Go Forth and Avenger

The first issue of Mighty Avengers hadn’t done a whole lot for me. It had some fun dialogue, but between Ock-Spider and its place squarely in the middle of Crossover Event Hell, it was a bit of a tough sell.

Listening to Al Ewing talk about the book on the Decompressed podcast with Kieron Gillen, however, I heard a lot of really interesting ideas percolating around there which helped me give it a longer try. Which brings us to this week’s issue #3. This isn’t a review, though. It’s about one specific speech in the book, and how that may or may not dovetail with ideas from that podcast I previously mentioned.

I don’t think this is really a spoiler, but the speech happens near the end of the book, so if that’s something you want to avoid, here’s your warning.

Okay, so after the punching and flashing lights and wild pseudo-science / magic, a reporter asks if this group is officially an Avengers team. Monica gives a very politic response, and then Luke Cage essentially says screw that noise and makes what I expect is the unofficial mission statement for this series.

He says, in essence, that The Avengers, well, assemble. That coming together in order to be stronger and face the things you can’t face alone makes you an Avenger. Essentially, if you gather together in the spirit of Avenger-ing,1 you’re an Avenger. So, yes, this group is Avengers.

It’s a nice, inspiring speech, but it strikes me much more forcefully here than elsewhere due to context.

Part of this goes back to ideas from the podcast I was talking about, where Ewing says this isn’t a book which is fundamentally about race, but both he and Gillen agree it IS about class. A lot of class conflicts, actually. There’s a meta-conflict between letter-grades of heroes, but the more concrete class conflict between working and upper class, as embodied by super heroes.

Back to the speech, then, which is the kind of thing that wouldn’t be entirely out of place coming from Captain America, really. But I don’t think it’s the same thing to hear we’re all Avengers if we get together and decide to be from the classic, white, blond alpha male who seems to subsist on nothing but idealism with a thick altruism sauce. So, yes, you could probably put those words into Cap’s mouth without having to alter them significantly, but if you did, I think it would feel very different. I would hear, at least, encouraging people to strive for the ideals he lives by. It would be an invitation to join the club. And that’s awesome and I am not trashing Captain America.

However, I think it’s something else entirely to hear this from the guy whose schtick has kind of always been “I have to make a living at this.” If that’s not built into the core of the Heroes For Hire concept, I don’t know what is. By extension it feels like it’s a very important part of Luke Cage.2

When you have all that context riding around, it’s not an invitation any more. Or, it’s a different kind. Cap is asking us to aspire to be like him. Luke Cage is saying we already are. We don’t need “sanctioning” or fancy communicator ID cards or quinjets. Gathering, assembling, this kind of core aspect of not just being a super-human, but just a human in general, is empowering. No one gets to tell us we can or can’t use it. It’s ours, and we’re claiming it.3

Maybe-probably I’m ascribing more baggage to the speech than I should. But the baggage, honestly, is what made that moment so compelling. The baggage, I think, is the kind of thing that may serve to make this book distinctive. So, I’m sticking with the baggage for now, and I kind of hope Ewing does, too.

1. Cool line from the movie notwithstanding, I don’t think anyone thinks The Avengers are running around avenging. So we’re left with awkward pretend-verbs to describe their MO. Just suck it up and move on. Points are being made. Ish.

2. Whether it’s fundamental to it or not, it certainly informs the point, as well, that the man speaking–and the majority of the people in the group he’s speaking for–are from ethnic minorities.

3. Admittedly, there’s probably a meta-level on which this is a kind of argument for the glut of current titles with Avengers in the title, I suppose. In that case, you look up from the issue and see seventy kabillion titles using it and think for a second “maybe we don’t all need to be Avengers?” though, so I don’t know that it’s worth a lot of nattering over.

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