Last week Victor did an incredible job at recounting the early Avengers team roster and origins. But, the Avengers are still going and there is a modern incarnation of the team. This team looks somewhat different from what will be in the movies, and even from the previous incarnations. If you’ve been enjoying the movies and would like to jump into what’s been happening in the source, here’s some things to help you catch up.
First, it’s hard to summarize what has happened in about 40 years time. Many characters have come and gone. The major players remained most of the way through (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, etc.). A few other mainstays appeared: Vision, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Wonder Man, and Spider-Woman. Though not in the original or even recent roster, these heroes played pivotal roles in the history of the team.
It’s hard to summarize the comic’s history, as there is so much that went through its pages that didn’t only shape the team, but the Marvel universe as well. But, where I’ll start is explaining events that led to where they are at now.
Avengers Disassembled was a huge turning point in the Avengers and many of the heroes surrounding them. The Scarlet Witch had become out of control as a result of insanity from losing her two children, and being a mutant that could bend reality itself, this was definitely not a good thing. What transpired was her killing a few members of the team, including Hawkeye, and the rest of the team distraught and disbanding.
Following Avengers Disassembled was the introduction of The New Avengers. This came about in response to a jailbreak of many enemies all at once and having key heroes in the right place at the right time. The heroes present to stop the villains were Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Ronin, Spider-Woman, and the Sentry. After the event, these 8 decided to reform the Avengers.
Not long after Marvel’s most pivotal event in recent times divided the Avengers into several teams — and several titles. The event known as Civil War pitted heroes against each other as a fictional US government decides to have a hero registration act. The registration meant that any hero wishing to do their heroic deeds would have to tell the government his/her secret identity. Many super heroes believed this would endanger their families and friends, and joined Captain America on the more rogue side. Iron Man led the charge for heroes to register. Most of the New Avengers team stayed with Captain America, while a few old-timers sided with Iron Man. At the end of the storyline, one of the most shocking things happens: the assassination of Captain America. With that, heroes must register and splinters of Avengers teams form.
During the time of Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and Siege, the Avengers are divided into specific purpose teams and titles. The New Avengers follows the rogue group of heroes who still operate, but underground. Among the ranks are Wolverine, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Woman, Captain America (Bucky Barnes version), Ronin, Doctor Strange, Echo, Ms. Marvel, and Mockingbird. The Mighty Avengers is Iron Man’s core team. Within their ranks is Ares, Black Widow, The Sentry, Wasp, and Wonder Man. Avengers: The Initiative introduces a new generation of super-heroes as they register and are trained to become Avengers teams.
All is not well since Civil War. First, in Secret Invasion, it’s learned that several key heroes and allies have been replaced by the shape changing aliens known as Skrulls. They had been living among everyone for a great amount of time, blending in very well. Spider-Woman is found out as the queen of the Skrulls, and it appears that they will win, until Nick Fury assembles some heroes to defeat the invading force. During this time, Wasp is killed and citizens of the US have lost their trust in Tony Stark’s direction of SHIELD and the Avengers (which are all operating for the government). Norman Osborn gains control and forms his own Dark Avengers in the Dark Reign storyline. The Sentry and Ares transfer over to the new team.
At the end of Dark Reign and into Siege. The Dark Avengers are defeated, Norman Osborn is no longer in power, and a new Heroic Age begins for the Avengers and all of the Marvel Universe. The current team(s) contain Captain America (Bucky Barnes), Wolverine, Thing, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Thor, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Spider-Woman, Maria Hill, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Fist. The teams are still divided among Avengers and The New Avengers. Also a new title, Avengers Academy, replaces Avengers: The Initiative to introduce new heroes. Another title, Secret Avengers, brings back Steve Rogers into the fold as a SHIELD agent that recruits others to form a team that operates in secrecy.
Now, a bit of background of the key members of the teams. Already mentioned were Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and Hawkeye. The following will cover the very major players in this new generation of Avengers:
• Luke Cage/Power Man and Jessica Jones/Power Woman
Luke, formerly a hero for hire, is usually in command of the teams he’s on. His powers include limited invulnerability and super-strength. He and Jessica have a daughter, Danielle, and formed an Avengers team that is a little wary of any government control because of the acts that transpired in Civil War. Jones has super-strength, flight, and limited invulnerability. They reside with the team at the newly renovated Avengers Mansion.
• Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
Not related to Spider-Man, except that she has some spider-like powers, Jessica’s origins stem from being hit with a laser in the womb. The laser contained DNA from several spiders. Her abilities include those of sticking to walls, strength, shooting venom blasts, special pheromones, immune to poisons and drugs, and can glide. Although she’s been around for quite a while, it’s just recently that she’s been more prominent in the Marvel universe. She’s become a mainstay of the Avengers before it was learned someone was impersonating her for a time. There was a previous Spider-Woman that appeared in Avengers, but this was a different hero, although with the same name.
• Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thing
The reason for covering all three in one paragraph is that these guys are mainstays in other teams and titles. Spider-Man/Peter Parker is the class clown of the team. He’s, of course, been bit by a radioactive spider and carries the powers of the animal. Wolverine is a mutant from the X-Men and has a healing factor and adamantium laced skeleton and claws. The Thing/Ben Grimm is a disfigured man from the Fantastic Four and FF, and has formidable strength. This isn’t the first arena these three have been together, and probably won’t be the last. Sometimes at odds with each other, they help round out the team because of their very different personalities. Thing and Spider-Man also serve on the FF team (different from Fantastic Four).
• Ms. Marvel
Carol Danvers is another character that has been around the comics for quite a while, but not featured quite as prominently as she has been now. She’s someone that tries to prove herself, but is a great hero and team member. Her powers are of super-strength, near invulnerability, flight, stamina, and a “seventh sense” precognition. She’s been team leader and second-in-command, so she also has great leadership skill.
• Iron Fist/Danny Rand
A martial artist with the ability to channel his chi to enhance his abilities to great intensity, and to make his fist into something with the strength of iron. He had been part of the Heroes for Hire along with Luke Cage, as well as posing as Daredevil for a time.
Once thought deceased, it turned out that she had been captured by Skrulls, and even impersonated by one during Secret Invasion. She and Hawkeye were married, but reunited because of her return at the end of Secret Invasion. Although no super-powers, she has some great strength, as well as being trained as a SHIELD agent.
• Bucky Barnes
Although I said I wouldn’t cover Captain America, I thought it necessary to explain Barnes’ history and role. He is the sidekick of Captain America, once thought killed in action. It turned out that he was captured by Soviets and made into the Winter Soldier — a brainwashed spy. Having lost his arm, it is replaced by a bionic one. He becomes Captain America after having his memories restored, and believing that his mentor’s mantle be carried on.
Whew! Well, that’s it for now. As you can tell, the Avengers have a deep story to tell. They have become a focal point for the Marvel universe, especially now that the Thing, Wolverine, and Spider-Man are among their current ranks. Because of that they have direct ties to many of the other major titles of Marvel Comics. This new era of the team have been quite exciting, especially of their delving into team dynamics. Sometimes it seems like a soap opera. Other times it feels like watching a great team in action. I recommend picking up these in their collected forms in bookstores. They are not disappointing!
Until next week…Excelsior!