Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Once An Avenger, Always A Substitute

It's not like we haven't seen our share of these covers:

But this issue of The Avengers offers a little more than just the standard changing of the guard--perhaps a little too much more, since it virtually buries the reader in procedural details that go beyond the simple motions and nominations and the "yea" or "nay" vote that usually comprise these new-lineup issues. It makes for an interesting change, though you find yourself wondering how the Avengers--most of whom would probably prefer fighting the hordes of Hydra over coming to agreement over subsections and rules--get anything done when there's enough of them to fill an entire chamber to debate an issue back and forth.

Part of the reason for all the trouble here has to do with a shocking announcement given by Raymond Sikorski, the team's liaison to the National Security Council, during a recent crisis.

It's something of a misstatement on Sikorsky's part, since the NSC has no authority to actually cancel the Avengers' charter itself. They can do the next best thing, and revoke the team's government security clearance, effectively crippling Avengers operations; and they can disband the team due to a breach in national security, a condition that doesn't apply in this case. But the charter simply acknowledges the Avengers' ties to government agencies--in no way does it cede authority to the government to rip it to shreds, figuratively or otherwise.

Yet true to his word, Cap works hard behind the scenes to restore the Avengers to full operating capacity and return them to their status as a fighting force with official ties--and this issue is mostly about putting the Avengers back on track and reaffirming their commitment to the public. And so, after a lengthy forty-eight hours of deliberations, and no doubt a few frayed nerves, the Avengers are at last on the cusp of putting their house in order and greeting their public once more as a force united--and, yes, that includes a brand new lineup and making the announcement in front of their newly-built headquarters, as well.

And speaking of order:

Which of these heroes will make the cut?
Would you believe, in one way or another, most of them?

Imagine Quicksilver, of all people, urging patience with this grueling process. But the end is in sight, since the mysterious phone calls that the Falcon refers to have borne fruit. In a historical change that comes roughly thirty years (our time) after the Avengers' original agreement with the NSC was established, the team now shifts to becoming an entity attached to the United Nations.

The new affiliation basically comes down to business as usual for the Avengers, though the story sidesteps how the Avengers' priority status will be affected--something of an important detail, since government clearance and U.N. clearance are two separate matters in the eyes of the authorities the Avengers deal with in the course of their missions. There's also the curious implication by Ms. Bannerjee that the Avengers' charter will need to be amended "to allow for a truly international membership," though it's not clear how the current charter ever excluded such members; in this gathering alone, there are members from several parts of the world, including Atlantis.

With the core of their organization now functional again, the Avengers turn to their new lineup--though perhaps it's more accurate to say lineups, since there are changes to this aspect of Avengers procedure, as well, with the active membership only the beginning.

Since these people have been in deliberations for two days, it's understandable if they were all a little restless when it came time to revise their by-laws and getting bogged down in the details. How much time, for instance, did everyone spend on nailing down the term "Chair-being" to designate the person who assumes the role of team leader and presides over meetings? If you don't remember coming across the term "Chair-being" much in Avengers issues from the 1990s, it's more than likely because the book's writers eventually felt the term was awkward and overly complex for the goal here. Why not simply settle on using the word "Chair" for the position, a neutral term that's always been all-inclusive?

But if you thought matters were finally wrapped up and it's time for the Chair-being to take the podium in front of the waiting press (see how absurd that already sounds?), get a grip on your seat--because there are now levels of Avengers membership that you'd need a scythe to hack your way through.

While the changes in membership status seek to take into account the overabundance of members and add a level of backup that buffers the frantic need of locating inactive Avengers in a crisis, it also has the effect of making the team members more interchangeable on a regular basis--presumably to offer more choices to readers who might not care for a particular lineup, as well as entice new readers to pick up an issue that features one of their favorite characters. The approach probably doesn't do much for the morale of the "substitute," who only gets to go into action as an Avenger when their primary can't come in that day for whatever reason--nor does it make things easy for the Chair-being who hasn't regularly trained with the substitute and would have to adapt to their fighting style and instincts, no matter how closely their abilities mimicked those of their primary.

Regardless, the Sub-Mariner becomes the one to get everyone's head back to the final stretch of this arduous process.

One thing I'll say about Marvel--over the years, they've had me looking up a lot of words that you don't normally encounter in conversation, if ever. How often do you hear words like "behemoth," or "palliative," or "brobdingnagian" throughout your life? At any rate, there's little doubt that any Avenger present here would agree that Namor's choice of nouns is certainly appropriate.

Now it comes time when the Avengers get to unleash all of these niggling details on the public and the members of the assembled press, all of whom may be wishing they'd gone to have a root canal performed instead.

And just for good measure, the old Avenger-in-training designation has been refitted to apply to Avengers who train with the primary team in a probationary capacity, bumped down to reserve substitute status if and when they formally make the cut as Avengers. One of those chosen maintains the tradition established long ago of reforming former criminals, though it surely deprives us of one of Marvel's classic and well-received super-villains.

Hey! Somebody tell that pettifogger to lay off the Chair-being!


George Chambers said...

There are some technically brilliant ideas in this story: the idea that the Avengers are equivalent to strategic weapons, to be limited or eliminated in SALT talks, is one that just works. Unless the Soviets had a Sersi of their own, you BET they'd be nervous!

Further, a team with the power and responsibilty of the Avengers should have backups in place. However, the amount of bureaucracy the Avengers have to work through in this story is anathema to a comic which should be action-packed.

And to paraphrase the Beast on another occasion: "The government wants to disband the Avengers? That trick NEVER works!" Honestly, at this point I don't see why the Avengers didn't tell Sikorsky, Gyrich and co to STUFF their backing! They had Sersi at this point; they had Thor; they had Quasar. Between those guys they could have easily set up shop on the Blue Area of the Moon if they wanted to!

Captain Blog said...

Good point! But the real issue is why are they eating that crap??!!? Jarvis on vacation?
Seriously, Alfred would never let this happen.
At least cater the darn thing. Heroes must be properly nourished or it all goes to pot!

Comicsfan said...

Jarvis is present and accounted for, Captain--my guess is that he was excused to turn in while deliberations went on, and that probably accounts for the late-night pizza delivery and other take-out. No doubt he was suitably appalled the next morning!

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