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Avengers Disassembled Part 1: The Tie-Ins
Avengers Disassembled is the latest Marvel reorganization of books. Disassembled is the third this year, the first being the Marvel Knights Renaissance and the second the X-Men Reload. While the former got me to pick up more Marvel Knights books, the latter generally was poorly executed and if I recall correctly, the only X-titles I read regularly are Mystique, Astonishing X-Men [I know it's a Joss Whedon book, but I really, really like the art] and a few mutant books that are technically X-titles, but actually fall under the Marvel Knights banner [Wolverine, District X, X-Statix, Madrox]. So this made me somewhat skeptical of Avengers Disassembled at first glance. However, once I became aware of the creative teams lined up for the event [Bendis/Finch, Oeming/DeVito, Kirkman/Eaton, Ricketts/Harris, Priest/Bennett], hesitation soon turned to excitement.
Having said that, I am a particular minority in today's world of comics readers. I'm a huge Avengers fan, BUT I am not shaken or annoyed by the changes of the status quo that Disassembled has brought. Sure, it does irk me that 6/8ths of the classic Avengers are being ushered out in a quick manner, but I can see that it has been deemed necessary. After the abysmal Chuck Austen run where he made Wasp sleep with Hawkeye for God knows why, it became apparent that a cleaning of house had to be done. And the Avengers have been known for radical roster changes. Within one issue, a lineup of Capt. America, Iron Man, Ant-Man, The Wasp, and Thor became Capt. America, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver. Replacing Earth's Mightiest Heroes with two terrorists and a semi-obscure Iron Man villain is pretty damn radical, if I do say so myself.
The Avengers began as collaboration between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. They put the most popular solo heroes of the era [Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man & Wasp] onto a team, much like DC did with the Justice League of America [unlike the JSA, where Batman and Superman were only reserves]. A signature of the Avengers was the constant upheaval of the team - members left, new heroes joined, Henry Pym changed his identity every 3 issues - making it very different from the now stationary ‘Big 7' JLA that is prevalent among the minds of any casual comics reader. This has always made Avengers a tough sell - I mean, who wants a book with Gilgamesh and Black Knight when they could be reading about Spider-Man or Punisher?
This necessitated the need for Marvel to do a huge upheaval of the Avengers, helmed by Marvel golden boy Brian Michael Bendis.
Word bubbles on a cover! I never thought I'd see the day.
Captain America - This was a shock to me, especially after all the introverted ‘political' issues of the Marvel Knights run, that Marvel would get Robert Kirkman and Scot Eaton to pen the 4 issue arc for Disassembled. I mean, I've not seen supervillains in a Capt. America book for years. That said, this is fairly standard; it's not required reading for anyone who wants to read Chaos; however, the new Brubaker Captain America series is said to spin out of events in this arc. This story is VERY old school, even the revelation regarding one of Cap's allies, and the SHIELD traitor plot. This works both to its advantage and disadvantage; it's a nice trip down nostalgia lane, but it's very light on substance. And it's too bad that Red Skull was behind it all AGAIN. Overall, a fun distraction, but not required reading.
Captain America & The Falcon - This was probably the best of the tie-ins, solely because it led to CAF no longer having Bart Sears' [shudder] art. This arc actually had something to do with the Avengers story, and is recommended reading for someone wanting to get the most out of Avengers Disassembled. Hopefully the tie-in and the addition of not horrible art picked up readers for Christopher Priest's criminally underrated run. In addition to continuing plot threads from the first two issues, Cap/Falcon also deals with the sudden relationship between Captain America and Scarlet Witch. This development is very important in the scheme of things, and addition to being a great story, it's also essential to get the best reading experience with Avengers Disassembled.
Iron Man - Another odd storyline. It seemed more to be a housecleaning magic reset button story than something that contributed to the character. Within 4 issues, Tony is no longer Secretary of Defense, his girlfriend is dead, and no one knows he's Iron Man. Sounds like moving backwards to me! Despite the faults of the changes made, this is a technically competent story; Ricketts and Harris show good storytelling and great art [even though Harris left mid-arc], and one must wonder what they would accomplish had they not been assigned with the task of ‘cleaning up Iron Man'. The last page was odd, as well. Obviously Ellis isn't going to pick up on the Mandarin's son plot point, so what was the reason for it?
Thor - This has nothing to do with Disassembled, but is in my mind the most essential of all the tie-ins. Why? Because this storyline is Ragnarok, also known as the end of Asgard and the death of Thor. Though I'm slightly miffed that Marvel ended Jurgens' run before it was adequately completed, Oeming and DeVito's story is truly one of the best Thor tales ever, and an essential for any Thor fan. [Don't worry about his status; he'll be back by summertime] The problem with a lot of Thor runs is that they don't take advantage of the mythology. Too many stories about Earth characters we don't care about. But this arc has it all: Lady Sif, The Warriors Three, Loki and even Beta Ray Bill. Hopefully the relaunch will focus more on Asgard and less on the Earth exploits of Thor.
Fantastic Four - This didn't really make any sense. Well, not the arc; that was great. But the tie-in status of this book is odd, considering the only possible tie-in it had to the events in Disassembled at all was a few off hand references to the Avengers and the sorry state they were in. That's it. It is a very good arc despite the arbitrary tie-in status and the unnecessary price boost [2.25 to 2.99? Come on, Marvel. FF was one of, like, 6 books at that price, and now that leaves about 4, since Spectacular's ending at 27.] Waid and Wieringo bring back Galactus in a way that isn't as tired as the typical Galactus tale - Galactus is searching for a new herald, and members of species Galactus wiped out want Sue to sacrifice herself to create an invisibility shield to save worlds. Mark Waid seems to be intent on better utilizing Sue's powers and making her a more important part of the team, something a lot of FF writers [even Lee to an extent] ignored. And the twist at the end of the 3 parter was truly unexpected.
Spectacular Spider-Man - I've no idea why this was given a Disassembled logo. Nothing outside of Captain America being a guest star had anything to do with Disassembled; hell, they didn't even mention the mansion incident or anything. This is generally a confusing, muddled arc - thanks to fill in artists on a FIVE ISSUE ARC and there being no actual purpose for the story other than to give the wallcrawler organic webshooters and an amped up spider sense. So this is like Fantastic Four, in that it's not required to understand the goings on of the event, but unlike Fantastic Four, it sucks.
What to pick up: Captain America and Falcon, Thor, Iron Man
What you don't need: Spectacular Spider-Man, Fantastic Four [it's great, but not needed for you to get the fullest of AD], Captain America
With part 2 I'll be getting into the meat of the story - Avengers: Chaos, written by Brian Michael Bendis with Dave Finch on pencils, plus the Avengers Finale and the first issues of New Thunderbolts and the new volumes of Iron Man and Captain America.