Waiting for the Trade
Mighty Avengers (2): Family Bonding
written by Al Ewing, art by Valerio Schiti and Greg Land
collecting Mighty Avengers #6-10
Why I Bought This: As a fan of Roger Stern’s Avengers run I’ve always liked Captain Marvel v2.0 a lot. This title finally returned her to prominence with a fitting new code name in Spectrum so I grabbed the first volume as soon as it came out in trade. I liked it quite a bit and thus picked up volume 2 when it hit trade.
Chapter 1 – a criminal is running through alleys and being followed by birds (we will cut to this throughout the chapter). Meanwhile Luke Cage is moving his family into a new apartment and his super-friends help out. Meanwhile Spectrum and She-Hulk are helping Power Man v3.0 learn to use his powers. Meanwhile Luke’s wife gives his friends “A”-shaped communicators for their new Avengers team. Meanwhile Luke and Blue Marvel have an argument about Luke’s criminal past and Blue retiring in the JFK years leading to Marvel flying off. Meanwhile the birds herd the criminal over to Falcon, who throws him in the trash and radios in that the crook is a right wing domestic terrorist working for Gideon Mace. When White Tiger hears that name over the communicator she summons her Tiger God form.
Chapter 2 – We learn Gideon killed White Tiger’s family when she was a child back in some ’70s Spider–man comic and she is not pleased he made parole. She crushes her communicator then surrenders her humanity to the Tiger God so it can hunt Mace. Luke calls in the team to prevent White Tiger from murdering Mace. Meanwhile a high-priced lawyer frees our crook from chapter one since the only witness to his crime is a pigeon. He walks out the door and gets pounced on by White Tiger. He gives up Gideon’s location as Power Man and Iron Fist arrive to stop her from killing the low level crook. She then kicks the crap out of the two heroes (while the crook runs away). Meanwhile Mace has formed a right-wing political think tank. She-Hulk negotiates letting Cage and Falcon act as bodyguards for him. No sooner said then White Tiger crashes through the window. She takes out three heroes with ease and confronts Mace, who is now in a wheel chair. She strikes a killing blow but Mace ends up being a hologram of Spectrum in disguise. Now that Spectrum sees White Tiger is fully possessed she cuts loose and just like that the fight is over. In the aftermath, the police question Cage’s team while the right-wing types plot to turn public opinion against Cage’s team. In the cliffhanger we see Mace had the low level crook killed and the body left among a pile of dead birds.
Chapter 3 – The Avengers take White Tiger to Blue Marvel’s undersea fortress of solitude. Luke and Adam share an apology then get on the phone to try to find a magic-user to cure Tiger. While that’s going on WESPE (a European version of AIM/Hydra that Blue Marvel fights) tries to break into the Neutral Zone (another dimension where matter and anti-matter coexist) so Blue Marvel, Spectrum and She-Hulk head out to investigate. The villain is an evil scientist going by Dr. Positron living in an old-school volcano base. He deploys robot wasps against the heroes to no avail. Meanwhile back at the ranch the Tiger God threatens to eat White Tiger’s soul but she tough talks it into surrendering its power to her instead. This awakens her from her coma and she hugs Power Man. Meanwhile the heroes breech Positron’s base only for his security to imprison the girls in a darkforce bubble (proven in the past to be the only thing that can stop Monica). Positron then unmasks to reveal he is Blue Marvel’s son. He blames dad for the death of his mother and the loss of his brother in the Neutral Zone and claims he’s going to free said brother now. Blue Marvel says he has tried but warns it can’t be done. Positron activates his gizmo anyway causing his brother’s enormous hand to emerge from the volcano.
Chapter 4 – Ronin v4.0 is talking to someone on a crystal ball about the importance of his secret identity when he is attacked by ninja were-snakes. He decapitates a bunch of them but the last were-snake sets off a suicide bomb. Meanwhile Blue Marvel’s son is climbing out of a volcano, which he dwarfs at this point. This causes Blue Marvel to flashback on raising his two sons and the ensuing family drama. He lost his son to the Neutral Zone the same day Galactus arrived on Earth (FF48) as he was a fighting a mad scientist (Evad Skorpion) and his son, who was acting as sidekick, got sucked into a dimensional portal when the lab exploded during the fight. Blue Marvel lets his other son, Positron, know they can’t let Neutral Zone boy through the portal because he will explode like an antimatter bomb. Meanwhile Spectrum turns herself into Gamma Rays so that she can level up She Hulk, who then breaks the darkforce barrier holding them prisoner. She Hulk and Spectrum then drive giant-sized Marvel boy back through the portal. Blue Marvel smashes the portal machine to seal him in. Marvel offers to work with his evil son to find a solution to save the lost son but Positron storms off. Meanwhile Ronin has survived though his mask burned off in the explosion revealing him to be Blade.
Chapter 5 – Blade is in a heated battle with fire-breathing were-roosters. He decapitates them all but as a chicken can survive without its head he gets stabbed and roasted from behind after he thought the battle won. Meanwhile Reed Richards informs Blue Marvel that the Watcher died (in the Original Sin crossover) so Blue Marvel visits with the Watcher’s widow. Meanwhile a Mindless One is rampaging in NY. It trashes Cage and Falcon but then Monica comes in and incinerates it (while dropping Nextwave references on us). Cage then assembles his team to go help with the larger crossover mystery. Mrs. Watcher gives Blue Marvel a tour of her home and asks him to be Godfather to Uatu’s unborn baby. Meanwhile Blade awakes imprisoned in an occult ritual by the Deathwalkers.
Critical Thoughts: In general I’m enjoying this series quite a bit (I’ve since picked up the third trade as well). As fan of Spectrum this book is giving me exactly what I want. First, she is portrayed as force to be reckoned with as she single handedly wins the fights against the Tiger God and the Mindless One. Given her powers (she can transform into any type off energy in the electromagnetic spectrum) she should be one of the 10 most powerful heroes on Marvel’s Earth. More than just the powers though, the personality work on Monica is really good as well. Stern portrayed her as a resourceful leader in his Avengers run, and we see that here with her training the teen Power Man or using her powers to level up She Hulk. At the same time, Monica is probably best known in the modern era for being in Nextwave. And yes, I love NextWave as much as everyone else, but that series portrayed Monica radically different than Stern did: more willing to kill, less competent as a leader (often as the straightman to her teammate’s insane shenaghins); Ewing manages to find an interpretation of the character that unifies both her Avengers and Nextwave portrayals into a believable whole.
Yet the series is not just the Monica show, as characterizations are strong up and down the roster. Blue Marvel shines as a really strong character. He’s a much better Superman-analog than Sentry ever was (and since both are retroactive Silver Age heroes the comparison is apt). For those not familiar with Blue Marvel (and I wasn’t before this series), he is your typical Superman analog and was Earth’s greatest hero in the 1960s. And then his mask came off and the world found out he was black and large portions of society couldn’t accept it, so for the good of the nation JFK asked him to retire and he did. He spent the next decades in his undersea base trying to help the world with science while staying out of the public eye. That’s a pretty intriguing origin: rich with sociological story potential and Ewing starts to explore that in the conflict with Cage, who believes Marvel never should have retired when he had so much to offer not just as a superhero but as a positive role model for the African-American community. Ewing also gives Blue Marvel a lot of attention as a character aside from the racial aspects of his origin; with his son becoming a super villain, his other son lost in space, and then later in the quiet chapter consoling the Watcher’s widow. I don’t think everything is perfect with the character. I didn’t think his son (Dr. Positron) actually made a very good villain, and I think making a Superman analaog also be a Reed Richards’ level super scientist is ridiculously overpowered— with those combined skills I don’t see why he ever needs to team up with anyone. But for a newer character thrust into a major role, he makes the book better for being in it.
Luke Cage is also given a lead role (in fact he is the team leader) in this series. His portrayal is very similar to how Bendis used him in New Avengers, although better done for my money. I freely admit to actively disliking much of what Bendis did with the team; one of my foremost criticisms being the Avengers never seem to fight crime under Bendis, they just sit around the headquarters and talk while Hawkeye dates all the women. But in this book those quiet moments come off much better. The first chapter with everyone helping Cage move in to his new home, reads really well in a way that Bendis’s similar work never does. Like with Monica, Cage’s history is also paid lip service in this series (more so in the prior and succeeding trade than here) so that we explore the difference between being a Hero for Hire and an Avenger.
Newer characters like White Tiger and Power Man are also given some moments to develop. While I’m not sure I buy that White Tiger can bluff the Tiger God into submission. (If you read the first trade the Tiger God scares Shuma Gorath away, who in the past has been shown to be a potential universe-ending threat in the pages of Dr. Strange). But the outcome aside, it certainly is a nice moment for her to show that she has no fear and can stand up for herself.
Blade is also being used in a way that is reminiscent of the Wesley Snipes’ films, and since that his most well known interpretation I’m okay with that. He is not a character one would associate with a traditional Avengers team, and that’s why he is mostly apart from the rest of the roster. The Blade chapter with the were-rooster is shockingly good, in a situation that could easily devolve into silliness instead. Overall, his conclusion in the book is another unexpected highlight.
In terms of the plots themselves I liked them all. I also appreciate that we get three separate adventures in one trade; it’s nice that not everything needs to be dragged into six issue arcs. The best of the stories is the one where White Tiger is possessed. The weakest might be the stuff with Dr. Positron but even that has lots of character advancement in it. The only real criticism I have is that Mace’s framing the Falcon for murder subplot never comes back into play (nor do we see it a sign of it in the third trade), but the book reboots with Falcon in a more prominent role (as the new Captain America) after the third trade so there’s still time for that to be addressed.
Grade B+. This book takes several underutilized or new characters and makes a title worthy of the Avengers name.