New Marvel comics have good stories – and diversity
While we were all discussing the upcoming replacements of Thor by a woman and Captain America by a black superhero, Marvel was already putting out a comic with a diverse cast of characters that came together for purposes of story, not stunt.
When I first heard teasers about a new series entitled “Mighty Avengers,” my response was an eye roll. Marvel was already publishing “Avengers,” “New Avengers,” “Secret Avengers,” “Uncanny Avengers” and “Avengers Assemble,” many of them sharing cast members, plus “Avengers A.I.,” “Young Avengers” and “Avengers Arena.” The only connection that last one had to the actual Avengers was that three characters had been in the recently canceled “Avengers Academy” and a fourth, Darkhawk, was a member of the West Coast Avengers for about eight minutes. I figured all writer Al Ewing (“Iron Man: Fatal Frontier,” “Mars Attacks Judge Dredd”) could contribute to the franchise at this point was evidence of whether nine titles bearing the name would finally over-saturate the market.
“Mighty Avengers” – the first 10 issues of which are available in the trades “No One Hero” and “Family Bonding” – brings together a seemingly random group of characters who have been mostly out of the spotlight for years or never quite in it.
Luke Cage winds up in New York’s last line of defense against an alien invasion while the main Avengers team and its 37 members are off planet. He’s joined by Spectrum (formerly Captain Marvel, formerly Photon, formerly Pulsar), the Blue Marvel (who might be an even better forgotten Marvel Superman than the Sentry), the new Power Man and White Tiger, a mysterious dude in a knockoff Spider-Man costume and the actual Spider-Man (sort of, Doc Ock was still in the mental driver’s seat).
After trying to revive his Heroes for Hire business to provide for his family, Cage finds a higher calling: leading a team for the everyman. He’s inspired by the New Yorkers who stand with the heroes in that first battle against impossible odds. The team has an easy-to-access office, a hotline and a rotating group of heroes willing to help.
It’s a better realization of Cage’s vision for the Avengers than the rebooted “New Avengers” from a few years ago, where Cage and company wanted to do things their way. “Their way” at that point included having some of the same members as the main team and going on government-sanctioned missions. But their base was in a totally different building.
As I neared the end of that first collection, it dawned on me that most of the characters weren’t Caucasian. It was an afterthought because this book wasn’t billed as the Multicultural Avengers. And that’s fitting, because the story’s just about Avengers.
Comics are often (fairly) criticized for having an over-abundance of white, male characters. “Mighty Avengers” overcame that and somehow didn’t draw a lot of attention – or self-promotion. And that’s the way it should be overcome: with good, quality stories that have diverse characters, not diverse characters shoehorned into stories regardless of quality. That doesn’t mean good material can’t be drawn from aspects of a character’s ethnicity; but if all a writer is doing is trying to score diversity points, the effort is likely to fall flat.
I expect the new Cap and Thor to follow suit.
The series relaunches this month as “Captain America and the Mighty Avengers” with a new No. 1 and recurring cast member Falcon wearing the red, white and blue. It promises to bring a new dynamic to an already enjoyable series that just so happens to feature a diverse group of characters.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group,” www.supportgroupcomic.com.