Monday, October 25, 2010

Wyatt Earp: a work in progress.. I promise.


Hey Justin, and others. After your inspiring post I decided to share some of the in progress AWE2999 stuff. So you can see it is in fact having some forward momentum. As Justin mentioned it won't be called AWE2999 this time around. Instead it will be WWWH. Currently I've got four stories drawn and waiting for color. One or two more scripts to draw and Justin and I are both sitting on a mountain of ideas. I don't think we'll be publishing them anytime soon. We really want to build up a bulk before we present them to the world. That way you don't have that 6 month delay between pages. Have fun if you go to BTF tonight. I hear good things.

-josh

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sorry, No 90s for You Today

I started writing about Joe Kelly's Deadpool, and then it turned out I have an awful lot to say about Joe Kelly's Deadpool. This is a comic that was really important to me at the time, real defining stuff, and so I didn't want to rush it. So next week, get ready for a hell of a lot of words about pre-four-books-a-month Deadpool.

In the meantime, have you been checking out Josh's sketchblog? In keeping with the 90s theme of my recent posts, his blog is like a box of chocolates, in that it is heart shaped, has a lot of little paper wrappers around everything, and contains a good deal of nougat. No, wait, actually, it's that you never quite know what you're going to get, from a particularly menacing drawing of Galactus, domestic interludes of a humorous nature, a Breaking Bad-inspired redesign of Mister Sinister, and often pictures of dogs of various sorts.

There are also bits of art from the comic we do together that gives this blog its name (although the name of the comic, at least, is changing). This is quite a technological terror he's constructed, and I find a real elegance in this simple conversational panel. We may have more stuff to pass along as well. (Josh, you still have the keys to this blog, right? You should crosspost the Earp/TWWWH stuff on here, it's only right. Also, I need to call and/or e-mail you soon, but Monday there's a movie theatre here playing some sort of digitally remastered Back to the Future on the big screen, so my brother and I will obviously be unavoidably detained that evening.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Great Marvel Comics of the Late 1990s (Yes, They Do Exist): Thunderbolts

The disinformation campaign surrounding the book’s launch is legendary. After the “Onslaught” crossover, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers were presumed dead (actually taking part in “Heroes Reborn” in a pocket universe), which, you can imagine, leaves a pretty big superhero void in the mainstream Marvel Universe. So it’s announced Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley are going to introduce an all-new superteam called the Thunderbolts. These mysterious new superheroes get an intro in an issue of Incredible Hulk to lead you into buying the regular series, where the first issue is played totally straight, right down to the enthusiastic “Justice … like lightning!” catchphrase on the cover. They have a solid first-issue adventure, crafted by Busiek and Bagley to look like everything else Marvel was publishing at the time…until the last page when the Thunderbolts are revealed to be Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil in disguise, merely posing as superheroes to con the authorities to give them access to the Avengers and SHIELD files.

And you had no clue until you read that page. Marvel couldn’t have kept the secret today with the internet the way it is, of course, and even in 1997 it was a feat. That makes me a little sad, but I’m part of the problem, of course; I don’t buy very many new superhero comics these days, but I “follow” them, as you might follow a baseball team you don’t get to see play very often, by reading the internet. Even if I were buying more, I’d likely steer of the big line-wide tentpole events…and yet the junk is in my system, so I’ll read news and reviews about them because I want to know what happened. It takes almost no effort to find spoilers, so I’m always quite surprised how reliant these tentpole events are on rearranging status quo. That’s why Thunderbolts looks even stranger thirteen years down the line. Now you’d have to hype up that concept ahead of time, or else who’s gonna buy it? I almost think you’d know something was up with this book from the start if they launched it today – “All new characters, not tying into anything, no high concept…there’s no way they think this is gonna sell; what’s the twist?” Conditions were just right in 1997, though. The issue sold out, reprinted and sold out again. Stealth high-concept smash hit.

The problem is, where do you go from there? The trick about high-concept superhero books is that they’re hard to build a long-running series out of because high concepts have a way of boxing superheroes in. You can do a million issues of the Avengers (so long as you can think of new scenarios) because their only real mission is to stop threats and preserve the status quo. These Thunderbolts, though, have a clear endpoint in mind, so either they accomplish their goals and the series ends, or you keep putting it off and the audience gets bored waiting for them to hurry up already and do something.

Busiek, however, doesn’t need me to point this out, because he already has the solution. So, through the first twelve issues, most of the team decides they like being superheroes and want to reform. Well, that’s a start, but by 1997, “villains reform and become heroes” has worn thin (in the early-to-mid 90s, of course, it was all too common for popular villains to get their own book and reform just enough so you could root for them a phenomenon we’ll get into more about next week with Deadpool), so Busiek has Zemo (who has no intention of reforming) see where this is headed and outs the whole group so that they’ll have to be loyal to him or be fugitives.

Busiek has done something very clever here, in using a high concept to bait an audience and then getting them hooked on the characters and situations so that they’ll stay even after you’ve removed the high concept. After issue #12, the Thunderbolts aren’t driven by their high-concept mission; they hang together because it’s them against the rest of the world.

Curiously, I'd like to make a case that Thunderbolts is Chris Claremont’s X-Men in reverse!

The whole mutants-as-persecuted-minority is a high concept, and you can use it to sell movies and power some storylines, but it's hard to really sustain it because again, either mutants and humans finally live together in peace and the story ends, or you get what has happened to the franchise, and get locked into a holding pattern where nothing is ever accomplished and no progress is made, and that’s a pretty terrible lesson to teach kids about overcoming adversity, isn’t it?

Claremont’s the one who really pushed the high concept as he stayed on the book for years and years, but if you look at the first chunk of his run, the stuff with Dave Cockrum (the first time) and John Byrne, it does nothing to drive the main plots of the book (with the exception of the Sentinels, kind of, and "Days of Future Past"). What does Arcade’s Murderworld have to do with these themes? What does Black Tom Cassidy? The Shi'ar? You could rework Proteus to be a non-mutant and the story would play out much the same. The Dark Phoenix Saga is generally considered the peak of the X-Men franchise, and yet you will find nothing at all about persecuted mutants outside of a few comments after the attack on the Hellfire Club.

Being mutants doesn’t drive the story, being mutants is simply what brings the characters together, because the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne stuff is really all about how people you’re sort of thrown together with become friends, and how friends become family. Nightcrawler finds people who don’t fear his appearance, Banshee finds love with Moira MacTaggart, Colossus finds a larger world than life on the farm. They all find friendship, and the Dark Phoenix Saga is really about how far you’d be willing to go for somebody you love.

Once you have a solid core of characters like that, you can do soap opera and supervillains for years. And that’s what Busiek hit upon doing Thunderbolts – being an ex-supervillain, just like being a mutant, is the reason these people with very different personalities don’t just go their separate ways.

And then you can throw curveballs. Busiek has Hawkeye join the team and offer to become the T-Bolts’ new leader to help them get a pardon, but he also demands MACH-1, the former Beetle, serve a prison sentence for an old murder charge. Instant conflict. “Who does this guy think he is?” “He’s trying to help us!” I’d never seen much personality in Hawkeye, but under Busiek he’s good-hearted but always a little self-righteous, always assuming that he knows exactly what you’re going through even when he probably doesn't, always looking for a chance to prove that he’s not just The Dude With The Arrows even if it involves big risks.

High concepts are great at grabbing attention and they help you sell the movie rights, but you also have to actually make things happen that are interesting or all you have is a pitch. Thunderbolts did both.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Great Marvel Comics of the Late 1990s (Yes, They Do Exist): Captain America (vol. 3)

In the mid-90s, Mark Waid and Ron Garney did something like ten issues of Cap before handing the book over to Rob Liefeld and Jeph Loeb for “Heroes Reborn.” According to Waid, the deal was in place before Waid and Garney came on, only nobody told them. Marvel was then left with some egg on its face, because the Waid/Garney “fill-in” combo turned out to be a critical sensation that got the book more attention than it had in years, only to be cleared away for the critical failure that followed. And so when the “Heroes Reborn” storyline/experiment ended, the choice for the “new” creative team was obvious. Waid and Garney are back, and it’ll be like they never left!

But it couldn’t be just like that, and there’s two reasons why. The first is the more obvious – because the original run had the mystique of being a good run cut down before its time, Waid and Garney would not only be in competition with themselves, but with that hype. But just as importantly, I’d argue, the climate in the comics world had changed. Waid/Garney v.1 wasn’t a success because it was a brightly colored retro superhero book at the tail end of the dark ages. No, the book itself and its milieu were just as dark as anything on the shelves at the time, very much not what’s come to be known (sometimes dimissively but often reductively) as “fun” comics; it was Captain America himself who was brightly colored and retro in the middle of some dark comics, and that was the magic formula – once a man out of time, Captain America was now a man out of zeitgeist. By the time Waid and Garney were back, however, Marvel was in full retro mode, and so that approach wouldn’t mean the same things anymore.

I can’t speak to whether it was intentional or not (and I don’t really care; authorial intention be damned, discovering and developing your own meanings and interpretations is one of the great pleasures of the arts, and don’t let anybody take it away from you), but the storyline in the first seven issues of the relaunched Captain America (Garney left after #5 to do an ill-fated Hulk relaunch with John Byrne) seems to converse with these problems.

Presumed dead at the end of the “Onslaught” crossover, Captain America’s return becomes something very much like the Second Coming in the eyes of the American people, and Cap’s off-put by his new status as icon. Of course, “hero is uncomfortable with being the subject of hero worship” isn’t anything new in superhero comics (it’s a story told so often with Superman these days – Waid’s favorite superhero, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence – that you can be forgiven a groan when you see it polished off again), and hasn’t Cap been declared dead and returned so many times you’d think the public would be used to it by now? But I can’t help reading Cap’s hesitation as Waid’s, blown up to appropriately superheroic proportions (again, even if the thought never crossed Waid’s mind). “I’m not a messiah, I’m just a soldier/comic book writer!”

But see, it’s more complex than you might think, because Cap’s humility is not self-delusional. He knows he’s not really “just another guy”; he knows he’s exceptional, and he does want Captain America to mean something. And Waid, I’m sure, wouldn’t have taken that initial Captain America gig if he’d known it was just to fill a publication gap until someone else could take the job away; he knows he wrote a good Captain America, and he wanted to write the best damn Captain America comic he possibly could. Cap and Waid both believe in themselves, both strive for excellence; the concern is that everybody else’s perceptions and expectations might be inflated.

So what makes this aspect of the storyline so compelling is that it isn’t a matter of “all hero worship is inherently bad,” because Cap wants to be a good example for His Fellow Americans, and Waid wants you to think he wrote some good comics. My favorite issue of this run is #4, where Captain America and Hawkeye go out on the town and hash it out. Hawkeye isn’t troubled at all by “Capmania,” and really he’s not the sort of guy who’d shy away from attention, but it’s his contention that Cap really does deserve it. And that in itself is touching – the guy with the arrows who was always after Cap’s job as leader in those early Avengers issues has matured and thinks better of ol’ “Methuselah”. He still serves to antagonize Cap (it's a hoot for him rubbing the crappy merchandizing in Cap's face, he buys an oversized Captain America helmet, and tells a news crew about a bunch of absurd Chuck Norris-like reasons why Cap is so great, including that he gave Galactus a wedgie and used to tour with Fleetwood Mac). But that antagonism is constructive rather than destructive – Hawkeye makes jokes to get his friend to lighten up. And Cap really does need a friend like Hawkeye. At the height of his brooding, Cap laments that because of his newfound superstardom, he can’t even leave Avengers Mansion...at which point the more grounded Hawkeye comes up with the solution Cap is too inward-focused to have thought of: he tells Steve to take off the costume and just walk around like a dude.

It becomes a little unsatisfactory toward the end – Captain America claims that even he was “seduced” by Capmania, and yet the only moment where I can see him doing anything but chafing at the attention is a tiny smile that escapes his lips when a crowd is chanting his name. I understand that it makes for a more satisfying character arc to give into the hype and then see the error of your ways, but frankly if that is the only thing he did, I am going to say you should not have to beat yourself up over this, Steve! If I had a giant statue of me in Japan and action figures and a movie and people screaming my name, I might smirk just a little bit too!

So. Then we get to the second problem facing Waid and Garney at the dawn of their second run, the problem of how to be relevant in the face of changing times. And, obligingly for my pseudo-thesis, Waid makes it explicit in an interior monologue in #4:

“Now more than ever, people are looking to me for answers I’m not sure I have. I talk a lot about the American dream, the American way…but talking’s easy. In fact, after the Onslaught fight, I was gone for a while…and my absence didn’t exactly cripple the nation. […] If Captain America’s going to matter in the new millennium, he’s going to have to start being proactive…not reactive. But what do I do to make a difference in this complicated world nowadays?”
I am tempted again to read a little Cap-as-Waid here. Indeed Waid was gone from the title awhile after the Onslaught fight! That’s taking it a bit too far, I’m sure, but Waid does seem to be grappling with the question of relevance, the same as Cap. At first thought, however, you might not understand why. After all, Waid’s won, hasn’t he? One of comicdom’s greatest modern Silver Age boosters writing Captain America again in the middle of a full-on retro craze. Mission accomplished, eh?

But despite the fact that Mark Waid can name every single member ever to serve in the Legion of Super-Heroes or that he purportedly memorized Clark Kent’s Social Security number, he is a disciplined writer, and like a discplined writer, he is quite never satisfied in what he’s done. Much like what I’ve said about Kurt Busiek, he’s not out simply to scratch a nostalgia itch (even though he could've gotten away with it). At this late-90s Marvel, where everything old is new again, you could simply do a modern take on a Captain America vs. Batroc the Leaper battle and call it a day.

And in that much-loved issue #4, Cap does fight Batroc. But, and here’s the thing, he does it grudgingly. This Captain America searching for relevance doesn’t really want to get sucked into “Cap vs. Batroc, Round 27.” He’s forced to, because this is superhero comics, after all, but after he’s done, he describes the fight (and, quite cheekily of Mr. Waid, the entire superhero thrust of the issue) as “a completely pointless way to spend and afternoon.”

“I wasn’t defending my country. I waasn’t fighting to protect the innocent. I was brawling because some idiot came gunning for me. What a pathetic waste of time. […] I fought a battle I’ve fought a dozen times before…and it did nothing to make the world a better place. This wasn’t a heroic act. It was a wrestling match…with just as little at stake.”
He walks a fine line, very nearly criticizing the reader who bought this issue because, hey, Batroc! But personally I think Waid pulls it off - do a straight-up supercharacters fight, and then deflate it with commentary. Yep, that's the ol' Marvel style, all right.

Ooh, running long. I really really liked the first storyline in this series, you guys. I’d like to say a bit about the conclusion to that arc, because I think it’s one of the best uses of an established Marvel Universe concept we’ve seen in the modern era. But I also don’t wish to spoil a genuine surprise on the off chance I could convince any of you to go track down these issues. Perhaps we might take it to the comments, but perhaps not.

So I’ll close by talking about Ron Garney, because this series is a true collaboration between writer and artist (Waid once remarked, too humbly, I’m sure, that it was Garney who made the first run a success, and that he was merely along for the ride). Garney’s art on the first run made a splash, and yeah, it was nice, and Captain America himself hadn’t looked so good in years. But by the time "Heroes Return" rolled around, Garney made the leap from really quite good to phenomenal.

Man, his storytelling chops on these issues. His layout and compositions are breathtaking. Issue #4 begins with one of the best splash panels I have ever seen. Oh, look, I can actually show you this one, thanks to Waid himself posting it: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_xAeJG-YrjJQ/SbdoObMktPI/AAAAAAAAABo/Na-nuVvTrT8/s1600-h/Cap+04.jpg. Credit must go to Waid for figuring out how to pack a whole lotta information into one single image like that, but it wouldn’t work without Garney’s sheer talent behind it. This page doesn’t read as anything like a single frame of a movie (what a waste that would be of a great concept). No, there’s time in this panel, there’s movement. I don’t feel like I’m looking at this panel, I am watching it.

Garney does it even better in the intro sequence to issue #2 and man oh man do I wish I had a scanner (again) to show you this. Track it down, you won’t be sorry, but there’s a shot of a Hydra agent kicking down the door, and I would swear to you that the image is moving on the page. Garney really is a master of timing and pacing, which we don’t see enough of in modern comics art. He can slow time down with some long shots and small panels, and then instantly crank up the speed with a big action-packed panel. So often we see splash pages in the middle of the story that don’t really add anything (this isn’t a knock on current artists; this has always been the case); it comes off like the artist got bored and wanted to draw a flashy pin-up for his portfolio. Not so with Garney. He uses half- and full-page splashes fairly liberally, actually, but they always hit at exactly the right moments. You will forgive the expression, but…these are money shots.

It’s sad to see Garney go in this series. Doug Braithwaite pencils #6 and the first half of #7, and he does a fine job. After that, Andy Kubert takes over the art chores, and things certainly get more stylish; I shan’t say a word against him. Their first real storyline together gets Cap out of his comfort zone and dealing with Doctor Strange’s enemy Nightmare, and it’s pretty good. After #13 (a really nice single issue, it must be said) my interest in the series declines a little bit. There’s a Red-Skull-gets-the-Cosmic-Cube-again storyline that segues into a return-of-Korvac time-travel story, and then back to the Red Skull storyline. The Korvac storyline is good in places (he keeps rebooting time every time Captain America forms a resistance to his rule in the future, but no matter what he tries, Captain America is always there, in spirit if not always in flesh), but the Red Skull storyline never really hooked me. Then there’s some tying up of loose ends involving Cap’s missing shield that are okay superhero comics as well.

I do wonder what they would have been like with Garney still on board, though.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Another 90s-Marvel Schedule Change

There'll still be a new post Monday, but it'll be on Mark Waid and Ron Garney's second run of Captain America (vol. 3, which once upon a time used to mean something indeed) rather than Christopher Priest's Black Panther, because right now it looks like BP'll be a good way to end this whole show.

Should you decide to come back here for the Cap write-up, I'd bring, like, some coffee or a change of socks or something, because this is shaping up to be long.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Great Marvel Comics of the Late 1990s (Yes, They Do Exist): Avengers Forever

Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s regular Avengers series from the same time was pretty good, too, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always thought this 12-issue miniseries Busiek wrote (with an assist from Roger Stern) was even better, or at least, more interesting. And interesting comics are what I am interested in.

I want to mention artist Carlos Pacheco’s work right off the bat so I don’t tack it on as an afterthought at the end, because it’s so vital to the project. I feel like this story, so rooted in Avengers comics past, would’ve been a little too on-the-nose with Perez’s art – I mean, he drew some of the stories this book name-checks; he was there! While I don’t want to minimize Stern’s contribution (although I’m not sure what it was, precisely…plotting assist?), this series is really about Busiek and Pacheco, two guys who’d read those stories when they first came out, now revisiting and re-exploring them from their late-90s perspective. You can tell Pacheco loves those old comics, but his style is fresh and new. I’ve always thought of Pacheco as the ultimate artist of the 90s (which I mean as a sincere compliment, not ironically or sarcastically) – you see in his artwork the clean lines of the Silver Age, the handsome figure work of the Bronze Age, the energy and flair of the Image guys, the stylization of his contemporaries, all combined in an artistic goulash that just screams THIS IS WHAT SUPERHEROES SHOULD LOOK LIKE. Also: guy draws some really dramatic hands, I don’t know how he does it. Just look at them.

Of course, the first thing everybody mentions about this series is the continuity surgery, and Pillock and I had some rollicking back-and-forth about retcons and what-have-you last week. It may surprise you, but I don’t even think the continuity stuff is the most interesting part about this series, but you can’t really not write about it.

On the one hand, where Busiek doesn’t want to step on anybody’s toes in Untold Tales of Spider-Man (it’s about adding history, not retconning it; tidying up a few loose ends but not really making any radical changes), Avengers Forever does have some big, fat, “Everything you know is wrong!” changes that overturn some comics you may have read. Busiek reveals the master manipulator Immortus as being behind a whole mess of important events in Avengers history, from Avengers #2 to “The Crossing.” Along the way, we find out the Vision really was built out of the Human Torch (although the Torch exists as a separate being as well through some time-travel tinkering – Busiek wanted everybody to be happy, here), Kang’s claim that he was behind Hank Pym’s mental breakdowns was a lie (turns out that wasn’t even Kang!), and an old Thor story happened in a totally different way than originally portrayed. So this story does some undemocratic, totally authoritative retcons that don’t play nice, that insist that you take them as canon from now on and retroactively.

Why, then, does it not bristle the way many similar massive retcons do?

Well, to be upfront with you, part of the reason for me is that I’ve never actually been a hardcore Avengers fan (although I know you’ll call me out on the concept of “not a hardcore fan,” Pillock!). I’ve read enough Avengers comics over the years, but I’m not emotionally invested in them the way I am with, say, Fantastic Four or the Flash. So, y’know, you tell me some of the characters in some comics I’ve never read from the 70s and the 90s were Space Phantoms, it’s really no skin off my nose. It was just fun for me to get a quick summary of the 35-year metaplot of the Avengers to that point, additions or no.

But leaving that aside, many fans believe the “Everything you know is wrong!” type retcon to be a show of arrogance. I feel that’s severely overstating things in most cases, but there is an element to it that when you decide to contradict an established storyline, it’s implied that you’re doing so because you know better or you have a better idea.

Yet, I don’t read a drop of vanity in Avengers Forever (well, it’s maybe a little harsh on “The Crossing,” but who wasn’t, in those days?). To read it as hubris, as Busiek imposing his will on over three decades of Avengers history, would be a mistake. I mean, read the thing. This was a labor of love, but it was most certainly a labor! This was something Busiek knocked his brains out over, trying to reconcile nearly every loose end and continuity error (and the whole thing hangs together about as well as it possibly could), and he didn’t do it to write his own name into the Avengers legacy, or even for a No-Prize. He did it for us, we readers of Marvel Comics in the late 90s. The early 90s (even the late 80s, in places) had been pretty unkind to the Avengers, and so Busiek went about fixing holes – “Avengers continuity’s fine, I got it to make sense, I balanced the checkbook and took out the garbage. Let’s carry on, shall we?”

And that carrying on is important, because like I said, I don’t have a deep personal attachment to the Avengers, and so a big continuity patch manual alone isn’t gonna do it for me. Fortunately, Busiek’s got that discipline that I mentioned in talking about Untold Tales, enough discipline not to let it take over the narrative; it’s toward the end as sort of a reward for anyone who’s stuck it out and is interested, but what’s really driving this series is a story.

And what is that story? It’s long and complex and twisty and would take a whole blog post in itself to summarize, so I’ll just cut it down and say: Kang vs. Immortus, for all the marbles. Of course, Kang is Immortus - Kang was a time-travelling warlord, and Immortus was a mysterious, time-travelling manipulator, and eventually it was decided that both of these old Avengers villains were the same guy at different stages of their lives (Immortus is Kang’s future self), working at cross purposes.

What’s so interesting is the animosity between Kang and Immortus. Kang is obsessed with war and conquest, and considers Immortus a feeble academic who’s turned his back on the glory of it all. Immortus, meanwhile, seems embarrassed of Kang the way we might be about our teenage selves. And there’s something to that; although Kang describes himself wearily as “so old…”, there is something childish about Kang and the way he loves war for war’s sake, the way kids just love to play without an agenda. I mean, here’s a guy who likes to conquer galactic empires, but hates running them – he’s the kid who likes getting presents on Christmas morning but never cares enough to play with them!

And yet, there is something almost heroic about Kang here. Partly because Immortus is working an agenda for some higher-ups that involves destroying entire timelines, and so working with Kang is the lesser of two evils for the Avengers. But beyond that, what I find so compelling is that even though Kang knows he must become Immortus (having met him through time travel and all), he fights his destiny. He’s not fighting his future self alone, but inevitability itself. When he crushes the body-swapping device he’s used in past Avengers stories to cheat, the message is clear: "Hope I die before I get old"! Kang is every elementary school kid who doesn’t want to go to middle school, every high schooler who’s afraid of going to college, every twentysomething in love with the privileges of adulthood who doesn’t want to face the responsibilities, and every grown man or woman dreading the day they become a senior citizen. Kang is Peter Pan, and it works – the timestream is his Never-Never Land! He’s fighting adulthood, but not in the form of Captain Hook, because an adult with a hookhand and a pirate ship is still kind of cool. He’s fighting the Robin Williams adult Peter Pan from Hook; it’s bad enough getting old, but do you have to be so boring?

And the most striking thing about it is that Kang wins! The story doesn’t force him to accept his lot in life and mature (which is the knee-jerk way you'd end such a story); he gets separated from Immortus (sort of; if you’ve read it you know it’s trickier than that) and becomes master of his destiny once again. Free to be that child forever! Would it be playing “postmodern games” to read Kang’s refusal to quit as a metaphor for the Avengers franchise itself in this series? Kang doesn't have to get old and boring, and neither do the Avengers; it's telling that Immortus too gets a new lease on life. A new course is charted into the future for the "new" Captain Marvel, and heck, even Libra’s revealed to be still knocking around. I meant it when I said "everybody wins" - I read this series as Busiek and Pacheco saying, “Well, the Avengers had a patchy couple of years there – and if you want to be totally honest, the franchise has always had some inconsistencies, its good times and bad – but we survived. Nothing is broken, because the Avengers still work!”

Avengers forever.