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Waiting for the Trade - Avengers


Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller
Avengers: Heroes Reborn
By Rob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, Jeph Loeb and Walt Simonson; art by Rob Liefeld, Joe Phillips, Joe Bennet and Al Rio.
Collects Avengers (vol 2) #1-12
 

Why I Bought This: I love me some Liefeld art and I love me some Avengers. So even though Heroes Reborn is notoriously bad I grabbed it off Amazon after I had previously found issue one in a $1 bin and thought this is a promising start and the art is terrific so maybe it’s better than its reputation. Alas Liefeld only draws two chapters and as for the writing, read on.


The Plot – The Avengers died fighting Onslaught only to be reborn in a pocket universe where basically their origin starts from scratch thus allowing us to see what the Marvel Universe would be like if it had been created by Image in the 90s instead.
 
(spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – Loki arrives in the Reborn Universe and notices there is no Asgard here. Meanwhile Donald Blake is an archeologist and he finds Thor frozen in a block of ice. Loki’s astral form peaks in on the Avengers although he does not recognize any of them and through him we meet Scarlet Witch, Swordsman, Hawkeye, Hellcat (looking a lot like Tigra), Vision and Cap. Also years before the ultimate universe and movies we have Nick Fury and SHIELD in charge of assembling the Avengers. The team is sent to Blake’s location and frees Thor from the ice. Loki then appears and tells his brother the Avengers are responsible for his fate and we get a fight scene. But when Cap saves Thor from Loki’s backstab and Thor picks up his hammer he sees the truth (and almost remembers Onslaught but takes it to have been Ragnarok instead). Thor decides to join the Avengers. Loki retreats and recruits Enchantress who reveals Scarlet Witch is her daughter.

Chapter 2 – Thor impresses everyone with his strength. We meet the Pyms for the first time. Kang attacks the team and no one can penetrate his force field. Kang’s spaceship blasts everyone. Kang then takes the captured Avengers to Mantis as a gift of love.

Chapter 3 – Kang takes down Fury. Thor summons his hammer to him and frees the team. Loki meets with Agatha Harkness. Kang’s force field keeps the human Avengers at bay but they distract him long enough for Wanda to shut down his force field and one hammer blow later ends the fight. Swordsman wants to kill Kang but Mantis talks him out of it and this gives Kang and her time to teleport away. Vision’s body then falls from Kang’s ship and Wanda fears he may be dead.

Chapter 4 – Hulk is doing his usual Hulk smash thing (only naked in this universe). Meanwhile Pym and Ultron attempt to repair the Vision at Pym’s lab. Wanda returns home and we learn Enchantress is now masquerading as Agatha. Thor is out drinking when Hulk attacks Avengers mansion leaving only the three humans and Hellcat there to fight him. Hulk wins with only Cap giving him even a mild fight.

Chapter 5 – Thor arrives and we get some epic Liefeld splash pages as he and Hulk throw down. Meanwhile Avengers Island apparently has a gamma reactor on site which is what attracted the Hulk and now due to collateral damage is about to go nuclear and destroy Manhattan. Hulk wins the fight with Thor.

Chapter 6 – So apparently this Hulk story crossed over with the FF HR book and that issue is not reprinted here. So we open with Reed and Banner working to shut down the reactor while SHIELD evacuates the unconscious Avengers. Loki’s astral form contacts Nick Fury but says nothing of note. Iron Man arrives to help with the reactor. Hellcat wakes up and sniffs Bruce realizing he is the Hulk and tries to attack him. Cap stops her but its too late Bruce changes into the Hulk.

Chapter 7 – So the Hulk fight was resolved in the pages of Iron Man (not reprinted here). Iron Man has now joined the Avengers and the Avengers have split from SHIELD, although Fury is keeping Vision’s shutdown body claiming it is SHIELD property. Pym meanwhile is still inside the Vision as Ant Man trying to repair him (and also wearing the ugliest costume ever) and is running afoul of Vision’s antibodies. Tony also creates Avengers Mansion and invites Thor inside (but there is no Jarvis in this reality). Hawkeye has a flashback of working with a cyborg version of Grim Reaper alongside Hellcat in the first Avengers mission to track down Zemo where apparently Reaper did not make it out alive. Cap is sitting vigil at Swordsman’s bedside as Hulk put him in a coma. There is a knock on the door. Thor answers and there is Wonderman barely able to stand saying he needs help; but it’s a trick as Wonderman attacks Thor when his guard is down. He is soon joined by the Lethal Legion which includes Enchantress, Executioner, Ultron and Scarlet Witch.

Chapter 8 – Loki confronts Kang and Mantis and absorbs their essence as he has discovered the nature of this reality (ergo many of these people don’t really exist and are just figments of Franklin Richards’ imagination). Meanwhile the battle rages on and Ultron is destroyed (apparently not adamantium here) by the mansion security system making it probably the first time that has ever stopped anyone. As the Avengers rally Enchantress and Wanda teleport away, abandoning their teammates who lose a panel or two later. The Avengers turn the villains over to SHIELD. Meanwhile Loki sneaks aboard the SHIELD prison and absorbs various villains from Captain America’s solo title. Meanwhile inside the Vision, Ant Man finds his brain and hooks up to it and presumably sees images of the real Marvel Universe which causes him to pass out. Meanwhile the Avengers are attacked by the Masters of Evil (in the form C-list Silver Age villains) and a missile explodes. In the prison Loki finds Executioner and absorbs him. Loki reveals he knows that he himself is not real but he has a plan to become real.

Chapter 9 – The Masters have the Avengers on the defensive for all of two pages and then literally three of them trip over each other breaking legs and hitting heads in the process. Iron Man and Thor punch the last two and when the fight ends the villains can’t even explain their motives for attacking. Thor wants to execute the prisoners but Cap puts a stop to that and then Thor, Hawkeye and Hellcat all quit the team. Loki meets up with Enchantress & Scarlet Witch for a new plan. Jan (Wasp) asks the team if anyone has seen Hank who has been missing for days and for no particular reason Iron Man deduces where he is and takes her to the Hellicarier. Loki teleports in and absorbs the Masters. Ant Man wakes up and discovers Vision’s memories are being transmitted back to Avengers Island and decides to return to the real world. He emerges just in time to meet up with Tony, Jan and Fury—who claims he knew Pym was inside Vision all along. Vision then self destructs for some reason and the Avengers leave while Fury rants like Jonah in a 60s cartoon. Thor is depressed that he does not get to do Viking activities like “reaving, pillaging and executing” in the 20th century so Enchantress teleports in to recruit him to Team Loki by making out with him. Cap discovers Swordsman is not in his hospital bed (presumably Loki absorbed him since this subplot is never explained or picked up on again in the series). Loki rants about Vision blowing up since he was the one using his memories. Wanda returns to the mansion and is attacked by Hellcat. Wanda claims she was an undercover agent for the Avengers, at which point Loki ports in behind her and zaps her. He then offers to put Hellcat’s mind in Wanda’s body so she can seduce Cap if she will join Team Loki. Cap & Tony are at the gamma reactor and see some more old (mainstream M.U.) Avengers’ foes materializing but a single repulsor ray stops that. This causes the energy in the reactor to coalesce and form Thor.

Chapter 10 – So apparently this is the true Marvel Universe Thor who assumes he has been reunited with his teammates in Valhalla after dying in battle with Onslaught. Also Jan is now the Wasp for literally no explained reason at all—in this entire series she’s not had powers or been on the team or involved in anyway except as Hank’s wife and yet now she is in costume and flying with wings. Anyway Cap and Tony have no idea what Thor is talking about and when they tell him about the reactor Thor is like ‘in what mad reality would a nuclear reactor be kept in Manhattan?’ and Cap is like ‘good point.’ Loki and Witch-Cat recruit Hawkeye to Team Loki. Reed of the FF comes to investigate and discovers the reactor is actually a dimensional doorway. Fury locates Kang’s ship and finds security footage of Loki killing Kang and Mantis. He shows the footage to the Avengers and MU Thor leaves to investigate. S-Witch returns and Cap indeed confirms she was an undercover agent known only to him but then she starts making out with him so that Hawkeye can get a free shot in with an Asgardian bow. Witch-Cat then fake reveals she liked being bad when she was undercover so she’s turning heel permanently. HR Thor joins the battle and starts beating down Iron Man while Enchantress takes out Pym with a sleep spell kiss. Hawkeye defeats Wasp. HR Thor is about to kill Tony when MU Thor returns to make the save. Tony zaps Clint as the Thors fight. Loki uses the confusion to drain the cosmic energy in the reactor.

Chapter 11 – Loki is now giant-sized and he immediately betrays Enchantress & HR Thor. Heroes and villains regroup together at which point Agatha’s cat shows Witch her reflection which shows her to be Hellcat. The mirror then draws in Hellcat’s soul and explodes. Enchantress then turns the cat back into Agatha. Loki has put a force field around the reactor that even both Thor hammers combined cannot break. A giant Odin confronts Loki and they fight with Odin using a Thor hammer. A cut scene reveals Odin is actually a mystic construct created by the combined magic of Witch, Enchantress & Agatha. Meanwhile Stark and Pym create a science gizmo powered by MU Thor’s hammer to break Loki’s force field while he’s distracted. Loki fatally wounds Odin whose image dissolves into that of HR Thor. Loki takes down the sorceresses with a mystic bolt and confronts the remaining Avengers. Wasp zaps him in the ear and then the SHIELD Hellicarrier arrives to blast him with cannons. Loki’s power is fading and he shrinks to normal size. Cap goes toe to toe with him for a bit and Thor throws his hammer for the victory shot as Loki dissolves into purple bubbles. HR Thor dies in MU Thor’s arms. Cap visits Clint in the hospital where Clint apologizes for going bad but decides to keep the costume Loki made for him (basically his regular purple costume as opposed to the brown Wolverine knock off he wore the first 10 issues) as a reminder of how he messed up.

Chapter 12 – The finale of this universe was a 4-part “Coming of Galactus” remix. This is part 2. Part 1 was in FF in which Galactus ate the world but Doom time traveled at the last minute. This chapter opens with a Viking funeral for HR Thor. Doom arrives and warns everyone that Galactus will destroy the world tommorow but the Avengers and Fury don’t believe him. After Doom leaves SHIELD apparently has a satellite near Saturn and detects the Heralds (Galactus has five in this reality) coming so Fury mobilizes the Avengers, FF and Hulk. Pym kisses Jan goodbye since she is on one of the four teams while he’s staying behind to do science. He then resurrects Vision, while Witch casually mentions Enchantress is not her mom after-all. The FF battle Silver Surfer. They do okay considering how outgunned they are but Doom is taking no chances and takes control of Russia’s Nukes and launches them at the battle site. This succeeds in killing the FF but Surfer is unharmed. Surfer is touched by the love and nobility the FF showed in death. Another watery Herald faces SHIELD. She wins rather easily but the Hellicarrier kamikazes the Galactus planet eating machine on the way down—again impressing the Surfer. In Antarctica Hulk gets his butt handed to him by Firelord. Vision and Scarlet Witch lend a helping hand with Vision getting his staff from him. This gives Hulk time to land a KO punch before he collapses. Vision uses Firelord staff to destroy the Galactus engine. Banner dies in the snow and Surfer watches. Our final fight is Avengers vs. Terrax. Terrax kills Hawkeye with ease. Cap gets some hits in. Tony and Wasp follow up and Wasp dies too. Thor throws his hammer and takes out both Terrax and the machine, though he is wounded in the explosion—and yes Surfer watches this too. Then for no reason I can tell the rest of Doom’s nukes malfunction and blow up. Galactus arrives with Air Walker. The Avengers Big Three go to confront him but are casually blown away by Air Walker and Galactus reveals he has a back up machine and with that he starts to eat the planet. The heroes realize they can’t win but to save other worlds they decide to detonate the interdimensional reactor to take Galactus with them. Surfer agrees to help and the entire Heroes Reborn universe ends in an explosion. In the blackness we learn Doom has time traveled again over to Iron Man #12.

 
Critical Thoughts: The Heroes Reborn arc is a notoriously bad era for the Avengers and for the most part this trade lives down to that reputation. Look at how many writers and artists thing has for a one year stint. No wonder it never gels into a solid story. The one thing I will say in its defense is Liefeld’s original vision for this title is actually better than the jumbled throwing everything at the sink with a side of meta commentary abomination that Simonson turns it into when he takes over from chapter 8 on. Don’t misunderstand: I am not arguing that Liefeld is a better writer than Simonson. What I am saying is that Liefeld at least presented a coherent vision of a superhero team book even if that vision was a mostly bland retread. Simonson on the other hand is bending himself into pretzels to undo Liefeld’s story while also finishing it up and preparing for a larger crossover to get the characters back home. Look at the chapter recaps: Liefeld’s chapters are more or less short and to the point, Simonson’s are big unwieldy things because he has so many random tangents in them.

Let’s examine the Liefeld chapters first. Chapter one really is a good setup chapter. It pays homage to the classic history by having Loki be the first villain and having them find a hero in ice. The change of that frozen hero being Thor rather than Cap is understandable seeing as Cap had a solo book in this line and Thor did not. It looked fantastic and overall is a very good first issue for a rebooted universe.

I think the subplots in that first issue all work well. We start with Loki immediately being aware that the universe isn’t real, and that is a good way to get the reader invested in what was a controversial reboot at the time.  I’m pretty sure Loki’s last prior appearance to this involved being in the Ultraverse with the Infinity Gauntlet so it is entirely possible the real Loki could have ended up here after that inter-dimensional mess ended, making it a nice long-term subplot to keep the reader guessing. I think the interpretation of Thor as being out of touch with the modern era and still thinking like a Viking is a fun take on the character for this universe. I also like the plot twist of Scarlet Witch being Enchantress’ daughter. This is a universe with no mutants so you need to explain her powers and you don’t have Magneto. This concept is an alternative that is inline with spirit of her original origins: she is still the daughter of a master criminal who is sometimes capable of nobility for the greater good and it later gets her on the Masters of Evil which in the original Silver Age was very similar to the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It was a very promising start.

However it quickly becomes obvious that Liefeld doesn’t have much new to say about these characters after that first issue. Now in his defense I feel the same way about the Ultimate Universe too. If you are going to reboot these classic characters in a new timeline are you saying anything new to make the reboot worthwhile or are we just retelling the same stories with better science jargon and updated technology in the peripherals of the story? Because if it is the latter, why bother?

With that in mind let’s look at the team. In this book Cap is fine. While his own Heroes Reborn book was god-awful, here he mostly just serves the capable leader role that he usually fills on the team. I already spoke that Thor and Scarlet Witch had some changes that were mostly positive for trying something new. The other characters though are characters only in the loosest of terms; all that is different is ugly redesigns of their costumes. Vision has the same look and powers he usually does but all he does is speak in weird run-on sentences and then gets blown up in chapter 3. Hawkeye has an ugly costume with a mask that completely covers his face. It is alleged there is some mystery there but it is never developed. In Liefeld’s last chapter he gave a flashback that Hawkeye is responsible for the Grim Reaper being a cyborg but Simonson doesn’t follow up on it. Mostly Hawkeye just bitches about Cap’s leadership like it is the Silver Age Cap’s Kooky Quartet era which is a waste of the character’s legacy given what he’s done since then. This brings us to Swordsman: a character no one has ever cared about in the main reality, and who is even less interesting here. He fills Quicksilver’s role of also bitching alongside Hawkeye in the Silver Age quartet, while power-wise he is just a dude with a sword—not even a trick techno sword like the Silver Age version or a magic sword like Black Knight, nope just a dude with a sword who tries to fight the Hulk. Hellcat is also just an uglier version of Tigra with the occasional feral rage—a trope Liefeld seems to love.

Later heroes include: Ant Man, whose costume is the ugliest thing in this book. He is never really member of the team. He contributes science stuff before Tony joins and we get a redux of his journey inside the Vision from the Kree-Skrull War that is not half as good as the original. Wasp isn’t even a superhero in Liefeld’s version until Simonson has her full on manifest her classic powers with no explanation. Tony had his own book in this universe making him a late-comer to the team. His new armor looks good and he does exactly what you expect him to do in an Avengers’ book: no more, no less.

As for the villains, other than the Asgardians, they are completely interchangeable. Kang’s appearance is a shallow call-back to his first appearance under Stan Lee. He just shows up and challenges the Avengers to a fight so he can impress a girl; that is the extent of his grand plan. It’s a not a bad fight by any means. It takes two issues, Kang gets an early victory—perfectly serviceable in a surface way but there is nothing under that surface. Also no one wants to see Kang date Mantis because it reminds us of The Crossing, which is the worst Avengers’ story of all time. Ultron evolving every issue is kind of cute (ergo he’s Ultron-1 in issue 1, Ultron-2 in issue 2, etc) but he joins the Lethal Legion off-panel which dilutes the payoff. Worse his fight scene occurs under Simonson, who has the frickin’ mansion security system blow him up--a staggering anti-climax for the Avengers’ greatest foe. The Hulk chapters are again typical Silver Age Hulk-smash vs. the Avengers but that kind of thing is always fun and the Liefeld-drawn Hulk-Thor throw down is a tremendous use of art and action: I think it ends up being the best thing in the book.

Then we come to Simonson and nothing makes sense anymore. The villains became even less developed and defeated easily on purpose so he can show they aren’t real. Suddenly there are two Thors for no particular reason other than I guess Simonson is most famous for writing Thor and he must have hated Liefeld’s take on the character so he wanted to bring in the “real” Thor and show how he should be done, which seems petty since you’ve already replaced the guy on the title. In fact his writing here is full of petty touches. When Hellcat goes bad and is revealed, Cap is like we never noticed she was missing well no wonder then (shrug). Yes Hellcat in this story is a completely forgettable character but it feels like you’re taking cheap shots for no reason. Ditto when he has Witch reveal the Enchantress mom-thing was a lie, A) how would Hank Pym even know to ask that question, B) Enchantress did not say that to Wanda to get her to join her, she said it to Loki why we she lie about that to him? and C) the characters are going to their home universe to be restored so who cares who her mom is in this one? It is just another petty way to insert how much you think your predecessor’s ideas on this title sucked. (See also MU Thor’s first sentence being ‘Building a nuclear reactor in Manhattan is the height of folly’ when he arrives).


Grade: Liefelds’ title may have generously been a C. It was not very good as yes there were too many characters that no one cared about or were poorly developed among the heroes, while the villains had very basic motivations; however there were also some decent mysteries being developed for the characters Liefeld was concentrating his efforts on and the fight scenes ranged from perfectly serviceable to excellent. Simmons’s run is a bunch of jump the rails nonsense, invalidating what came before without building to anything new and is easily an F. Overall I give the entire trade a D+ primarily for the two chapters of excellent Liefeld art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Wasn't it part of all this where Liefeld drew the least anatomically correct Captain America ever? Can't remember if it was a cover, splash page or just a pin-up, but if you've ever seen it you know what I mean.

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  2. As someone who came to comics as an adult and wanted to absorb as much as possible as quickly as possible, the Onslaught/Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return thing was confusing as hell. Good review-- D+ is generous and shows that you see the positive in things to a greater degree than I do!

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  3. Sure was. I believe it was one of the covers to Cap's solo series.

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  4. Leifeld is a great artist, as long as you don't need the character to have eyes, or feet, or arms that can actually bend, or hands, or have faces that don't have scratchy lines all over them, or if you need things added or redrawn poorly so they look like they are squashed into panels or floating on top of the original drawings.

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  5. http://mimg.ugo.com/200809/17375/heroes-reborn.jpg

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  6. That's it. Just godawful.

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  7. CruelConnectionNumber2November 16, 2014 at 3:07 AM

    Liefeld is a terrible artist and this book is a piece of shit. I got it Like New off Amazon for $1.70 several years ago. What an embarrassment... Marvel went bankrupt and was so desperate they crawled to that bum who didn't come CLOSE to finishing his run. George Perez is responsible for putting life back in the Avengers franchise immediately after.

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  8. You really should stop saying nobody wanted something when you mean you didn't want something. It's a glaring internet writer failure.

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  9. "I love me some Leifeld art."
    And with that statement, any standing you had as a serious comic book critic is out the window.

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  10. I know there is huge virulent anti-Liefeld backlash on the Internet, and you know what I don't care. I've admitted liking Liefeld in other reviews since I still tend to buy anything he draws. I grew up loving Liefeld New Mutants run and I still do. I'll grant you his style is geared to pin-up cool over traditional story-telling but comics are visual medium and I think there is a place for that style too.

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  11. Has there every been a good story of Kang dating Mantis? You got this, the Crossing, and an FF tie-in during Inferno that involves a pyramid filled with telepathic trades kidnapping Mantis' baby. The prosecution rests.

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  12. I don't disagree. I reviewed the first Busiek-Perez trade previously and gave it an A+. This got a D+.

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  13. Nothing about Onslaught has ever made a lick of sense from his original story to the recent revisitings of the character, and that bleeds into the Heroes Reborn concept too. The best thing that can be said of the Onslaught story is it led to Thunderbolts.

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  14. That inferno story is awesome. As is the original celestial Madonna story. The fact remains that when you say nobody and everybody as your own opinion, it makes you look like a hack. Take ownership of your own opinion.

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  15. Hey if you want to say Inferno as a whole was awesome I'm with you all the way, but those FF issues are crap so much so Englehart didn't want to put his name on them.
    Anyway it is a review thus by its nature all of it my opinion. But I think there are times you can make statements that reflect a general consensus and I'm sorry nobody like the Crossing.
    I'll go further and note all three of those Mantis-Kang stories I named were later retconned so clearly even Marvel did not like those stories. Englehart himself deleted the Inferno story in some mini-series with Mantis & Thanos where it was revealed everything Mantis did in WCA & FF wasn't really her and a cosmic mindwipe removed those events from the memories of the Avengers & FF. The Crossing was later retconned so Mantis was actually a Space Phantom and Kang was Immortus in Avengers Forever. Heck, one of the main reasons Marvel went down the Heroes Reborn road was to undo all the nonsense that came out of the Crossing like teenage Iron Man and mute insect Wasp. And of course the Heroes Reborn version of the Kang-Mantis were erased from existence by Loki within 6 issues and when the Heroes returned to the main universe not a single thing that happened in this trade was ever mentioned again. So if other people like this pairing why does it always have to be erased from continuity afterwards?

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  16. There's a chance you're missing the point.

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