Tag Archives: Ant-Man/Hank Pym

Book Review – Marvel Masterworks #3: The Avengers

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Well, readers, we are back in the wonderful world of Marvel, as Stan Lee and his friends originally wrote it. Get ready for a jaunt into the Marvelous, original mainstream Marvel Universe!!! Here is the review for Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, Vol. 3!!

As with Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers, Vol. 2, this book contains a collection of original comics from the early 1960s. There are ten issues in this book in all – plus an introduction straight from Stan “The Man” Lee’s pen. The language in these comics is better, in some ways, than it is today.

Now when I say “the language is better,” I am not referring to these old comics’ lack of profanity. That is certainly a point in these stories’ favor, but it is not the main point. What I mean is that the vocabulary used by the characters herein is wider and makes allusions to the classics. This means that the characters not only convey precisely what they mean to each other, and thereby to the readers; it also allows them to give the readers lessons in world history, myth, etc.

Yes, there is a great deal of contemporary slang in the stories in this book. But there is a great deal of contemporary slang in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, too, and only a few boneheads want to complain about that. The comics are not perfect, but they are better in several respects than today’s comics. The stories in this volume are real stories, the characters are really who and what they look like, and the artistry is well-done.

Is it quite as good as today’s artistry? Allow me to answer that with a question. Are comic books about art, or are they about story? Illustrations for a comic book should be high quality, of course. But if the art is the only thing in the comic book which is good, then the comic book is not worth very much, other than as a tableau showing off the artist’s talent.

The writers of the modern comics are more focused on the fleeting fads of the world than on good storytelling. The artists for the comics want to make a splash rather than help to tell a good story. The parts are all trying to get the credit for the same cake, and in the process they are destroying the recipe. This means that the finished product comes out looking more than a little unappetizing.

So, readers, we have to read these old stories. We have to learn the recipes in this volume. Because when the wannabes are finally driven from the kitchen, guess who is going to have to come in and clean up the mess. That is right – we are. And if we do not know how to bake the cakes, then we are going to make messes as big as this one which is about to blow up in Marvel’s collective face.

Below is a description of the comics that can be found in this Masterworks volume. Some details are missing, but that is intentional. A lot is getting mentioned here in order to whet your appetite for the main course. For those who would rather not do anything other than smell the aroma of the bread, then you had better stop reading right…now. Because, without further ado, here is the description I promised –

WARNING: Spoilers follow!!!

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In this volume, you will watch as Captain America and his “new Avengers” – Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch – are handed their first defeat. Tricked into damaging property by the Enchantress and accused of trying to elbow out the newest hero on the block, Power Man, the Avengers are forced to disband. And the ever-antagonistic Hawkeye is only too willing to lay the blame on Captain America!

However, Steve Rogers is not ready to let the Avengers’ torch gutter and die. While his team searches for new, legit work, he sets out to prove they were set up in “The Road Back!” He succeeds, naturally, and the Avengers are reinstated as heroes. But the team is rocked by another surprise when Cap throws in the towel and strikes out on his own!

Following this catastrophe, Hawkeye finds that leading a team is not as easy as he thought it would be. Wanda misses Cap’s presence along with Quicksilver. Even Hawkeye privately admits that he regrets Cap jettisoning free of the team – especially as the twins prove they are not that easy to order around.

Meanwhile, having found work training a boxer, Cap is making a living on his own for the first time since awakening from the ice. He likes the work but soon discovers that he cannot close his eyes without seeing his team. He misses them as much as they miss him.

Unknown to our four heroes, they are being watched. From his domain in the far future, Kang the Conqueror decides that the Avengers are finally vulnerable to his revenge! He kidnaps Hawkeye, Pietro, and Wanda to the 30th century and holds them captive…

But Kang has an audience besides us, for once. He is in the last remaining kingdom which he does not rule. No, this little postage-stamp nation is run by Princess Ravonna and her father. Both consider Kang to be evil and they despise him, Ravonna making no secret of the depth of her contempt for the Conqueror. Kang, though he rants against her, admits that he is unwilling to destroy the kingdom – because Ravonna has conquered his heart without half-trying!

Hearing on the radio about the Avengers’ disappearance, Cap makes tracks for the Mansion. Discovering that Kang is responsible for his friends’ abduction, he challenges the 30th century genius to transport him to the future as well. With Ravonna watching, Kang is only too happy to oblige…

And from here, it is all-out war, as Kang finally decides that he will take Ravonna and her kingdom by force!

After their adventure in the 30th century, the Avengers are lured to Latveria in the issue entitled “Enter…Dr. Doom!” Eager to challenge the Fantastic Four again, Doom wants a trial run before he squares off with Reed Richards and his family. He gets more exercise than he was bargaining on when the Avengers prove to be as mighty as the Four – maybe even mightier!

Next ish, the Avengers receive a distress call from founding member the Wasp. She tells them that Attuma has captured her and plans to destroy the surface world. He has built a machine which will induce tremors in the earth, causing tsunamis and floods which will destroy the human world. Once that is done, the Ghengis Khan of the undersea world plans to march onto what was once dry land to claim it as his own!

This plan goes about as well as you would expect. The Avengers whip Attuma, destroy his machine, and set him back several thousand sea-dollars, only to arrive home to another crisis. This one again involves the Wasp, who made it to the Mansion but has since disappeared!

Unable to stand losing her, Hank Pym returns to active duty on the team, taking the name “Goliath” in order to help find the love of his life. The Avengers soon meet with Wasp’s abductor: Tanaleer Tivan. Better known to most as “The Collector,” he captured the Beetle and decided he wanted a superhero team for his collection as well. His target: the Avengers!

The team breaks out of this problem and hits another snag. In rescuing the Wasp, Pym stayed giant-size too long. Now he is trapped at ten feet tall – and hating every minute of it.

Things go from difficult to worse in no time. Hawkeye is over-the-moon ecstatic when Cap tells him SHIELD has heard that Black Widow is alive and is returning to the U.S. He then gets angry when Steve points out that the Communists would only release her if they had managed to brainwash her again.

Unwilling to forget his love for Natasha, Hawkeye leaves the Mansion to find her. He does indeed meet up with the Black Widow – plus Power Man and the Swordsman! Natasha then reveals that she has been put back under the Reds’ control, and she wants Hawkeye to rejoin her in their service.

Well, Hawkeye still cares about Natasha, but he is not willing to join the Commies for her. Luckily, Cap was afraid the whole thing was a trap and dispatched Wasp to monitor the situation. She speeds back to the Mansion, but does not return until everyone else is captured. Only she and Goliath are still free to fight…

The last story sees Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch taking a leave of absence from the Avengers. Also, with Cap’s permission, Hawkeye takes on Widow and her stooges solo. He manages to best the Swordsman, his old mentor, but Power Man is not going to be nearly as easy to defeat….

Meanwhile, Hank Pym is desperately searching for a way to return to normal size. Hearing about an old colleague who has disappeared in South America, he heads there to find him in the hopes that the man can help reverse his condition. Instead, he finds a “Frenzy in a Far-Off Land!” ready and waiting to jump him!

Readers, I hope I have not spoiled these stories too much for you. I know they are “retro” and probably of interest to very few of you. With Marvel’s recent alterations, which they are hailing as the new Modern, most of you probably do not care to learn where the heroes we have seen on the big screen for the last decade and a half started.

But I believe that we need these stories now more than ever. Yes, they are kooky and silly, with a dash of weird in the bargain. They will not appeal to everyone; least of all will they appeal to Marvel’s blind Hierarchy of Seneschals.

Still, they are the germ of the stories we have now. Without them we would not have Chris Evans playing Captain America, or Robert Downey Jr. doing a bang-up job as Tony Stark. The cast of the films owe their careers to these characters, and to forget where these fictional heroes came from is just plain bad. It means we are forgetting ourselves with them. If our memory only goes as far back as yesterday, we will never be able to make a future.

Marvel is so determined to build a shiny “modern” future that it is rewriting its past, and not in a healthy way. The bosses at Marvel can make whatever changes they want. But in the end, they cannot change the past. They cannot change us. And that will be their undoing, not ours.

If we forget, however – if we allow what we have learned and remember to be wiped away – then we will be undone. By learning where Marvel came from, the company can one day be cleaned up and put back on the road to goodness and then greatness. This book will help us in that.

If we let it…

Avengers Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

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Book Review: Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers

Come on, readers – you knew it had to happen at some point! I am a Marvel fan. Of course I would get around to acquiring a Marvel book!

Actually, I have several. 🙂 The particular book which I am describing here, Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers, is one of my favorites. Marvel Masterworks are books which contain a certain number of original comic book stories within them. And in this case when I say original, I mean original! Marvel Masterworks #2: The Avengers contains ten stories – issues 11 through 20 – of the Avengers’ first adventures from 1964-65.

WARNING: MAJOR spoilers ahead!!! Read on at your own risk!

Inside this volume, true believers, you will find – Captain America! The Invincible Armored Iron Man! The Mighty Thor! Ant-Man and the Wasp! All in their original costumes and settings, with the quirky tools and fantastic adventures that could only be dreamed up by Stan Lee and his friends during the early 1960s!

Yeah, I just borrowed Stan Lee’s introductory style of the time. So what? 🙂

Okay, so the first story is issue eleven of the Avengers, or The Avengers #11, December 1964: “The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man!” A sinister enemy watches the team from the far future. Kang the Conqueror, still smarting from his last defeat at the hands of the Avengers, is determined to have his revenge. But how shall he get it?!

Painstakingly, he searches the past for someone – anyone – who would be powerful enough to defeat our heroes. Finding such a person, he makes a robot duplicate and sends it back in time to fight the Avengers who have to deal with the confusing situation of a nefarious duplicate of the good guy they know. Who is the robot a duplicate of, you ask? None other than our friendly neighborhood webslinger, Spider-Man!

The next story is “This Hostage Earth!”, and we see on the first page that Ant-Man is greatly agitated. His ants are telling him that someone below ground is trying to destroy the Earth! However, none of the other Avengers take his warning seriously. He is upset because the ants are telling him something is wrong?! How silly!

Even Wasp and Cap do not listen to Hank. In an angry huff, Ant-Man shrinks down to investigate the matter himself –

And finds Mole Man has a created a machine which will induce tremors on the Earth’s surface. If the governments above do not heed his demands, Mole Man will make the surface world uninhabitable!

Next ish (ish is short for issue, non-comic readers 😉 ), we find our heroes lured into a trap by Count Nefaria. The villainous count is more than a little miffed that the team has been ruining his Maggia operations stateside. As part of the plan, Nefaria frames the Avengers as power-hungry tyrants who want to take control of the world! The team manages to stop him and clear their names but, in the process, Wasp is injured and left on the brink of death!

In “Even Avengers Can Die!”, the team races against time to find the one doctor on Earth who can save their only female teammate. They are truly desperate; even the Mighty Thor. This is because even his mortal alter ego, Dr. Don Blake, magnificent physician that he is, does not have the expertise to save her!

Then, in issue #15, Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil – the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Melter, and the Black Knight – spring a trap on the team. Kidnapping Rick Jones, Zemo lures Captain America to his South American base while the rest of the Avengers remain behind to fight the Masters. Then, in “The Old Order Changeth!”, Cap and Rick Jones work their way back to the States. In the meantime, Thor goes back to Asgard for a “Trial of the Gods.” After he leaves, Iron Man, Wasp, and Giant-Man realize they are plum tuckered out. They need a break from Avenging or they will be wrecks by the end of the year!

So they call for new heroes to step up and take their places on the team. Many apply but only three are chosen: Hawkeye, a former enemy of Iron Man, is chosen to join the team. Not long after, twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff are accepted as members of the team. Once enemies of the X-Men, the siblings known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch now seek redemption as part of the Mighty Avengers!

In “Four Against The Minotaur!” Cap and his new teammates head out to the desert to find the Hulk in an attempt to build up their strength. Cap learns some of the limits and characteristics of his new recruits along the way. He has little trouble managing the twins but finds Hawkeye mouthy and as hard to control as an unbroken bronco. Despite this, Cap feels Hawkeye will make a splendid Avenger – once his rough edges are smoothed over! Meanwhile, in a separate part of the desert, Bruce Banner appears to die after a fight with the Leader.

The next ish shows us the fictional communist country of Sin-Cong, which is run by a ruthless Commissar. In a plot to show how strong the Commissar is, the Communists lure the Avengers to Sin-Cong for a “demonstration.” Trying to get a job with SHIELD, Cap is eager to answer the call – as is the ever-belligerent Hawkeye. Soon the Avengers are fighting the Commissar. But all is not as it seems and when the “weakest” Avenger, Wanda Maximoff, goes up against him, the Commissar gets more than he bargained for!

The last two issues in the book introduce us to the Swordsman, Hawkeye’s former mentor. Arriving one day at Tony Stark’s mansion – which is on loan to the Avengers – the Swordsman is greeted, ah, “warmly” by the Maximoff twins. The man escapes after a furious Cap reveals the Swordsman is wanted in a number of countries for theft!

But Cap has something else on his mind, too. He has applied to SHIELD, but Fury has not yet answered his letter, and he does not understand why. What Cap does not know is that his letter is on a desk in a decoy office Fury set up for HYDRA to watch. The director of SHIELD has not even laid his eye on the letter! (How it ended up in the decoy office is another mystery, readers!!!!)

Sadly, the note makes its way to the Swordsman, who uses it to trap Steve. Things get hairy when Cap’s three young friends track the two down, but the New Avengers are equal to the task and the Swordsman’s plot is foiled. Then the Mandarin takes a hand in the matter, and manages to get the thief accepted by the Avengers through some masterful trickery. But the Swordsman is only there to plant a bomb in their headquarters, to be detonated remotely by the Mandarin when Iron Man (the Mandarin’s arch-enemy) returns to the team!

However, the Mandarin eventually decides he is tired of waiting and tells the Swordsman he will be activating the bomb ahead of schedule. The scoundrel has to make a choice: leave the Avengers to die, or save them – even if doing so incurs the wrath of the deadly Mandarin!

I would say that issues 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 20 are my favorite stories in this book. All the comics in this book are, to those of us born in this late age, rather kooky and silly at first, second, and even third glance.

Perhaps that is not a bad thing, and I do not think I should cast aspersions on the past. If anything, this difference in eras shows not only how far we have come (or fallen, as the case may be), but how much our current storytelling in Marvel Comics has declined. Sure, we can tell great stories without resorting to fancy “image projectors” or suspended animation tricks and such things as we find in these stories…

But the modern stories in Marvel Comics lack the cheerfulness, flair, and optimism which characterize the company’s older stories in copious, startling amounts. The old stories are positive, chipper, and see the future as a bright road leading to a better tomorrow. The new stories – not so much.

As a last note, one of the things about “Even Avengers Can Die!” that I love is on the end page. There, the Watcher comments that many men have prayed for the Wasp’s recovery, adding that “the power of prayer is still the greatest ever known” in the universe. And the end caption for the last panel on the page in this issue adds, “Let us now leave the Avengers! Strong men should not be seen with tears in their eyes! Nor should they be disturbed as they lift their faces heavenward, in solemn, grateful thanksgiving!

I really, REALLY miss those kinds of statements – not only in our modern comics, but in all our current stories. This is what makes “Even Avengers Can Die!” one of my favorite original comics in the book.

Readers, if you someday decide it is worth a look, I hope you enjoy this volume of original comics as much as I do. And if you are totally uninterested not only in this book but in Marvel Comics in general, well, I hope you found at least a little happiness and sunlight in this post. That will satisfy me as much as anything else would.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Caught

The Wasp

Hello, Marvel Writers!

      (Oh, boy.  Here it comes!) 

Yup, I’m back. 

     (Hide the story drafts!  Call SHIELD!)

Sorry, that’s not going to work.  Pay attention, everyone!  Today’s subject is the rampant paranoia among fans.

    (What?  What does that mean?)

It means that we, the fans, are paranoid about our favorite heroes.  You know what I am talking about – those days when the X-Men or the Avengers charge into a battle and, when they finally pull back, gasping for air, one of them does a headcount and finds someone is missing.

And then it turns out that the missing member of the team is on some infirmary table in the villain’s lair.  Cue the villain of the day’s egotistical bragging and the torture of the captured hero.

Of course, the hero/heroine cannot die, or you will lose their audience.  So the team comes to rescue them, they escape, or they are killed and ‘resurrected.’  Yippee, everybody’s safe….!   Right?

Hmmm….  No, not so much.

These days I, for one, cannot relax after watching an Avenger/X-Man (or any other Marvel hero) get caught by, and then escape from, the bad guys.  Several times a hero has been returned to their friends, or society at large, after being imprisoned by a villain only for something bad to happen when they get back. 

Sometimes it is a few years before the hero snaps; runs amok; gets cloned; or starts acting on pre-programmed villain instructions.  Eventually, one of these events will occur.  Generally it is the snapping story line, where the hero retaliates against the villain, the team, or society because of the treatment they received on the table.  The second most popular storyline is cloning.

Excuse me, but what exactly is the point of this?  It has gotten to be so common a plot point that I am amazed any of the heroes can catch forty winks.  If I was one of them, I would not be able to sleep at all for fear that one of the bad guys would grab me the minute I shut my eyes.

Honestly, fellow writers, this is too much.  How are we or our heroes supposed to function with this fear weighing on our minds every time a new adventure occurs?  It spoils the enjoyment we derive from watching our heroes work if we are always thinking, “Yeah, but Dr. Doom is going to grab [insert the hero of your choice here], experiment on him/her, and then this character will go berserk at some point in a future story.”

Was this the original point behind the heroes getting caught?  No.  The original ideas behind a hero getting caught are, I believe, as follows:

a)  To add suspense to a particular story arc/start a story arc;

b)  To prove the hero’s strength under pressure and pain;

c)  To show how cunning and strong a seemingly flippant or shallow hero actually is;

d)  To flesh out a new villain/hero by showing their motives/hidden virtues;

e)  To prove how deluded a certain villain was and start a plot line where the heroes would eventually bring him down;

f)  To bring a team into a tighter-knit group by having the teammates work to support the physically/emotionally injured hero;

g)  To have a hero conquer his/her inner demons through their own strength of character after being a guinea pig or after being tortured.

These days, imprisoning and experimenting on our heroes is more reminiscent of people playing entomologists chasing down rare butterflies.  Instead of following any one of the above possibilities thoroughly, as someone with any imagination would, you poke at our heroes with needles.  I am more than a little tired of it.  You should be, too.

Why?  Because the more often you use these plots where the hero gets cloned or goes crazy, or somehow snaps at his/her team or at society itself, the more easily the lead up to such a story twist will be recognized.  People will flick through the comic book and then put it back on the shelf, saying, “Seen it.”  The more often you use this plot, the more bored the readers will become, and then sooner or later you will be out of business.  

At which point our heroes will be stuck in literary limbo.

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to see that happen.

So how about pulling the pins out of our heroes and letting them get back to work, as full-fledged heroes who are secure in their self-knowledge, principles, and strength of will? 

I am not saying that you should not test the above qualities in our heroes.  By all means, do it.  Just remember that there is a fine line between testing a character and breaking them.

The fact is that right now, you are breaking our heroes.  A broken engine cannot always be repaired, fellow writers. 

Neither can broken characters. 

Sincerely,

Mithril (A True Believer Caught in between Pandiculaton and Story Paranoia)

Age of Despair

Assemble!

Hello, Marvel Writers!

As you know, in my last letters, I have asked continuously why certain things have been done. Why the heroes have made oddball decisions; why they’ve been torn apart and rebuilt; why they have lost all common sense. I am now leaving the so-called ‘Why Phase’ behind. Now I am going to supply my own answers to the why. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

But I don’t believe I am wrong, fellow writers. Here are my answers:

The reason that you disassembled the Avengers in the story arc by the same name was the same reason that DC attempted to kill Superman. Heroes weren’t heroes, or clear cut good guys, in anyone’s opinion anymore. They couldn’t be trusted to stand for righteousness and the greater good. If no one in reality could, then why ‘spare’ the superheroes and heroines of your fiction?

Iron Man disbanded the Avengers because he had been in the worst, most heart wrenching battle of his life. No one could make him stay. Once he quit the others would follow, albeit reluctantly, since he was one of the pillars of the team. Oh, and those times he had quit the team previously, when he was having a seriously rough day? Those were the times when Cap (or someone else) led the Avengers until Tony felt up to coming back or he was desperately needed. No one would remember those incidents. Disassembled would make them forget.

You decided that having Mockingbird divorce Hawkeye and sending the archer on a dating spree afterward would be fine. After all, thousands of other people do it. So why should this be different in the fictional world?

And as for all the other romances and implied flings, it’s no secret that Hawkeye was an incurable flirt prior to marrying Bobbi. No one would care if he dated Echo and Spider-Woman. He’d already had a fling with Moonstone, after all. There’s not much farther one could fall after that.

At least Echo and Spider-Woman fight on the side of the Avengers. That was a small consolation. And I mean very small.

Some of you might say, “What about Cap? He hasn’t gone into the drain pipe along with a lot of other characters.” That’s an easy enough question to answer. Cap’s nearly incorruptible as a character; if anyone tried, there would be a massive outcry from the fans. You can kill almost everyone else in the Marvel Universe twenty times over and turn them insane as a result, and no one will complain too loudly.

But if you lay a finger on Cap’s character, or try to pervert him in any overt way, ninety percent of Marvelites will have a tantrum fit to rock the world. So since he’s as nearly untouchable spirit-wise as a character can be, the only things left to do to him are physical: death, shape change (with unnecessary disgusting results), and a rest period. And even that has to be temporary. Otherwise, Marvelites rise in a furor and you lose their business.

As for the X-Men, since Wolverine has become popular over the past few years, the best way to make the X-Men comics sell better was to give him a more prominent role on the team. The most important part of any team is the position of leader. Cyclops was everyone’s idea of the X-Men’s best field commander; especially when the Professor somehow divorced himself from his principles (he’s dead now, too, so it would be hard to change that). On top of this, Magneto had (finally) been reformed and saw things the way the X-Men did.

But that robbed the X-Men of their greatest nemesis. Well, since you wanted Wolverine in the spotlight and needed a new archenemy, why not kill two birds with one stone, and have Cyclops turn away from his responsibilities to take Magneto’s place as the most dangerous mutant alive?

Except, given her history, Jean wouldn’t stand for such a decision on Scott’s part. So she ended up dead – until she was needed at some point in a typical apocalyptic X-Men future. Still, this left Cyclops without a partner. The partner would have to be telepathic to continue the dynamic fans were familiar with when Jean and Cyke were still together. That left the cold-hearted, ever shifty Emma Frost to be Scott Summers’ next partner prior to his downward spiral. It’s beginning to look more and more like a perfect match the farther down the road Cyke goes, too.

Then there were the wars between heroes, starting first with Civil War and heading into Round Two with Avengers vs. X-Men. Fans have speculated for years about which heroes are more powerful than others. So far, I’d say the Hulk outdoes everybody; the next strongest would be Thor (though he has had a lot of punishment from the Hulk previously). Ben Grimm would come in a solid third (no pun intended).

So who would win in battle between each other, Cap or Iron Man? Hawkeye or the Wasp? The Thing or Namor (who does NOT qualify as a mutant)? Wolverine or Cyclops?

The Marvel Universe was torn up to answer these inane, inconsequential questions. If people wanted to see which heroes are stronger than which, it would have been better to do what Legolas and Gimli did in The Lord of the Rings; have a contest to see who could take down more bad guys faster, better, etc. There’s also the idea of ‘play fights,’ where camaraderie is at the heart of the duel. There wouldn’t be any real need for the Hulk or Thor to hold back in such a fight; it would just be pure fun for the two of them. That would be better than watching great allies and, more often than not, great friends, trying to knife each other or blast the other to atoms.

As for bringing back the Phoenix Force and writing up another Summers’ child (is she Jean’s and Cyke’s daughter, or is she Cyclops’ and someone else’s? I still don’t have that straight) as a so-called ‘Phoenix Messiah,’ that was just to get the ball rolling for another superhero war. This one was to answer the question of whether it was the X-Men or the Avengers who were the stronger team. Considering the X-Men were split nearly down the middle, it wouldn’t be hard to have the outcome be the Avengers. (On a side note, naming the ‘Phoenix Messiah’ Hope was a lame idea. Rachel and Nathaniel Summers are stronger names.)

You disbanded the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. because spy stories were ‘so last century.’ SHIELD may not be high in anyone’s esteem for its espionage work, but it was the eyes and ears for several of the heroes and several of the teams. Without the agency, the heroes are left flying as blind and deaf as a plane with no radar and a dead radio. Any information that SHIELD could give them about their enemies or potential threats is now gone. Any villain they capture is no longer taken care of by the moderately able organization (it is hard to imprison determined super villains, after all).

Of course, I’m sure you didn’t really mean to do that. Just the price of literary trends, after all; reason is always first under the bus.

Then there are the Marvel Zombies and Ultimate lines. The zombies were to capitalize on the undead mania that swept the world during the nineties and early twenty-first century. And while it is still going today, it has lost some momentum. I hope it runs completely out of steam; I’m fed up with it. Same plots, same endings, same hopeless situation for the protagonists in every story. And, oh yeah, everybody dies at the end. How BORING.

The Ultimate series was written to exploit the heroes hitherto non-existent ‘Dark Sides.’ You couldn’t use the ‘mainstream’ comics for this; there was too much history for the heroes there. If they all suddenly turned into psychotic flirts and murderers, fans would be furious (rightly so) and retaliate. So a spin-off series was devised for the ‘Ultimate’ stories, which are the equivalent of mad scientists cooking up monstrosities in the basement of a dark, dank castle. Every Ultimate version of a Marvel character is as gross and perverted as Igor and the monster of Frankenstein legend.

So, am I right about these answers to the ‘Why,’ fellow writers? I think I am.

This is a crime all the way through. The heroes do not deserve this; we, the fans and readers-in-passing, do not deserve this negative nonsense shoved down our throats in nearly every issue. Heroes are not meant to have ‘dark sides’ that can explode at the flip of some invisible switch at your fingertips, which makes you cackle with glee. We’re not laughing at the changes the switch shows off. Neither should you, and this is why.

When you drop a hammer, do you need to watch it to know it falls? When it rains, do you go out with a watering can and pour water on the flowers in your garden? When you write, do you use a spoon to put down the words?

When a hammer falls, it makes a noise on contact with the ground. When it rains, the flowers are being watered. When one writes, they use a pen, pencil, or a keyboard.

Heroes are like hammers, heroes are like the rain, and heroes do not change their attitudes or beliefs for anyone or anything. Sometimes their allegiance changes, yes; but only when the organization they gave it to is no longer worthy of their loyalty.

Heroes have doubts. Heroes have flaws. Heroes get into disagreements with each other. They have tempers. They make mistakes. But they do not become psychotic killers at the drop of a hat; they do not attempt to kill the friends and teammates who have saved their lives countless times in countless different scenarios.

Heroes do not have spontaneous flings that stop almost as fast as they start. If they fall for someone, something really drastic has to happen to change their mind about them. Caring is not an on/off switch or a toy to a hero.

Heroes are grounded in the principles of right and they have what the bad guys don’t have.

They have people in their lives that they care about: wives, husbands, children, siblings, friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, fiancés, colleagues, parents, etc. They see ordinary people struggling who care about their families and friends, too. And since they have the power to help them, they fight the villains who would make the struggle worse for these everyday people.

The villains don’t have that. When was the last time Dr. Doom, Apocalypse, Kang, Mr. Sinister, or any of the other villains, truly cared about anyone but themselves? If they did, even for a little while, they would have stopped trying to take over the world or stopped trying to destroy it. Even when they said they loved someone, they didn’t stop their plans. They went ahead with them. That’s what makes them evil.

It is this foundation in the principles of right that makes heroes good.

This is how and why fans, readers, and viewers connect with Marvel Heroes. This is what makes the characters great.

And this is what you have been ripping out of them for the past twenty years.

Sincerely,

Mithril (An Angry True Believer)

Ultimate-ly Disheartening

250px-Ultimate_Comics_The_Ultimates_1_Variant_Cover

Hello, Marvel Writers!

So today we talk about the Ultimate Marvel Comics line up.  First of all, I like the team-up roster for the Avengers. It’s not perfect, but it brings together several of the strongest characters in the Marvel universe and gets the ball rolling.

That said, though, things go downhill from here in every Ultimate story.

The Hulk has gone cannibal at least once since the opening comics for this spin-off series.  That’s gross; I thought the Hulk wasn’t supposed to be a monster.  And then this happens? 

Very. 

Bad. 

PR.

As for Cap goading the Hulk into fighting his nemesis in the opening comics, since when did Steve Rogers let others fight his battles for him?  Or set his eye on a lady who was already taken?  This version of the character doesn’t deserve either the mantle of Captain America or the name of Steve Rogers, fellow writers.

What the heck happened to Thor?  This isn’t the Prince of Thunder that I’m familiar with by a long shot.

And as for Iron Man, all I can say is ouch.  Tony’s been getting a romantic pounding in this comic line, among a great many other scars.  First off, having him date Natasha was a bad idea.  Second, killing Jarvis is cruel.  Third, why hasn’t Wasp ever had the chance to go one-on-one with Mystique before she had to rescue Tony?  I’d love to see her beat Mystique into pancake batter; or any one of the Avengers or X-Men do it, actually.  If that can ever be arranged, I’d be happy to take a look at it.

As for Ultimate Natasha – come on!  The whole reason she’s even interesting is because she turned her back on her past of wanton murder.  If the Natasha of the mainstream comics ever meets Ultimate Natasha (should that Black Widow ever be brought back to the land of the living) she’d probably kill her on sight alone.  The original Black Widow would never, ever, even think of killing one child, let alone three.  In fact, she faced off against her boyfriend Daredevil when he tried to do it once, and it nearly cost her life to do that.  It certainly put the kibosh on their romance.

You’ve already heard my opinion of Ultimate Marvel Hawkeye: he’s as twisted and bent around as you can get, a total perversion of the original Clint Barton.  Giving him a family was great (though why couldn’t it have been with Bobbi Morse?).  And then, typical of the original character’s bad luck, it got yanked out from under him.  Hard.  So he kills the person responsible for this (Natasha?  Really?  It had to be Natasha who did it?) and yet he seems bent on getting himself killed in battle even after this act of vengeance.

Perverted and suicidal.  That’s attractive.  To top it off, as previously mentioned, he’s also been enhanced. His eyesight isn’t normal but results from optical improvements that let him “see the world in black and white.” 

Okay, if he sees it that way, then why is he hiding in the dark?

And as for the fates of Henry and Janet Pym, it’s cruel and unusual punishment.  Bad enough that the Wasp has to put up with a ferociously abusive Hank, next she has to die.  On top of that, she has to end up as someone’s main course to boot.  Did cannibalism not die out in the Ultimate Marvel Comics universe?  I’m beginning to think it didn’t.  As for Pym – beating up on Wasp like that?  Seriously?  He was never a sadistic sort of man, even in his worst mental breakdowns.  

And the changed X-Men – ugh, talk about being perverted!!!  Since when did the Prof. ever start considering robbing the cradle romantically?  And having Kitty Pryde date Spidey??  That’s bad juice, people.  And as for the other changes to the X-Men, I’d rather not think about it.  Rogue and Iceman together just doesn’t work as well as Rogue and Gambit does.

The FF has suffered here, too.  Having a love triangle spring up with Reed, Sue, and Ben is just nasty.  And on top of that, no one seems to be keeping an eye on Johnny.  Sue, as I recall, was always much more protective of her younger brother even when he was old enough to take care of himself.

Seriously, fellow writers?  You get the chance to rewrite Marvel history, and it goes in this unhealthy direction?  The characters were better off as zombies than they are as these versions, which must have come crawling out from under a rock.  Is there a way to re-bury them?  I’ve got plenty of shovels. 

I find it very, very sad.  This could have been something much better.  Instead, it portrays our heroes as resurrected, psychotic road kill.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)