Avengers: 2017 “Where Are They Now?” Update (Jarvis and Agent Murch)

Every good hero needs a supporting cast. Sure, everyone needs somebody but no protagonist worth a damn operates in a vacuum. It doesn’t matter if you’re Don Quixote, James Bond or Batman. Hell, even the Punisher has his tech-savvy pal, Microchip. In this, the Avengers are certainly no different. While the first three parts cover the adventurers themselves (here, here and here), let’s dial it back this time to look at some honorable mentionables running things behind the scenes…

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Words by Stan Lee; Art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone

EDWIN JARVIS

Active As Of: Tales of Suspense #59 (Nov, 1964)

Current Affiliation: Honorary Member (Active)

History: Earth’s. Mightiest. Butler. (‘Nuff said!)

Perhaps better known these days as either a disembodied voice or Agent Peggy Carter’s lovably bungling tag-along thanks to portrayals by Marvel Cinematic Universe counterparts, the comic book version is really more the spiritual glue of the Avengers’ history and tradition.

The Starks’ loyal family manservant Tony’s entire growing up, Jarvis ostensibly comes as part of the package when Iron Man offers up his ancestral Manhattan townhouse as Avengers Mansion.

However, despite his being the most upstanding of chaps, the straightforwardness with ol’ Eddie ends about there- as he also may very well be the unsung “Patient Zero” of Marvel story retcons…

For those not in the know, “retcon” stands for “retroactive continuity“. It’s a word typically thrown around when a late-breaking story element reframes (or sometimes overwrites) another previously-established work. A great recent example is the referential interaction between Rogue One and the original 1977 Star Wars. Everyone knows which historically comes first yet who among us is going to disavow the new intended viewing order??

So, yeah, think of Jarvis maybe more in those terms and it’ll be easier. Anyway, down the rabbit hole we go…

While Tony’s house may first appear in 1963’s Avengers #2, it’s only ever inferred that there’s an attending domestic staff (if that). That begins to change when the first Avenger takes up residence (Captain America, between Avengers #4 and 5). However, Jarvis doesn’t make an on-panel appearance until Cap (Steve Rogers) gains his own backing serial in the pages of the Tales of Suspense anthology (circa the time of Avengers #10). He’s not actually seen in the pages of Avengers until #16 (May, 1965).

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Words by Bob Harras; Art by Bob Hall and Kyle Baker

Other flashbacks and retroactive “period pieces” place Jarvis on the hero scene even earlier, though- possibly the earliest depicting him absorbing the duties of the other servants who quit in haste over the idea of having to deal with the Hulk!

After Cap, the next live-in Avengers are a trio of young adults and a couch-surfer who just also happens to be an actual Greek demigod. That said, it doesn’t take long for Jarvis to become as much a beloved institution himself as the institution he himself is responsible for dusting.

Indeed, Jarvis is probably the factor that invites the most comparisons to those other (unrelated) “Avengers” of classic BBC-TV fame. It’s probably his apparent British-by-way-of-Brooklyn demeanor.

Yes, to further add to whole snag, there’s J’s actual origin (or definitive lack thereof). Official sources kinda negate one another and offer nothing but speculative conjecture. Furthermore, as Marvel’s “sliding timescale” moves away from World War II, the less plausible the whole “Jarvis ran away as a kid to fight Nazis” angle is. The “ex-Royal Air Force pilot and three-year boxing champ” part’s still good as long as it’s kept flexible.

His mom’s still around (gotta really be up there in age now) but good luck making more of this mystery by finding clues on her…

Regardless, what all incarnations can agree upon is that this man is put into the employ of Howard Stark and dutifully serves above and beyond the call- no matter how weird or mortally perilous his life becomes.

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Words by Mark Waid; Art by Mahmud Asrar

So, yeah, in all the years that the Avengers operate in the greater New York area, Jarvis is usually right there getting their tea tray ready for the big meetings and ops debriefs. Usually he’s in the Mansion but in later years makes the move to Avengers Tower. That is, understandably, except for the times when he’s hospitalized for being beaten within an inch of his life by super-villains or abducted and replaced by shape-shifting aliens.

In the “All-New, All-Different” status quo, the esteemed “Stark acumen” isn’t all that it once was, causing Tony to downsize and liquidate. As a result, Jarvis is offered a sizable severance upon the sale of the Tower.

However, not long thereafter, Iron Man and Captain America (Sam Wilson) resume operations of a new, wholly-unfunded branch of Avengers, taking up in a hangar out in an old Stark Industries New Jersey airfield (the All-New All-Different Avengers series). Unfulfilled in forced retirement, Jarvis returns to the fold.

As this incarnation of the Avengers fluctuates and Stark’s fortune (personal well-being and otherwise) continues to diminish, Jarvis is recast into an unlikely role: mentor to the Unstoppable Wasp, the genius daughter of Hank Pym.

With the extremely recent turnover of Avengers Mansion coming back from the investors that bought it as a superhero “fantasy theme” hotel, there is an air of hopefulness. On the other hand, it occurs at the cusp of HYDRA-makeover Captain America’s Secret Empire outbreak, so who knows how long before we get to see Jarvis reorganize the cabinets just the way he likes them. Undoubtedly, one “gentleman’s gentleman” in particular will be at the ready all the same…

 

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Words by Joe Casey; Art by Scott Kolins

JAMES MURCH

Active As Of: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #1 (Jan, 2005)

Current Affiliation: Associate (Deceased)

History: Special Agent of the National Security Council. The original gruff old dean to the Avengers’ metaphoric party dorm.

Never heard of him? That’s probably because he’s really only ever existed as a retcon character within the two volumes of the “untold tales of yesteryear”-style Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series.

When Tony Stark petitions the US government for official recognition and security clearance for the Avengers, Murch is assigned to further investigate the legitimacy of the “mystery folk” gathering. Needless to say, there’s some convincing…

It’s not even just the obvious Hulk that raises red flags as the agent’s also quick to label Captain America an unfit-for-duty PTSD hot mess upon the living legend’s sudden re-emergence!

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Words by Joe Casey; Art by Scott Kolins

Despite racking up an increasing record of heroic displays, Murch continues to dangle “A-1 Priority Status” in front of the Avengers like some just-out-of-reach carrot. Eventually, repeated military coordinations demonstrate the Avengers’ effectiveness and Murch acquiesces- on the stipulation that, once better-acclimated, Captain America remains forefront in the organization.

Murch backs off for a while and only interjects himself again when, during one of Cap’s leaves-of-absence, a couple of new- if not slightly unorthodox- members join the ranks…

Even though he expresses mad reservations about the synthetic man sent to kill the Avengers that they instead welcome with open arms (the Vision), Murch is actually diplomatically accommodating in assisting a foreign leader (the Black Panther)’s establishment of an American schoolteacher undercover identity.

In this era, S.H.I.E.L.D. begins to overall assert itself as a natural bureaucratic firewall between the Avengers and the government. Murch finds himself more in the role of consulting advisor to liaison, Agent Jasper Sitwell. However, this doesn’t stop the Ron Swanson impersonator from training up his own successor as well. Enter deputy partner and future pain-in-superhumans’-collective-ass: Henry Peter Gyrich.

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Words by Joe Casey; Art by Nathan Fox

Not seen in continuity for years, it’s implied that Murch remains in the intelligence game for awhile, at least. Unfortunately, the next time he appears on-panel, it’s as a severed head- freshly murdered for his knowledge of state secrets. His assassin is a curious flash-in-the-pan anarchist nutjob named “Zodiac” (the final issue of the short-run 2010 Age of Heroes anthology).

Sooo… quite the legacy when the bright side is serving as Gyrich’s personal Qui-Gon Jinn, huh?

Oh, and those secrets Murch dies for? Who can say as Zodiac’s plans are never followed up!

Here lies Special Agent James Murch, truly the Shakespearean bit player. Sound and fury? Check. Signifying nothing? Yeah, big ol’ check right there…

UP NEXT:   The Spangly and The Sporting Goods-y! Captain America! Hawkeye!

Avengers: 2017 “Where Are They Now?” Update (Thor and Iron Man)

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!

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Art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers

THOR ODINSON

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.

UnworthyThor

Art by Olivier Coipel

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…)

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Art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers

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.

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Art by Marko Djurdjevic

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 Robocoma

Art by Rod Reis

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.

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Art by Jeff Dekal

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”…

UP NEXT: Marvel’s Original Diminutively Dysfunctional Duo- Ant-Man and The Wasp!

“Sizzle Reel Showcase!” An All-New All-Different Marvel Primer

State of the Union? My Avengers #0 Review at ComicBookHerald.com: http://ow.ly/Tjfa1