Are you just a comic book guy poser? Fear not, this new series will help you start your path to become a proper fanboy.
Hey you! Yes, you! The one reading this article! I ask you, how familiar are you with comics? And I don’t mean the comic book movies like The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises. I mean the actual books themselves, straight from the shelves.
Given we live in a country of three hundred million people and a good comic sells about 100,000 copies, chances are you don’t know much about comic books. You may have picked up an interest in these characters thanks to the movies you’ve seen, or perhaps you’ve always had one, but you’ve been worried about what others will think. Or, maybe you look at the 50+ years of continuity for a character like Iron Man or Batman and say to yourself, “Yeah, that’s never happening.”
Well, if you’re interested at all in looking at comics, I’m here to help give you a starting point to enter the worlds of Marvel and DC. Each month, I’m going to take a look at a modern story arc that can serve as a good entry point into the world of comics. I’ll be breaking it down into four sections: the main story, the art of the main book, the side books, and the overall impact it had on its universe.
Avengers Disassembled, Marvel’s big push to make a darker, edgier Marvel Universe. Were they successful, and more importantly, was it a good thing? Let’s look at the books and get right to it!
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Main Story: So, if you’ve seen or heard anything about the X-Men, you are likely already familiar with Magneto, the head of the Brotherhood of Mutants who holds that same Voldemort mentality that those with power should rule over those who don’t. However, you may not be familiar with the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff), Magneto’s daughter and a common friend of the Avengers. Her mutant powers give her the ability to alter probabilities, cause chaos, and even change reality itself to her whims. Which, when you think about it, is probably the most overpowered ability a superhero could ever have. I mean, if you can change reality to anything you want, doesn’t that make any threat negligible? You can just change reality to a place where such a threat doesn’t exist. Poof! Crisis averted.
Well, to be fair, the use of such powers seems to be at the risk of Wanda’s sanity, and Avengers Disassembled is a five issue story about what happens when the Scarlet Witch completely loses her mind and starts taking out her anger and frustration on the Avengers and the world around her. What happens next is basically every worst-case scenario Tony Stark’s Avengers could have ever feared. Superheroes die, leaders make fools out of themselves, and by the end, the government disowns the entire Avengers Initiative. Given Iron Man’s fall from grace (threatening dictators rarely looks good in the long term), Stark has no choice but to disband the team altogether. So yeah, the title of the event is pretty accurate. Disassembled indeed.
Is it any good? Definitely. Scarlet Witch’s fall from sanity is handled beautifully, as the reader is able to both sympathize and fear her power in equal measure: a feat quite difficult to pull off. The other characters don’t have as much time for individual story arcs, but they bounce off each other well. Brian Michael Bendis’s ability to create atmosphere really steals the show, however. The stakes always feel as high as they should, and you really get a sense of the chaos that the team is going through.
It is by no means a perfect comic, however. That chaotic feeling I love so much also ensures the first three issues are very hectic. There’s never much time given for the reader to digest the information presented, and you’re always left feeling like you missed something (personally, I ended up rereading a couple sections and looking at the Wikipedia page to ensure I didn’t skip a couple pages on accident). There are also a couple plot holes towards the end, but they’re minor, and don’t really get in the way of the story.
The art of Disassembled
Art: Can I just say David Finch did the art and be done here? I mean, I don’t know what else to say. David Finch is a brilliant artist, and his work continues to look great here. The characters look as powerful as they are, and he really has a great sense for hand-to-hand combat, which is why She-Hulk’s attack on Vision is easily the best looking scene in the book. That said, there’s a reason Finch usually sticks to characters like Batman and Moon Knight. His superpower art is only average, and some characters tend to look more muscular than they probably should. Still, I’m personally a fan, and even if you don’t like his style, it doesn’t get in the way of the story.
A web of tales
Side Stories: Since there are only three characters who get true side stories here, I’m going to look at each character’s tie-ins separately (Note: I’m not counting the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. The tie-ins were very loosely tied in to the story, and the connections are so minimal that it’s not worth looking into unless you want to read those characters anyway).
First is Thor, whose story is only loosely tied to the main story (…it was collected with Captain America and Iron Man’s story. It counts. Hypocrisy, what’s that?). It tells the tale of Ragnarok and Thor’s quest to determine what it means to be a true ruler of Asgard. I won’t give too much of the plot away, but this is a must read for anyone who is a fan of mythology. The story is written in epic mythic tones, and it definitely feels like you’re reading a story written about the gods back in the days of the Vikings. It can be wordy at times, but the payoff at the end is more than worth it. This story is why I became a fan of Thor, and it’s totally worth the read.
Iron Man had two separate story arcs that tied into Avengers Disassembled. The first, Uninvited Guests, explores the conflicting feelings Tony has about working for the U.S. Government as the Secretary of State and trying to lead the Avengers and be honest with his team. This would have been very interesting, but given the arc lasted for two issues and the Avengers were disbanded soon after this arc finished, it definitely feels like retroactive filler.
The second, the Singularity, basically explores Tony Stark’s fall from grace in the public eye, especially when his Iron Man suit starts killing off some of his former enemies. The themes explored here are much more relevant long term, but the death of Stark’s former love interest seems like a hollow way to raise stakes that were already high enough, and the bad guy of the series is equally void of purpose. There was an opportunity to do something really interesting with Iron Man literally fighting his former demons, but instead, we get a cop out series that only functions to allow Iron Man to keep fighting crime. Lame. Skip it unless you’re a huge Iron Man fan.
Finally, Captain America also gets two series of his own, though neither one is seemingly connected to each other. The first, Captain America and the Falcon (issues 5-7), serves to further the plot from the first story arc (which was much better than this one) and introduce possible romantic feelings between the Scarlet Witch and Captain America…which are dropped almost as immediately as they’re brought up. I get that they wanted to show that superhero community cared deeply about Wanda, but given Captain America’s interest is never brought up again, it truly feels purposeless. Totally not worth it for the connection to Avengers Disassembled alone, though I would recommend the entirety of the Captain America and the Falcon series as a stand alone read.
The second arc, Super-Patriot, gives Captain America a new love interest (did those two books not communicate at all? I mean, you couldn’t even pretend we were supposed to care about that romance, Marvel?) that is a reformed villain (Cap loves reformed villains), but, gasp!, isn’t actually reformed at all. Or maybe she is and the one with whom Steve Rogers is falling in love is actually a robot and…yeah, this story is really dumb. I can see what they were trying to do here, but given how serious Marvel was trying to convince us their universe was now, this seems entirely out of place. The writing’s ok, as is the art, but it’s nothing great, and definitely not worth the read.
What’s it all mean?
Impact: Avengers Disassembled changed the way Marvel comics wrote books. Basically, every book, especially event comics, written between Avengers Disassembled (2004) and Siege (2010) is directly affected by this book. There is no better time to jump into the Marvel Universe than Avengers Disassembled, as everything that happens after can be traced back to that moment.
The main book gets a big recommendation. Though the book itself is firmly in the “above-average-to-good” range, the impact on the rest of the Marvel universe makes it a must read. Plus, while the story may not be spectacular, it is quite a fun read. Thor: Disassembled is the best thing to come out of this story arc, while Captain America: Disassembled is easily the worst. Iron Man: Disassembled can also be pretty easily skipped. Still, overall, it’s a great read and gets the Chase Wassenar Seal of Approval.
Tune in next month to read about Green Lantern: Rebirth and Green Lantern Corps: Recharge!