Nov 11, 2017

Retrospective: Avengers Prime

With Thor: Ragnarok introducing Hela to the non-comic-book-reading world and Brian Michael Bendis jumping ship to DC Comics, it seems like a good time to have an...

Avengers Prime Retrospective
by Duy

The year is 2010. Five years removed from Civil War, a lot has happened. Iron Man took over all superhuman legal concerns, only to be deposed by Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. Steve Rogers died as Captain America, only to be brought back and placed in charge once Osborn was forcibly removed from office. This came at the expense of Asgard, home of the Mighty Thor, now on Earth, now in ruins. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are still at each other's throats, constantly disagreeing on fundamental issues, and Thor lays down the law.

This leads to an adventure where the three of them — Marvel's in-universe counterpart to DC's Trinity — being split up and taken to what seem to be three of the nine realms. From here on, the action moves really briskly, which is not something I normally say for a book written by Bendis.

Iron Man gets caught by ogres:

Steve quickly disposes of a bar full of dark elves, arming himself with a very familiar weapon:

And Thor has a surprise confrontation with the Enchantress:

Part of what makes this my favorite Bendis book is the artwork by the great Alan Davis. It's just so masterfully paced and the camera angles are so well considered that it gets the maximum effect of awe-inspiring danger. And it's rounded out nicely by colorist Javier Rodriguez, whose color palette lends the proper atmosphere to the work. Check out this spread, where our favorite Thunder God comes face to face with the villain of the piece.

As everyone knows by now, that's Hela, goddess of death, and the stakes are super-high for this one, as everyone eventually finds out they're in the land of the dead, kinda, where all the villains that Thor has killed over the years are coming back.

Beyond the high stakes, the series also has subtly affirming moments of characterization, as Steve and Tony try to repair their friendship. Here's a moment that's all-too-human.

By the end of it, Tony and Steve have made up.

I suppose this is my favorite Bendis story primarily because it's the most old-school he's ever done. I didn't really like what Bendis did to the Avengers, where he basically made everyone popular a member, including Spider-Man and Wolverine. It was absolutely the right move for the franchise and for the company in terms of getting new readers and increasing revenue, but it wasn't my Avengers. And that's okay. I had my Avengers. Let everyone else have theirs.

But this was a rebuilding moment in a back-to-basics wave, and that's something we get all the time in comics after so many shakeups have happened. Sometimes it's called Rebirth. Sometimes it's Legacy. Sometimes it's Age of Heroes. But in these rebuilding moments, we return to the core of the characters. And this was it for these three, as Avengers. They would change again, not long after. Such is the way of serialized fiction.

I never bought any comics featuring these three immediately after Avengers Prime. I jumped onto Thor a couple of years later with Jason Aaron's run. I bought the Ed Brubaker Captain America run eventually. But no Avengers. My Avengers are gone, and the closest place for me to find them on a regular basis is actually the silver screen.

But for one brief shining moment, the core of my Avengers was back. It's my favorite story written by Brian Michael Bendis. It may actually be my favorite book drawn by Alan Davis. And it doesn't get talked about enough or recommended enough. So here I am, recommending it. If you love the Avengers, if you love the core three members of the Avengers, and if you want to see them headline a story, this is it.

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