcone and takes him down. Batman stops her from finishing him so they can get out of there before the cops can get to them. Outside, Catwoman lets him in on what Falcone revealed, that he was tipped off to Batman's impending vulnerability before he came back to Gotham. Falcone isn't the Big Bad after all; there's some darker force behind him.
Another great issue, with a lot of plot points that were handled well. Next week looks like we're going to get a long look at Red Hood and Batgirl, and we should get some progression in the Julia Pennyworth angle. Commissioner Gordon's situation in Blackgate hasn't been referred to in a few weeks, so maybe we'll see something there.
Adventures of Superman No More!! DC Comics has canceled Adventures Of Superman with #17 being the last issue. This is notable as it was the digital first comic that opened with controversy, the hiring of Orson Scott Card to write a Superman story for the anthology series. The outcry the hiring received saw artist Chris Sprouse step down and had DC looking for a replacement artist.
But not really. It was a PR move for them to protect themselves. No one at DC knew about Card's active and financial support for anti-gay marriage legislation. He's also on record saying some other questionable things.
Doesn't matter now as the non-continuity Adventures Of Superman is being cancelled in September. Here's the write up:
Superstar creators unite for the final issue of the series! First, a Superman/O.M.A.C. team-up as only Jerry Ordway and Steve Rude can deliver! Then, when Lois Lane gets Superman a mystery gift for Valentine's Day, Superman speculates with his friends about what it coud be – and what he should get her in return! Finally, Superman is confronted by a ghost from Krypton! Don't miss out!
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?! Colourist Rachelle Rosenberg spoke to the Matt And Brett Love Comics podcast at SE:NYC and hinted at some very interesting news. She told them:
"I'm actually working with Disney too now, on a book that will be coming out at the end of the year for Christmas.
And then I'm doing another book with Tom Owtz (?) that's coming out next summer, can't really talk about it but its going to be really cool.
They're kind of relaunching Marvel at Disney, so great things ahead."
Relaunching Marvel at Disney? Any speculation what this could mean? Another reboot of the Marvel Universe? Another Ultimate experiment? Sound off below!
That's Nice, George. Now Get Back to Writing! In 1963, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R. R. Martin wrote a fan letter to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, commenting on Fantastic Four #17. In it, Martin described how the back issue was "greater than great" and "absolutely stupendous," but judging by the rest of the letter, he was probably being sarcastic. George was around 14 at the time.
Axis! This September, the March to Axis begins in earnest for Marvel and the X-Men are in the path. The first seeds of Axis were planted almost two years ago in the inaugural arc of Uncanny Avengers, and now it's coming back for a two-part story leading up to event series to debut in October.
According to Marvel Senior Vice-President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, Axis all starts when the Red Skull, now fully trained in the psychic powers received from the transplant of Professor X's dead brain, is amassing an army in the rubble of Genosha to erase mutantkind. Newsarama reported that September's Uncanny Avengers #24 will kick off the event, seeing Havok and the unified team of X-Men and Avengers go up against the Red Skull's personal guard, the S-Men, and first learn about the machinations going on in the ruins of Genosha. Newsarama spoke with Brevoort and here are the highlights:
On Uncanny Avengers #24 and how it factors into the plans for Axis: "Uncanny Avengers #24, and its sister book Uncanny Avengers #25, are probably the most direct of the "March to Axis" books. Axis is something Rick Remender has been building to going back to the first story-arc of Uncanny Avengers.So in Uncanny Avengers #24 we see the return of the Red Skull and his S-Men as they put their nefarious plan into action. Once we get to Axis, we'll see fully how this impacts Marvel's heroes."
On Axis always being in the plans as ultimate goalpost for Uncanny Avengers: " It wasn't specifically Axis, but the story existed, yes. The idea for the story was there from the beginning, but it wasn't necessarily called Axis then; it's gone through different names internally, even after the first issue of Uncanny Avengers. This story has changed, adapted, and been transmogrified over time, but the core, central idea has been there since the beginning. We didn't know it'd be Axis and be 9 issues over three months, but we knew the story."
On its effects on the mutants and Genosha: "Genosha is historic for Marvel and for mutantkind, going all the way back to the stories Chris Claremont did there in the 1980s as a sort of mutant apartheid nation. For a time, mutants were treated as an under-class, or a slave-class, but ultimately they were freed and Genosha became a mutant nation unto itself. That, however, was pretty well wiped out in the opening of Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men and now, for the most part, it's known as the scene for one of the biggest quasi-genocides of modern times. Since then we've seen glimpses of Genosha such as during "Necrosha," and it's been shown as a pretty bleak and unappetizing place… which is probably why the Red Skull likes it's so much.
As the Red Skull finds Genosha now, it's his kind of country and he'll be setting up shop there in the course of the "March to Axis" issues and will make it the headquarters from which he'll carry out his plans. And those plans will be in keeping, sort of, with the history of Genosha. Make of that what you will."
On the Red Skull: "I can only talk about it in the abstract at this point. But one of the things that's sort of refreshing, in a disgusting manner, about the Red Skull, as compared with most other Marvel villains, is that he has no redeeming qualities. Other Marvel villains can be called evil, sinister, nefarious, backstabby, what have you, but they all tend to have some facet of them that's admirable or attractive; they might fight for a good cause but use methods that are too extreme, or they have innate nobility even while crushing their heel down on someone else. Or perhaps they have a tragic, tortured past that makes readers related to them in some degree, or at least understand their pain. The Red Skull doesn't have any of that. [laughs]
The Red Skull is as bad as they come; nothing but blackness on top of blackness. If you dug down deep… way down in his psyche, all you would find is blackness. So the Red Skull is fairly direct, and starting with Uncanny Avengers #1 and leading up to, and ultimately through, Axis, he's proving that. Since the resurgence and restarting of the mutant race in Avengers Vs. X-Men, the revitalized mutant race is a nice target for him to paint as his scapegoat and unite others against.
That being said, I don't know that the Red Skull particularly hates mutants more than anyone else; it's just what happened to be going on and he saw an opportunity. The Red Skull is about as nihilistic a character as there exists. Really, he isn't having a good day if he does not have his foot on someone's neck; it almost doesn't matter who that somebody is. If there's him and someone else stuck on a desert island, his measure of how good or bad a day it is depends entirely on where that person is in relation to himself. His goals are always fairly destructive and nihilistic, rather than constructive. Sometimes he paints his motive against the backdrop of a new empire or a new status quo, but they're all pseudo-causes of the moment in service of putting him into the position to step on other people… to crush them and bring them down.
And now as we come to "March of Axis," the abilities he gained from Xavier's brain have been with him long enough for him to learn how to properly use them. It's a fairly frightening thing, even in the abstract, and just how powerful Professor Xavier would have been had he been a bad guy instead of just a somewhat flawed good guy. Many of the early Uncanny X-Men stories ended with Professor X zapping a bad guy with his brain power and putting him down; now imagine all of that power, with none of that goodness, in the hands – or head, in this case – of the Red Skull. He can read any of your thoughts, even those buried down deep. He has access to everyone's minds and he's not the nicest fellow, so that's not a good recipe for the world and certainly for the Avengers and the X-Men."