Friday, September 3, 2010

Avengers: Elite Team or Just Like a Costco Membership?

Karen: There was a time when the Avengers were considered to be the elite team of the Marvel universe. To be an Avenger was a mark of honor. While the Fantastic Four was a family, and the X-Men were united by their common genetic status, the Avengers was sort of like a pro sports team: not everyone would make the cut. But currently, just about everyone in the Marvel universe seems to be a member of the Avengers.

Karen: Sure, you could point back to the 80s and characters like Deathcry and Rage being brought on the team, and say, "Hey, it's been going on for years!" Well, to some degree, that's true. There were some bad calls along the way. But the biggest explosion in the team has occurred in the last few years.

Karen: Nowadays it's actually easier to name the characters who aren't Avengers than the ones who are, because essentially everyone is an Avenger. They've grown to the size of the Legion of Super-Heroes!
While I enjoy team books, it sort of takes away from the specialness of being an Avenger if everyone can be an Avenger. And I like characters like Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Dr. Strange,Valkyrie, Nova, etc, but where do you stop? The only characters who really haven't joined up en masse are the X-Men. Most of them are just X-Men only. Except for, of course, Wolverine, whose healing power apparently also enables him to appear in 20 books a month - I hear he's joining the Justice League next week.

Karen: Of course, they have to have that many Avengers because Marvel is now pushing at least 4 regular titles featuring the team. It's the same sort of overkill that gave us about a hundred X-Men titles since the 80s.

Karen: So what do you think? Do you like this army-sized Avengers? Or do you long for the days of the elite team?


Edo Bosnar said...

I suppose you can sort of say this whole "anyone can be an Avenger" thing started with the Capt. America Quartet way back when. Even so, I get your point. I don't think it's necessarily bad for the line-up to rotate or for the team to have a big pool of "reservists" (kind of like it did during the Bronze Age), but the Avengers should be an elite team, i.e. more or less the cream of Marvel's crop. The 2nd and 3rd tier guys go to Dr. Strange's place in the Village and join the Defenders...

Doug said...

Edo --

Yeah, I've heard that the Kooky Quartet should to an extent be seen in the same way as Karen's posit. That must have seemed like, contrary to Busiek's terming of the Avengers as the "varsity", a real downer to readers at the time. I suppose we look at it fondly through the lens of history.

And, I suppose we should be thankful that through the years this awesomely-powerful team has chosen to mentor new and young heroes.

But I still think Karen's right -- the team is over-exposed, it doesn't have near the luster that it's had in the past, and to be quite frank -- I've lost all interest in the current goings-on in my favorite comic book.

So I'm a little bitter.


J.A. Morris said...

I think I've read maybe 3 Avengers stories in the last 10 years,so I can't say much about their current roster.

For me,it's not a question of elite or non-elite. Some characters just seem all wrong for the Avengers. I love Spider-man,but he's a solo hero, swinging around New York,patrolling for crimes in progress. Sure,he's super-powered, but his stories tend to focus local criminals, protecting friends/family,and the ever popular "you put me in prison 50X,I want my revenge" storylines.
When I think of the Avengers,I think of super-cosmic menaces and sagas:Kree-Skrull,Korvac,Serpent Crown,Kang's/Ultron's various attempts at conquering the world or humanity. Spider-man doesn't fight those battles(the great Thanos/Warlock story is an exception and should stay that way). He also has too much baggage. Do we really want an Avengers story where Ultron is defeated but gets away because he threatens to kill Aunt May?
Gilgamesh and Dr. Druid certainly aren't "elite" characters,but they work as Avengers because the team has always had strong guys(Hulk,Herc,Wonderman) and mystic/magical heroes(ScarletWitch) and they don't have "solo" careers that keep them from being good Avengers.

Edo Bosnar said...

J.A. - maybe I shouldn't have used terms like "elite" or "cream of the crop" to describe what I mean. You're certainly right that certain characters (Spider-man, Daredevil, pretty much any of the X-characters) simply don't belong in the Avengers, while others (even the non-"elite" Beast, as a rare exception to the X-rule, or Kooky Quartet veteran Hawkeye) work really well.
Even so, I'm on the fence about Dr. Druid (although I've admittedly only read a few of the stories when he was a member), while Gilgamesh makes me think: WTF?
By way, Karen & Doug, that poll was a tough call for me. Most of the characters listed came along long after I stopped regularly reading the title, so I have no opinion either way. But I really was really torn between Mr. & Mrs. Fantastic and Wolverine. There should be some kind of restraining order keeping any of those characters from ever becoming members of the Avengers...

J.A. Morris said...

Didn't see the poll until Edo mentioned it,I voted for Deathcry. We don't need any Deathbird spin-offs, in the Avengers or anywhere else. She wasn't much of a villain to begin with.

ChrisPV said...

See, it's the same problem that the Justice League has. Since the Avengers don't have a hook that keeps them separate from the rest of the superheroes in their universe (the X-Men are mutants, the FF are a family, the Legion is in the future, the Teen Titans are, well, teens) it means any writer can come up with a justification to put any character on the team. It can be a horrible idea (Spidey and Wolvie), but there's nothing inherently wrong with it on a thematic level. It may be stupid to put Spider-Man on the Avengers because it's out of character, but not because it's a fundamental affront to the Avengers concept. Now, putting him in the X-Men is, because it just doesn't fit the overall theme.

MOCK! said...

I voted for "Sentry" in the poll because I have never liked the character or his origin or his being shoehorned in to "my" past retroactively.

Right now I am re-reading the original Avengers book from around 160 up to 200. I like how the group (and continuity) was handled during this time. Membership was a privilege...sure Ant-Man could "help out" but he had to leave when the day was done, as did Hawkeye, on occasion....

david_b said...

I had this poster up framed for a few years in my den. I remember the first inklings of 'too many' back in the Bryne days. The WCA idea was alright (never liked Milgrom art..). Like most, a team of 6-7 is the max I prefer, but like J.A. Morris said, I haven't ready any new Avengers since the mid 80s.

I really liked YellowJacket spending time in the Defenders back around ish 22&23 with the Serpent Squad, assumingly a more relaxed schedule. If the team had two out of the 'big three' (Thor, Cap, and Ironman), it's usually fine with me.

Rip Jagger said...

My nostalgic favorite team was Goliath, Wasp, Hawkeye, and Black Panther, so I'm not one to suggest that only "elite" heroes be on the team.

But soon after the JLofA approach was dropped with Cap's Kooky Quartet, the Avengers were to no small degree an extended family with many connections existing between members.

That's been abandoned off and on, but it was what gave the Avengers a special flavor for me for many years. Alas the modern versions leave me totally cold, so much so that I gave them up three years ago and haven't really looked back nor regretted the decision.


Rip Off

Karen said...

The people have spoken: in our concurrent poll regarding the worst choice for Avengers membership, the ubiquitous Wolverine garnered the most votes (5). Ares, Sentry, Dr. Druid, Demolition Man, and Mr. and Mrs. Fantastic all came up with 2 votes, while Deathcry, Rage, Silverclaw, and Gilgamesh each got one. Thanks for voting!And keep the comments coming.


Dougie said...

While I can see the logic behind having the "marquee names"- Wolverine and Spidey-on the Avengers, what I want to see before very much longer, is the return of the real Avengers.
Most of them are appearing in the animated version. For the record, I mean Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Vizh, Wanda, Jan and Hank McCoy.

Inkstained Wretch said...

My thought on the Avengers was that it was supposed to be the special elite team for dealing with earth-shaking crises. That means it needs a strong leader like Captain America and several high-powered members like Iron Man, Thor, the Vision, Hercules, She-Hulk, etc.

I am reading the essentials series now and I find the mid-late 60s period where the team usually had only four members, none of them heavy hitters kind of ridiculous. You'd trust just Cap, Hawkeye, Goliath and Wasp to stop, say, Kang?

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