The mission statement used to read “united against a common threat” but these days, that notion is sorely tested. Existing for over half a century of publication, the Avengers’ ranks indeed roll deep but rarely have they been as fractious. With a seemingly endless array of Wars and Empires (both Secret and Civil) coming at Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, who will answer the call? Let’s take a look back through ye ol’ ever-changing order and see where everyone’s at. Assemble!
Joined: Avengers #1 (Sept, 1963); Founder
Current Affiliation: Inactive
History: God of Thunder (and Rock n’ Roll!). The broad strokes of the Asgardian Prince’s exploits are well known these days, thanks in large part to Marvel’s wildly successful cinematic universe. Although, in the past handful of comic book years, things have been a bit upside down for ol’ Goldilocks.
After losing the ability to wield his magic hammer, Mjolnir, in an intervention/ stand-off surrounding old, crusty, white Nick Fury on the Moon (2014’s Original Sin event series), Thor abdicates his name to the mystery woman who assumes his classic mantle when the enchantment shifts. He also has his left arm severed in a battle against Dark Elf witch-king, Malekith The Accursed, and is fitted with a prosthetic made of the same otherworldly metal as his famous former weapon. He responds only to “(the) Odinson” (although is often referred to as “The Unworthy Thor”) and employs the also-ensorcelled battle axe Jarnbjorn as his primary instrument.
Just prior to the total multiversal collapse leading into 2015’s Secret Wars extravaganza, the Hero-Formerly-Known-As-Thor leads a small cadre of super-cosmic Avenger heavy hitters on an assumed suicide mission to meet head-on whatever’s causing the end of everything. Ironically, in the final showdown, the Odinson proves he’s reclaimed his “worthiness” by failing to lift the hammer of an evil, alternate universe Unworthy Thor he’d previously confiscated.
Shortly thereafter, Secret Wars supreme architect Doctor Doom comes across the aftermath and the familiar-yet-discarded artifact. No doubt inspired by the Thunderer’s valiant sacrifice, the arch-villain utilizes newly-acquired omnipotence and recreates an entire network of Thor-themed guardians to police the patchwork salvaged remains of all that came before.
Heroes eventually triumph and all more or less returns to how it was before (with few having complete recollection of the literal world-colliding annihilation of everything). The Odinson keeps it kinda low-key (mischievous foster sibling-related puns unintended). Feeling residually remorseful, The Unseen, an ever-vigilant quasi-reincarnation of Old Fury, alerts the Odinson to a second chance: the Mjolnir of Ultimate Universe Thor made it through the Secret Wars reshuffling and resides on the abandoned space island of Old Asgard.
Aided by his stalwart brother-in-arms, the alien Beta Ray Bill, the Odinson embarks on a quest of possibility and valediction. Finding the floating continent of Old Asgard not to be in its last known location, the “Hammer Bros” trace the unlikely theft back to the OG acquirer of things unique- the Elder of the Universe known as The Collector!
Needles to say, the boys get themselves imprisoned and that’s pretty much how “T.O.” spends the bulk of the time behind the scenes in Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” landscape. To complicate matters, Thanos the Mad Titan catches wind of this much-coveted object and accordingly dispatches lieutenants.
Whatever the outcome of this adventure (chronicling in the Unworthy Thor five-parter), it stands to reason that the Odinson’s profile will remain on the rise throughout 2017- especially given the impending release of the Thor: Ragnarok movie later in the year. That said, it’s probably only a matter of time before Asgard’s favorite son realigns with his long-time allies on “Midgard” (Earth). The question remains, in what state will he find them?
(Still, gotta wonder if there’s a comic book version of roommate Darryl and if he’s been covering all of the rent while somebody’s been off in space jail…)
IRON MAN (Tony Stark)
Joined: Avengers #1 (Sept, 1963); Founder
Current Affiliation: Inactive
History: Millionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist. Turned to steel in a great magnetic field. (Maybe not so much that last one and yet…)
Know what’s awesome about living in a world of successful Marvel movies? I don’t have to spend time explaining Tony frikkin’ Stark!
Cutting right to it, Tony somehow gets yet another positive reset following his d-bag culpability as a player in the Secret Wars multiversal collapse (*cough* synergy *cough*). However, there’s some degree of karmic comeuppance in the “All-New, All-Different” status quo as Stark’s not quite as wealthy as he once was. Aside from scaling back his offices and liquidating assets such as Avengers Tower, Tony’s obsessions turn more toward the pursuit of uncovering who his actual biological parents are.
Shockingly, he is assisted in this search by a physically healed and seemingly-looking-to-reform Victor von Doom. Despite this reluctant globe-hopping bromance, Tony also manages to star-crossedly fall in love with a brilliant biophysicist and back-handedly blow up making Mary Jane Watson (of Spider-Man fame) his new assistant. Topping it all off, he tells next to no one before faking his own death just to avoid hi-tech ninjas. Classic Tony.
When a new member of the alien-derived Inhuman offshoot appears, the young man’s eerily precise predictive visions divide the hero community (once again) along philosophical and ethical grounds.
Historically fancying himself something of a futurist, Tony advocates erring on the side of caution- reasoning that there’s still a helluva lot unknown about Ulysses’ powers before everyone runs around all half-cocked, Minority Report-style. More to the point, it’s not that Stark distrusts those immediately arguing in favor, it’s that he fears the slippery slope of bureaucracy once the good judgment of peers he respects is removed from the oversight chain of command.
It doesn’t take long for things to get personal when a number of precognitive flashes result in superhuman tragedies- including the death of Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes, Stark’s best friend and significant other to vocally pro-Ulysses hero, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers).
Tony draws a final line in the sand when Carol pro-actively attempts to detain one of his youthful Avenger teammates for a crime not yet committed. Battling one-on-one, the super-strong, energy-absorbing Captain Marvel beats an extra-armored Iron Man into some kind of near-death “robo coma”. Esteemed superhuman biochemist, Dr. Henry “The Beast” McCoy, posits that the only thing saving the Armored Avenger is actually Stark’s own constant self-tinkering in post-human techno-physiology. This also gets Tony far closer to a literal interpretation of his Black Sabbath namesake song than he’s ever been…
However, the saga of “Mr. Stank” isn’t so easily put on pause. These days, the remains of his business interests are run by holographic in-house artificial intelligence, Friday, and the “so glad to finally agree to take the job just in time for the office building to be turned into rubble” Ms. Watson. Tony’s biological mother, a London-based music producer named Amanda Armstrong also cycles into this mix- no doubt setting off mad deja vu for MJ, having some sorta ersatz “Aunt May” figure hanging around.
Stark’s super-hero legacy also takes a couple of unlikely shapes. Continuing his suspect “rehabilitation”, Doom overhauls his armored look to invoke homage to the fallen Stark. Vic’s heavy-handed form of “do-goodery” is currently on display in the Infamous Iron Man series, wherein he’s already hit the radar of Fantastic Four alum/ Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Benjamin J. Grimm- The Ever-Lovin’, Blue-Eyed Thing.
Countering this, Tony also has the foresight to designate an inspirationally heroic successor. During the time of the whole “fake death ninja dodge” fiasco, a bright teenage girl named Riri Williams begins developing an “Iron Man Mark 1”-esque prototype armor in her MIT dorm room. It doesn’t stay a secret project for long, her amateur exploits soon grabbing headlines and the attention of Mr. Perpetual Mortality Fraud (once he cycles back to the world).
Expelled from school in the course of making her debut, Riri nonetheless makes quite the lasting impression on Tony. Returning home to her mother to rethink her life, Riri soon receives a very unexpected present: an artificial intelligence upgrade for her armor. What makes it particularly special is that is essentially a computer upload of Stark himself!
Soooo… yeah, for the duration, Tony now serves in the role of the snarky robot advisor to Riri’s Ironheart hero persona (as currently seen in the latest volume of Invincible Iron Man). But really, Stark should just start giving heavy consideration to changing his name to “Irony, man”…