Friday, January 16, 2009

Who Wants to be an Avenger?

Becoming an Avenger doesn't quite mean what it used to.

Let me quantify.

Back in the 60's or 70's, when only a precious few Marvel characters could lay claim to having been among Earth's Mightiest Heroes, it was a pretty big deal when the Beast or Ms. Marvel got the nod to join the A-team. It was an affirmation that this was somebody worthy of being a major player and it was a chance to see them on the grand stage being an Avenger provided.

But flash forward to 2009 and it seems like everybody has been an Avenger at some point or another. It's not exclusive to the Avengers either; there have been dozens of Justice Leaguers, scores of Teen Titans and seemingly hundreds of X-Men. When you accumulate upwards of 40 years of padding your rosters, each addition seems a little less special.

However, all that aside, given the right circumstances, the inauguration of a new Avengers can still feel pretty special when done right. When Justice and Firestar graduated from the New Warriors eight years ago, it was special. When Luke Cage got his due props after decades of disrespect four years ago, it was special. Heck, even when the new Captain America stepped into his old mentor's shoes a couple weeks back, it was something special.

That said, I decided to play armchair chairman and come up with some candidates I think would make pretty special additions to the Avengers in their own right. Here are five...

An Eternal on the Avengers isn't a new idea, since Sersi did a lengthy stretch with the team in the 90's, but Ikaris would bring a very different vibe to the team. The Avengers have had their share of demi-god powerhouses over the years, but again, none quite like Ikaris. Thor was the consumate warrior, and in many ways, the ideal. Hercules was the frat boy. The Sentry is the headcase. Ares is the jerk. Ikaris has a little bit of all of those in him. He's a noble gladiator and a powerhouse like Thor, but with a touch of Herc's haughtiness and with Ares' willingness to fight dirty (ok, maybe not so much Sentry). Ikaris is used to being the alpha of a group that is already the alphas in their own right in the Eternals, but he's also used to speeding off on his own and handling a situation solo when things aren't going his way; he's not used to waiting or taking orders. Ikaris would add potent power to a team like the Avengers, but he'd also add that element of unease that makes for an interesting dynamic. How do you handle having a god on your team who ultimately doesn't care about your opinion?

Even though he started out an X-Man and will largely always be thought of as one, Beast was an absolute revelation as an Avenger and really found his footing as a character there--I think it could be much the same with Nightcrawler. The difference of course is that Nightcrawler is already a well-established and popular character, but he's been sorta treading water in the X-Men for awhile now; a change of scenery could do him good and he's too endearing a character to just toss away. I think what intrigues me most about the possibility of Nightcrawler as an Avenger is that he would become a very public figure in a world that, y'know, hates and fears him. But at the same time, Nightcrawler is a very outgoing swashbuckler type who would relish the attention and prestige of being an Avenger. He'd hit that same sweet spot Beast did as an outcast settling in among Earth's premiere team of heroes and earning the love of fans and teammates even as the public decries his membership. But I also think Nightcrawler, with his flair for the theatrical and his views on faith, would add elements beyond being a Beast retread. Being and Avenger could revitalize Nightcrawler, and having him around would be pretty cool for the team to boot.

Yeah, ok, you can pull your jaws up off the ground. Sure, for years I've wanted my favorite character to get the "Avengers rub," but I also happen to think he'd be a great fit (I'm not alone, I don't think--it seems like Kurt Busiek really wanted to add Nova to the team during his Avengers run but just never got around to it). Admittedly, a few years back I think it would have been a very different dynamic, with Nova just being the credible young hero who had earned his spot but had to still prove himself. These days Nova is immensely powerful and has saved the universe a few times while the Avengers were having a Civil War or two, so his joining the team would be under very different circumstances, but might work even better. He'd basically be Green Lantern on the JLA or, closer to home, Quasar on the 90's Avengers: the space cop with a beat that extends beyond Earth but who fights alongside his planet's best and brightest both to keep him grounded and to keep their eyes on the stars. I really like the idea of Nova being in there with guys like Iron Man and Luke Cage who would view him as a former New Warrior only for him to turn around and remind them, "Hey, I beat Annihilus while you were fighting like schoolkids--get serious."

Maybe my most outside the box choice, but I think it would be really cool. Thor is the only Asgardian who has ever really had a major role outside of Asgard, let alone on the Avengers, and Sif has only ever really been his girlfriend, but I think flipping both those notions on their head would make for great stories. We've seen Thor's relative difficulty in fitting in among mortals and accepting their ways, but he's had years at this point; seeing Sif try to fit in would be both intriguing and entertaining. The fact that she's a woman of course adds layers, as she'd both intimidate and fascinate her male and female teammates alike. It also gives the Avengers that powerful female character who can go toe-to-toe with the big boys ala Wonder Woman. But backtracking to my earlier point, who would Sif be without Thor and Asgard, set on her own to survive among mortals? How would her Asgardian pride clash with her sense of loneliness? How would she deal with the culture clash? Would she be able to ask for help? Interesting questions all...

Quite simply, this is overdue. 10 years ago, when Kurt Busiek was simultaneously writing Avengers and Thunderbolts, he certainly seemed to be grooming Songbird to become one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, as alluded to in Avengers Forever. The hook for me though would be that while Songbird was always the most heroic on a team of former villains like the T-Bolts (particularly the most recent incarnation), on the Avengers she'd suddenly be right back to being the bad girl trying to make good under the scrutiny of her teammates. How frustrating would that be for her? After years of proving herself and all she has suffered through for her principles, how much would it suck to be bumped back down to the status of wild card? Would Songbird crack under the pressure? Being an Avenger has seemingly been her goal for quite some time, but would she find it to be all she hoped for or a burden she couldn't handle? Being an Avenger would turn Songbird's world upside down--the thing she thought would be her salvation could be a cross to bear instead--and she'd certainly stir things up herself.


Jesse T. said...

Good call on Nightcrawler ... and I'd be all for Sif on the team, so long as the creative team somehow involves the names "DeFalco" and "Frenz."

Ben Morse said...

Oh, Jesse, you closet Spider-Girl fan, you...

Jesse T. said...

THUNDERSTRIKE, Ben, it's all about the Thunderstrike.
I even own a T-shirt!

Ben Morse said...

From what little I've read of MC2, Thunderstrike is like their George Washington, dude.