'The Avengers' Countdown: Top 5 Comic-Con Announcements and More!

'The Avengers' Countdown: Top 5 Comic-Con Announcements and More!

Jul 25, 2011

Marvel’s had a busy week!  Besides Captain America:  The First Avenger winning over audiences in a huge way (opening to $65 million), fans got a first look at The Avengers through a quick teaser trailer, all the while Marvel was making waves at the San Diego International Comic Con.  Here are the top five Avengers announcements coming out of the massive yearly event:

5.  Solo Avengers returns as Avengers Solo after a 20 year absence.

The comic where I fell in love with Hawkeye is coming back!  Sure, Avengers Solo (formerly known as Solo Avengers, then changed to Avengers Spotlight) may only be a five-issue mini-series, but the format is very similar, if not exactly the same.  The new comic will feature two stories in every issue, with Hawkeye and Hank Pym sharing the spotlight, instead of Hawkeye and a rotating guest.

4.  The Avengers roster is getting a shake-up.

This isn’t remarkable news.  The Avengers change their roster fairly often, but they haven’t done it since the recent “Age of Heroes” revitalization.  The shake-up will come in the wake of the current “Fear Itself” cross-over, with Avengers #18.

I suspect we’ll see Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, and Red Hulk leave the team.  Strange is being primed for his own Strange Tales series and will have a role in the upcoming The Defenders.  Spider-Man is part of the Future Foundation (the team formerly known as the Fantastic Four), and I imagine the latest “Spider Island” storyline will consume a lot of Peter Parker’s time.  Marvel’s shaking up Hulk’s title (more on this later), and I don’t know if Red Hulk will stick around on the team while writer Jason Aaron re-focuses that corner of the Marvel Universe.  Adding to this is the fact that Marvel will probably want a green Hulk in the Avengers book, to match the upcoming movie.  Of course, I could be wrong about everything.  Marvel is always full of surprises.

3.  Avengers Academy goes West Coast

The Avengers Academy teens are moving into the old unused West Coast Avengers mansion for a bit of a creative jolt.  Writer Christos Gage also promises new students (one a familiar face and one a familiar name) and a new instructor, telling Newsarama that the new teacher is “a quintessential Avenger.”    They’re playing their cards close to the vest right now, but Avengers Academy is worth a look.  The coastal shift might be just the break to jump on board the title, if you aren’t already reading it.

2.  The Incredible Hulk is getting re-launched

Hulk gets re-launched too often, in my opinion, but I can understand the interest in streamlining the title.  Between three female Hulks, Hulk’s son from the future, the Red Hulk, and a gamma-powered Rick Jones, there are a lot of “Hulks” currently running around the Marvel Universe.  Writer Jason Aaron and superstar artist (and Top Cow frontman) Marc Silvestri are the new creative team, and while their first arc is a familiar one to Hulk fans (Banner and Hulk are separate entities, each one struggling to function without the other), I appreciate that Marvel’s interested in turning the book into one of their top tier titles.

1.  Marvel releases Avengers posters

By now, everyone has seen the series of painted Avengers character mini-posters, and they were the most buzzed about Avengers tie-in coming out of the convention.  This was our first detailed look at many members of the team, and the posters were some of the hottest collectibles at the con.  Some of the surprises the posters reveal are the designs for the Avengers Quinjet and SHIELD’s Helicarrier, as well as the comforting revelation that the Hulk will indeed wear pants.  Whew.

Captain America Versus Captain America

If you really want to see the different between Marvel in the early 90s and Marvel now, look no further than the two Captain America films, both playing in theaters currently (though it may be a little tougher to see Albert Pyun’s verrsion.  He’s actively touring with the director’s cut of his film right now, but there’s no official release.)

Enjoyed mostly by superhero film completists, 1990’s Captain America was a notorious dud -- a dull attempt to bring Marvel comics to life during a time in which no one wanted to spend any actual money to make these films work.  Pyun’s cut turns the film from a z-grade action film into a z-grade action film with a message.  Here, Steve Rogers is a man out of time, faced with a modern world in which we’re no longer in need of a living symbol of American pride.  Faced with this reality, he does what any super-powered patriot would do -- he gets a job vacuuming floors at Gold’s Gym.

Pyun makes his point, but for the character, this is all wrong.  Consider instead Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in the new Joe Johnston film.  Rogers’ sense of duty is not only more consistent with the comic book character, it’s actually inspiring.  You can’t compare the two films through their action sequences or polish; Pyun was filming with no money, while Johnston was given $140 million (according to Box Office Mojo) to make things work, but you can compare the films on the faithfulness to the source material and the Captain America character.

Pyun’s is a more cynical film, and when it comes time for Steve Rogers to don the red, white, and blue again near the end of the film for his final battle with Red Skull, it’s not exactly stirring.  It feels more like Rogers is obligated; not like he has a sense of duty, but because he doesn’t really have anything better to do.  Johnston’s Cap is more pro-active than any previous cinematic Marvel hero.  There’s no soul searching; no weighing of responsibility versus a rewarding personal life -- everything about Captain America exists in the personal beliefs of Steve Rogers, long before he ever gets a single super power.

So, while Pyun’s new Director’s Cut has a (blurred) vision, Johnston’s Captain America is the definitive one. That might go without saying, but, again, it’s not like screenwriter Steven Tolkein (who wrote the 1990 version) couldn’t have gotten things right in the script.  Other than his extremely faithful costume, Captain America is unrecognizable in Pyun’s movie.  I’ll take Johnston’s remarkable man of action over Pyun’s sad sack man-out-of-time any day.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Episode Guide

Season 1, Episode 2:  ‘Thor the Mighty’

In this episode:  We’re introduced, in shorthand, to the world of Thor.  Surprisingly, we’re two episodes in and there’s still no Avengers team in the Avengers show.  This reinforces my thoughts from the first episode, that they seem to be  taking their time to build up a huge story.  Thor the Mighty is pretty much a stand alone episode, in which Thor chooses to defend Midgard (Earth) instead of staying in Asgard and butting heads with his stubborn father and manipulative brother.  Loki seems to be plotting something that will take effect over the course of the first season, but the full extent of his plot remains to be seen...

It’s a solid episode, maybe more so for hardcore Thor fans, with an emphasis on action over storytelling.  Thor is characterized a little blandly, but not inaccurately.

Marvel Universe Watch:  Of course we meet all the usual Asgardians (Odin, Warriors Three, Sif, Balder, Loki, Enchantress, Executioner), but we meet some unexpected villains as well, namely The Wrecking Crew and The Leader (sort of -- it’s Loki in disguise).  Jane Foster is a paramedic here, bringing her character more in line with the comics than Natalie Portman’s Foster (who works as an astrophysicist).

Season 1, Episode 3:  ‘Hulk Versus the World’

In this episode:  Okay, now we’re getting ever so slightly closer to seeing the actual Avengers.  Fellow SHIELD agents Hawkeye and Black Widow break up a nasty desert battle between Hulk and The Absorbing Man.  Hulk is imprisoned alongside many of his greatest foes, and Hawkeye suspects Black Widow of betraying SHIELD by stealing a vial of Hulk’s gamma-irradiated blood.

Avengers gets a little more violent and slightly darker with this Hulk-centric episode.  They also do a good job in planting the seeds that will eventually lead to Hulk being considered a hero and part of the official team.  Now, where is that team?  The slow build is not surprising at this point, but I’m starting to get antsy.

Marvel Universe Watch:  Even though the Avengers haven’t officially formed, two Avengers (besides Hulk) make their series debut here -- Hawkeye and Black Widow.  There are a ton of cameos in the Cube (Doc Samson, Abomination, Radioactive Man, etc.), a prison for super-strong villains, but the biggest surprise might be the appearance of G.I. Joe’s Wild Bill, seen (but never named) flying a chopper in the attack against Hulk.

The Avengers, a Joss Whedon film, stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth. There are 284 days until release.

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