I was going to put this in the trades thread, but then I realised that it doesn’t really matter that i reread them as trades and I guess they count as old now, so here it is. I reread Dan Slott’s run on Mighty Avengers recently. It’s a good lot of comics, but it has some issues.
For context, this is essentially a new Avengers book spinning out of Secret Invasion, even though it carried on the numbering of the Bendis pro-reg post-Civil War Mighty Avengers. The team is anchored by Hank Pym, newly returned to Earth after being replaced by a Skrull, and who is clearly the main point of interest for Slott. He gives Hank a bit of a kickstart, with yet another new codename (now The Wasp to honour the “dead” Janet), a new costume and a nudge into being more of, well, pseudo-Doctor Who, in a way.
I like most of this. Ok, having him be the Wasp is the kind of thing that gets a bit confusing when you look at lists of all the people who have used that name, and his other names etc. but at the time, even though Jan clearly wasn’t going to stay dead long, it felt right. The new costume is pretty good too, although there’s something about the goggles that don’t quite work.
The Doctor stuff comes from Pym’s new ideas (and eventually his new designation as Scientist Supreme), including Pymspace, which is a pocket dimension accessible through a variety of disguised doors, all over the world, leading to Pym’s lab. This is later expanded into Infinite Avengers Mansion, which is pretty much what the name suggests. It’s a cool concept for a base, it’s one that deserved to stick around longer than it did and for the “proper” Avengers. Back to that in a moment.
The other slightly Doctory thing is Pym’s “toolbot” which has thousands of his most used tools shrunk down and attached to one handle. It’s got the plot expediency of a sonic screwdriver, but doesn’t feel like a cop out. I like Pym shrinking and enlarging stuff beyond just himself, something the Ant-Man movies would also play with to great effect.
The rest of the team is the most traditional Avengers line-up of its era, but there’s a smell of the second string that the book never quite gets past, which it even tacitly admits towards the end. There’s Stature and Vision from Younger Avengers, Hercules and Amadeus Cho, USAgent, Jocasta, Jarvis and, sort of, Quicksilver. All of whom are characters I like, but it feels like there’s just something missing. Having two of the Young Avengers is a bit weird too. There’s a constant tension about them being on both teams which is addressed but never really resolved and it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. The Young Avengers really exist because they want to be the Avengers one day, so two of them getting to do that should be more momentous than it is. It’s the kind of move that starts to undermine the identity of the other team.
Speaking of identity, you have one of the main problems the book has - it’s one of at least five Avengers titles running at the time, alongside New, Dark, Resistance and Young (was Young still going at the time? The team was current at least). Mighty ends up going with the idea that, because they’re led by Pym, this is the “legitimate” Avengers team to everyone outside America, compared to Osborn’s fake Avengers. It’s an interesting idea, but one that only kinda works with meta-knowledge. Most of the heroes know that Osborn’s team is made up of fakes, but the world at large doesn’t. They’re just seeing Ms Marvel, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Ares and the Sentry led by a man who saved the world from aliens and isn’t publicly known (I think) as the Green Goblin. Scepticism of Osborn himself in the world makes sense, but why would anyone think that a team with Hawkeye, Ms Marvel and the Sentry wasn’t really the Avengers?
The other wrinkle is that you’ve got the New Avengers running round too, including Captain America (even if it is Bucky). I don’t know how secretive they were at that point - I’d long since given up on Bendis’ books - but it dents the idea that Pym’s team would immediately be accepted as the one true Avengers.
Slott tries to sell this by having the team do lots of international missions - they get clearance from an organisation called GRAMPA to operate everywhere but the US - but most of these are only shown in passing. Three are mentioned in one page, two-thirds of the way through the series, as “we also did all this”. It works to a degree, but it means the run starts to feel like edited highlights of a bigger run, like there’s so much more Slott wanted to do with an Avengers book, but knew he was only going to get until the next big summer event shook things up (in this case Siege) and so had to cram everything into that small space. It’s a real shame, because I like traditional Avengers books. I’d have loved to see a “throwaway” two parter with them taking on Zzaxx or whatnot.
Still, it’s not like Slott doesn’t get to do some good stories here, including one that delves into the history of the Inhumans (without really needing the Inhumans), a Cthon story and even a pretty good Ultron story. The latter exists because Slott is able to mostly sit out Siege - the team has broken up and the majority are thrown over into Thunderbolts for a cross-over, with Slott just showing enough “clips” from that to a) convince Mighty readers to pick up T-Bolts and b) give closure within the title itself anyway.
That said, there’s one bit of this book that really doesn’t work, and it’s the cause for the break-up of the team. It’s all initially brought together by Loki, posing as the Scarlet Witch, and eventually the team manage to catch him, so that Quicksilver can ask what’s actually happened to Wanda. Loki manages to get Thor to come to his rescue and there’s a stand-off over them holding Loki captive. And torturing him. Now, the torturing bit I can see being objectionable to Thor, but I’m not quite sure why it’s even there, it seems out of character for Pym to have included it in his plan. But Thor’s outrage at the situation extends more broadly to the very idea of Pym being able to capture Loki - in Loki’s words breaking down the distinction between mortal and immortal with science. Which doesn’t really make sense. The Avengers have fought Loki loads of times, to say nothing of other “gods”. The notion that Thor would believe them to be off-limits is just weird. He knows as much as anyone that Loki is an asshole that needs putting in his place, regardless of how it’s done.
The other aspect of this plot point that doesn’t really work is when Pym asks Loki to join the Avengers. Him asking doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable, although it’s out of left-field. As he said, there have been plenty of “villains” that have joined the Avengers, and with retrospect, it’s barely a year or two before a new iteration of Loki is on the Young Avengers. What really bothers me is the way the rest of the team react to the suggestion, all immediately repulsed and deciding to quit, which feels like another symptom of compression, having to come up with a reason for the team to break up very quickly.
The biggest problem the book has is with art though. Khoi Pham is the main artist on the book, coming over with Herc and Amadeus from Incredible Hercules (a mixed blessing there) and he’s pretty awful. There’s some improvement by the end of the series - I think mainly due to a change in inker - but he’s clearly not ready for a comic of this level. He wasn’t really ready for a low-level book like Herc, actually, but certainly not Avengers, even if it’s technically the Avengers B (or C) title. There’s clearly also some miscommunication/language barriers (or poor script reading) as one point of the Inhuman story describes the Alpha-Primitives as wearing “rags not the radiation suits they normally have” and yet, there they are, drawn weaing neat radiation suits, not rags. There are some good fill in artists, like Rafa Sandoval and, especially, Sean Chen. If only he’d been the main artist on the book.
Overall Mighty Avenger is a decent run of comics, with some big flaws. It’s a shame that it’s probably going to be Slott’s one go at Avengers, because it feels like he could have had a really good two or three year run in him, if he’s been given a clear go at it.