Welcome back to Screwed Over, my (sometimes) weekly criticisms of the Big 2, meaning of course Marvel and DC Comics. The first part of the series tackled some of the characters left in the dust by DC’s company-wide reboot the New 52, and we are just ramping up to our newest series covering some of the titles suffering from the rebranded Marvel NOW!, which sees a ton of new directions and new #1’s for various series.
Last week we covered the fan favorite Avengers Academy, which was a newer title that had spent a few years building itself only to face cancellation and near death at the hands of the upcoming Avengers Arena. Today we are going to talk about something that is a little more important to the blueprint of the Marvel Universe. A series that single handedly revolutionized the Avengers into the multiple franchise hit it has become.
I can really only be talking about the New Avengers. And by definition that means I am also talking about Brian Michael Bendis, whose departure from the Avengers books is pretty much responsible for the Marvel NOW! shakeup. While Bendis moves over to the X-franchise to further cement his role as one of Marvel’s premier creative minds, a new crop of equally talented writers will be taking over all things Avengers.
Let’s take a look at the past before we look to the future, and examine a little bit about the New Avengers. When Bendis took over the team, his first story arc effectively destroyed the Avengers as we know it, killing off characters and destroying the team’s decades old headquarters. This storyline was called Avengers Disassembled and began the next 8 years of Avengers stories with a bang.
Wanda Maximoff AKA Scarlet Witch, a long time member of the Avengers, went a little crazy and killed off a number of Avengers, including Scott Lang (Ant-Man), Vision (her ex-husband) and Clint Barton (Hawkeye), a death that rocked the Marvel U. and its fans. Bendis had been known for his work in Marvel’s Ultimate universe, but no one expected such a shattering arrival on the Avengers books. As the team disbanded in the wake of these tragic losses, a new team was already being developed. This team was known as the New Avengers.
New Avengers was based off the idea that the Avengers should be made up of all the core Marvel heroes, much like the JLA had adapted years earlier to include all of DCs heavy hitters. While the team had always included the big three like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, some other Marvel standouts were longtime avoiders of Avengers status. New Avengers was the way to bring them all into the fold, and maximize the Avengers draw for the fans. It also allowed Bendis to include some of his favorite characters and see them in a team situation that was at this point unheard of.
The initial gathering of New Avengers consisted of Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Daredevil and the Sentry, who all fought together during a mass prison breakout This sparked the idea to Cap that the Avengers needed to form again, and after the effectiveness of this de facto team he invited everyone there to become a part of the New Avengers. While Daredevil declined, he suggested newcomer Ronin AKA Maya Lopez AKA Echo, and eventually Wolverine would join the team as well. Having both Wolverine and Spider-Man on a team of Avengers was absolutely unheard of and brought along a lot of controversy, especially when throwing in Luke Cage and Spider-Woman into the mix.
This new team changed the way people thought of the Avengers, no longer being the uptight club it had once been, and allowing some of the street level heroes to get the recognition they deserved by becoming Avengers. The new dynamic of the team not only strengthened the already high level presence of the Avengers, it allowed it to grow in ways never thought possible. With the New Avengers leading the charge for most of Marvel’s big events, new titles started blossoming from the New Avengers, like Mighty Avengers, Dark Avengers, and the Heroic Age return of The Avengers.
During this time the team went through many iterations, from heroes to vigilantes, and back to heroes. They welcomed many other Avengers like Ms. Marvel, street level heroes like Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, and Cage`s wife Jessica Jones. The series also heralded the return of Hawkeye (as the new Ronin) and Mockingbird, and even grew to count Ben Grimm (The Thing) amongst the roster. The book continued to build the reputation of Luke Cage as a premier member and eventual leader of the New Avengers. No character benefited from their place on the Avengers quite like Luke Cage, who was given his own team and received ownership of Avengers Mansion, the previously destroyed headquarters. Spider-Man also saw great success as a member, finally experiencing some legitimacy while being fully recognized by his peers as the hero he is.
So Why Are The New Avengers Getting Screwed Over?
While I hope to not diminish or criticize the new title to carry the name during Marvel NOW!, it will not feature the team we have dedicated so much time to over the years. Luke Cage, along with his wife Jessica Jones and new baby Dani, have left the team in order to properly raise their child. Many members (like Spider-Man and Wolverine)are now a part of the main Avengers team, while others are off the grid, perhaps waiting for their chance to join in on the Marvel NOW! action.
The New Avengers title is not disappearing from Marvel NOW!, merely following a new direction with a new creative team for the first time in 8 years. First, let me say I am intrigued by the new direction and creative team, and am not trying to criticize or diminish what could be an excellent series. Marvel NOW!’s New Avengers follows the team dubbed the Illuminati, which was a somewhat secret group of Marvel heroes who took it upon themselves to plot the course of their heroic destinies throughout the ages. Originally consisting of Iron Man, Professor Xavier, Dr. Strange, Namor, Reed Richards, and Black Bolt, they were all leaders of their respective corners of the Marvel Universe.
While the team remains very similar to this, it replaces Prof. X with Beast and adds Black Panther to the team. It looks to be a very interesting series that I am actually looking forward too. Unfortunately, it does mean the demise of a title that is responsible for the huge Avengers franchise we know today. When Bendis started his run on Avengers there was one Avengers title in the entire Marvel Universe. One single Avengers title, plus the various members solo titles. Before Marvel NOW! and Bendis’ departure there were 5-7 main ongoing series with the Avengers moniker, depending on what you include in the list.
So while the New Avengers will continue on in Marvel NOW!, as will the various franchises, it truly is an end of an era. And even though the previous version of the New Avengers might be getting Screwed Over, I’ve probably never been more excited to see what’s coming next.