"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
This morning, Marvel held a press call to confirm that this week’s promotion of a new team only referred to as “Mighty” would in fact be a new Mighty Avengers title, set to debut in September. Now, you’d think a new team of heroes that includes both She-Hulk (Jen Walters flavor) and Adam the Blue Marvel (lost hero of color) is and tied to Jonathan Hickman’s turn at bat in the latest event series Infinity would be pretty cool. Hickman has assembled Avengers these days for big, mind-bending reasons. These are characters who don’t get enough screen time (if any) and might not get the chance at their own solo title, so why not enjoy this young new team for a chance to see more heroes?
Shouldn’t we be grateful? Don’t we need another Avengers team? How’s that hole-in-your head collection coming?
Let’s face it, Dear Reader, we’ll be looking at six Avengers titles on our shelves beginning in September, and I’m starting to feel a little fatigued. What is it that Avengers teams even do anymore? Why do they need this name so badly? Setting aside the Iron Man-Captain America team with the original-flavor name, I can give a pass to the “Uncanny” Avengers because it’s a mash-up of Uncanny X-Men and Avengers, which is the team’s motivation: It’s a combination team with a combination name. The others aren’t as easy to define: Secret isn’t an Earth’s Mightiest Team as much as a S.H.I.E.L.D. ops unit that has superheroes in it. Avengers Arena isn’t an arena for Avengers, it’s a group of teens who come from a variety of different teams or schools. New Avengers aren’t even really Avengers, either; they’re the new Illuminati.
As savvy fans, we know the word Avengers is marketing gold. Having a book named after one of the highest-grossing films of all time makes perfect sense. “Avengers” as a shorthand term for “team” is right along the lines of “Justice League” being the Distinguished Competition’s vocabulary choice for the same. It tells the reader these are a heroes who work solo as well as in a group. However, as invested fans, none of it makes any sense. Why are they Avengers? What exactly makes an Avenger an Avenger anymore?
In years past, it was a superhero club with rules and a charter, the works. You could be reservist or an active member or even retired. There was a line between being an Avenger and not being one, but both seemed prestigious enough to get by. Yes, there has been some government intervention and some coordinated efforts with other groups, but the Avengers was both a heroic title and a social club. During Civil War, it was a circle of protection, a way to watch each other’s back and show solidarity in the face of a government lockdown and overwhelming odds. Avengers were avenging themselves in a way and holding to tradition, straight from Captain America himself.
Nowadays, we’ve said the word Avengers over and over to the point that it’s lost meaning. It doesn’t feel like a club, more like a militia. It doesn’t feel like a way to protect one another, it’s more of a way to protect everyone and everything in a way that feels more like Doctor Strange’s domain. It’s a catch-all for doing Earth’s Mightiest work, and while that’s appropriate and less loosey-goosey than the Bendis years, when the Avengers were the best heroes to have breakfast with, it still seems a little worn out.
Reading about this morning’s press call, I’m a little more reassured than I was when the names unfolded. The Mighty Avengers will have a purpose: to protect Earth after the other Avengers teams are away on the events of Infinity. Senior Vice Presdient-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort spoke about wanting to make a team that the late Dwayne McDuffie would approve of, with at least 50 percent non-white, non-male characters. Normally shying away from a minority-focused team, Brevoort noted he had concerns that putting one together would seem forced or fake, but that “the reality is that the people who are interested in these characters and want to see heroes that reflect them have a genuine point.” So when Marvel had a chance to make a new team that didn’t have any major requirements as to who had to lead and could really come from anywhere, the company took the opportunity. Especially with characters like White Tiger and the new Power Man, characters that the majority of the Marvel audience hasn’t heard of, bringing them together in a team allows for some on-screen action and a bigger chance to gain some new fans.
But why do they have to be Avengers? By this point, I think I might have heard the name so much and on so many books that the word Avengers has lost some of its meaning. For those with pull lists and long reading lists, it might be difficult to keep track of what story came from where when all your books are called “Avengers” something or other. Were there no other names available? I know the Champions are probably still under legal restraint; years back when Matt Fraction was tapped to bring back that brand, Marvel had learned the name had been usurped by someone else. His book was then re-titled The Order, and it’s a great read if you get the chance, but I can see why this new team doesn’t fit the Order’s moniker. Could we use the Defenders? I know there’s a Fearless option on the stands, but maybe two Defenders titles might not be as awkward as six Avengers books. Perhaps, and I know this is crazy, but maybe we could … make up a new name? Perish the less-marketable thought.
Look, I know it seems petty to pick on the new team for its name when it hasn’t even had a chance at a first issue, but that’s the point. Getting that first issue off the ground and into the ebb and flow of the Marvel readers’ universe will be difficult, and the big A on the book might be more of a hindrance than the publisher might be used to. Not everyone can afford to pick up every comic that sees the light of day, and when it comes down to it, that’s why the cover is there: for us to judge the book.
A different name than any other book on the stands right now might make an impact with those looking for more comics to read. Then again, those looking for a book to read at all are going to go with an Avengers title; it’s a known brand. Aside from my own ongoing disappointment with Greg Land’s art, I really want this book to succeed. It comes from honest intentions, fits a purpose to a plot and will help showcase a lot of characters that aren’t Wolverine. I just hope they’re mighty enough to break through the rest of the Avengers titles to stick around.