Thursday, December 14, 2017 • Morning Edition • "30 charges and no convictions."

Trade Waiting- Avengers: Four

Written by SuperginraiX on Tuesday, June 20 2017 and posted in Features

Trade Waiting- Avengers: Four

A retcon doesn't get more inconsequential than this.



AvengersFourCover.pngTrade Waiting is a new series where Super (that's me) buys a new release trade paperback on Amazon and then decides to publish his reviews here instead of over there (on Amazon). In this case, he's reading and talking about the retcon adventures of Cap's Kooky Quartet, Avengers: Four. The trade collects Avengers #'s 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, and 5.1 originally published between November 2016 and March 2017. The book is written by Brian Michael Bendis Mark Waid, penciled by Barry Kitson (Mark Bagley, Sean Izaakse, and Ro Stein help out with #5.1), colored by Jordan Boyd (Sil Quintana helps with #'s 3.1-5.1 and Matt Yackey helps with #'s 4.1 and 5.1), and lettered by Ferran Delgado. The editing team is Alanna Smith (asst), and Tom Brevoort. The trade was released on June 13, 2017. There are going to be spoilers ahead so, y'know, SPOILER WARNING.

And now, Super will stop talking in the third person and just review this damn thing...

Let's get the continuity behind this trade out of the way right at the start. Avengers: Four takes place during the very first Avengers series right between issue #16 and 17. It features the Avengers roster affectionately known as Cap's Kooky Quartet. That would be Captain America, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver. This team was the first replacement line-up of the original roster of Avengers (which was Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man, Wasp, and Hulk... but Hulk had left in issue #2 and Cap had joined up in issue #4). The back of the trade makes it seem like this book is going to explain how Captain America brought together this group of individuals and made them into a team worthy of the Avengers name.

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Just look how KOOKY they are!

Of course, that's not what happens. If you've read the original series, you'll know that the team struggled to work together for quite a while, imitating the Fantastic Four formula rather than the Justice League approach of the original roster. At most, this book depicts the public getting to respect the replacement roster but even that isn't a rock solid story point.

So, you're probably asking yourself, why does this book exist? What is it for?

That... is a good question.

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Winners.

I don't like retcons, as a general rule. There's too many "untold stories that redefine how you look at EVERYTHING." Back in the nineties, there was still some novelty to it. Minus Issue Month, for example, was kind of fun and was used to REFINE instead of REDEFINE. We also know that characters with fifty+ years of continuity require some... gentle MASSAGING of their back stories to make everything fit into our modern world.

Most of the times, however, what a retcon does is drastically alter a character's past so that entire swathes of their existing continuity don't make any damn sense any more. Tony Stark was a failing rival weapon designer to Otto Octavius, for example. Yeah, besides being the radiation scientist we know him to be, pre-Doctor Octopus also made weapons and was better at selling them than Tony Stark. That's not something from THIS collection. It's just one of the worst retcons I can think of at the moment.

This collection doesn't do anything THAT drastic. It mostly sits in the REFINE category but even there, it doesn't do a lot to necessitate it's existence beyond showing some of the growing pains that the new roster faced.

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Growing pains like: was Captain America's mighty shield actually a giant salad bowl?

EXCEPT...

I haven't mentioned Avenger X yet, have I? I think it's time to talk about Avenger X. Here's where the SPOILERS kick into high gear so buckle up.

After getting their butts handed to them by the Frightful Four, the Avengers go on a mission in Thailand, rescuing a woman named Cressida from the Stranger (a cosmic-level dude who liked to kidnap Magneto). During the fight, Cressida amplifies the Avengers' abilities to the point where they easily best the Stranger. In the aftermath, Cressida joins the Avengers as a non-combatant with the code name "Avenger X."

Look, it's HARD coming up with an original name, ok?

So, a couple things:

1. Captain America is known for training Avengers in basic hand-to-hand combat and self-defense but he doesn't do ANY of that for Cressida. Instead, they keep remarking on how they need to keep her AWAY from their super fights because of how ill equipped she'd be.

2. Avenger X sets about undermining the team and trying to tear it apart. For reasons. At one point, it seems like she had a personal grudge against the team and at another, this just seems like some impersonal goal she wants to achieve. It's confusing motivation worthy of a bad Silver Age villain (so it's period appropriate) but not something we expect in this day and age (so it's bad for a modern book).

3. Cressida's amplifications come with a cost. It's not that this power increase makes the Avengers evil or anything. It's that this extra power isn't pulled out of thin air. With every power up, people DIE. Entire retirement communities are killed. There's never a point in the book where the Avengers CONTEMPLATE that they've inadvertently killed a bunch of innocent people in order to fight super-crime, but... they HAVE. Captain America, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver have caused the deaths of a LOT of people even if they don't acknowledge it.

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These are consequences that should have been dealt with a LOT more than they are.

4. Avenger X ends up in open battle with the Avengers and is eventually ejected from Avengers Mansion by a super-charged Quicksilver. She lands right in the midst of the Frightful Four (Three of them, at least) and is quickly murdered, buried, and left with a hasty tombstone. When the Avengers investigate, they don't even find the tombstone and assume that Cressida has run off. And that begs SO MANY QUESTIONS. Like, have they NEVER wondered what happened to her? I know this is a retcon, but in all these years, for no one to even mention Avenger X is stretching continuity to it's limits. She was an official member of the team even if she was considered a non-combatant! Guys like Wonder Man and the Swordsman have gotten more respect and they ALSO originally joined the team in order to enact villainous schemes. This lady never got her redemptive moment (or WANTED it) but even so, the Avengers simply forgetting about her doesn't really FIT into the "Once an Avenger..." mantra they mention so often.

5. Hey, where's Jimmy Olson Snapper Carr Rick Jones? He was the teenage sidekick of the Avengers and was tagging along with Captain America at the time. Granted, Rick dropped out of the series soon after the new team formed but he should be around for these issues.

The more I think about this issue, the more I come to realize that it's not just an inconsequential tale from the Avengers past that they've never, ever spoken of for some reason... it's a really bad, unnecessary retcon. It lazily solves one problem: how a new roster of Avengers gains the respect of the public. However, in doing so, it breaks continuity by introducing a new Avenger/ villain that is never mentioned again while forgetting to even TRY to include an Avengers side character that SHOULD be in at least a background panel or two. And this is by MARK WAID. He's like a continuity master! This should fit SO MUCH BETTER into existing continuity.

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Like that moment the original Avengers returned to save their replacements because their replacements kind of SUCKED.

Or, better yet, it just SHOULDN'T exist. It isn't needed. It breaks continuity in order to tell a story that didn't need to be told. I would rather read the original Silver Age stories depicting the Kooky Quartet's growing pains than read this modern tale that tries to fit a square peg into a round hole, continuity-wise.

When I think of Mark Waid working with Barry Kitson, I have fond memories of their work on JLA: Year One, Flash and Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold, and Legion of Super-Heroes. Barry Kitson is a great illustrator and his work here is no exception. He works in an excellent retro style on this book that really fits the Silver Age period in which these comics would occur. However, I've gotta admit, the four pages of Mark Bagley art steal the show. Bagley helps out in the fifth issue and his contributions are nicely polished, reminding me what I enjoy about a Mark Bagley comic.

Ferran Delgado's letter work is also period appropriate. From sound effects to word bubble style, Delgado makes this look like a classic Silver Age comic book. It just works really well and makes me miss this more organic lettering style.

The colors, on the other hand, kind of ruin the Silver Age vibe. Jordan Boyd's coloring is definitely modern. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautifully colored book. I just think if you're going to go with a theme, go with it! There are some color filters used on the first two pages of the book (before the comic actually STARTS) that mimic the four color printing process of older comic books. I've used that filter. It actually makes some art "pop" more than a more modern coloring style and it makes me wonder how that would have looked if applied to the whole book. It's a missed opportunity.

Not everything is bad, here. I love the guest appearances. Seeing the X-Men, Daredevil, and Spider-Man is an added treat. I even like returning to a well loved time in the history of the Avengers. I just wish this worked. I wish it fit better into continuity. Marvel continuity isn't as fractured as DC's so it's a lot harder to fit something like this in when it doesn't REALLY belong. I wish this felt like a story that needed telling instead of something that should have never been told.

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Spider-Man is always welcome.  Unless he brings his clones.

Since this series was released alongside the newest Avengers title, it's heavily hinted that it'll tie into the modern age book. Maybe that's where all those deaths caused by Avenger X's power ups will be explored. Even if that happens, it's hard to justify this collection.





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About the Author - SuperginraiX


SuperginraiX is the biggest sap on The Outhousers' payroll (wait, we get paid?). He reads every issue of every crappy Marvel crossover so you don't have to. Whats worse is that he pays for his books, thus condoning Marvel's behavior. If The Outhouse cared for his well being at all, they'd try and get him into some sort of rehab center. But, alas, none of us even know how to say his name. For a good time, ask Super why Captian America jumped off the Helicarrier in Fear Itself. Super lives in the frozen wastland that is Minnesota with 15% of the state's population living under his roof: a wife he makes wear an Optimus Prime mask, two gremlins, and his mother-in-law.

 


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