Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Destiny War - Avengers Assemble!

How very close we came to never having this delightful series at all. Avengers Forever was the distaff part of a true renaissance in the Avengers initiated by the advent of writer Kurt Busiek and superstar artist of yore George Perez. The duo took a franchise fallen on hard times (thanks Rob) and reinvigorated it by hearkening back to its history and instilling a fresh provocative attitude full of classic heroes and ideas but spun in a fresh modern way. I adored the Busiek-Perez run, the finest on the team since the heyday so long ago of Roy Thomas and John Buscema. I was almost breathless at times waiting to get my hands on the next issue.

But as big a hit as that Avengers run proved to be, there was an eagerness for more, specifically in tandem with superstar artist Carlos Pacheco. Busiek and  Pacheco wanted to work together and designed a storyline which unfortunately for them (but providential for us) proved to be too much like another story already proposed for the X-Men. So they improvised and Avengers Forever was the result.

Busiek says that since their best laid plans had gone awry, they decided to simply rely on their skills, experience, and talent to craft a story which would unfold on its own as they progressed. He compared it to the Kree-Skrull War (my all-time favorite epic) a yarn which seemed to grow like a tree, becoming ever more mighty with each installment. It is impressive that Avengers Forever was allowed to flourish in this way. In a comics universe which is all too often ruled by committees, this epic was the product of two fertile comics minds, both steeped in the classic Marvel mythos.

It's a Kang story. Saying that says a lot. We know we are in for a convoluted time travel spellbinder with twists, turns, and even perhaps a few cul de sacs. Kang is the Avengers' greatest foe (sorry Ultron fans, I love him too) and has proven over the ages to be among their most implacable.

In this story he's actually on the side of "right" as he faces off against his other later self Immortus. Immortus wants to fix the overgrown timelines which spring out of every different decision (we see his forces inspired by his enemies destroy the home planet of Yondu of the Guardians of the Galaxy) and in that effort attacks Rick Jones, an everyman hero who was responsible for creating the Avengers in the very beginning. Jones is protected by the Assemblers who visit him on the Moon (the famous "Blue Area") but he is spirited away by Libra, formerly part of the criminal Zodiac but now a seemingly benign wise man.

To protect Rick Jones from Immortus, an Avengers team from myriad time periods is assembled. From the past we get Captain America, but this is the Cap who has just been rocked by the revelation that the Secret Empire was led by leaders of the United States itself, perhaps even the most powerful leader. He is a Cap with doubts, not the resolute warrior we are used to, a man who seems to have lost his country and will soon become a "Nomad". We have Hawkeye, but a Clint Barton bereft of his powers as Goliath after the finale of the Kree-Skrull War and who depends on his skills as an archer only. We have Yellowjacket in all his mad glory, an amnesiac Hank Pym who doesn't know his own name, but is very willing to be that swashbuckling hero he's always wanted to be. From the then-present we have another Hank Pym, in his Giant-Man role and Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp who quickly asserts her authority and takes command of a team which Cap seems unable to lead. And from the future are Genis, the son of Captain Marvel who takes on the mantle and who has secrets galore. Also on hand is Songbird of the Thunderbolts, but who is seems becomes an Avenger one day.  She and and Genis both know when they have arrived and dub the event the "Destiny War".

These are the Avengers we follow as this story takes off and visits of all places Chronopolis, the city of Kang at the center of time. There they encounter the forces of Kang, including the original Red Wolf named Wildrun, and they stand toe to toe with the armies of Immortus. The Avengers fight bravely, but soon its apparent that escape is their only option and led by Libra they slip away between the moments of time as Chronopolis falls giving Immortus the means at last to begin his process of pruning the timelines.

Hank Pym as the mad Yellowjacket attempts to woo and wed the Wasp.
End of the Kree-Skrull War where Rick gained his power and Hawkeye lost his.
On the lawn of the White House where Captain America lost his trust in American way.
The first run of Genis-Vell, the son of Captain Mar-Vell of the Kree.
The villainous Screaming Mimi is the heroic Songbird.
It's a heady beginning to a tale that will sprawl across the ages of the Marvel Universe. It's masterfully drawn with bravado and spirit by Pacheco who is inked as usual by Jesus Merino. Busiek's script is deft, and his ability to spin character in just a few lines is as always quite impressive. This is a story which in lesser hands would become a morass, but here we get a staggeringly ambitious yarn which makes the reader eager to jump into the next installment.

We'll do that soon, when the "Destiny War" continues.

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