In the wake of the Marvel Comics Civil War Crossover, nothing of the old landscape exists (as marketed by the Marvel itself). What saw the most change was the core of the Marvel Universe, the superhero teams and their respective books, starting with Marvel’s flagship team and title: The Avengers.
“Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” were collectively hit the hardest by the Civil War. With the team leader Captain America on one side of the argument and Iron Man, the team’s chief financier on the other, the Avengers were split down the middle. On top of that, the death of Steve Rogers (if you don’t know the name, you need to read more), along with the Registration Act & 50 State Initiative becoming law, the Avengers divided into two teams – one lead by Ms. Marvel and sponsored by the government, and the other led by Luke Cage and outlawed.
The latter team, housed in the title New Avengers is comprised of heroes who resisted the Registration Act or remained neutral, and is concerned with the corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a supposed Skrull invasion. It’s comprised of Iron Fist, who finances the team, Doctor Strange, who houses the team in his magically enchanted and hidden home in Greenwich Village, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman (who formerly served as double agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. and terrorist organization HYDRA), Echo and Hawkeye (now going under the guise of Ronin). All in all, the New Avengers are very street level, which really suits the vibe of the book.
The government-sponsored team is called the Mighty Avengers, or the New York Initiative team, funded by Stark Industries. Led by Ms. Marvel, the squad also includes Iron Man (now the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Ares the God Of War (yeah, actually), Wonder Man (whose ionic form makes him one of the strongest heroes alive – he doesn’t eat, sleep or breath), The Sentry (who has the power of a thousand exploding suns), Black Widow (who’s been an active super spy since the Cold War, and who, along with Iron Man, is the only Level 10 S.H.I.E.L.D. agent), and the Wasp (a founding Avenger). This power team defends the world from such threats as the newly resurrected Ultron, who is very close to wiping out the entire human race. Written by Brian Michael Bendis (who’s been with Marvel since 2002) and illustrated crisply and cleanly by Frank Cho, this series is Marvel at its present day best. Despite my feelings about Civil War and the Registration Act, the Mighty Avengers are at the top of my “It List.”
After the war, Sue (Invisible Girl) and Reed (Mr. Fantastic) Richards left the Fantastic Four to focus on their marriage, which almost cracked under the pressure of the Registration Act. However, Ben Grimm (The Thing) and Johnny (Human Torch) teamed up with another super couple – none other than the oh-so diverse combination of Black Panther T’challa of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and mutant weather goddess Storm of the X-men. Although I approve of this Circle of Life marriage, I can’t help but doubt that this is a pretty transparent ploy to create a multicultural comic. T’Challa belongs with the Avengers and Storm belongs with the X-men. Their marriage was cute enough, but some classics don’t need a remix.
Speaking of the hot mess known as the X-Men, there are just too many of them. Out of six X-Men team books, I only take three seriously, and invest readership in just one – the flagship title Astonishing X-Men, written by Joss Whedon and drawn by John Cassaday. Up until about a year ago, this book competed with Bendis’s New Avengers as Marvel’s top book. No offense to Whedon – and I say this with the utmost respect – the Break World does not constitute a year’s worth of interest for me.
The last arc about the Hellfire Club was a bit of an unresolved plot stretch, but at least it was interesting. However, the only things saving this book right now are its art and roster. This is by far the best X-Men group I’ve seen in a while – Emma Frost, Colossus, Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast and Shadow Cat. It has a perfect balance of cool powers and strong personality dynamics. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of foreshadowing of Emma, as well as Colossus, either leaving the team or even dying (again). If either of those two leaves the group, as far as I’m concerned it’s a wrap for the book and the X-Franchise as a whole.
I don’t even read the other X-Men books. But for documentation sake, the other titles are: The Uncanny X-Men and just X-Man. The Uncanny X-Men consist of Havok, Polaris, Rachel Grey, War Path, Nightcrawler, Professor X and some D-lister called Darwin. Although as of right now, with Havok, Polaris and Rachel taking care of some BS in space, the has taken on Storm (who I guess is on two teams), Hepzibah (no clue), and Caliban (WTF??). In short, it’s a complete waste of publishing if you ask me.
As for the plain ol’ X-Men? Well it <em>was</em> Mystique, Lady Mastermind, Sabertooth, Iceman, Rogue and Cable, Omega Sentinal and Cannonball. That’s just wrong on premise alone.
As a franchise the X-Men are going through a crossover called “Endangered Species,” which began with an ambush by a newly revamped Mauraders, consisting on former X-men turned Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Gambit and Sunfire, along with Mystique and Lady Mastermind showing their true colors. Their attack resulted in Rogue getting shot in the chest, and the only certain survivors being Iceman and Cannonball. Hot. Mess. Hopefully in this storyline all the filler “X-Men” will die leaving a team of Cyclops, Emma, Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Iceman and Nightcrawler…IN ONE BOOK. That’s what it should’ve been, maybe with Sage, Beast, Shadowcat, Polaris, and Rachel Grey, Gambit, Psylocke and Vulcan either on a separate team or making cameos every now and then.
Also out of the Marvel Universe wreckage come a few new teams from the 50 State Initiative. The Order (formerly known as the Champions, but they changed their names due to copyright issues) is based in Los Angeles (cuz that’s obviously the ONLY city in the state). Here we have a team of actors, models and other gutter punks, trained and given super suits and a one year contract. Their roles on the team and powers are modeled by members of the Greek mythological pantheon (so why not call themselves the Olympians…who knows?) I checked out the first issue in the store, and basically, The Order is not “dope, yo” (since when do all Californians talk like that?)
Chosen to defend Colorado are The Thunderbolts, basically a rag tag group of convicts who have been infused with microscopic bugs that will neurologically disable anyone who breaks protocol. Making the Rocky Mountain state safe for all are Venom, Swordsman, Moonstone, Songbird, The Radioactive Man, Bullseye and Penance.
But I ask you readers, if you had seven spots to design your “Dream Team,” who would you choose? And if Thor and Captain Mahr-Vell do join teams, which ones will they join?
What I’d love to see is the Runaways (a group of teenaged heroes comprised of the children of L.A.-based villains) take on the so-called Order to see who really reps the West Coast. And how do the Young Avengers (a group of teens who have various ties to the original Avengers, assembled by The Vision’s Avengers Failsafe program) play into all this? Lastly, because we’re all dying to know, which team of Avengers would win in sudden death grudge match of Quidditch?!
And that, true believers, concludes our Marvel super team role call – or at least the teams worth mentioning.
Terry Taplin, Oakland, California