Collateral Damage: The Mighty Avengers

As I look forward to the comics that will be coming out this week, I find myself mourning a book that didn’t actually die. Technically. Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, it never got a chance to breathe in the first place.

I really liked the Founders’ video show on Secret Invasion last week. One of the things I liked best about it was that I happened to hear about it while I was only three words into the column I was planning to write on the exact same topic. “Really? You’re going back and rereading the series as a whole in one sitting, and approaching it with fresh eyes?” I asked, deleting as discreetly as I could the line “REREAD SECRET INVASION IN 1 SITTING WITH FRESH EYES” from “iFanboyIdeas.doc” on my desktop. Mind you, I was never sure I would actually get around to doing it– when you have a wife and a day job and a kid and a Netflix queue 172 discs strong, “read something you enjoyed a second time” is on your Bucket List somewhere below “unicycle up Kilimanjaro”– but like roughly 483 other things, it was a part of the grand plan.

Actually, when I first typed it, the line was “REREAD HOUSE OF M IN 1 SITTING WITH FRESH EYES.” I may still use that one. That’s the thing about the modern comics landscape. By the time I’m ready to fully digest a “big summer event,” three more have happened and I’m clambering over piles of bodies, just trying to keep up.

I think we were less than halfway through Civil War back in ’06 when Marvel announced at the San Diego Comic Con that they would be launching a second Avengers book. I didn’t hop from foot to foot and whoop like a cheerleader (I just don’t have the calves for those skirts) but the prospect did excite me. I’m not a person who’s read The Avengers since grade school; what excited me was not the team necessarily (mostly because Marvel was at that point doing the coy fandance striptease with va beach strippers where they swear you’re going to love the Mighty Avengers without telling you the name of a single person who’s in the Mighty Avengers) but the way the stories were going to be told:

Mighty Avengers will have big world threatening situations to deal with at all times. New heroes interacting with each other in a situation some of them have never been in before. To do this I have chosen some techniques that are not what I am most known for. But fun is the word of the day. Though we’re very serious about our craft, the agenda is to make a spectacle of superhero extravaganza that you can only get from a top-flight Avengers title!” — Brian M. Bendis, writer

As details about the series dribbled out the corners of ComicCon’s mouth, I became tantalized in just the way they wanted me to be. Gone would be the “decompression” and whispered conspiracies and three-issue conversations. That was fine for The New Avengers, but this latest book would get back to basics in a way we hadn’t seen since the Scourge walked the earth. This would be bombast and challenges that no one hero could face, and thought balloons would make their triumphant return, and Wonder Man would be there in wraparound shades and a leisure suit! Count on it!

And I did. I did count on it. I took everyone at their word, for all the good it did me.

“I’ve never done a monthly book, so I have no idea how I will handle the monthly grind,” Cho added, asked about how long he plans to stay on the title and how many issues he’ll do a year. “Marvel has given me healthy head start. I’m hoping that it’s enough that I won’t need a fill-in artist anytime soon. My goal is to stay on this book until my Marvel contract runs out in March 2008.”

Oh, how distant March 2008 seemed back then. What optimists we all were. Sure, Frank Cho can do a monthly book! What’s to stop him, other than everything we know about his entire history from zygote to this afternoon?

As self-styled experts, we make a lot of lofty proclamations about how lateness doesn’t matter in a world where trade paperback collections are the go-to format for reading a story, but make no mistake: lateness strangled The Mighty Avengers in its crib with hateful, throttling thrusts. #1 was fantastic and full of promise — remember? Remember what potential that issue showed? — but by the time the first arc had come to an end, any enthusiasm we had for this book had died like so many cute-butted Ultrons. If all of Cho’s issues had come out monthly, who knows what might have had time to happen before the next Big Event? It was a punch-packed, full-throttle thrill ride action movie where the film broke every fifteen minutes and the projectionist needed an hour to get his s*** together. Mark “Minuteman” Bagley was offered to us for the next arc like a virgin to a volcano (despite the fact that Angel Medina had already been announced; God only knows what became of those pages) but by that point it made little difference. By then, the Skrulls had landed.

I would dearly love to read The Mighty Avengers that was described to me by the unceasing Hype Machine in 2006. I saw a taste of it in those first few issues. I loved the way the thought balloons revealed the gap between what the characters were saying and what they were actually planning. I loved seeing some of the classic characters in action. I thought the interpersonal relationships were going to be fascinating once they killed all those Venoms and had a chance to talk. Remember how Iron Man made Ms. Marvel the “leader,” but kept undercutting her at every turn, much to her growing frustration? I couldn’t wait to see how it all played out.

I still can’t, because it never did.

I never got to know the characters in the context of their Mighty situation. They never took a breath, which I guess was the point of the whole “nonstop action!!!” thing, but… I never saw anything about who Wonder Man was. The book promised me I would learn something about Ares, but I never did. It was the only comic on the shelf with thought balloons, yet I don’t feel like I ever knew what was going on inside anyone’s head. It made a lot of promises, from a character standpoint, before turning out to be a profound waste of promise and potential. Mostly because of those Skrulls.

The Mighty Avengers was consumed by Secret Invasion flashbacks starting in April of ’08, for eight of its twenty issues. Take a moment to reflect on that percentage: nearly half of its life as a book was swallowed up by a crossover that completely shifted what the book was supposed to be about. None of the world-threatening action, none of the thought balloons… hell, none of the characters! The Mighty Avengers has not been about the Mighty Avengers for half of its life.

Imagine that someone described to you the mission of this book before #1 came out — big adventure, classic storytelling, thought balloons and old school Avengering — and so you started buying only this title. All was going well, but after a few issues the book seemed to vanish from the shelves. By the time it came back, it would be a completely different book that had nothing whatsoever to do with what you’d started reading. Suddenly and without warning, it went from Frank Cho and Mark Bagley and Venoms and Doombots to Alex Maleev filling in the backstory of this Nick Fury, a character who had not appeared in the book for a single panel in its entire history until the crossover. Then, after two issues detailing Fury’s attempts to build his own team, without explanation, Fury would disappear again without his story reaching any kind of closure at all. We would suddenly be reading about Hank Pym and Skrulls. The collected edition of this chapter is going to look like a ransom note. At least Hank had appeared for a couple of panels in the book before, but… what did his abduction have to do with anything we had read in The Mighty Avengers as The Mighty Avengers? It was as if the authors were assuming you read every comic book Marvel puts out, and since they didn’t have anywhere else to stick these little side stories, they might as well cram them into The Mighty Avengers. Sure, they had nothing whatsoever to do with any page you’d read in the series up to that point, but what the hell? You were buying the entire output of the company anyway, right?


By the time the last Skrull was dead, the whole book had strayed so far from its mission statement that no one even remembered what that was except, apparently, me. Now, Dan Slott is taking over the title and has a lot of grand-sounding plans… but none of them have anything to do with The Mighty Avengers as it was described to me when it launched. Jocasta and Hank Pym will be there, but there won’t be any of the storytelling style — which I thought was the whole point of the book’s existence — within 100 miles of them. It all sounds like The Initiative But With Characters You’ve Heard Of. Brian Bendis has left the title to do Dark Avengers, something spinning out of Secret Invasion just as the last book spun out of Civil War. It has a lot of potential to break new ground, based on what I’ve seen of #1… but at this point, how much excitement can I really muster? “Dark Reign” will last, what, a year? And then what happens to this book I’m supposed to care about? I have been led down this path before.


Jim Mroczkowski just wants the hype to be true once before he dies.



  1. I was fortunate enough to have missed any and all Avengers books since Civil War, which is when I started reading comics. I’m giving Dan Slott’s Mighty Avengers a shot, though, because after a while I realized that I loved the Avengers, just not the Avengers titles. But since Bendis is off the book and Dan Slott has been doing great with Spidey, it couldn’t hurt to try.

  2. As a superhero romp, I thought Secret Invasion was a lot of fun.  The fallout of the event is also intriguing; which is about the best thing an event can do. Where Bendis stumbled (for me) was in capping off this years long build up. It was just a lot of w/e by the end of it. But I did enjoy the rollercoaster once we got to the top of the final dip.

  3. I didn’t read ‘Mighty Avengers’ and so have no opinion of my own, but you make a good case for companies coming through with what they advertise.  If it’s a good idea to hype that kind of story, it’s presumably a good idea to actually tell it as well.  Too bad.

    And I’d be all over a ‘House of M’ reread column, just saying.

  4. I bought the first arc of Mighty in trade, so I really enjoyed it. I can understand that waiting month to month would put the entire book in a different light. I would’ve really loved to see what this book could’ve been, but by now, I’m very close to dropping everything Avengers.

    Great article, Jim. It’s nice to know someone else liked that book.

  5. The hype I recall for Mighty Avengers was that the book was going to work in tandem with New Avengers.

    Bendis talked about how the two books would support each other and flush out stories and crossover and give hints about Secret Invasion/Skrulls.

    I do recall something about the book being as you described it. But I think that was the answer to the question of how New and Mighty would differ.

    Dan Slott will probably deliver a good run on Mighty Avengers.

  6. i never read mighty. didnt like the characters in it.

  7. I read Mighty for two issues then dropped it when Ultron was still standing naking in NY for a third issue but i came back when the vemon arc happened and after reading your article i cant believe how jumbled and directionless that book became, and i bought the issues! I think the over all idea is that Marvel loves chance and i cant fault them for that but i dont like change with no meaning. Change happens but there seems to be no ramifications. this makes me think of the Back in Black Spider-man story arc. they could have done so much with this but in the end it was never allowed to find those stories it could have told us. I dont mind change but make the change matter. does civil war really mean anything any more how many times have "fugitive" heroes been let go?

  8. If they made an Avengers book that was one and dones or just fun, big romps with no real universe changing stakes, I would buy it.  They should make an Avengers title like they did with Spider-Man.

  9. @Neb  Marvel Adventures!

  10. @Scorpion: If you remember, New and Mighty would crossover when it came to the Venom Bomb story. That story arc with NYC getting attacked by a satellite filled with Symbiotes was suppose to be introduced in Mighty. Then the New Avengers would come in and the storyline would be wrapped up in Mighty and referenced in New (with Luke and Jessica talking about it). That would’ve worked if the delays didnt hurt the overall arc. Cause Cho took too long, New and Mighty couldnt do that little crossover and people would just joke around how Mighty is like 3-4 months behind on New Avengers.

    But yeah I read the first trade of this and I thought it was one of the worst comic books to come out in the modern era. To me this was the first sign of Bendis not being Bendis and it didnt help that he let Frank ‘I can only draw cheesecake ladies’ Cho do to the artwork. Plus that fact Jim gave us that 8/20 (or 40%) of the span of Mighty has been SI tie-in’s. That’s just depressing when you think that only two trades worth of this series has the actual team in the book. Now it’s going on a revamp with a new team and…’s just too much. Dan Slott is a good writer and it might be the most pulled book on the site, I just dont see reason for picking this series up.

  11. Spiffy piece. I agree this book was derailed but I’m not so sure this was a bad thing. The characters weren’t too likeable. I found BB’s use of thought balloons far too knowing, too mannered; it was distracting. I couldn’t read Iron Man’s digital narration due to the colouring (yellow out of green, if I recall correctly, in a  tiny font). And the cheesecake art was a bit much at time.

    Which isn’t to say I thought much of the SI issues, for the reasons Jim gives – they were fill-ins for a book that didn’t exist. I’m looking forward to the Slott MA hugely, I suspect he’ll give us a Michelinie sensibility.

  12. i like this book its different and its catchy except i did NOT like the SI issues at all they bored me to death my fave issue by far is the last one with Janets Funeral

  13. I hate to be "that guy," but I greatly prefer Cho’s art over Yu’s. Things are much more clean and clear, and while I’m not a huge fan of the cheesecake factor, it fit well with the over-the-old throwback melodrama. And personally, it was odd seeing Dr. Strange and Iron Fist on the Avengers. This book had the Avengers I’d been missing, like Wonder Man and Ms. Marvel (because I’m not going to read her solo book).

  14. Sigh. That should be "over-the-top." My bad.

  15. @ohcaroline~  Isn’t that just reprints of older stuff?  Or is that from the "kid" line?  I’ll have to scope this out at the shop on Wednesday.

  16. @Neb: It’s the general/younger audience line.

  17. @Neb  Yup, Marvel Adventures "Avengers" is the all-ages version.  They’re fun superhero stories and you can get them cheap in digest size.  It’s not exactly the same as having an all-standalone series with the standard Avengers lineup, but I’ve had a number of old-school Avengers fans tell me it scratches the itch. 

  18. TNC, I think a ton of people think Cho is a very strong comic book artist. I certainly do.

  19. @Andrew: I’m not saying his stuff his bad. Just that he is kinda a one trick pony when it comes to character anatomy and layouts. Especially with women. Maybe it’s more because of the publishers and writers. Cause certainly the last couple of years he seems to be only used to make gorgeous women.

  20. I think we’re all forgetting the moment Mighty Avengers truly jumped the shark (at least for me).

    Man, was that a horrible issue… 

  21. "…even though it went against everything we knew of Cho’s history from zygote to this afternoon.’

    Great line, Jimski, great line :).

    I’ve been buying Mighty Avengers all the way through the SI crossovers, but mostly out of inertia than interest.  I like Slott, but if all Marvel has to bring people into the book are "WTF shockers" like why Scarlet Witch is on the cover, then maybe it’s time to apply some force and halt the forward momentum.  Like Connor, I’ll give Mighty and Dark Avengers a chance this week and decide, but Mighty has about a finger left holding it onto the cliff.

    BTW, from everything I’ve heard, Marvel Adventures books are some of the best fun storytelling going on from Marvel right now.  Feel no shame in checking out a "kids’" book. 

  22. as far as I am concerned, if you grew up in the 80s, the Marvel Adventures line is best way to scratch your marvel superheroes itch.  ya know, Spiderman stories where he fights a villain and tells jokes, not laments on being a loser and selling his marriage to the devil – the kind of thing that even Ghost Rider, the Punisher, and Wolverine wouldn’t do (oh yeah "Heart of Darkness" reference)

  23. @Wadebeforeslade: Spider-Man fights villains and cracks jokes in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN now.  That’s pretty much all he does.

  24. @conor: I am oversimplyfying, I know.  I mean to say that if you want the action without the recent ‘heaviness’ (for spiderman – satan divorce; for Avengers – Cap dead, SI, Wasp dead, kidnapping) then I agree that Marvel Adventures is the way to go. 

  25. Actually, if you read the ancient Spider-texts from back when Kirbys walked the earth, lamenting about being a loser is basically the character’s central identifying trait. He’s like Charlie Brown with abs for those first five years or so. Although I haven’t gone back and done a research paper on it or anything, I maintain that funny quippy Spider-Man didn’t exist until Peter David started writing him back in the eighties. Which, I know, might as well be 1776 at this point, but still.

  26. @Jimski  Huh, that’s really interesting.  I think I must have read Bendis’s Spider-Man first — in New Avengers and then in Ultimate, so that probably cemented my view of him as quippy.  But I’ve read the first omnibus of the Lee/Ditko stuff and he really is more of an angry/mopey guy in those, without even the aww-shucks-yness that Tobey Maguire brought to the part.  I hadn’t quite put the evolution together in my head in those terms, and I haven’t read enough 70s/80s Spidey to know when the change happened.   But you’ve got an excellent point.

  27. It might be that I don’t the difference between Stan Lee dialogue and being quippy but I’m looking at my reprint of Amazing Spider-Man 39 (the one where the Goblin figures out Spidey is Parker) and, yeah, he seems pretty quippy in there so it goes back to at least the Romita days, I guess.

  28. I don’t have those ancient spider-text readily available, but I do have a handy stack of Marvel Tales – which did seem to emphasize his sarcasm (and are likely reprints from 1776, or at least circa its bicentennial), like how he was a d**k to the x-men in one of their first encounters.  What I know is this – Spiderman has been sarcastic as long as I have been reading since the mid-80s.  I like the Spiderman I grew up with, the one that fought villains I knew, non-satanic divorce, etc.  Therefore, for people like me who want that, Marvel Adventures Spiderman, Ultimate Spiderman, and back issues of Marvel Tales (since they are real cheap), are the way to go. I think I went wrong in using the "lament.." part in my analogy.  How about, "has a satanic divorce, totem mythology, organic webshooters, more symbiotes (waiting for Maximum Anti-Venom Omega Untold Tales), and kidnapped daughter we have never seen again (nor Kaine)."  Yeah, that is why the other ones just scratch a "fun" itch.  Less baggage, more fun.  I know that was the purpose of the most current reboot, but the whole satanic divorce thing never rubbed me right, and puts a pallor on everything.

  29. We all know I dont like the man now but Brian Michael Bendis always had a great voice for Spider-Man.

    No matter what universe he was in he always made Spider-Man funny and intellectual at the same time. Although the old New Avengers trades I have, yes I read them since it’s when Bendis was good in my eyes. That Spider-Man is always the best Spider-Man I have read in the last couple of years, hell probably in the last decade. Especially in the post Civil War books, he always had time to make Spidey joke around.

  30. Wait, you don’t like Bendis?  God that’s crazy.  You should have said something by now, mentioned it at least once.  I had no idea.  There’s some other guy though, and he says it all the time.


  31. ……I guess I’ll go now

    (hopes on train with straw hat on)

  32. Also in defense, how many times do we have to hear your man love for Robert Kirkman? 🙂

    (and I ment *hops in the previous comment)

  33. Never mind that; I need to know what these yuks from Spidey #39 were. I wish I could find things in this house, other than in my baby’s mouth.

  34. Never mind; I found it, and you know… there may actually be a little bit of quippage in here! Although you did happen to pick one of my favorites, the issue where Spidey has some sinus problems and spends the entire issue whining about his allergies. It makes both our points! Everyone wins!

  35. No, yeah, loser Spidey and quippy Spidey go together like chocolate and milk.  Favorite line?  "That’s dirty pool, mister!" I don’t know if that’s technically a quip or not, but God knows I was laughing.

    Also, greatest cover ever?  Greatest cover ever. 

  36. I don’t believe that’s a quip, that’s just 60s Stan Lingo.

  37. He begins it with "And you haven’t even shouted ‘anyone around my base is it!’" so it’s part of a quip, I believe.

  38. I think there’s a kind of baseline quippiness to Stan Lee’s dialogue — I mean if you read the early X-Men issues, *Cyclops* is throwing off oneliners, for God’s sake.  But I don’t think 60s Peter’s one-liners are distinctive enough to be a character trait; what’s distinctive, as Jim pointed out, is that he’s always having to deal with annoying everyday crap as he fights bad guys.   

  39. This is one of those books that I started getting because of Bendis instead of the characters in the book.  And that method of how to choose which books to read has lead me to a massive amount of books to read each week.  So therefore my New Year’s Resolution was to cut back on some books that I didn’t care about the characters.  And with Dan Slott making Mighty Avengers basically the place for all the Avenger-type characters that don’t have their own book, I’m out.  I like Ms Marvel and Iron Man.  But that was it.  And I don’t think they are still there.