Today I got a weird idea. A really strange and weird idea. As Brian Michael Bendis started to rise through the ranks at Marvel I was a little hit or miss on the guy. Then he took over Avengers and I became way more miss along with many other people in the comic store I used to go to. Oh my goodness was I ever one of those that ranted about along with others of the period. It’s why I trended towards DC Comics for a long time as well and didn’t tread far into Marvel waters for a good period of time. In recent years I’ve started to dig more of what Bendis has done on Avengers and other books. I’ve found myself becoming a fan of his and now I’m looking back on his first story with the team, Avengers #500-503 and Avengers Finale or better knwon as Avengers Disassembled and the Epilogue. This was a story that really left Bendis and I at odds as again, this was a series that had gotten close to me so I barely could give it a chance. Now with a much more mellowed state of mind I looked at it again. It’s not perfect but now I have a different look at it. This story may have broken the Avengers back then but in Disassembling the Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis ended up setting the foundation to make the Avengers better than ever.
(Yes before we start there are going to be spoilers for a story eleven years old. I know these spoilers aren’t huge now but if you haven’t read it yet and curious to experience it for yourself, turn back now. Otherwise, on with the show!)
When Bendis first did Avengers Disassembled the sales on the series weren’t what they are nowadays. Back in June 2004 it was #25 with 57,085 books sold. Which isn’t too bad but probably not the numbers Marvel wanted for The Avengers. Which means Bendis comes in and sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make things better in the long term. Boy did he break a few eggs. Some of the deaths could have been handled better, Scott Lang got annihilated by a revived Jack of Hearts, Hawkeye got a weird death fighting The Kree, and Vision got ripped apart by She-Hulk. Add in Ultron bots, and Tony Stark getting a weird drunken feeling at a U.N. Conference and destroying Avengers Mansion, yeah he broke things pretty handily. Though I did enjoy David Finch’s work on this overall, the Vision getting ripped apart by She-Hulk in full rage mode was a powerful visual. I remember people being so mad about all of this, I remember it well. I remember the reveal of all the chaos with The Avengers being caused by The Scarlet Witch, I’ll say that it was an insane twist. She had been around so long and through so many versions of the team, even on the West Coast Avengers, and no one would ever expect the villain to be her. It’s actually heartbreaking when you learn the reason why so she did a lot of damage but it rips your heart out when you learn why she did it.
It’s a lot of shock and awe in the coming leading up the Scarlet Witch reveal. At this point though The Avengers were in rough shape anyway so Bendis got leeway to break things apart. I see every single reason why people loved and hated this story. Bendis didn’t hold anything back and wasn’t afraid to kill some darlings in the process. See the fun part about reading this on Marvel Unlimited is how furious people were in the letter pages, they left the letter pages in there. People were not happy at all and they weren’t shy with their feelings. I remember the comic store chats and it did influence me in not giving the book a fair shake or at least a more even handed look. In reading this with a more I guess you’d call it mellowed mind and new eyes, I did enjoy this story even understanding everything that ticked people off.
I did enjoy Avengers Finale as it summed up all of the Avengers history in one big story. See I never felt in the entire story that Bendis was disrespectful of the Avengers, far from it as Bendis was showing here that he loves The Avengers. By doing Avengers Disassembled the way he did, he got a lot of interest for the team and by breaking it got to build it into something different. Avengers Mansion was gone and now the team could become something else and Bendis was more or less telling people to hang in there and see what happens. To this day the Bendis run on Avengers is a divisive force among fans of the team. Yet in a way he’s downright reverent to the old teams but he knew to get it into new direction, he had to break a whole lot of eggs to get there.
That’s why I’m going to read the entire Bendis run on The Avengers. All of it from cover to cover. I’m going to do it by storyline and by the way, yes there will be spoilers. This is my own personal journey here. Feel free to join me on it, leave a comment, talk to me on twitter, let’s have some fun with this. Avengers Assemble as soon The New Avengers shall rise in my journey through The Bendis Years of the Avengers begins.
My buddy Matt Lune from The Awesome Source asked me my thoughts on Avengers #0. The funny part was my comic store didn’t get a box of comics and that box happened to contain Avengers #0. Sadly I couldn’t get my hands on it but I did manage to get it and now I can actually give my thoughts on it. Avengers #0 is Marvel’s way of spotlighting a lot of upcoming series and what will be going into a lot of the upcoming Avengers titles in the process. Marvel is definitely venturing into a lot of new ideas for their universe, redefining old ones, and doing a few things that even surprised me in the process. I read an early review of this book that didn’t say much and I’m glad because I could go into this blind for the most part. It’s cool to see that this actually merges together as a full story and building up more of the state of the All-New All-Different Marvel in the process. I can’t wait to see how this goes over with people as I actually find myself more interested in some books in the process thanks to this.
I love how the story is built around the Squadron Supreme and how they’re going to deal with the Avengers. James Robinson getting to be the one to write up this story around the rest of them is a major thing and show that the Squadron are going to be major players in the ANAD Marvel Universe. When I say they’re up to big things, I’m not even joking, this is going in directions I didn’t even fathom. This could be really cool. Through their conversations you start get your explanations for what will be to come in the lives of the different Avengers. There’s going to be a lot of crazy stuff about to go down here.
The Vision’s story is heartbreaking. I don’t care who you are but the Vision will break your heart. Mark Waid’s take on the Vision uses the history of the character and all the pain he’s gone through over the years. The way Waid had Vision interacting with his ex Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch are genuine and true. Mahmud Asrar’s emotive art for this rips out your heart and you can’t help but keep reading as Waid’s story is so good. Sonia Oback’s coloring here is top notch and gorgeous, the mood of what the Vision is going through is muted with dark colors. The only light is by the slight candlelight Oback uses in the story, which makes it that much more effective. It’s a great piece and makes you excited to see what Waid and Asrar will do with the Avengers team and what Tom King will do with The Vision in his upcoming series.
While the A-Force and Ultimates stories are both done by two teams, they both work together so we’ll cover both of them in the coming paragraphs. First off with the A-Force it is really about Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight, but setting up the basic idea of A-Force to come and the new Captain Marvel ongoing. We’re getting to see how Captain Marvel works with her satellite and Alpha Flight from what I can tell is her support staff which is awesome. G. Willow Wilson really knows how to set up a good story involving a certain character from A-Force in Secret Wars appearing and Captain Marvel wondering what is happening. Then we also get a new character in Tempest Bell working with her and the crew on the Satellite and Wilson has already made her a cool character, I’m excited to see where Tempest Bell goes in the Marvel Universe. I really enjoyed Victor Ibanez’s art as it captured the great action here and the scale of what is happening here in the story. With Laura Martin’s ever amazing coloring, especially with Captain Marvel in action in space with energy blasts flying everywhere and looking spectacular.
Now for the Ultimates, wow this book is going to be nuts. This is going to be a powerhouse team. Captain Marvel, Black Panther, The Blue Marvel, Spectrum, and Miss America, but no set up for Galactus yet. The story was about following up the events from the A-Force story but really letting it be known the level of villain the Ultimates will be dealing with. Al Ewing makes it clear that the scale he’s dreaming up for them is out of this world. It was also the chance for Miss America to shine and she’s a lot of fun. If you are unfamiliar with Miss America and don’t immediately dig the heck out of her, I will be shocked. Kenneth Rocafort’s art is not to some people’s liking but I like him more here than I did in Red Hood and The Outlaws. Much smoother layout wise and much improved all around. It gives me hope for the Ultimates and Dan Brown’s coloring is gorgeous, it’s got a lot of flash and dazzle to it that engage you to the large scope of the story ahead. Now I’m much more sold on The Ultimates.
Now for Deadpool’s piece here is really Garry Duggan setting up the idea that Deadpool is somehow going to be a freaking Avenger. How does this happen, why is this happening? Well that’s what Duggan does and he does it well. It actually somehow makes sense to see Deadpool as an Avenger. This is a strange place we are in seeing Deadpool in the Uncanny Avengers but hey, I like it. This is weird and Duggan shows the emotion behind Deadpool in the midst of this big thing. Steve Rogers is now having Deadpool run missions with him and it shows the level of respect Deadpool has for Steve Rogers. It’s really fun and a well done story, I now want to at least read the first issue of Uncanny Avengers to see where this goes. Ryan Stegman’s art is also a major selling point here, I’ve always liked his work and this was spot on. It’s fluid, action packed, and has a lot of great detail in capturing the world. Richard Isanove’s coloring is huge here as it is bright and gorgeous really letting Stegman’s art shine. I’m impressed that this worked as well as it did but I’m sold. Well done.
Now for New Avengers, this is the off the wall ideas book if I ever heard it. Al Ewing is using this squad to throw Sunspot as head of A.I.M. (Avengers Idea Mechanics) and go nuts. This is the issue as it revolves around setting up a major villain and the concept of New Avengers and what is to come. There really isn’t as much character work here but the new A.I.M. idea was so big that it didn’t need a ton of major character work. It explains what Sunspot is up to and shows the team and here we go. It has an American Kaiju coming up for goodness sake and other bits of madness, I’m pretty sold. The art here is going to be the real tough sell. Gerardo Sandoval is heavily stylized and I can already see the division right off the bat. It took me a minute but I’m digging it and it fits all the madness that Ewing is about to throw at us. High emotion faces, exaggerated action, and lots of imagination, this works to Sandoval’s art. Dono Sanchez Almara’s coloring is pretty solid here, it runs real dark at points and a little muddy but looks good for the most part. New Avengers #1 should be a good time, I’m definitely game to try the first issue out for sure.
As for the art on the framing sequences, Leonard Kirk is going to work well on Squadron Supreme and Paul Neary does an excellent job inking him. Frank Martin’s colors were a nice compliment to his art for this story. Believe me the Squadron Supreme are going to be big and if the rest of these books live up to what Avengers #0 set up, wow Marvel is going to have a formidable line up of titles on the way. I’m also impressed I got this large an article out of this but sometimes you have to let the words flow. All-New All-Different Marvel is trying a lot of exciting ideas here and sign me up for the fun ahead.
I’ve been wanting to do a back issue feature for a long time, then recently a siren call echoed out to me. Looking through a back issue bin I found the glory that is What if? #104 from Volume 2 of the series. It’s appropriate that my What if Journey begins with one of my favorite characters of the Marvel Universe, The Impossible Man from Poppup. Impossible Man is one of my favorite characters because a story involving him usually involves me being endlessly amused. Add in the fact that the cover has Impossible Man with the Infinity Gauntlet and I just had to see what was going to happen within these pages. Because if Impossible Man with the Infinity Gauntlet doesn’t scream fun to you then by golly you’re boring.
The story takes place right at the end of the classic Infinity Gauntlet story by Jim Starlin. This time around we have Joey Virkaitis being the scribe for this unfathomable journey with Gregg Schigiel who you may know as the man to drew the Spider-Man Anti-Drug story “Fast Lane” inserts. Let’s just say from the set up of the original Infinity Gauntlet just dives this story in directions you would never imagine. I liked how Virkaitis started this out deadly serious and then the weird crap begins out of nowhere. That title page of our favorite Impossible Man carrying the Infinity Gauntlet it’s one part hilarious and the absolute terror at the Impossible Man having the all powerful object. Because even Thanos can’t handle Impy at this level of power.
I do love the expressions Schigiel adds to this as everyone is trying to figure out what to do with Impossible Man and the Gauntlet. I actually laughed out loud because Virkaitis adds some hilarious lines as Silver Surfer and Impossible Man are negotiating him even having the Gauntlet. It’s weird when the story starts to try to put in a serious tone for a short time when Zenn-La comes into play that the story doesn’t entirely work. I think it’s more off putting because of how fun the story is and when a serious tone is put in I couldn’t help but start scratching my head.
By the end of this though, even with some weak moments, the end of this story truly makes the issue. Just strange enough to make sense and I’m amazed at how Virkaitis turned this into a nifty story in the process. I even learned that this was Glenn Shigiel’s first work drawing comics and while a little rough at times he does a cool job. This is an engaging and effective little story, even better than I only paid 48 cents for this at my local used book store. I also can’t find any credits of Thomas Virkaitis outside of this and that’s a shame because this was a good read overall. If you find this for the price I did I recommend grabbing it. Though of course my love of this one started because of the fact that I am a huge Impossible Man fan, but even if you’re not go read this if you like fun. I know you all like fun out there too. Till next time, as Wesley’s What if Journey continues.