Today, Ethan and Shelby are discussing Mighty Avengers 2, originally released October 2nd, 2013.
Ethan: Push the envelope. Stand on the shoulders of giants. Rules are made to be broken. Going boldly where no one has gone before. Put 110% of your effort towards your goals. Ours goes to eleven. Etc etc. Our culture has gotten a pretty good handle on this concept, as evidenced by how many ways we’ve come up with codifying it into our tropes – the idea of taking everything that came before, acknowledging it, and then moving past it. Comic books – and fiction at large – LOVE this concept. Mighty Avengers #2 is no exception, and the one-upping writer Al Ewing packs into this issue is fun, if also a little bit silly by the end.
In the middle of a bright and breezy field, Doctor Strange meditates. At the bottom of the ocean, Adam Brashear (Blue Marvel) receives a visit from his old acquaintance Uatu the Watcher. And on the streets of Manhattan, Luke Cage and his crew of stand-in Avengers fight for their life against Thanos’ lieutenant, Proxima Midnight. Proxima quickly dispatches both Spectrum (Monica Rambeau) and Luke Cage, while the rest of the cobbled-together crew do their best to keep Proxima’s soldiers away from the civilians. When Cage’s face hits the pavement, though, it’s the civilians who rally, chanting their defiance of Proxima’s assault and their support for the heroes who are fighting for them. Cage picks himself up, the team regroups, and they begin to push back against Proxima and her forces. Just in time for the mind-controlled Doctor Strange to complete his incantation, summoning an otherworldly nightmare-made-flesh into the middle of the Avengers’ fight.
Page after page, this issue wants you to absorb how high the stakes are, feel a little bit of doubt, and then howl with glee/dismay when the stakes ratchet up a notch. And then do it all over again, and in a way that’s as entertaining as it is transparent. It’s a little bit like asking the question “can an unstoppable force shift an immovable object,” answering the question in favor of one or the other, and then doing it again but giving the win to the other side.
Brass tacks: first, we get the question of “Can a spear of black light that never misses its target hit a hero made of nothing but light itself?” The answer, unfortunately for Monica, is “yep.”
The next Q&A session is also a downer: “Can an evil, superpowered alien hit Luke Cage in the face so hard that his unbreakable skin will bleed?” Also answered in the affirmative.
Luke’s had a hard time of it lately – it wasn’t so long ago that he was blown up by a tactical nuclear strike in the Age of Ultron event. And that didn’t even quite kill him, some undisclosed blend of internal hemorrhaging and radiation and stuff ended up doing him in days after the fact. So I was cringing in earnest by the time we got to that bottom panel where Proxima is really going to work on him, pounding him so hard that globlets of blood are flying up into her grotesque, toothy grin. How hard is she hitting him, that she’s getting that much blood out of his invincible flesh? How much of a bummer is that for Luke, to be killed in two consecutive Marvel Events? And what kind of teeth-whitener does Proxima use? Cuz gosh, it really works.
Thankfully, the next big surprise comes more in favor of the good guys. The belief of the people on the street, the people the Mighty Avengers are on-scene to save, lifts Cage up from his asphalt nap and gives him the strength to go on. I warned you there were some Mighty Tropes to be had in this issue of Mighty Avengers, and the Cries Of The People Hauling The Hero To His Feet is probably the most obvious one in the issue. But again, Luke’s been down on his luck in recent times, and he’s always identified as a Savior of the Streets. That, plus the fact that he doesn’t immediately knock Proxima out cold, and in fact seems to quickly come to a stalemate of traded blows, means that his little resurrection isn’t so heavy-handed that we can’t enjoy it.
These to’s and fro’s are all well and good, but doesn’t Ewing have anything with a little more glitz? We’ve all seen the noble fall and rise again; how about something a little more extreme? Come on Al, this issue of escalation after escalation is coming to a close – what can you give us that’ll really pull out all the stops? How about, The Incarnation of Fear, the Soul of Malice Barely Contained to Mere Reality, the Demon/Monster/Cyclops-Squid, Shuma-Gorath!!! [insert sick guitar riff here! meedly-meedly-OWW!]
Ok, so maybe it’s hard to really capture the hideous grandeur of Shuma-Gorath (Shuma-Shuma to his buds) with pen and ink, but you get the idea. If his actual debut does come off feeling a little silly, I still loved his Lovecraftian-rip-off intro: shivering white text on black speech bubbles: “BEFORE” “ALL WAS” “I WAS”; “BEFORE” “TIME WAS” “I WAITED.” The message is clear: the little suped-up bipeds can flash their little lights and flex their tiny muscles all they want, but the critter sung forth by Strange (under the hypnotic influence of Ebony Maw) is way beyond the scope of the current tussle, both by virtue of its sheer physical size, and because it’s somehow deeper than real, more a philosophical expression of slow, horrible power than it is an actual creature.
Up and up and up! I know Blue Marvel’s got some pretty good tricks up his sleeve, but I’m wondering how his arrival on the scene can really help all that much to contain the new threat. What say you, Shelby? Was this issue too trite for your taste, or did it still entertain? Is it possible to look past the neon glamor of a county fair and still enjoy the rides? How the heck are the Avengers – Mighty or not – going to get out of this?
Shelby: Trite or entertaining: I’m going to have to go with both here. When Proxima got hit in the face with that first brick, I couldn’t help but think, “jeez, this is only issue 2, isn’t it a little early for The People to Rise to Defend the Hero?” Even as I questioned the moment, I found myself being swept away by it, and when that tough old bird shouted “Avengers Assemble!” I was completely on board. Ewing plays this game of blending corny and genuine; for every sincere moment, he tweaks our nose a bit. Even though that old lady (who may be the actual Dolores Ibárruri who made the ¡No Pasarán! speech during the Spanish Civil War) is impassioned and ready to fight, you’ve got that guy in the back who’s just gotta be that guy.
Hahaha, this is a moment of power and persuasion, and you’ve got that ass-clown in the back who just has to point out that these are more nihilists than fascists. I love a book that can have a serious plot but still have a sense of humor; it makes for a reading experience that is both complex and enjoyable.
The question of how the Avengers are going to get out of this is a good one. The only reason Proxima didn’t pound them into dust is that something bigger came along. Blue Marvel apparently has every superpower, so that might help, and maybe now that Strange has finished his job of summoning this beast he can join the fray to fight it. I assume some more Marvel heroes I’ve never heard of will show up to help. It will probably be a little cheesy, a lot sassy, and delightfully genuine.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?