Friday, January 24, 2014

The More Things Change...

Three months have passed (in Marvel time) since the end of Part Four of "Chaos," the story which concluded the events of the "Avengers Disassembled" storyline that ran in the main Avengers title as well as seven others. "Chaos" ended with several loose ends left unresolved--and that brings us to the wrap-up story in Avengers Finale, an epilogue issue which would gather the team one last time to formally disband them and send them on their way, with hopefully many memories of their rich history that they can take pride in.

Just why the Avengers must disband is only one of those questions left hanging in the air after the team confronted the Scarlet Witch in a battle which capped what was arguably their worst crisis. Now, they gather once more in a reunion of sorts called by Tony Stark, who has grim news to deliver in the ruins of what was once Avengers Mansion:

It looks to be something of a bittersweet reunion.

Though even with Stark's announcement, decisions had already been made by individual team members in regard to leaving the Avengers. There's Stark himself, of course, whose priorities he's already stated. But there's also Yellowjacket and the Wasp... Captain Britain... the Falcon... and, to no one's surprise, the She-Hulk, whose guilt is nearly overwhelming:

Feelings of course are running the gamut from sadness, to residual confusion, to bitterness, with Ms. Marvel feeling an abundance of the latter:

One segment that feels oddly out of sync, though, is the curious arrival of Quicksilver, whose absence from "Chaos" stuck out like a sore thumb. Here, writer Brian Bendis provides an explanation for why his presence amounted to little more than a cameo, though it almost reads more like an excuse:

Which simply doesn't make any sense. If Wanda is out to crush the Avengers, why in the world would she provide a simulacrum of Quicksilver on the scene to fight alongside them? And why wouldn't the Avengers think to turn to him for valuable input while Dr. Strange was explaining her behavior and motivations? A more reasonable assumption to make might be that artist Peter Finch inadvertently drew Quicksilver in one or two panels of the battle scenes without realizing (or just forgetting) that Bendis had never meant to have Pietro at the scene, presumably because it might add complications to the story. (Probably another reason why the Vision was quickly taken out.) Why not just call a spade a spade? Our other option is to assume that the Avengers' Code White doesn't have the range to reach Greenland. Wakanda or the depths of the sea, yes. Greenland, apparently not.

But while Pietro is here, at least he can tell the other Avengers what's happened to Wanda:

Pietro then makes an abrupt exit--and the others gather around a dining table and, while having their last meal together, reminisce about the team's best moments. There are many to choose from in their 500+ issues, but Jan names one of mine:

While Jarvis also has one of my top 10--but I still don't see why he, of all people, should name it as one of his:

As for Captain America, he has something else in mind to pay tribute to, in a touching scene which his comrades join in:

But, as the team departs for the last time, it falls to New Yorkers to provide the most solemn and meaningful tribute of all.

Of course, with New Avengers taking the old team's place on the sales rack even before the dust on their old rooms at the mansion has settled, it's hard to swallow Stark's rationale for breaking up the team, in light of Cap's reasons why they can reform from the ashes:

Sounds pretty simple when you put it like that, doesn't it? When you think about it, it's much like how the original team formalized its status--meeting once a week in Stark's townhouse, without any affiliations or tech to speak of. Though, as with the "new Avengers," it wouldn't be long in coming. The new team is allowed to meet and reside in Stark's tower, and before long they're taking quinjets to and from missions. Where were Cap's words to Stark when the first team was being disbanded by, of all things, financial concerns?

And speaking of money, "Avengers Disassembled" wouldn't be complete without a few parting words from one reader who seemed to know a sales gimmick when he saw one:

I'm not really on board with Robert's point of view, but I do have an observation. If you're going to just slap a new masthead on the book and let a few members go, but keep the essence of the original team in place--luxurious residence, doting butler, access to Stark tech, newer members fighting alongside seasoned founding veterans, cooperative with the government but not accountable to it, and, by the way, Hawkeye brought back to life...

...then what's changed?


Adam said...

I had to wait until the final chapter of this review to express my feelings towards the Bendis era of Avengers. If I start to ramble or get somewhat mean-spirited, I apologize ahead of time. This is how I feel about this run and what its done to my love of comics.

The Bendis run on Avengers pretty much began my slow but inevitable exit from comics. A major point of that was lack of funds and ongoing price hikes on comics. The other factor was that comics like Avengers became less of a hobby I enjoyed and more of a chore I dreaded every month. Books like Dan Slott's She-Hulk kept me going but, little by little, the majority of these titles became a soul-crushing, pointless slog. Between crossover fatigue and the utterly depressing storylines in the Marvel Universe (Civil War, Secret Invasion, etc.), I was losing my love and patience with Marvel and, eventually, most of the industry.

IMO, Bendis should have never been given the keys to Avengers. AT ALL. He is a good writer given the right circumstances but he ain't all that and a bag of chips. I'll admit, his 100 plus issue run on Ultimate Spider-Man (prior to Ultimatum) got me back into Spider-Man after enduring the Clone Saga and John Byrne's Chapter One. That said, he just not qualified to write a team book. He's more at home with a solo character book. Again, this is my opinion, but his characterization with the Avengers felt like it was the same person talking but with a different face. The storylines went nowhere and, despite breathing new life into Luke Cage, a lot of characters suffered greatly from his abuse. Tigra, Wasp, Hawkeye, Vision, even his own co-created character Echo wasn't safe. Plus he didn't care much for continuity in regards to characters like Tigra, which soon became a disease that infected Marvel due to his laziness. After the end of Secret Invasion, I stopped buying all Avengers titles that had his name on it and completely stopped getting into crossovers. I even sold the majority of my crossover collection over time.

To me, Bendis was nothing more than a brand name brought in just to shake up sales and get attention. And, to me, that is the lowest form of comic book no one should have to read. Wouldn't a book benefit greatly from a creative team that doesn't use BS shock tactics or character deaths or other moronic gimmicks that should be buried alongside the 90s era of comics? Shouldn't a comic book makes a reader want to come back every month and not just out of the OCD effect of keeping track of a book because they're collecting it?

A good comic book should draw a reader in with a great cast of characters, a compelling story, and leave you with a wonderful feeling that leaves you with a smile on your face and excited for the next issue.

The only thing Bendis era of Avengers left me feeling disgusted with the series and left me wondering if I should take a box cutter to my wrists or use it on its over-hyped writer. -_-

Comicsfan said...

Adam, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I probably fell off from reading and collecting comics at around the same time, and for many of the same reasons. Your opinions of Bendis' writing as well as his treatment of Avengers are valid ones that have been echoed in one form or another in many forums (and, as we've seen, in letters pages). I might just differ on one point: that Marvel's unspoken decision to sever or otherwise disregard all but its most informal ties to continuity in regard to its characters across the board was likely one that originated and was agreed upon in offices higher up the ladder than Bendis, though it seems from his work that he's embraced it wholeheartedly.

Murray said...

The general tone of Adam's comment is spot-on. I also agree with you, Comicsfan, in that it is fully a team effort over at Marvel. A team with all the moral and ethical integrity of a cheapass carnival sideshow. To them, we're are no longer "loyal fans" or "readers" or even "customers". We're nothing but "suckers" and "marks".

I could rant on ad nauseum, but why dwell on it? In a better world, it should be the story that brings out such feelings of anger and grief and melancholy, not that is just a symptom of how shabby and low the industry has become.