Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Mighty Avengers: The Unspoken
by Dan Slott, Khoi Pham and Sean Chen
Collects Mighty Avengers 27 – 31.
Why I Bought This: Late last year I decided to sample the first Slott trade on this title because even though Hank Pym (who is my least favorite of the longtime Avengers) is the central character, the story also promised to focus on Wundagore Mountain, which is one of Marvel’s more interesting settings when done right. Well that first volume showed that even when settling for an Avengers team made up of cast-off characters that Bendis doesn’t want, Slott is an infinitely better choice to write an Avengers story than Bendis will ever be. So in the week before the movie came out I decided to pick-up several Avengers trades and considering how much I liked Slott’s first volume this one made the cut.
The Plot: So in the wake of Secret Invasion, Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn is put in charge of both SHIELD and by extension the Avengers. Pym decided to honor Wasp’s death in that event by forming his own team of Avengers. He ended up with Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hercules, Stature (the second Ant-Man’s daughter, she has size changing powers), Jocasta, U.S. Agent and Amadeus Cho (teenager with super-intelligence on a par with Mr. Fantastic) as well as Jarvis the butler. What he doesn’t know is that Scarlet Witch is actually Loki in disguise. And that sets the table for this volume.
Chapter 1 – A flashback shows that as teenager Black Bolt won the Inhumans throne in trial by combat over the prior king, whose name was subsequently erased from history—making him the Unspoken. US Agent and Quicksilver are on assignment in China when Quicksilver (who used to be married to Crystal of the Inhumans) spots the Unspoken and recognizes him and recommends calling in every Avenger on the planet. China’s own superheroes led by Radioactive Man confront the Unspoken and are quickly decimated.
Chapter 2 – “Scarlet Witch” is on monitor duty when Quicksilver’s distress call comes in and she decides not to report it since Loki realizes that as Scarlet Witch’s brother Quicksilver is the most likely to see through his ruse; however Stature was spying on Witch (because Witch killed her father) but before she can tell anyone what she saw Loki casts a spell on her that prevents her from saying anything negative about “Scarlet Witch” or what she saw. Stature and Vision then visit the Young Avengers (they’d both been on that team prior to this one) and she tells Wiccan (Scarlet Witch’s son) about his “mom” being back from the dead, knowing that he will immediately use his teleportation power to bring her to him. This severely irks Loki who attacks them, and then Hawkeye (in his silly ninja Ronin identity that Bendis had him wearing because Scarlet Witch killed him too) arrives to intervene.
Chapter 3 – We basically have two intercut stories and a brief interlude. The interlude sees Hank conduct an experiment with Reed Richards and Jocasta’s help to see if he can pierce the barriers of the Macroverse and thus he’s unavailable for the ongoing crises. In China the heroes learn the Unspoken has a bomb designed by the Kree that will devolve all of humanity into Alpha Primitives (a cloned slave race seen in Inhumans’ stories), and Unspoken uses the gas on US Agent and some of the Chinese heroes. The Young Avengers and Hawkeye battle Loki. Once Hawkeye determines it not really Scarlet Witch, Vision joins the fray (presumably he was holding back because Wanda is his ex-wife) and is able to turn the tide of the battle. Wiccan is about to cast a spell to shatter Loki illusion but he teleports away. This breaks the silence spell on Stature, and she calls the team to action to aid Quicksilver’s distress call.
Chapter 4 – The Avengers call in the reserves and Bucky-Cap, Spider Woman, Ms. Marvel, Rage, Justice, Tigra and some dude named Gauntlet answer the call and together the Avengers, Young Avengers and reserves join the fight in China. A lot of them quickly fall to the devolving gas but the non-human members like Vision, Ms. Marvel, Hulkling and Hercules are immune; still the battle is going poorly for the heroes. Meanwhile Hank Pym meets Eternity (the living embodiment of the universe) and Eternity appoints him Scientist Supreme, which makes him the other side of the coin to Dr. Strange’s Sorcerer Supreme. He accepts that role and becomes aware of what is happening in China and decides to head home to help.
Chapter 5 – is really just a massive fight issue from beginning to end (albeit a well done one). The heroes win when Cho modifies the Unspoken’s bomb into a laser that causes Unspoken to age rapidly thus becoming too infirm to fight (and it also cures the devolved heroes).
Critical Thoughts: Another good story by Slott. Let’s look at three major plot points in turn.
I liked with the stuff with Loki and Stature best, probably because it feels the most like a classic Avengers story. You have a classic Avengers foe in Loki. He’s impersonating a core member of the team. And we see how the possibility of Wanda’s resurrection impacts several other longtime Avengers like Vision, Hawkeye and Quicksilver (as well as newer characters like Stature and Wanda’s children). I thought Stature’s way of overcoming Loki’s spell was clever (she can’t say anything bad about him, so she tells Wiccan the “good news” that his mom is alive). And then we get a decent fight scene to pay it off. My only criticism of that part of the story is that I’m grossed out that Stature and Vision are dating because she’s the same age as his two children with Wanda, who also happen to be her teammates but apparently that choice was made in the Young Avengers and Slott is working with what he’s been given there, so I’ll let it go even if it is creepy.
The Unspoken story is good as well. I always like to see the Avengers call in the reserves to deal with a big threat. I thought the early chapters with the flashback and his introduction were very well written. On the other hand, I would say I find the vague description of his powers to be lazy writing. When Quicksilver first sees him he just says he’s an “omega level threat” and doesn’t expound on it. I know the X-men use that same sentence all the time but it’s lazy writing when they do it too. Later the Avengers specifically ask Quicksilver what he can do and he just screams “Everything” and they keep fighting. Well that’s still not helpful to either his teammates or the reader; and it is also patently untrue because if he could do “everything” then he wouldn’t need a bomb to devolve humanity, he could just devolve humanity himself. In the final chapter Unspoken says he can use the powers of all of the various Inhumans over the ages (presumably calling them up one at a time but the writing is vague). My point is that information would be more useful early in the story so the reader can anticipate the final battle and what the heroes are up against, rather than three pages before the story ends when it doesn’t make much of a difference anymore. Still the final battle is a full issue long, which is a nice payoff to four issues of build-up and it’s full of nice touches. Hank Pym pulling out a light-saber is damn fun and considering the super-science of the Marvel Universe it is sort of amazing to think Marvel’s waited this long to rip that off from Star Wars. Hawkeye is also given a great moment in the final battle wherein he has to make a one in a million shot to help Cho disarm/reprogram the bomb and to make that shot he has to step into the gas and sacrifice himself (and thus he only has one chance to make the shot since he will be too devolved for a second shot). Even the epilogue with Quicksilver and the Inhumans has a nice bittersweet touch to wrap the story up. So yea, for the most part good stuff here too.

The Hank Pym stuff also works for the most part. I certainly liked how he’s humbled and amazed to meet Eternity. Usually Eternity is only in stories with heroes like Adam Warlock or Quasar and for those types of cosmic heroes it’s just another day at the office; whereas to the guy who talks to bugs, even in the age of constant crossovers, this is a big deal. The Scientist Supreme thing is clearly a stretch but in Slott’s defense he acknowledges that off the bat with Pym himself admitting there is no way he’s smarter than Reed or Tony Stark. Eternity claims he’s choosing him because he’s the one who most makes science looks like magic, and while not a perfect explanation, it’s not completely implausible either: In this series Pym has an invented a teleporting door and he also has size changing, talking to bugs, the creation of life in Ultron, and the nebulous medical science that all Marvel scientists have to heal teammates from laser wounds or whatever. So that’s a fairly diverse set of fields that tie into either life or space, which is what Eternity represents. And while Pym is no favorite of mine, I can appreciate Slott’s desire to rehabilitate the character because under most of the modern cynical writers Pym is just a failed hero/wife beater who created one of humanity’s greatest threats in Ultron. I think Slott lays it on a little thick at times, such as how Hawkeye reacts to Pym’s arrival in the final battle when Hawkeye is a much more proven team leader than Pym at this point, but I’d rather see a writer err in favor of building the heroes up than tearing them down.
Grade: B. This is a perfectly enjoyable Avengers trade. If you don’t mind that the big three aren’t around, you have all the hallmarks of classic Avengers stories. We have both the big global threat that requires the banding together of many heroes in the one story, and the more personal quest for vengeance by an old enemy in the other, with some interpersonal conflicts mixed in. Between this and the first volume (which is even better) Slott clearly shows he’d be a fine choice to take over the franchise when Bendis finally leaves.