In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.
If you’re a member of the PoP!ulation, you’re probably already aware that I’m a pretty big Avengers fan. When I was a mere 10 years old, the Avengers West Coast was the first book I followed on a consistent basis. It’s been nearly 20 years now.
I love the Avengers. According to my nifty tracking software – of COURSE I have nifty tracking software – I have more than 2,000 Avengers related issues in my collection. That means I’ve been there for a LOT. The good times and the bad. I have a soft spot for The Crossing. I stuck with them through Heroes Reborn. I have a complete Force Works collection. Hell, I even had a letter printed in Force Works.
This should be an amazing time to be an Avengers fan. We’re weeks away from what could turn out to be the biggest movie in history. But something just isn’t right. After nearly 8 years since scribe Brian Michael Bendis rebooted the team, it seems they’ve lost their way.
When Bendis first took over Avengers in 2004 his shift in approach caught many long term fans by surprise. He killed off Avengers mainstays like Hawkeye, the Vision, and the Scarlet Witch, and replaced them with Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage. I’ll admit. I was skeptical. It was different. It was hard to get used to. But, as the bigger picture of the Avengers’ story continued to take shape, the new direction eventually won me over.
Beginning with Avengers: Disassembled, the stories began to play a larger part in the overall Marvel Universe story. Between each of Marvel’s major summer events, the Avengers titles played a pivotal role in setting the necessary plot threads in motion. I remember back to the yearlong build up for Secret Invasion. The excitement around the reveal of the hidden Skrulls. The discovery that the threads of this story reached back nearly 4 years. I think back to that time, and I find myself lamenting the current state of the titles.
Where there had once been a focus on building upon the foundation of the previous event, propelling the characters towards the next logical step in the overall story of the Marvel Universe suddenly became dragged out filler stories. Remember what happened between Siege and Fear Itself? No? Well, one team of Avengers fought Agamotto, and…to be honest, I don’t even remember what happened in the other book. Stories that were best told across two to three issues were stretched to six. And the sense of the larger universe building began to fade.
My retcon would begin with those Heroic Age stories, which marked the end of Norman Osborn’s “Dark Reign” as the head of H.A.M.M.E.R. It’s here where the overall vision seems to have fallen apart. Implanting Steve Rogers as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D can stay, as well as his one time partner Bucky’s role as the new Captain America. We can even leave Avengers Academy and Secret Avengers mostly untouched. But a better distinction is needed between the two main Avengers books, Avengers and New Avengers.
In this retcon, Avengers would serve as the primary book, focusing on a team of classic Avengers investigating mysterious hammers that have fallen throughout the world. As more and more heroes and villains find themselves possessed by the hammers, and the world finds itself sinking into an inexplicable fear, it’s slowly made clear to the readers that there’s something sinister at hand. Stretching out this focus allows for a better lead in to Fear Itself, as well as plenty of opportunity for the battles between our heroes and The Worthy that Fear Itself was so desperately in need of.
Over in New Avengers, the Luke Cage side of the house focuses more on stories that are accessible to readers that feel burnt out from all of the universe building. Quick, to the point story arcs pitting the team against a revived Masters of Evil, under the command of the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin. The two factions battle it out throughout the year, finally culminating in Sin’s acquisition of the last hammer, setting the stage for a better paced – and better told – Fear Itself.
With only a few week’s left until Marvel’s Avengers vs X-Men event, both Avengers and New Avengers are focused on a conflict with Norman Osborn that we already know will be pushed to the side in favor of the event tie-ins. I can’t help but wonder if the past year could have been better served laying the groundwork for “the biggest comic book event in history.”