From where we stand today, the Avengers books are beginning the last leg of their full Phoenix Cycle. They have been reborn (a few different times in a few different styles), have ridden high in the skies of sales and acclaim and are now plummeting to Earth to burn out and die, if only to rise from their ashes once more. It's beautiful, really, if I wasn't so perturbed by having to file it all in the back room of the store. And don't get me started on returning to previous numbering! Gah!
Anyhow, a lot has been made by far smarter folks than I on the new Heroic Age teaser image Marvel's showing us all now at the dawn of Siege. Scroll down a bit here at Robot 6 and you'll see it. Today, I decided to stop looking at the future and take a trip back to the past thanks to a reprinted Hardcover that came out this Wednesday. Yes, let's all take a trip back to 2002! Who says my Distinguished Colleague gets to hog all the posts about Geoff Johns?
This week, the first five issues of Geoff Johns' 20-or-so issue run on the Avengers were reprinted in a bold new hardcover. His name is bigger and maybe even bolder than the Avengers Logo itself and who could blame them? The man's making money hand over power-ringed fist, so why not jump up and down to remind everyone that hey, he used to write stories for us, too? He also has with him such luminaries as Kieron Dwyer, Rick Remender and Gary Frank, so we're getting a great look at the resume shots in some very important people's portfolios. In 2002, Geoff Johns still getting to a household name, considering this was in the middle of his remarkable Flash run. Superman, Batman, Hawkman, the man wasn't hurting for work when when Marvel gave him the reigns to Earth's Mightiest Heroes after fan-favorite Kurt Busiek's tenure was over.
Though, when you crack open World Trust, it's hard to tell that Busiek had left. No introduction pieces, no setup time, just go! Boom! Wanda has a nightmare! The Wasp and Yellowjacket are wiped from the face of the Earth along with Washington D.C.! At the title page, Captain America's jumping down from rooftops right at you! Action, action, action! People don't sit at tables long enough before they're cracked by angry fists! It's very disorienting to read this after, say... the New Avengers where conversation is king and the Avengers choice of tactical planning is Cap's old kitchen.
Not to say the book doesn't take the time to flesh out its heroes, just maybe not enough time. Everyone seems to be talking about things that happened issues ago, from Wanda and Vision's strained relationship to Ant-Man's custody battle with his daughter, where Thor is, why Black Panther has Doctor Doom's number on speed dial; all of these are fantastic plot points, they're just jogged along with the rest of plot for the time being. These are only the first five issues so it's the start of things to come but, reading it fresh like this, I have to remind myself of the date, think back to when Iron Man's armor looked like that, his identity not that well known, when Black Panther had more political backing and how Jack of Heart's powers needed him to be contained in the world's saddest prison for 14 hours a day. This book was set in the heart of everything and perhaps the first collection should have had a little more to it than just the first five issues.
But, despite some Wikipedia and official handbook searching, the story is as straight-forward as it gets: world leaders and their capitols have disappeared and there's only one super-group to call when the threats get global. That 'World Trust' title isn't just for show because the Avengers are called in as replacements for the UN, a job that Captain America takes very seriously. Steve Rogers truly shines in this book and makes everyone look better for it. The Falcon gets a quick power boost as he can now see through the eyes of birds during Johns' run, She-Hulk gets pulled into legal matters, the Wasp is co-consultant on the Avengers roster, this isn't Captain America and Friends, this is a man leading a team who are all as essential together as they are on their own. Each of them has their role in the disaster they face and they don't just pick up the slack, but they battle the forces of chaos that caused the trouble in the first place. That revolving door roster comes into play as Thor and Namor both come and go as they need to (yeah, Namor! Sure he laughs in Cap's face when he's offered membership, but that doesn't mean he won't help out or replace a table from time to time). A bunch of disappearing cities into another dimension is one thing, you could call the Fantastic Four, but when the leadership of the globe is in peril, then you should feel there is no other hope than the Avengers.
Johns has a good foundation here for the Classic style of Avengers that have sadly seen their day come and go. The closest we have to this, with the all out action, the cast of thousands, the personal trouble and triumphs in the midst of dangers only one group could face, would be Mighty Avengers by Dan Slott and even that book is not surviving the results of Siege. Maybe we had a Heroic Age before and it just doesn't cut it in today's market. We need a New Heroic Age, possibly a #1, a generational restart on the books that have survived for 60 years.
I won't lie; this is probably reprinted because of Johns' success on Blackest Night and not because the House of Ideas think that this particular storyline is very relevant to today's comics. There's a big gap between Johns' work now and then, where the Avengers were as a team then and their current descent now and that gap is far too large for the entry level fan. But for the True Believers, it's an incredible look back to what we had and where we came from, even just in the past 8 years.