I’m not one for team books. I used to be but, by and large, I just can’t get into them now (minus the incredible exceptions of Mark Waid’s Champions and Gerry Duggan’s Guardians Of The Galaxy). I find them to be crossover hubs and often more action heavy then character focused. However, like Lewis Black and candy corn, I can’t stop trying them. This week, motivated by my love of his work on The Mighty Thor and knowing I’d see them in my Free Comic Book Day selections anyway, I decided to give Jason Aaron, Ed Mcguinness, and David Curiel’s new take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes a try…sadly, I wasn’t impressed. Thankfully, I have higher hopes for my other Free Comic Book Day picks!
Even though team books often disappoint me, I went in wanting to like Avengers #1. However, there were a lot of strikes against it. Before we even get into the comic itself we have the stupid “#1” back on the cover. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR LEGACY NUMBERING MARVEL?!? Yes, okay, so in tiny print under the “#1” it said “LGY 691” but that’s hardly the point. Less than a year after reverting to their legacy numbering in the name of their legacy Marvel’s abandoned it to go back to doing dumb number ones ever few months. Ugh. However, it’s more than just numerical qualms that left me disappointed. Rather, Avengers (2018…blah) #1 represents much of the worst of Marvel’s Legacy event, at least as far as I’m concerned.
Let’s look at this team. We have the “big three” – Captain America (Steve Rogers), Iron Man (Tony Stark), and Thor (Odinson). Then from there we branch out to include Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Black Panther (T’Challa), She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters), Doctor Strange, and Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes). First, this is a painfully white team. T’Challa is African and Robbie is Hispanic, yes, but that’s only two out of eight that add any racial diversity to the team. It’s the same issue with the women on the team, with only Carol Danvers and Jennifer Walters balancing the six men. Of course then we have Cap, Tony, Thor, and Doctor Strange who are all white men. There was much fear Marvel would roll back some of their progress on diversity in their titles with the Legacy event and, given the makeup of the team in this flagship book, it’s clear they are.
Compare this overwhelmingly white/male team with 2015’s All New, All Different Avengers. Mark Waid’s team featured Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Sam Wilson), Thor (Jane Foster), Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova (Sam Alexander), and (eventually) Vision. Iron Man was the only white, male character on the team. Yes, this still wasn’t as gender balanced as it could have been (two girls to five guys) but this version of the Avengers still showed growth in its racial diversity. It felt new. It felt relevant. It spoke to the future. Jason Aaron’s lineup is an embarrassment when compared to what we saw with Mark Waid.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. I could clearly see who was in the team by who was on the cover, right? Why would I buy a comic when I was already upset at the lack of racial and gender diversity on the team? I can’t be too mad for getting what was advertised, can I? That’s fair. Still, I was hoping there would be something there to hook me anyway. What Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson did with Jane Foster’s time wielding Mjölnir in The Mighty Thor ranks among the all-time greatest comics I’ve ever read. It was perfection. Also, with Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel it seemed to mirror the shape the MCU’s taking so I was intrigued by that. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther and Margaret Stohl’s Captain Marvel are two of the best comics I read each month, so a comic featuring more of those characters was worth considering. I was also interested in the possible mystical dimension the comic could feature with Doctor Strange AND Ghost Rider in it. And lastly, I’ve never really read anything with Robbie Reyes as Ghost Rider so I wanted to give this a shot just to meet him as a character.
However, the plot wasn’t enough to grab me. We see Steve, Tony, and Thor drinking and talking about the good old days before reluctantly (on Tony’s part) agreeing that the world may need them to suit up and form the Avengers again. Dead Celestials are crashing to the Earth and it all has to do with the prehistoric version of the Avengers that existed on earth 1,000,000 years ago – a version including Odin, the Phoenix Force, the original Iron Fist, the original Black Panther, the original Ghost Rider, Agamotto (the first Sorcerer Supreme), and some Hulk-looking thing with the Hala Star on its chest. I…I just can’t. THIS JUST DOESN’T WORK. A million years ago we weren’t recognizably human! At least not what we think of when we use the term today and certainly not like these beings are! Yes, roughly 4 million years ago bipedalism developed, sure. But the traits we most closely associate with our species – our large/complex brains, language, tool use, art, cultural diversity, etc. – took shape during the last 100,000 years. Now it looks like they may be teasing a cask of poorly monitored Asgardian mead being the thing that sparks human evolution but…c’mon. C’MON. If there was some prehistoric version of the Avengers kicking around a million years ago they sure as hell wouldn’t look like modern human beings.
No matter how I try to sink my teeth into the story, I can’t get over how preposterous it all seems. Maybe, maybe if the plot was more captivating or if the characters seemed more intriguing (something I know Aaron can do (his character work in The Mighty Thor is brilliant)) I might’ve kept hanging on. But it wasn’t so I won’t. This team also illustrates how exclusively male Marvel has often been. Now, I grant this isn’t a problem to lay at Jason Aaron’s feet but his title still shines a light on it. The Avengers “big three” are Cap, Iron Man, and Thor – three white men. DC’s Trinity is Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Yes, they’re all white and yes there’s two men BUT they still have Wonder Woman! It’s also worth noting that when Marvel looks back at their “founding Avengers” they tend to only focus on the boys.
Captain America didn’t even join the Avengers until March 1964, in Avengers #4. The original team that debuted in July 1963 consisted of Ant-Man (Hank Pym), the Wasp (Janet van Dyne), the Hulk (Bruce Banner), Iron Man (Tony Stark), and Thor (Odinson). The Wasp was an original Avenger but she’s never held up in the same way Cap, Tony, Thor, or even the Hulk are. Janet is even still alive in the Marvel Universe too! There’s no reason she couldn’t have suited up with the boys. Siiiiiiiiiigh…you were doing so well Marvel. You were introducing new characters. You were proudly and directly embracing diversity. Annnnnnnd then you reverted to the old, boring status quo.
Well, if nothing else, I guess I can be happy I don’t have to find a way to fit this on my pull list :). Nothing’s getting cut from my file for this incarnation of Avengers.
BUT there was more to Free Comic Book Day 2018 than a preview of an Avengers title I’d already realized I wasn’t interested in reading. After carefully examining my choices, I settled on the following four comics. I get four, you see, because my local comic shop offers one if you show up, a second if you’re a member (which I obviously am), a third if you come in costume (I might as well dust off the ol’ Star Lord costume as I’ll be wearing it in a few weeks when my brother and I go to a “Breakfast with Superheroes” event our local library is doing for kids on their Comic Con weekend), and a fourth for brining in a nonperishable food item they will donate to a local food pantry (the part that the day that makes me most proud of my local comic shop).
After careful consideration I decided to choose Marvel’s FCBD 2018 Avengers/Captain America title (mainly because it offers me my first look at Ta-Nehisi Coates upcoming work with Captain America!!!!!!!) and Marvel’s FCBD 2018 Infinity Watch/Amazing Spider-Man issue (as I CANNOT WAIT to see Nick Spencer’s take on Peter Parker!!!!) as my for sure picks.
Then, to be a bit more experimental, I decided to try Titan Comics’ FCBD 2018 Doctor Who #0. I’ve fallen in love with Doctor Who over the past eight months and I am only two episodes away from finishing Peter Capaldi’s run! I am already preparing to start re-watching the show over summer, to soak in the subtilties I missed the first time through. I know, much like Star Wars, Doctor Who has a large world of novels and comics around it. I’m not certain where to begin (or even if I want to begin quite yet) so I though the FCBD sample would be a good place to start. Lastly there’s D.E.’s FCBD 2018 Bob’s Burgers. Now, I’m not a huge Bob’s Burgers fan. To be honest, I’ve never seen a single show. But my brother LOVES it. So I figured, even though he’s not an active comic reader anymore, he might like the surprise. (Shhhh…don’t tell David about this either! I want to surprise him!)
My final – and in many ways most important – decision with Free Comic Book Day was what to buy? I know we’re all excited for our FREE comic books (yay!) but it’s important to remember that while they’re free for us they are not free for the retailers who are giving them away. And many of our local comic shops are little, independent books shops too. So, while I visit and support my local comic shop every week, I still try and make it a point to buy some product when I go in on Free Comic Book Day. And, if you’re hitting your comic shop too, I’d encourage you to do the same!
My comic shop was offering a sweet 40% off all back issues sale as well as a 20% off all trade paperbacks and graphic novels sale. I was originally torn between getting caught up on Gerry Duggan’s The Despicable Deadpool (something I avoided because I had no desire to see Deadpool revert to his villainous ways (something else I’ve been upset with in Marvel Legacy)), reading “The Search for Tony Stark” in Brian Michael Bendis’s The Invincible Iron Man, or picking up the trade that features Shuri’s time as the Black Panther while T’Challa was in a coma. Deadpool and Iron Man were more heavily favored as both Duggan and Bendis are ending their years-long run on these titles in the coming weeks and I figured I could appreciate their final arcs with characters they’ve stewarded for years. Although I do love me some Shuri…
Ultimately, I choose The Despicable Deadpool. I (obviously) have Deadpool on the mind (Deadpool 2 is coming out in just TWELVE DAYS baby!) and I have an idea for a potential post based on these titles slowly growing in my mind. Only time will tell whether or not the post develops or if I even enjoy the comics. But the one thing I already know for sure is I’m proud to have supported my local comic shop today! Why don’t you go out and treat yourself to some comic books today too?? And, should you be reading this AFTER Free Comic Book Day 2018 has come and gone, that’s no big deal. You can (and should) still feel great about shopping at and supporting your local comic shop anytime! So why don’t you go and get yourself some sweet comic books already?!?