Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Ten Favorite Comics of 2007: Marvel Adventures: The Avengers

"Oh please, Bruce. That's just silly. Like we would ever throw the Hulk into space."

And there came a day like no other, where the Scarlet Witch went all baby-crazy, blew up the mansion, and killed Hawkeye. And boy, did it bum me out.

But this is about comics I like, so I'll cut that short and talk about the best Avengers book (some would say the only Avengers book) Marvel is putting out right now. It's uncomplicated, but not simple. It's old-school, but not old hat. It's good guys fighting bad guys to protect the little guys, and it's great fun.

Okay, one thing about New Avengers. Post Civil War, a lot of people are saying it's really the Defenders, just because Dr. Strange is on the team. Which is wrong, and makes about as much sense as claiming the '94 White Sox were the Bulls because Michael Jordan was on the team. New Avengers is not the Defenders. It's Luke Cage and His Amazing Friends. Which is not a bad idea for a comic in and of itself, but it ain't the Avengers.

Which brings us back to Marvel Adventures: Avengers, which is the Avengers, in more than just name and Quinjets. Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, Storm, Wolverine and Giant-Girl (a teenaged Janet Van Dyne) battle evil in an all-ages appropriate manner. And like the best all-ages books, it actually is for all ages: It doesn't talk down to kids or adults, but simply pours on the action and characterization and doesn't have rape and beheading in it. That Jeff Parker and company can do this so effortlessly makes me wonder what exactly about the concept is so hard for other creators to grasp.

Superheroes do good things. They save people. They help people. They stop people from taking cruel advantage of other people. It's not that hard, people.

Take, for example, issue 14. The Avengers travel to another dimension, where some pseudo-Hyborean villagers are being menaced by a barbarian horde. (They go because one of the villagers accidentally falls through a portal into the Museum of Natural History, and, when they show up, asks for their help.) Upon arrival, they swing into action as a sort of Peace Corps in spandex, teaching the villagers how to fight, but also how to grow better crops, build better fortifications, and in general take better care of themselves once the Avengers are gone. So we get to see the team putting their various skills to use ("Here how to smash - like Hulk!" "Hulk, maybe you should go help Spider-Man and Giant-Girl with the wall.") and interacting in a way we don't usually see. Cap even puts Wolverine in charge of the battle strategy, reasoning that you set a barbarian to beat barbarians. And at the end of the day, the world is a better place, and the Avengers go home with the reward of having done a good deed, and several bushels of grain and ox meat.

In the other adventures published this year (at least in trade form), the team thwarts the Serpent Society, rebukes the advances of an amorous living planet, travels to Asgard, and has a cross-time team-up with the Agents of Atlas. In every case, the characters rise to meet the challenges before them, learn things about themselves and their teammates, and face the world with a determined and optimistic mien. Y'know, like superheroes should. They don't cry, they grit their teeth. They don't shrug, they plant their feet. And they have fun doing it.

I like superheroes. Always have, always will. And Marvel Adventures: The Avengers shows off many of the reasons why.

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