Face it, internet, you just hit the jackpot! Yes, friends, welcome back to another installment of GhostAndy reading a comic book so you don’t have to.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Most of the time I hope that by informing and educating the masses on what happens to in my never ending stack of comics that someone somewhere will end up picking it up, read it, formulate their own opinions, and leave some god damn comments finally!
Sheesh! Right now, my only company is the rest of the Ghost staff and a bunch of Russian bots that are desperately trying to hock porn and waterbeds on our website. So please before I begin, I’m begging you, from the bottom of my heart, if you read this blog, and enjoyed it, leave a comment or a like. For desperate writers like myself, it’s like throwing a quarter in our guitar case while we serenade you with a poor cover of “Buddy Holly” by Weezer on a late night corner in between someone’s bar crawl.
Any who, a couple weeks back on our New Years Show, I discussed the first six issues of Jason Aaron’s recent run on the Avengers. For those of you not kind enough to click on the link I provided and listen to it yourself, my general thoughts that it was good.
I enjoyed the fact that Mr. Aaron was writing characters like Cap, Thor, Iron Man etc. to speak and behave like their MCU counterparts, which was a smart marketing move for those newcomers that might pick up the new series after seeing Infinity War or any of the other Avengers movies.
However, I was critical a bit, because the opening 6 part story dealing with dying plague infested Celestials and a war with a bunch of giant sized bug critters, although for long time fans was an interesting enough yarn, for those I mentioned before that maybe picked up the series for the first time, I could see how after an issue or two, they would get hopelessly lost in sea of continuity. I mean sure there were some noticeable life rafts like making the Tom Hiddleson version of Loki one of the bad guys, and I know some fan is going to say the Celestials were in the original GotG so people should know who they are, but that was a cameo at best.
Long story short, with the jumping around between time lines, and the pretty convoluted story of humans getting superpowers by a dying Celestial puking its guts out over ancient humanity, I’m sure some causal fans would have checked out.
The truth is though I’m not a causal fan. The Avengers are a book I’ll pretty much buy regardless of who the author is and heck I muscled through Jonathan Hickman’s run on the series, and that was 10 times more complex than this story. So I decided I’m in for the long haul with Jason Aaron’s run in hopes like Hickman’s Secret Wars, all this story building will eventually pay off in something grand. He has been touting his War of the Realms crossover event coming out later this year, and it seems he’s planting a lot of seeds with this series, so consider me strapped in to seeing what happens next.
Thus we get to the topic of today’s read pile which is the second 6 issue arc of Aaron’s Avengers, issues 7 through 12. This should come out in a trade in a little while, but I just finished it in single issues so here’s the scoop on what’s a happenin’ with Earth’s Mightiest.
**I will caution some of this is a little spoilery and unlike some of my read piles on books that happened decades ago, issue 12 just came out last month, so some of you might not have read these issues yet.**
After an interlude that tells a story of the prehistoric Ghost Rider’s origin story, we fast forward back to the aftermath of the battle between the Avengers and their Celestial foes. The Avengers have set up shop in their new base at the top of world in the shell of a dead Celestial which Black Panther and Iron Man have begun to hollow out and make habitable. Y’know adding a food court and a Sharper Image to sell Stark gadgets to bored visiting members.
We get one of those “Old Order Changeth” issues where they pretty decide who will be a part of the team (The Big Three, Captain Marvel, Ghost Rider, Black Panther, She-Hulk and a rotating 8th member), plus who will be their leader and chairman which was decided to be Black Panther.
As a result, the US gets pissed off given the team seems to have more of a Wakanda influence than an American one, despite all the heroes insisting they are a world organization not a national one. Regardless, that makes a bunch of high ranking officials nervous enough that they go and get themselves their own super hero team in the Squadron Supreme.
Not only that, but also the Russian government also gets nervous as well, and they reorganize their Winter Guard team to be their own nationalized version of the Avengers. Yahoo! More Crimson Dynamo!
While all this is happening, Namor the Submariner decides its time to begin another war against the surface dwellers, because that’s worked so well for him in the past. Hey, it’s the cyclical nature of comics, we keep coming back to these same ideas every couple of years right. It’s now time for Namor to be a douche bag surface hater. Yep, right on schedule.
However, as a twist, this time after an initial encounter with the newly reformed Avengers Squad, Namor decides to take a page out his fellow Invader, Captain America’s playbook and forms his own team out of a variety of characters from Marvel’s underwater patheon: Tiger Shark, Bloodtide, Echidna, Orka the Killer Whale and a bunch of other jabronis. He calls them the Defenders of the Deep, which is a nice play on Namor’s original affiliation with that superhero squad of the 70s.
In any case, when you have a bunch of super being teams meet in one place, they are bound to have gang style fights over turf and that’s what happens here as well. Just a couple issues of super dudes punching each other and glaring menacingly. ‘Nuff said.
Things I Liked:
Probably my favorite single issue of this collection was the backstory about the prehistoric Ghost Rider and how he came to be. Yes, it was goofy that it was delivered as an issue of the Avengers when it fact it was more of a one shot book, but hey, sometimes when you have a preexisting popular podium, why take the time to build another one people might not pay attention too?
However, in Jason Aaron’s defense, I feel like this whole history of the “Flintstone Avengers” that first appeared in Marvel Legacy #1 will ultimately be super important to his overall story, and the fact that a Ghost Rider is now a core member of the Avengers gives this tale a little more relevance as backstory for the importance of having a Rider on the Avengers in the first place.
But regardless, this neolithic tale of revenge that pits a Ghost Rider riding a flaming Mastodon vs. the ancient animalistic killing machine known as the Wendigo, is really something special, and not something I originally thought I would have liked as much as I did. I also didn’t think the fight would be as fair as it was given the Rider had a huge hulking war elephant to help him, but again, I guess he was pretty green in terms of using his powers compared to the much older Wendigo.
But Aaron excels in my opinion at writing anything that happens in ancient times, like his series “The Goddamned”. This is just an Avengers version of that to a certain degree.
Things I Didn’t Like:
It’s really hard not to point out that this collection of 6 issues is really a hodge podge of a bunch of different ideas all crammed into a very loose narrative. And if this was a series that was released way back in 70s or 80s, that would be fine. 2 issue story arcs were the most you would expect at that point.
However, in this modern era, the precedent has been set that if you are going to collect 6 books and put them out in a trade, they all better have the same damn story and not be a mismatch of a laundry list of ideas that you had to plant seeds for upcoming story lines around. That just seems like poor planning to a degree. Like you couldn’t come up with a cohesive way to do the same damn thing and instead resorted to a glorified collection of one shots?
I mean there’s there’s a random Ghost Rider story, setting up the team’s base, several Namor fights, a date with Thor/She-Hulk, heck even the Agents of Atlas character, Gorilla-man, shows up randomly for a couple issues for no apparent reason. It’s all over the place.
I know Jason Aaron is a great writer and I trust that all of these ideas are included for the sake of setting up other things down the road, but I can’t shake the feeling that if I had bought this in trade following the last 6 issue arc which was all one story, I would have felt cheated. I mean the only common thread seems to be that the rookie Ghost Rider doesn’t really know what’s going on most of the time and is uneasy about the responsibility about being an Avenger.
I don’t know if that’s enough to hang a modern day trade paperback’s story arc on.
Of course one of my favorite reveals of this entire book was the inclusion of the Squadron Supreme as the United States’ solution to the fact that the Avengers no longer fall under their jurisdiction or political sway. I have to admit, I geeked out a bit on that!
I can’t say why I’m a huge fan of this obvious JLA stand-in team that’s been around since the late 60s, but I definitely perk up any time they make an appearance. I mean it defies reason as to why I should even care about a team who’s members have some of the most convoluted histories in all of Marvel comics! There’s like a 10 different Hyperions and Nighthawks running around, at least 2 or 3 Speed Demons, not sure about Dr. Spectrums. I think actually only Power Princess has had only one or two different versions of her, so she’s the least wonky.
But yeah with all those different versions of those characters, it boggles the mind why you would get excited about them showing up given that you aren’t even sure which ones these are going to be. The Good guy ones? The Bad guy ones? The Multiverse survivor ones? Some brand new set? So much uncertainty…
But really, maybe that’s why I like them so much. They have been rewritten so many times that they actually supersede continuity all together. That at this point, it’s like “Who Cares?!? Write them however you want! Whatever fits the story you are telling!”
I mean most writers do that already with the major superheroes we really care about so why not do it with the Superman clone and his gang of “DC”esque flunkies?!? Except while some bits of fandom might get up in arms when they mess with Spider-man’s continuity (yeah, I’m one of them), the Squadron have been messed around with so many times, that it’s almost a given that the next time they show up in a comic, its going to be some other version we have never heard of.
The last time I read a book with them was with the Multiverse Survivors versions who ended up decapitating Namor the Submariner in their second issue. Evidently, given Namor is in this series, despite getting his head cut off, he got better. It’s amazing what some Bactine and Band-aid will do, I guess.
Anyways, thanks to some Weird World adventures, I actually rather enjoyed the book, and I think that’s the reason I do get excited when they show up. Regardless of which version they are, they do end up having some pretty great stories, such as the one I just mentioned or Mark Gruenwald’s epic mini series. Heck, even their original appearances in the Avengers by Roy Thomas are great, so I haven’t been let down by them yet, which is certainly a statement I can’t make about other characters throughout the years.
Again, with this being a somewhat random collection of one shot stories instead of being an actual story arc like the first 6 issues were, it was hard for me to give the overall collection a grade. Sure, that may seem counter-intuitive since I also pointed out that was the way that comics were written for decades prior to the adoption of the “trade model” and I haven’t had issues writing grades on those kinds of books in the past. But maybe I was just not prepared for it, especially in the face of Aaron’s big push towards his War of the Realms cross over. I just thought it would be more “arc”like I guess.
So instead I’ll grade this as some separate sets of homework and come up with an average.
The Namor stuff, I won’t lie, reminded me a ton of a story I did a read pile on just a couple months ago, in the X-men vs. Avengers. That had a semi-villain/semi-anti hero in Magneto with his fighting force (the X-men) and they were fighting both the Avengers and the Russian Winter Guard who were both hell bent on bringing Magneto to justice. So much so that they ended up fighting each other just as much as Magneto.
That’s pretty much what happened in this collection of issues except substitute Magneto for Namor. It’s pretty uncanny how similar it is.
If you don’t believe me, pick up that Roger Stern crossover for yourself and take a gander sometime. Or you can just cheat and read my cliff notes version in my read pile review from September below.
As for the rest of the ideas in this collection, as I said, I really did love the caveman Ghost Rider story, although it was super weird that it appeared in an Avengers book. The trials and tribulations of Black Panther becoming the chairman of the Avengers and taking that responsibility was decent stuff, and I’m happy they selected him as the leader of the new team. The main reason being that the Panther can sometimes be written as somewhat of an aloof jerk at times and taking on this role has tempered that to a certain degree in that he has to be at least an aloof diplomatic jerk instead.
Finally, I’m still up in the air on what I think about the Thor/She-Hulk relationship. There’s something that feels right about it at times, and at others just seems off. I won’t lie that I have a preference for Thor to be with Jane Foster, but I can also understand that can be too obvious at times.
Jen seems to the a perfect partner for Thor in terms of keeping up with him physically, sort of like the Supes/Wonder Woman pairing, but I still have my doubts at times. It just seems forced a bit, and I’m wondering if now that they have had a first date that future issues will help alleviate that lingering awkwardness or if it will always be something that just wasn’t meant to be.
Altogether, that seems to average out to an average grade. Nothing spectacular happens, but it’s not terrible either. As my fellow Ghost, Rob Stewart, say sometimes it’s just serialized story telling. This is a comic book being a comic book, where ideas are growing and not every one can be the culmination of something. Sometimes you just have to keep at it in hopes for something more substantial down the line.