New to You
One of the best parts of Hickman’s Avengers run is his development of Roberto “Sunspot” DeCosta from a two dimensional, rich hot head New Mutant to a three dimensional, rich leader of the Avengers. The fact that more isn’t being done with him right now is a shame. He’s fantastic and his friendship with Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie is wonderful.
At the end of the previous New Avengers series, Sunspot had bought A.I.M. and turned them into Avengers Ideas Mechanics. He puts together a new team featuring former Mighty Avengers White Tiger and Power Man, former Young Avengers Hulkling and Wiccan, former Thunderbolt Songbird, and Squirrel Girl (former Great Lakes Avenger?). Eventually joining the team is Hawkeye, who is added by S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep an eye on A.I.M.
Hawkeye’s addition epitomizes the tone of the book; he’s acting as a double agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. but Bobby is told as much when Hawkeye comes on board. There are double and triple agents, secret agendas, and conspiracy theories all over the place, yet often delivered with a kind of “well, of course this is a twist.” It’s the perfect feel for an Avengers book that is playing outside the lines while embracing a since of whimsy.
The shift to the New Avengers (and eventually U.S.Avengers) is a shift from street level stories to full blown superhero adventures. In the first issue, the team goes to France — they are a globe trotting team, unlike the Mighty Avengers who did most of their work in a single city.
That’s not to say that the Mighty Avengers didn’t have extradimensional adventures, but that wasn’t their objective. They were created to serve the people, the average people. They took after their leader, Luke Cage. The New Avengers were created to to be big, bold superheroes, the kind that Sunspot wanted to be.
Over the course of the series, Bobby proves himself to be smarter than anyone ever gave him credit. It’s not that he’s a master tactician but that he considers all the angles and prepares for every eventuality, in large part simply because he can. He has the time and the resources to prepare for any situation and over time he becomes very good at putting pieces together.
Basically, Sunspot is a lot of fun.
While S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. are big players in this series, a new acronym plays a major role: W.H.I.S.P.E.R. The World Headquarters for International Scientific/Philosophical Experimentation and Research is the brain child of The Maker, the evil Reed Richards from the now deceased Ultimate universe.
The Maker is a great villain, just crazy enough to be entertaining without being dark. He’s a big science bad guy and, on paper, he is much smarter than anyone on the New Avengers, which makes him an excellent big bad.
As usual, Ewing spends much of the series digging into his cast’s histories. The last volume of Young Avengers had introduced the idea that Wiccan would eventually become The Demiurge, a super powerful god. Ewing not only brings this to fruition, but introduces that stories logical end, then brings heroes from the future back in time to try to stop Wiccan.
That story arc introduces us to the Captain America of the future (noted as 20xx so as to keep it in line with Marvels’ sliding time line), Danielle Cage, the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. We’ll see her again later in Ewing’s Avengers run.
White Tiger’s past comes back to haunt her, too, as the previous White Tiger, once resurrected by the Hand, is freed and given her own White Tiger amulet by The Maker. Given that our White Tiger recently changed the rules of her relationship with the Tiger God, things don’t go well when she faces her aunt.
As is the case with Ewing’s Avengers books, New Avengers becomes mired in crossovers. The first is Avengers: Standoff which, as far as crossovers go, is pretty awful. But it gives Ewing a chance to place the team in a bit of a moral quandary that divides them up. It also gives Bobby another opportunity to prove that he’s always one step ahead.
Speaking of which, The Maker spends the series plotting against Sunspot and his team, while a faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. is also making moves against the New Avengers. Those two stories come together in one very satisfying and entertaining climax, although the results alter the standing of the new A.I.M.
So at the end of the series, Bobby makes a deal with the U.S. government which rolls us into the next Ewing-verse series, U.S. Avengers.
For what it’s worth, New Avengers lasts 18 issues, so it’s the longest run of any of the Ewing Avengers books.
Make Avengers Bizarre Again
U.S. Avengers is a weird book. The line-up is strange. Sunspot now calls himself Citizen V (which is cool) and brings along his best friend Cannonball, Enigma (formerly Pod, which is a long story), Iron Patriot (also a long story), a new Red Hulk, and Squirrel Girl. The team also briefly features the aforementioned Captain America from the future, Danielle Cage, and Smasher, last seen on Hickman’s expanded Avengers team.
The stories are strange, too, in that they seem disjointed, not at all like what we saw in New Avengers which had a very clear through line. This series seems broken up into parts, from a rollicking adventure with time travelers, to big monster fights, to yet another crossover, to a strange alien adventure with the cast of Archie.
I might be overstating to say there’s no through line; it’s more like the through line doesn’t carry as much weight as we’ve seen before. U.S. Avengers starts coming out after Trump was elected and it’s easy to see that this comic regularly attempts to deal with various parts of America.
The initial villain is The Golden Skull. Look at these pages from the end of the first issue:
That’s a pretty clear indictment of America as it currently exists. The U.S. military would get similar treatment, as would America’s fascination with its own, fictional history. The “Secret Empire” crossover actually works thematically, although the fact that it’s such an awful event undermines it.
The problem is that none of it is particularly new and while the ideas are decent, it never seems like Ewing’s heart is in this book. It seems like he enjoys digging into characters and coming up with crazy big ideas, both of which are hampered by what comes off as an inorganic attempt at making a statement.
Still, Ewing has fun with the cast when he can and any book that features a good amount of screen time for Sunspot and Cannonball is always welcome.
The series lasts 12 issues, 5 of which are pulled into Secret Empire, which continues an unbelievable streak of Ewing’s comics. The fact that he has to navigate so many crossovers from series to series is kind of unreal.
U.S. Avengers ends with a note telling us the team will be seen in the big upcoming Avengers “No Surrender” story.