Today, Drew and Shelby are discussing Mighty Avengers 3, originally released November 6th, 2013.
…and this whole justice league — Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman. You mean to tell me Superman can’t cover everything? For crying out loud, he’s Superman!
Drew: It’s hard to resist the synergy of a superhero team-up. Batman and Superman have megawatt star-power alone, but combine them, and you can draw an even bigger audience. As easy as it is to justify those team-ups from a business perspective, it can actually be quite difficult to justify them narratively. Writers often resort to improbably massive threats or absurd contrivances to bring their heroes together, but the biggest problem with team-ups is much more fundamental than plotting. The appeal of superheroes — the appeal of the idea of The Hero in general — is that they alone bear the power to succeed in their journey. If you put several of them in a story together, their narrative purposes are at odds, dividing any victories between them in a way that is ultimately less satisfying. But what if a team isn’t made up of such heavy-hitters? What if they were presented with a problem that the members couldn’t possibly cover on their own? Mighty Avengers 3 zeroes in on exactly what strength can be found, as its team becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
The “we need to pool our powers” piece is nothing new — Blue Marvel funneling light energy into spectrum AND Power Man funneling chi into White Tiger both feel like Wiccan giving his magic to Loki n Young Avengers (and countless other superhero stories) — but the fact that the members of this team have never faced anything so large is significant. Indeed, almost none of these characters are anchoring their own series right now; they’re team players by design. The previous issue found them asking where the Avengers are, but this one finds them rising to the challenge themselves.
It helps that their buttressed by a few new(ish) additions to the team. Blue Marvel arrives just in time to defeat Shuma-Gorath — the first time, anyway — and restore Monica to more than full health, and Power Man and White Tiger arrive just in time to defeat Shuma-Gorath the second time. It couldn’t have been more straightforward narratively, but writer Al Ewing hangs some interesting baggage on that framework.
The most obvious one is Shuma-Gorath’s striking resemblance to Starro the Conqueror, famously the first adversary to require the Justice League to combine their efforts.
This is the kind of monster that requires even the most famous heroes to unite, only these aren’t the most famous heroes. That might be disappointing to someone who seeks out Avengers titles to see the likes of Captain America and Thor teaming up, but the fact that these “Mighty Avengers” defeat the monster anyway should prove their worthiness of the title.
Or, to put a finer point on it: this works if you let it. Ewing gives voice to any naysayers in the form of the Superior Spider-Man, who decries such superficial imitations.
Stupendous Spider Hero’s answer — that nine tenths of magic is believing in it — is basically directed at anyone who’s resisting being won-over by this title. These heroes are doing the exact same stuff as the Justice League, all that’s missing is us buying into it.
Ewing ultimately extends that message to the real world, as well. As far as Luke Cage sees it, Avengers isn’t about helicarriers or high-tech membership cards, or even about being superheroes. Avengers is teamwork — the notion that no man is an island. That may not jibe with the heroes journey we expect of our fiction, but it fits perfectly with the real world as we know it. This “the power is yours” rhetoric is similar to the conclusion of Captain Marvel 17, but it lacks the sense of community that the real-world Carol Corps brought to that message. Without that emotional weight, this issue feels more like a dry treatise on the power of fiction to inspire us to be better — not unpleasant to read, but largely lacking in the inspiration it outlines.
What did you think, Shelby? Did Luke’s message connect with you on a more emotional level, or did it feel more like a defense of other comics to you, too?
Shelby: Honestly, Mr. Cage’s message felt like exactly what it was: PR. A reporter was spitting out tentacle goo and looking for a quote from Spectrum, and he came back with this grand sermon about togetherness and unity and working together. Reading it, I exclaimed out loud, “Oh, Luke is preachin’ now!” And I don’t have a problem with that. Back in issue one, we talked about how much we liked the grounded, real human emotions that Luke was demonstrating. He wanted to start a team because he had a kid, and he wanted to leave the world a better place for her. It seems a little hokey to our jaded, bitter selves, but ultimately it was kind of refreshing to see that sort of genuine ideology. This is just more of the same, and I still find it refreshing. Even though he is talking about coming together to fight a manifestation of the void, in both physical and astral form, his speech makes this almost comically giant problem seem down-to-earth and conquerable. It’s cheesy and inspirational at the same time.
I’m excited for this title to break away from Infinity and become something of it’s own. The threat of the end of the world made for a good threat to bring the team together, but I want to see this title stay grounded and stick to local issues. This team has so much heart, and I’d hate to see it go to waste on a massive-scale galactic issue. They want to do good for their world, and I want to see them do it. We’ve got science with Blue Marvel and magic with Dr. Strange and everyone in between with Spectrum. We’ve got a healthy dose of skepticism from Spider-Man, a wise leader, a young wise-ass, and a mysterious figure. It’s a story we’ve heard before, it’s characters we’ve seen before, but it’s sweet, genuine, and still a lot of fun to read. I feel like we the know broad strokes of these characters and their story, but once the bigger threat is gone we can zoom in and really get to know what kind of team these guys are going to be.
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So one thing I really like about this team so far is that it’s powerful; Power Man and Otto and such may be mid-tier, but Blue Marvel and Spectrum are decidedly extremely powerful characters, but Ewing knows how to pit them against a threat that pushes every member of the team to the brink and stops those overpowered characters from stealing the spotlight or doing everything themselves. Hopefully Ewing is able to keep that up as the series continues, because I could see things being a little too easy for this team in the future.
At one of the Marvel panels at NYCC, there was a Blue Marvel fan who was a bit peeved to see such a powerful character mixing it up with what he called a “street level team.” I’m actually more used to the opposite — less-powered heroes getting short shrift because of their incredibly powerful teammates. Like, I still think it’s funny that Shang Chi is on the Avengers right now — even Cap is barely keeping up with all of the (demi)gods flying around.