Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Torch Is Passed

You've come to Part 4 of Avengers:Transition, the PPC's week-long spotlight on writer Joe Casey's reinterpretation of the very first Avengers lineup change that was featured in the 2005 Earth's Mightiest Heroes limited series. So far, we've taken a look at how Hawkeye ended up at Avengers Mansion (thanks to a little push from the Avengers' butler, Jarvis), as well as the addition of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to the ranks--and as the new team was being formalized, we gained some insight as to the circumstances behind the mass exodus of nearly all of the original charter members.

But there is one Avenger who hasn't been heard from on the subject of leaving, and by this point his silence is conspicuous--Iron Man, who has moved heaven and Earth not only to raise the original team's profile in the eyes of the public, but to secure their A-1 priority clearance status with the National Security Council. Both goals have been difficult, thanks to the Hulk's early and bitter exit from the Avengers--and now that the Avengers are shifting their lineup to adopt replacement members for the ones who are departing, both their public image and their A-1 clearance are in jeopardy since their new members all have criminal records.

Iron Man's thoughts on staying or leaving are yet to be voiced, but we can at least resolve one loose end from when the original members began leaving, one by one--the reappearance of Captain America, who returns to find quite a few changes have been made in his absence.

As the original members sequester themselves in order to bring Cap up to date, the past few issues which navigated such upheaval within the Avengers are put into much-needed perspective, given the commitment of Thor, Iron Man and the others to make the Avengers work and to build the public's trust and confidence in this new team of heroes. As it turns out, only Giant-Man and the Wasp have formally resigned from the ranks--while Cap's return does a great deal to put everyone's minds at east, not only in terms of the continuation of the Avengers but also their priority clearance, since the NSC made Cap's continuing membership a condition of granting that clearance.

But with the pleasantries over with, and everyone up to speed on the Avengers' status, only now does Iron Man inform the others of his decision--and in doing so, he helps to put in place a seasoned hero to build the team of rookie Avengers into a fighting force.

With all we've seen before of Iron Man's consternation and disappointment at watching all that he's helped to put in place fall apart, the scene that Casey offers here as closure feels as if it's leapfrogged ahead of the situation. Was Iron Man in the process of making this kind of decision? And if so, when--and why? With the decision to restructure the Avengers so that it reaches out to the superhuman community for its members, while also being open to those on the wrong side of the law who wish to turn their lives around, Iron Man seemed re-energized to be part of a brand new organization that would truly realize the vision of the founders; and since he believes so fervently in the concept of the Avengers, how does he make the leap from there to a resignation?

Unfortunately, we've heard all we're going to hear from Iron Man on the subject, leaving this new material of Casey's with something of a gap that was apparently plotted and planned for--which is difficult to understand when taking into account all the elements of this series that Casey has made such an effort to paint a more complete picture of in this period of Avengers history. We can only assume that Iron Man has come to see and accept the new Avengers lineup as more than its basic intention to fill the roster and ensure the Avengers' continuation, for whatever reason--but the specifics elude us. There's no question that Cap is the inspiration needed to guide the team forward from this point--but for Iron Man, "passing the torch" to Cap seems to be synonymous with passing the torch to a new team of Avengers, an act that perhaps finally eases the sense of personal failure that Iron Man feels at misjudging the Hulk's suitability to the team. It's a rather shaky reason for Iron Man jumping ship; but then Stan Lee's original story was even less clear on the matter:

Cap: "You mean you're breaking up the Avengers?!! It can't be! Why? How--?"

Iron Man: "Easy, old friend! We're merely taking a leave of absence! Don't forget, we've been part of the team longer than you--and everybody needs a rest sooner or later!"

(If the book followed Iron Man's logic, Cap would have put in for his own leave of absence four issues later. And by the way, Iron Man--Cap has logged more time in battle than you and Giant-Man combined, without even considering throwing in the towel.)

The rest of the private meeting is spent reassuring Cap that he's ideally suited to lead the new lineup. (If you overlook the fact that he broke ranks to carry out a vendetta against Zemo, that is.)

To help make his decision, Cap takes a long look at the Avengers charter--and afterward, dedicates himself to the Avengers and heads down the hall to meet with his new charges.

With the new arrangement finalized, there only remains the leave-taking of the last of the founding members present. Understandably, there isn't that much more that needs to be said that hasn't already been discussed between them; still, taking those final steps down the hallways of the mansion must have their legs feeling like lead, with every footfall being heard even on carpeted floors. It's an important set of panels to help close the series with, just as it was in the original tale.

But just as was the case in Lee's story, the absence of Thor stands out in a scene which closes the door on the original members. Here, Casey has already smoothed things over by formally categorizing Thor as being on an extended leave of absence, though Lee didn't address the situation at all. Left up in the air as it was, Thor could just as easily have returned only a few days later, with only the framed charter in the library carrying his signature to mark the short history of the original Avengers and his brief time fighting at their side--perhaps a trivial concern in the life of an immortal, perhaps not. Thor would take awhile to rejoin the Avengers, and it likely appeared that way to readers who didn't know what was up with his exit in the first place--but by all indications, he seemed to take their changes in stride.  You could only shake your head in bemusement at how it played out.

Of course, there is one final scene that we need to account for--a portrait which might be titled, "Class Is In Session."  (Or, perhaps more appropriately, "The Torch Is Passed.")

When Avengers:Transition concludes, we'll cover a few interesting sequences that played a part in Casey's interpretation of the shift in the team's lineup--PLUS we'll throw in a bonus feature that takes you to the actual site of Avengers Mansion in New York City. You may even spot Jarvis! (Probably not.)

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