Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Five Favorite Avengers

Ok, so the Lost fervor has died down a bit and it’s time to cash a check I wrote over a week ago.

Yes, you can say goodbye to those sleepless nights, because I’m finally set to reveal…

…my five favorite Avengers.

In last week’s Avengers #1, after Kang gets blasted across several roofs via a blast of mystic lightning from Mjolnir, Hawkeye says, “And that’s what it’s like to be on the Avengers with Thor” (or something similar enough for me to get away with it)—and that right there pretty much sums up why I love Thor as an Avenger: He’s the ultimate powerhouse bruiser in the Marvel Universe (excepting The Hulk, who is more a force of nature) and thus it’s number one team is just cooler when he’s on it. Thor makes both the best cavalry as well as the best way for a villain to score a quick belt notch and thus make whoever takes them down seem like more of a badass. It’s also always rad to see Thor with his Shakespearean speak dealing with reporters or standing eight feet tall with a smile or sneer over the rookie Avengers or enjoying mead and mutton feasts provided by Jarvis. Thor is such a crazy, unique character that everything about him and a group of mortal heroes just gets better when the two get mixed.

For my money, the best addition to the Avengers in the last decade and Brian Bendis’ greatest triumph as godfather of the franchise. Luke Cage was a character who had been around for decades before he got roped into New Avengers, and during at least half that time I’d say no way he qualified as A-list material, but it was like the hometown boy making good and getting into the majors or something, so we dug it at first. But Bendis was bound and determined to show that Luke belonged, and I’d say he succeeded. The nice thing was, though, that Bendis didn’t have Cage become some out of nowhere world-beater dispatching cosmic level threats in a feverish attempt to prove he wasn’t wasting a roster slot, he just slowly but surely became the quiet conscience of the team, the guy who steered everybody else in the right direction, and yes, was still one bad sonuvagun. When Luke became de facto team leader with no official proclamation post-Secret Invasion, it felt totally natural and totally earned because his maturation process had been a joy to experience—well done, Mr. Bendis.

Janet Van Dyne grew up in the Avengers, entering as a flighty young woman and ultimately becoming perhaps the gutsiest heroes male or female to ever serve. The thing is, I liked The Wasp in all her incarnations, and her versatility was one of her best assets. She was ridiculously Silver Age as the original Avengers’ flirtatious airhead, but unlike a lot of other female characters of the time, she kinda seemed in on the joke, whether Stan Lee and others wrote her that way intentionally or not, and that made her cooler than The Invisible Woman or Wonder Woman. But no doubt Janet Van Dyne’s finest moments came after in the fallout of her messy domestic dispute with and divorce from Hank Pym, rather than curl up in a ball somewhere, she marched into Avengers Mansion and told no less than Captain America and Iron Man in no uncertain terms that she was the team’s new chairperson and they’d better just deal with it. I dug that Jan was a damn effective team leader and held the group together during the darkest days of “Under Siege,” yet didn’t suddenly become so uptight she wouldn’t come on to Paladin shamelessly—this balance of bold and bubbly made her a great character for the remainder of her days.

The Avengers weren’t really the Avengers until Captain America came along; they were just a loose-knit group of bickering demigods trying their best to work together until they thawed Steve Rogers out of this iceberg and he decided the team was a good idea and threw his considerable talents towards making it work. The heart and purity of Captain America was what inspired the bulk of the Avengers to be Earth’s Mightiest Heroes over the years, and placed them several notches above the Defenders, Champions, etc. Only Superman can boast the same symbolic value as Captain America in terms of his effect on his several heroes, but Cap trumps the Man of Steel by also being one of the best team leaders in comic book history and certainly the finest the Avengers have ever seen. To continue the DC shorthand, Captain America has the strategic genius and quick-thinking of Batman, but with Superman’s charm and winning personality. I don’t think anybody believes in the Avengers quite like Cap does—they gave him a reason to continue on in a world that had left him behind, after all—and nobody works as hard towards keeping them in fighting shape. A good ol’ fashioned “Avengers Assemble!” charge doesn’t give you nearly the chill if Steve Rogers isn’t racing at the fore.

So you’ve got gods, super-soldiers, billionaire geniuses and uber-powerful mutants making up the Avengers, and then you’ve got Clint Barton: the guy with the bow, the arrow and the attitude. That to me was always one of the coolest thing about the Avengers: that a dude like Hawkeye could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest and not seem out of place in the least. He’s the guy who questioned whether Captain America was leadership material; the guy who managed to found an Avengers team in California. You can say there was already a precedent for an archer fitting in amongst the powerhouses with Green Arrow in the Justice League, but as much as I am a GA fan, it always seemed like he either was just another square-chinned cipher in the JLA’s fledgling days, and then later more the rabble-rousing square peg than anything else; Hawkeye would mouth off, sure, but at the end of the day he was integral to what the Avengers were all about and very much the heart of the team in a way his DC counterpart never quite was. Despite starting out as a questionable Iron Man villain, Hawkeye was a true blue good guy with a romantic streak who was made to be one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I absolutely love when the rest of the team has been taken out and it’s Hawkeye who has to beat the odds and make the impossible shot against a rampaging She-Hulk or omnipotent Collector to win the day—and that’s why he’s my favorite Avenger.


George Washington Carver said...

"Janet Van Dyne grew up in the Avengers, entering as a flighty young woman and ultimately becoming perhaps the gutsiest heroes male or female to ever serve."

I don't think that sentence quite came together, champ.

Ben Morse said...

Aww, I missed one lousy word, Dr. Carver, gimme a break.

demoncat said...

Nice list. for all are worthy choices for any avengers list . not to mention captain america should be on any avengers list being the heart of the team and one who no matter what the avengers went through still kept going. Luke cage cool. though surely there is a better picture of hawkeye you could have used in the post.