It’s hard to believe there was a time when The Avengers were basically the also-ran’s of the Marvel Universe.
I mean, the X-Books were huge ever since the late Bronze Age thanks to Claremont’s work from the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s and the establishment of Wolverine as the IT character. The Fantastic Four was Marvel’s earliest big seller and remained that way for a good, long time. The Avengers were just… there, which is unusual because they were basically the Marvel JLA.
Comprised of Marvel’s biggest stars that couldn’t quite produce huge numbers on solo books for long, The Avengers were Earth’s mightiest defense against both alien threats and domestic ones that put all of Earth at risk.
But everyone wanted to read X-Men or Fantastic Four.
Then 2008 happened, and a little movie called Iron Man was released. To say it altered the Marvel landscape is laughably small.
Anyway, years before The Avengers could be rebuilt, they had to be torn down!
TITLE: Avengers Disassembled
Writer and Artist: Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch
Protagonists: The Avengers
Antagonists: Scarlet Witch
Starting with issue #500, Avengers Disassembled was Brian Michael Bendis’ and Marvel’s big In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass moment where they were bound and determined to take the seemingly stale Avengers and make them hip and cool for a post-millennial audience.
The frustrating thing here is that Disassembled happened so shortly after Kurt Busiek’s run with the team, which I personally considered the high-water mark for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Now, as far as I know, Kurt wasn’t kicked off the book to make way for Bendis, but Kurt was the guy who really made Avengers great again after they had languished for ages.
Regardless, Marvel wanted to give Bendis more control, and that meant expanding his reach out of the Ultimate Universe. And to set up the team Bendis wanted to deal with, he put The Avengers through a cataclysm.
Foes from The Avengers’ past seemingly attacked the heroes at random, leading to several deaths and some other members being rendered out of commission. The group is in shambles by the time Dr. Strange arrives and says “Oh, hey. Scarlet Witch is totally doing this to you”. The Avengers confront their old teammate, who is taken away by Magneto for her own good, and the team decides to… just pack it in?
Let’s start with the art today because I like to keep you off-balance. David Finch is a well-known comic talent who ended up being The Guy on Bendis’ Avenger run for quite some time, and I think his tone mostly works really well with what BMB was doing on the book.
This stretch especially benefits from Finch’s dark, gritty pencils. With everything falling apart around the team and the mansion exploded after the attack from Vision and Ultron, Finch really makes you buy in to everything feeling sooty and stripped down. Finch is nothing less than a boon to this book.
From there, I know that Bendis’ work on main-continuity Avengers books is generally a mixed bag. Trust me, I know. To be fair, I think I enjoyed his tenure more than most, and I get what he was going for here. At this point, the Avengers roster was a bit bloated and starring characters he had no interest in working with, so he had to come up with a big event to reset everything.
For me, Disassembled is what it needs to be, and I am fine with that. I do think the story doesn’t actually feel as big as it’s supposed to feel, though. Because at no point do I buy that this is the biggest threat Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have ever faced. An exploding former friend. Some Ultron drones. A Kree invasion. And not even all at the same time! It’s not exactly Grim Reaper, but it feels short of where Bendis was aiming. It’s just a bad day at the office, but… not the worst.
It IS just a four issue story, though; so I guess you can only fit so many stakes in that size of book. And given that it wasn’t long after Disassembled that Marvel started going event story nuts, I guess I appreciate the brevity here.
Your appreciation of Disassembled might come down to how Bendis handled your favorite heroes. I know my podcast cohost Andy hates this story because it unceremoniously dumps on Scarlet Witch and Vision. Scott Lang goes out like a schmuck to a surprise attack in the form of Jack of Spades’ corpse. She-Hulk just Hulk rages out and is taken off the board. So I get it… if you love some of the Avengers that Brian tosses away, you may not care for this. I’ve had books like that, so I have great empathy.
What I found in my research of Disassembled was that the “end” of The Avengers lasted exactly one month. Upon the end of this arc, the title is changed to New Avengers and rebooted right away. I actually thought the team stayed shelved for a while, but I clearly misremembered. That… REALLY kills any drama or effect that this book had! There is no actual disassembling; it’s just a quick shuffling. If Marvel really wanted this to feel important, they should have let the shelves go without a Avengers book for a solid six months. THAT would be a disassembling! It would have made a return feel more poignant.
Talking Point: Team books reset their lineups all the time in comics as writers and editors get bored or want to deliver the ol’ shot-in-the-arm. What is your favorite reshuffling of a team in comics history?
Love the art, especially for the story here. Finch’s atmosphere carries over well into the first Bendis arc of New Avengers, too. The rest here is a mixed bag. It wants to BE a big threat, but it doesn’t FEEL like it. And the fact that life goes in literally one month after the fact kind of cheapened everything.