“I’d like you to join us — to become an Avenger. More than join, I want you to lead a squad of our very best. X-Men and Avengers working together, setting an example of cooperation. With Xavier gone and Cyclops locked up, someone has to stand up and represent the mutants.”
(Steve Rogers/Captain America to Alex Summers/Havok, Uncanny Avengers #1)1
“Peter Brown told his mother he’d pick up his younger brother from physical therapy in time for dinner. When the boy’s treatment went long, Peter took a walk. As the baton cracks his skull, he’s grateful his brother wasn’t ready. Grateful the boy wouldn’t see him beaten to death. The image of the family he’ll never again see offers some comfort…The men who trounce his attackers offer more.”
(Uncanny Avengers #3)2
“I wanted to have a meeting before the press conference to discuss a few concerns.”
“I thought only the leader type called meetings. Isn’t that super hero etiquette? Can any of us just call meetings whenever we want?”
“I hereby grant full meeting-calling privileges to all. Go on, Steve. Please.”
(Steve Rogers/Captain America, Anna Marie/Rogue, and Alex Summers/Havok, Uncanny Avengers #5)3
What happens when some of the Avengers and X-Men4 team up in the wake of Professor Charles Xavier’s death to demonstrate that humans and mutants can cooperate to make the world a better place? That’s the premise of Uncanny Avengers, and it’s a premise that I immediately liked. It’s been a long-running observation among fans (and probably among creators, I’d guess) that people in the Marvel universe absurdly contradict themselves in their love of the various non-mutant superheroes (even despite the existence of non-mutant supervillains) and simultaneous hatred of mutants based on the existence of mutant supervillains (despite the existence of mutant superheroes and civilians). This fact makes the premise feel a bit meta. More than that, though, I like stories about the X-Men which directly address the mutant minority metaphor, and I was excited to see how this series would address it. This first story arc (issues #1-5) introduces the cast, gets the team together, and shows them fighting the first villain of the series.
I think I should admit upfront that my opinion of this arc was likely influenced by the context in which I read it. I read the first arc in July of this year, around the time when I was becoming more interested5 in comics.6 I’d already found a few series that I loved, but my attempts at finding more series to follow were disappointing. So, when I read the first arc of this series, I was elated to find another series that I enjoyed.
The characters were one of the reasons that I became interested in the story. I started reading this series, in part, due to Rogue and Wanda. I was already reading some X-books and was wondering where Rogue was, as she’s one of my favorite characters. Then, the Avengers showed up in All-New X-Men Vol. 1 #127 and I realized Rogue and Wanda were on that team. The series has a good combination of characters that I already loved from television shows and films (Steve Rogers/Captain America, Thor Odinson, Logan/Wolverine, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, and Anna Marie/Rogue) along with other characters who’d I’d heard of and wanted to know more about (Alex Summers/Havok, Janet van Dyne/Wasp, Shiro Yoshida/Sunfire, and Simon Williams/Wonder Man). The cast of characters was a nice combination of the familiar and the new. I liked the interactions between them, including the ways that they have difficulty coming together as a team but try to do so anyway, as well as their thoughts as they try to deal with the situations they are in. There are disagreements between Rogue and Wanda, between Logan and Steve; these disagreements are written in a way that still allows us to feel understanding and sympathy for each character. Alex tries to figure out how to be lead this new Avengers Unity Division, including trying to give orders while Captain America himself is on the team. Some of the characters get more development than others, but they’re all interesting.
Due to the premise, this story obviously includes content that emphasizes the mutant minority metaphor. Some sections were better than others. The main villain of this arc was the Red Skull, who robbed Professor Charles Xavier’s grave and removed the late professor’s brain from his body in order to use Xavier’s telepathy to unleash a wave of hatred against mutants. The villain fits the theme in this case. There were some sections in which the characters’ dialogue is clearly meant to convey a message. Some of the dialogue references common disagreements among members of a marginalized group when deciding how to best combat discrimination. Some characters’ words fit the characters, while others’ words seem forced. Some of Rogue and Wanda’s dialogue and disagreements make sense and are based on these characters’ backstories, though I think their animosity for each other is exaggerated, given they’ve both been villains in the past and done things they regret. Logan’s argument that there is no mutant community seems somewhat in character for him, but also absurd, as he runs a school for mutants and is one of the leaders of the X-Men, a group that’s all about mutants learning to use their powers for good, working together, and standing up for themselves. It seems to be included mostly for the purpose of showing that his doubt about the Avengers Unity Division is unwarranted, as a civilian thanks Alex right after Logan expresses his view. Then, there’s Alex’s much-discussed speech in issue #5. I thought his speech was partly decent and partly absurd. The decent part was his statement regarding not wanting to be labeled and judged just based on being a mutant. There are different views among people who discuss equal rights regarding labels (how they can be divisive at times but also empowering at times) but part of his speech seemed realistic, like something that people actually say. Regardless of a reader’s personal view on the subject, the statement seems appropriate for his character, one who was reluctant to join a superhero team and be a symbol for a cause, but nonetheless wants to do the right thing. (Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat gives a counterpoint to this argument, explaining with a personal story why self-identifying with labels can be important, in All-New X-Men Vol. 1 #13.)8 The most absurd part was when he refers to the word mutant as the M-word, both due to X-Men history and the context of the story. In the X-Men, the word mutant has usually been a neutral term; some may say it with a sneer, but it’s not a slur. (The word mutie is a slur.) In the context of the story, Alex’s speech wasn’t about racial slurs; it was about labels and judging people based on them. This isn’t to say that there can never be a fictional slur in a story, to provide a metaphor for slurs in the real world, but it should make sense in context. The panels in which the word mutie is in graffiti and in the dialogue of characters attacking mutants already gets the point across. Alex referring to the word mutant as the M-word didn’t make sense. It seemed an attempt to force in one more analogy in a place where it didn’t fit.
Surprisingly, some of the most touching and personal moments which conveyed the equality message were in the middle of the the fight scenes. There’s a series of heart-wrenching panels that focuses in on some of the civilians who are being attacked by the violent mob. The reader finds out a little bit about these civilians through the narration while they’re being attacked. It’s a common theme for superheroes to claim that they’re fighting to protect innocent civilians, but these civilians are rarely seen or given much attention in the stories. It very effective; those panels genuinely made me teary. In a similar vein, showing the effectiveness of the Avengers’ efforts in a passage with a civilian thanking a surprised Alex was really great. Another effective element was the inclusion of moments when the human non-mutant Avengers are telepathically influenced into attacking their teammates. Although mind control is a common trope, I thought it was used to good effect to show that a culture in which hatred and discrimination is pervasive can end up even unconsciously influencing people who don’t consciously support discrimination.
Part of the reason this story was fun to read was the good combination and balance of various elements. There are big, bloody action scenes and personal conversations between the characters. There are serious themes and moments of humor. The story is obviously trying to address discrimination through a metaphor, but it also made me laugh and smile. One of the things that I enjoyed was the inclusion of certain fun superhero tropes. For instance, there are several moments in which the characters have typical overly-dramatic entrances or dialogue, in which they say something that sounds cool before or while fighting the villain. This type of passage is a cliché that’s difficult to pull off, but the creators do it well. While there were a couple of examples that were a bit off-putting or odd, most were just really fun. I think this book is a good example of how to incorporate these types of tropes in a way that makes the reader feel that they are laughing along with the book and the creators, instead of laughing at them.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The characters’ dialogue, characters’ thoughts, and narration were all fun to read. I really enjoyed the artwork. The story sets up an interesting premise that made me want to read more. Though I had problems with some elements of the story, this book was much more enjoyable than some of the other comics I tried reading at the time. The combination of interesting characters, a serious theme that I enjoy in X-Men stories, and fun superhero elements made me add this series to my reading list.
1 Remender, Rick; Cassaday, John; Martin, Laura; et al. Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #1 “New Union” (10 October 2012). In: Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1: The Red Shadow. Marvel, 2014.
2 Remender, Rick; Cassaday, John; Martin, Laura; et al. Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #3 “Skull & Bones” (23 January 2013). In: Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 1: The Red Shadow. Marvel, 2014.
3 Remender, Rick; Coipel, Oliver; Morales, Mark; Martin, Laura; et al. Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #5 “Let the Good Times Roll” (27 March 2013). In: Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1: The Red Shadow. Marvel, 2014.
4 My essays about the X-Men can be found at https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/category/x-men/.
5 Sharmin, Ani J. “Joining the Comics Corps: How I Became a Comics Fan”. Posted on 11 November 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 24 November 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/joining-the-comics-corps/.
6 My essays about comics can be found at go to https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/category/comics/.
7 Bendis, Brian Michael; Immonen, Stuart; von Grawbadger, Wade; Gracia, Marte; et al. All-New X-Men Vol. 1 #12 “All-New X-Men VS Uncanny Avengers” (5 June 2013). In: All-New X-Men, Vol. 3: Out of Their Depth. Marvel, 2014.
8 Bendis, Brian Michael; Immonen, Stuart; von Grawbadger, Wade; Beredo, Rain; et al. All-New X-Men Vol. 1 #13 (5 June 2013). In: All-New X-Men, Vol. 3: Out of Their Depth. Marvel, 2014.