Starting with The Mighty Avengers, Al Ewing strung together a series of great Avengers books
Al Ewing should write the New Warriors.
Ewing excels at touching multiple corners of the Marvel U in a single series, something that hasn’t been done well for an extended period of time since the original run of the New Warriors. While I might focus on the Mighty Avengers being a ground level team of heroes, the kind who are focused on fighting in the streets and in their communities, Ewing never limits the series because of that.
There are too many toys in the Marvel U to just stick with any one area.
There was a period after Jonathan Hickman left and before Jason Aaron took over that the Avengers books lacked focus. There were a bunch of new series introduced during this time, most of them short lived, all of them bogged down by line wide events. In Marvel’s defense, they appeared to be trying a lot of different angles, yet never gave the books enough time to find fans.
Writer Al Ewing was perhaps the creator who was trapped in this quicksand the longest, losing the most titles to boot.
Consider: Ewing’s run began with Avengers fighting Plunder and ended with the Avengers facing the First Firmament, the first universe to ever exist. That’s some impressive escalation.
Ewing ultimately worked on what were ostensibly three different teams of Avengers, each connected to the other, each tonally very different. If you think of it in terms of scope, each was a different level, each series getting progressively larger than the last. Taken as a whole they paint a really interesting picture, one that spans over 75 issues.
The most glaring omission from the Hickman era is the Bendis era stalwart Luke Cage. It’s understandable, though, as Luke is a larger than life character who deserves screen time, and Hickman’s epic was already fairly bloated with characters. Better, then, to give Luke his own team that’s more in line with what he wants to do.
And what he wants to do is make a difference in the lives of regular people.
He’s joined initially by the new Power Man and the latest White Tiger, both of whom were most recently seen in Daredevil, a book that takes place on the streets of New York, not in outer space. They’re a good addition given what this team is looking to do.
They’re joined by Spider-man, in this case the Superior Spider-man, Dr. Octopus in Peter Parker’s body.
One of the unfortunate hallmarks of Ewing’s time on the Avengers is being laden with invasive continuity. This usually comes in the form of events, but in this case it’s having to deal with a dickish Spider-man. It’s not great, particularly if you consider how great Spider-man could have been with this group.
That said, an event is what ultimately brings the team together. The Infinity crossover has the main Avengers teams off world as Thanos and his Black Order launch an attack.
The team comes together to fill the void. Joining Cage, Power Man, White Tiger, and Spider-man are Spectrum (formerly Photon formerly Captain Marvel), Blue Marvel, and…Spider Hero. Yes, Spider Hero is ridiculous, but there’s a story reason for it. This is also a perfect example of how great the real Spider-man would have been on this team. Peter Parker’s wit regarding his replacement would have been delightful.
She-Hulk and Falcon eventually join the team as the series progresses, although neither gets the kind of time that the core group gets. This book is really about Cage, Power Man, White Tiger, Spectrum, and Blue Marvel, with Spider Hero supplying some heavy lifting with plot.
So while the Mighty Avengers become a rallying point for the people of New York City when Thanos’ Black Order attacks, the battle is quickly followed by a 70s style supernatural adventure (that’s a hint as to who Spider Hero really is). Ewing also pulls stories from the characters’ pasts, particularly White Tiger and Blue Marvel.
Ewing digs into everyone’s pasts to make their presents more substantial.
In particular, Ewing takes Blue Marvel to the next level, helping him become what should have been a prominent player in the Marvel U. He should be Marvel’s Superman. Marvel should fully embrace that. But no one else seems willing to even touch him.
Over 14 issues, Mighty Avengers is pulled into three Marvel events, Infinity, Inhumanity (barely), and Original Sin. Ewing and company make the best of what they’re given, but it clearly didn’t help sales enough to keep the book afloat.
But you can’t keep a good concept down, so after Mighty Avengers ends, Captain America and the Mighty Avengers begins.
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers
The concept that threads through the two books is that of a community outreach program. The Mighty Avengers considers anyone who is willing to help a member. They have a hotline set up and tips come in from around the city. The Mighty Avengers aren’t just there to help the every day person, they’re there to empower them.
Unfortunately, the second series starts off much like the first in that it’s burdened with another crossover. This time it’s Axis and it’s much worse on the title than any crossovers before. Good guys are acting like bad guys now and the focus of this new title, Sam Wilson, the new Captain America, is starting his tenure as a bad guy.
It’s not great and it undermines the book from the very start.
Cage is also seemingly under the influence, although that leads into a bigger story involving the Beyond Corporation and a welcome change to Spectrum.
The Beyond Corporation is the big bad of the 9 issues of this series, but bare in mind that the first three issues are entangled in Axis and the last two are part of the “Last Days” lead up to Secret Wars. For those who are counting, that leaves four whole issues that Captain America and the Mighty Avengers are free to do whatever they want.
If you’ve been reading good comics over the last few years, you might recognize the name “Beyond Corporation” from the fantastic comic called Nextwave. One of the sticking points for many who read the title was the depiction of Spectrum. Ewing was able to find a balance between Old Monica and New Monica in Mighty Avengers and he embraces her past fully when they face the Beyond Corporation.
There’s also a bit earlier in the series that seemed strange at the time, but plays out when Spectrum changes her appearance. The scene involves a black woman, who is holding her daughter, telling Spectrum that her little girl models herself after her. The woman then says that, because of Spectrum, her daughter finally agreed to let her relax her hair. Power Man, another person of color, makes a sarcastic comment about Monica being an example.
The subtext here would appear to be that Spectrum is hiding who she really is in order to belong.
Monica’s hair wasn’t relaxed during Nextwave. In fact, it had never been portrayed like that until this series. When confronted with the Beyond Corporation, she embraces her past and lets herself be herself, including her time with Nextwave when she was a total badass.
While events tangled up both of these titles, the last event actually helps underscore what these comics were all about:
The series ends with Secret Wars, but the characters return after, this time on two different teams.