Sunday, August 19, 2012

...And Justice For All

Avengers #80 seems an unlikely comic to recommend to anyone at first glance. Other than the team's most powerful members all appearing on the cover, as well as in the story, it's a pretty unsensational issue as far as the Avengers' usual fare of high-stakes battles. (Which probably explains why the big guns are on the cover as a selling point.) But it's still one of my favorite Avengers issues.

Not because it introduces Red Wolf, who really hasn't made much of a splash in comics. The saga of Red Wolf is more of a catalyst for putting the bag on Cornelius Van Lunt, criminal financier. Red Wolf has made other appearances (he was even lumped into a western super-group, the Rangers, which tangled with the Hulk), but this two-part Avengers story is probably the only place where he steps outside his rather limited appeal.

And it isn't because the Avengers are in battle; indeed, the cover premise of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Vision stalking a man and a wolf reported nearby is borderline ludicrous, as if the Avengers have nothing better to do with their time.

And therein lies the irony--because aside from the origin of Red Wolf, this issue is all about how the Avengers should use their time. For as the Vision, who has recently quit the Avengers, literally stumbles into Red Wolf's conflict, back in Avengers Mansion the rest of the team is being briefed by Iron Man on the new threat of the Zodiac cartel. And the Black Panther, who at this point in time is also a school teacher, suggests that organized crime is just as insidious a threat and has been neglected by the Avengers for too long. (Never mind that if any group fell into the category of "organized crime," it would be Zodiac.)

When the Vision brings Red Wolf back to the others, Red Wolf makes an impassioned plea to bring Van Lunt to justice for the murder of his parents. The Vision is moved to help, but Thor and Iron Man raise the point that it's Zodiac which is the more imminent threat. At which point, Captain America reminds the Avengers that the Panther's and Red Wolf's circumstances are no less worthy of attention:

To make a long story short, the team splits into three factions: the Panther by himself, three Avengers join Red Wolf's cause, and the remaining four go after Zodiac (or, in their case, vice versa). End of issue. But it's a conversation that this team needed to have. They have a team name that makes a considerable boast--yet should those needing to be avenged meet some criteria as to their importance? Is there a "back burner" where justice is concerned? And why should lesser foes be exclusively the responsibility of the police?

The Panther makes a good point about "costumed madmen" being the bulk of the foes the Avengers go up against. There's not really a lot of avenging going on--more like meeting threats as they present themselves. And as I recall, when Kang destroyed Washington, D.C., the Avengers--in a situation which screamed for vengeance--well, surrendered. So maybe this team needs to re-evaluate its mission statement. In the meantime, have a look sometime at Avengers #80--when the team took a step back, and realized that no one should get the short stick when it comes to injustice.

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