From the team’s inception, The Avengers have always been known as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. In recent years — and as recently as the last issue of the previous run — pretty much anyone who could call themselves a superhero, mighty or otherwise, had also taken up the mantle.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness address that very notion in Marvel’s latest Avengers #1. While the issue features a wide array of characters who have called themselves an Avenger, Aaron ensures that attention is brought to the triumvirate of heroes who have traditionally served as the backbone of the team. Thor, Iron Man and Captain America have long been considered the team’s founding fathers — despite Cap still being frozen in the North Atlantic when they formed. And for the first time in a while, the original incarnations of all three characters are around at the same time to focus on the mission, and legacy, of their team.
Speaking of which, the issue is a sort of continuation of last year’s Marvel Legacy one-shot, which attempted to affirm a place for the publisher’s classic heroes among the modern ones. Avengers #1 actually accomplishes that goal better than the uneven one-shot anthology did, as Aaron establishes that, yes — the world needs The Avengers, and always will, but what constitutes the team can always be cautiously fluid. This is addressed both in the Big Three’s informal discourse, and in the cast of characters who appear in the issue — presumably in preparation for involvement later on.
Going back to the team’s earliest days, the one constant over the franchise’s history has always been change. Periodic roster changes became the norm, even drastic ones. Characters who were unknowns, from other teams and even once on the wrong side of the law found a home in Avengers Mansion. And yes, at times, the notion of who should comprise a team known as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was sometimes forgotten over the team’s half-century of existence. Gently acknowledging past mistakes, Aaron brings the team back to its roots, all while remembering its mission statement: to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand.
This issue features exactly that: a foe of untold might, and the budding formation of a team built to withstand it. So with Cap, Iron Man, and Thor leading the charge, readers are treated to both a nostalgic throwback to the core team of yesteryear, all while setting up the latest incarnation of the team for modern-day threats — and modern-day audiences. Aaron gets that he doesn’t need to roll back the clock to 1975, and also gets that those bygone eras were an important part of the team’s history.
The cast is large, but manageable — not every Marvel powerhouse makes an appearance, nor do they need to, but there are plenty enough to provide the kinds of all-star thrills that wowed viewers who just got back from seeing Avengers: Infinity War. McGuinness is clearly having a lot of fun bringing all of these thrills to life, capturing both the enormity of the cast, and the enormity of the threat it faces. He also nails the familiar comradery of three old friends throwing back a round of drinks — a welcome site, even if they’re not in costume.
Avengers #1 treads that delicate middle ground between the temptation of packing in too much, and focusing too hard on the team’s longstanding nucleus. It also walks that line between embracing the future and honoring the past. If the team’s only constant is change, the new series’ introduction provides exactly the right amount of it.
The team will continue to withstand threats no single hero could in Avengers #2, on sale May 16.