In the Marvel comic universe, having a single team of superheroes running around isn’t going to cut it. With new individuals gaining superpowers on a regular basis, there’s always a surplus of heroes looking for something to rally against, and a surplus of villains looking to provide it. As a result, there have been dozens of teams operating under variations of the Avengers title (whether in-universe or out-): the West Coast Avengers; the Secret Avengers; the Mighty Avengers. Some of these teams, like the infamous Great Lakes Avengers, start off unsanctioned but later have their status upgraded – in case of the GLA, legitimacy is granted when Hawkeye leads them to rescue a brainwashed Cap, She-Hulk, and Scarlet Witch. Other teams, like the Dark Avengers, are actually groups of super villains hiding behind the guise of heroes in order to deceive the public. Then there are teams that have arisen as a consequence of previous Marvel events, such as the New Avengers, which was formed by heroes unwilling to register during the original Civil War event. Today, we’re joining up with a team that Steve Rogers himself formed in the wake of 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men event. Spoilers for The Uncanny X-Men #7 begin after the jump.
Let’s Get the Band Back Together
During the 2012 Avengers vs. X-Men event, two of Marvel’s most popular franchises went head-to-head in a battle this reader has not yet had the opportunity to read. However, just kind of rolling with the punches seems to be part of the nature of these crossover events: unless you’re already a very avid comic reader, picking up the tie-ins means you’re going to be jumping into the middle of some stories with which you aren’t familiar.
Luckily, the crisp and informative recap page at the beginning of each issue serves to assist the uninitiated and amnesiac, so we quickly learn that Steve Rogers assembled the Avengers Unity Squad in order to promote unity among varying factions of the Marvel universe. The Unity Squad features members from the Avengers and X-Men, as well as new representation for the growing faction of Inhumans, in order to “promote cooperation in the face of rising tensions.” That certainly sounds like the sort of group charter the original Cap could get behind.
With such a large team (a full eight members), not every character can get their fair share of panel space in a single issue, and that is certain the case here. Due to the constraints imposed by having only 24 pages to work with in any given issue, it is necessary to allow certain team members to occupy the spotlight, while the rest largely sit the issue out – or, in the case of Rogers, are entirely absent. This gives the featured team members a better chance to breathe, and the characters here benefit for it: some of the best moments of the book explore the relationship between different members of the team, as when Cable acts as a caring pedagogue towards the newly-superpowered Synapse. Having such a diverse group of characters means they possess the potential to play off each other’s personalities extremely well, and the book wisely includes a handful of engaging little interactions. In fact, one of the greatest successes of this issue is its ability to make the reader extremely interested in the internal mechanisms of the team, even beyond their involvement with Pleasant Hill.
Double the Duality
Which certainly isn’t to suggest that the Pleasant Hill elements of the story aren’t engaging themselves. One of the predominant themes emerging from the Avengers Standoff event is duality: there’s the idea of the simulated reality of Pleasant Hill against the actual reality beneath in Welcome to Pleasant Hill; the pair of Captain Americas (and their respective former sidekicks) featured in Assault on Pleasant Hill; and the duality of deception explored through Lola and the CIA in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. #3.
This issue wastes no time in jumping right into the binary-end of the thematic pool: we open with an excellent pair of foiled scenes. First, we see an apparently recently resurrected Quicksilver making a clandestine visit to his twin sister, Wanda. This scene contrasts well against Voodoo’s conversation with his late brother. His brother harbors a grudge because Voodoo resurrected Quicksilver, but refuses to resurrect his brother. It’s an interesting dynamic, and a classic comic situation that highlights the complicated dichotomy of power that exists in each pair of siblings. Hopefully future issues will expand on these fascinating relationships.
Meanwhile, the theme of duality continues throughout the issue: part of the team apprehends The Wrecker, a super villain who nevertheless fights alongside them; and by contrast, there’s the S.H.I.E.L.D. strike team that is ostensibly on the same side as the Avengers but ends up being an adversary. There’s the appearance of Maria Hill, and then the subsequent appearance of her doppelganger. And as Voodoo laments near the end of the issue, there’s the idea that “at this rate, in a few months we’ll be a team of villains.” The idea of binaries, and the idea that these binaries can be flipped, are an intrinsic part of both this issue’s narrative, and the narrative of the Avengers Standoff event as a whole. However, where that thematic thread may lead by the end of the event is, at this point, anyone’s guess.
Now with More Deadpool
Finally, it bears mentioning that this Avengers team includes one member more likely to hog the spotlight than his fellow heroes: the one and only Deadpool. As both of our faithful readers may remember, Deadpool has historically not been included on any superteam’s roster. In the comics, this was often a lamentable fact for Deadpool, who was never above shamelessly crafting his own X-Men uniform or begging Tony Stark to mail him an honorary Avengers membership card. However, in the aftermath of the recent Secret Wars event, Deadpool has gone from one of the most infamous individuals in the 616 to one of the most successful, reflecting his real-work popularity.
How this alteration to Deadpool’s status as perennial outsider will affect the character as a whole will have to wait until I can get my hands on Duggan’s ongoing Deadpool series; however, this issue demonstrates that even given his propensity to hog the spotlight, Deadpool makes a great addition to an Avengers team. Much of this derives from the fact that it is exceptionally entertaining to watch Deadpool play off of other, more “serious” superheroes. This issue offers Deadpool plenty of opportunity to bounce off the characters around him, and it pays off in a big way: it’s hilarious to see his violence-based exchange with the Wrecker (there’s a touching understanding to the care Deadpool puts into preserving the Wrecker’s crowbar, Barbara), his response to the Human Torch repeating his joke is on point, and his incredibly persistent rivalry with the late Wolverine may provide the biggest laugh of the issue.
Ultimately, much of what Deadpool brings to the team arises from the same sort of duality that has defined the Avengers Standoff event. While Deadpool is undoubtedly one of Marvel’s most comedic characters, bringing a sense of levity to some of the overly serious members of the team (looking at you, Cable), he’s also one of Marvel’s most violent characters, bringing some of the most brutal and badass action. It’s one more piece that makes the Uncanny Avengers a very interesting team – and I, for one, can’t wait to see how they fare against an all-different team of Avengers.
Uncanny Avengers #7 operates as an interesting story about the character dynamics between this particular team while simultaneously providing some solid steps forward for the ongoing Avengers Standoff narrative. This alone would make a successful tie-in, but this issue further courts new readers by dropping plenty of tantalizing hints about the ongoing exploits of the Unity Squad amid the instantly accessible adventure we get here. My only hope is that other issues offer the members of the Squad who weren’t featured as heavily in this story a chance to steal the spotlight for a while. To the credit of this issue, I will likely bother to find out.
Coming soon! Check in for the next chapter in the Pleasant Hill saga: The All-New, All-Cradle-Robbing Avengers #7!