Robot 6

What does Marvel’s promo image tell us about the coming ‘Heroic Age’?

Marvel's promotional image for "The Heroic Age"

Marvel's promotional image for "The Heroic Age"

We know that “The Heroic Age,” which arrives in May in the wake of Siege, is intended as a turning point for the Marvel Universe.

Enough of that “dark of age despair” — Marvel’s words, not mine — that began more than five years ago with “Avengers Disassembled.” No more mutant genocides or civil wars or supervillains leading government agencies. Oh, no.

“Heroes will be heroes again,” Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada told USA Today. “They’ve gone through hell and they’re back to being good guys — a throwback to the early days of the Marvel Universe, with more of a swashbuckling feel.”

So that much is clear. But what are we to make of the promotional image the publisher released Wednesday? Are the nine characters the new lineup of the flagship Avengers title, or do they simply represent a cross-section of the Marvel Universe?

There’s a good indication that it’s the former:

1. A cross-section of the Marvel Universe would almost certainly feature “hot” characters like Wolverine and Deadpool, or instantly recognizable ones like The Hulk. Plus, surely more women and minorities — even one minority — would be represented. Why use Beast from the X-Men when there’s Storm, Emma Frost, Rogue or Kitty Pryde? Why use The Thing from the Fantastic Four when there’s the Invisible Woman?

2. With two possible exceptions — Gorilla-Man and The Thing, with caveats — all of the characters have established histories with The Avengers.

Now for those caveats:  The origins of Agents of Atlas lie in June 1978’s What If? #9, which imagined an Avengers team fighting evil in the 1950s. Those heroes were brought into the Marvel Universe in the 1998-1999 miniseries Avengers Forever. The Thing has a tenuous claim to membership, too. He accepted a nomination to join the West Coast Avengers in the mid-1980s, but left before the team took a vote.

Thor and Iron Man are, of course, founding members. Captain America joined a few issues later, joined in Issue 16 of the original series by Hawkeye. Black Widow originally became an Avenger in 1973, and again, more recently in May 2007’s Mighty Avengers #1. First-class X-Man Beast joined in 1975, providing comedy relief through his friendship with fellow ’70s recruit Wonder Man. And then there’s Spider-Man, who accepted reserve membership in 1991 before becoming one of the original Secret Avengers more than a decade later.

In short, these nine are a less-random Avengers lineup than, say, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Echo, Doctor Strange, et al.

3. If “The Heroic Age” ushers in, as writer Brian Michael Bendis said, “a tonal shift to optimism,” what better than a dynamic created by The Thing, Spider-Man, Beast and Gorilla-Man to add a little balance to the more staid natures of characters like Captain America, Iron Man and Thor?


Glancing at a couple of message boards, it appears that more than a few readers are zeroing in on Captain America: Who’s in the Alex Ross-designed costume worn by James “Bucky” Barnes for the past two years? Some have pointed to eye color as evidence — I don’t place much stock in that, as coloring errors happen all of the time — but I think the apparent lack of guns points to the newly returned Steve Rogers. Besides, why get the Old Gang (Cap, Iron Man, Thor) back together if it’s not really the Old Gang?

What I find more interesting, though, is who’s in the Hawkeye costume. I’m no robotics, or prosthetics, expert, but that left arm certainly appears to be bionic. Just like a certain sidekick-turned-freelance assassin-turned-Sentinel of Liberty. It’s now guaranteed AN AVENGER WILL DIE!! in next week’s Siege #2. My money is on Clint Barton — again — with Bucky by the end of the miniseries or the beginning of the new Avengers title, I don’t know, honoring his memory by donning the purple-and-blue tights. (For the record, the Marvel website says Clint has blue eyes; Bucky has brown. Guess the eye color of Hawkeye in the promo image. C’mon, guess.)

Of course, with a single tweet from Bendis, my careful reading of the tea leaves could be proven nonsense. In which case, let’s pretend I never wrote this. Still, it beats squinting to make out eye color or signs of Photoshop patchwork.



I think Bucky just got an improved, flesh-like bionic arm in a recent Cap comic, actually, and besides, there’s already the Young Avengers’ Hawkeye to honor Clint’s memory (if he ends up dead again).
(I’m guessing that Hawkeye just has weird asymmetrical sleeves.)

The funny thing is, I’m leaning toward this not being an Avengers lineup for the same reason you think it’s not a cross-section…only one woman, and an all-white cast? (Well, the Thing, Beast, and Gorilla Man *were* white…) I would think (or at least hope) they’d shoot for a little more diversity in an Avengers team.

Also – three “monster” characters with ties to other teams seems a bit much. (Admittedly, now that SWORD is cancelled, Beast is free.)

I wonder if it’s actually just who the artist felt like drawing that day, and we’re analyzing it too much. :)

Wouldn’t it be kinda passé to kill off Clint Barton… again?

I’m pretty sure Hawkeye has had that sleeve on his costume before, actually. An archer *would* have something on his arm to protect it from the bowstring.

Steve Rogers wants Bucky to stay in the Captain America costume–I think Steve will be around out of costume, probably in a post-SHRA version of the Tony Stark/Norman Osborn position.

“Why use Beast from the X-Men when there’s Storm, Emma Frost, Rogue or Kitty Pryde? Why use The Thing from the Fantastic Four when there’s the Invisible Woman?”

That one’s simple. Because they covered in blue fur and made of rock, respectively–they’re more interesting visually.

Wouldn’t a new avengers lineup include Hank Pym in some way? After all, he is Earth’s Scientist Supreme.

Gorilla-Man should be an Avenger, but only if Parker writes it.

In a 180 degree turn from a decade ago, The Avengers are currently a hotter commodity than the X-Men. Expect Marvel to do what it always does with what sells – sell more of it (do we really need 18 Deadpool titles?). Expect multiple Avengers titles or a multi-weekly format, such as Amazing Spider-Man.
I am quite excited about the “swashbuckling” feel of the new era, though. I would love to see them keep the current tone of the Mighty title – it really reminds me of the classic 1975-1982 era that firmly reinforced the Avengers’ legend.

If this picture really represented “a throwback to the early days of the Marvel Universe”, the characters would be smiling. And maybe pitching fruit pies, subscriptions or iron-ons.

Matter-Pooper Lad

January 28, 2010 at 9:17 am

So what happened to the post I made this morning? Did somebody not like it, and delete it? Should I stop bothering to post here?

Splint Chesthair

January 28, 2010 at 9:17 am

I’m thinking this is just meant to be a cross-section of the Marvel Universe. The Heroic Age has been promoted as a Marvel-wide thing, not just an Avengers event. So you have the “big three” Avengers and Hawkeye to represent the team going back to a classic lineup, Spidey to represent…Spidey, Ben for the Fantastic Four, Beast for the X-Men, and Widow and Gorilla-Man for all the “miscellaneous” heroes.

As for the Cap/Bucky/Clint speculation, if Clint’s death was one of the events that set off the current “age of despair,” why kill him again to kick off the new shinier, happier status quo? I think Bucky remains Cap, Clint goes back to Hawkeye and Steve Rogers becomes director of the new SHIELD.

Who would have thought Hawkeye would suddenly become a legacy character?

Hawkeye’s weird sleeve is on his bow arm so his string doesn’t his bare flesh. It’s happened to me several times in the past- those suckers hurt.

So the string doesn’t HIT bare flesh, not HIS.

I think Steve’s likely going to take ‘time off’ for a while, recharge after all the tumult, he’ll appear in Siege and then lay low for a while, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bucky remains as a second Captain America from now on. If DC can have 3 Flashes (2 almost constantly) why not 2 Caps? They have different styles and looks, it’s easy to differentiate, yet they have similar backgrounds and there’s little conflict between the two. It won’t be “I’m the real Cap!” it’ll be “Captain America isn’t one man, it’s an idea. [Bucky] Cap gets to hang around because I [Steve] say so.”

And I think this isn’t a specific team, it’s just a somewhat odd cross section. I don’t think they want to give away the Avengers team yet.

Steve’s already told Bucky he doesn’t want to be Cap, so my money is on Bucky being Cap. I also hear from Marvel spies that that move will free up Steve to be the “new Nick Fury” and head up a reformed SHIELD after the Osborn/HAMMER madness is behind us.

I’m not sure that the different lineup will make that much of a difference in the stories; the way that stories are told has become as important as the characters in them. Historically, the two-tier, or “Big Three/Little Four” system was used so that there could be continuing subplots to keep the readers involved. The Big Three had their own titles, after all. Subplots have been practically nonexistent in the Avengers titles ever since “Avengers Disassembled.” It’s easy to see why. With decompression, a subplot that might take up half a page or a page in the old style comic book, would take two pages or more; two subplots would leave much less room for the slow-moving plot. Bendis is notorious for using filler, but not using filler would mean more space for the story’s plot, not space for subplots that would have to be introduced and/or updated.

In the absence of subplots and tightly structured plots, the stories will consist of chatting, quips, and the illusion of action, just as before. What the characters are chatting and quipping about might be different.

I assume that if Spider-Man is an Avenger — and the lineup does suggest that it’s a new Avengers team — that there won’t be salaries, regardless of Stark’s financial situation, because that would affect Parker in his series.


It’s an Avengers line-up of sorts to cash in on Iron Man and to re-establish as buildup to the Avengers movie.

It’s an Avengers line-up of sorts to cash in on Iron Man 2 (Black Widow and Iron Man) and to re-establish the trio as buildup to the Avengers movie.

Just SEEING Beast as non cat Beast has me super excited right now!

I’m voting that it’s a cross-section of characters that Marvel intends to focus on in the foreseeable future, and not a new Avengers lineup for two reasons:

1) X
2) 4

Thing and Beast are wearing their uniforms from their different teams. If this were truly a new lineup, wouldn’t they be wearing something a little more… I don’t know, generic?

Plus, out of the nine characters assembled (heh), we know for a fact that Marvel is actively promoting six of them, either with new series or major storylines. Of the three who are left (Thing and Beast being the other two), everyone seems to think that Hawkeye’s going to experience a game-changer in the next few months.

I have a feeling that Steve will be donning the Iron Patriot armor.

And running S.H.I.E.L.D.

Thacher E Cleveland

January 28, 2010 at 9:02 pm

If they actually killed an Avenger every time they said “AN AVENGER WILL DIE” they’d be on a 5th Captain America.

“If they actually killed an Avenger every time they said “AN AVENGER WILL DIE” they’d be on a 5th Captain America.”

Ummm… They ARE, actually:

(Steve Rogers / William Naslund /. 50s Cap / John Walker / Bucky Barnes)

… am I missing one?

The only “real” Cap you’re missing is Jeff Mace (AKA the Patriot) but there are a few unofficial ones who served for very short periods here:

The Costume updates for Iron Man, Thor and Captain America really remind me of the redesigns most of these characters went through in the 90’s.

I think I wanna re-read Heroes Reborn now.

It doesn’t make much sense for Steve Rogers to start wearing Bucky’s redesigned costume. The same goes for Bucky becoming Hawkeye.

But then again, Marvel and DC aren’t really in the business of making sense these days so who knows.

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