A couple years ago, when Marvel was releasing their miniseries/event Siege, my excitement was off the charts. Ever since Avengers Disassembled, Secret War and the Sentry, Marvel – with Brian Michael Bendis at the helm – had been putting together one big arc of events tagged together. Siege was going to be the big finale to it all and it was doing a great job. Not only were they coming off an entertaining status quo with the whole Dark Reign thing, but the miniseries was hitting all the right notes. It was four issues, had less tie-ins than normal and set up a great big bad in the Void. After the third issue, I couldn’t wait for the conclusion.
Then Siege #4 was a huge wet fart of a comic that took away my enthusiasm like nobody’s business. My excitement for this years-long epic went up in smoke and I’ve lost any interest in Marvel’s event stories.
Last night, I went to the midnight showing of Avengers. I thought it was absolutely wonderful. I had a complete blast and while there are some definite flaws (why did the bad guys die all at once, exactly?), I’m more than ready to see it again. More than anything else, there reached a point where I had to step back from everything and realize that it was more than just a fun movie. I had to step back and remark, “I can’t believe they actually pulled it off.”
Seriously. Can we take a second to look at how absolutely miraculous it is that things turned out as they did?
The Avengers always had this weird spot in Marvel lore in that they were considered a major deal, but lacked the mainstream star power. Of the main three Marvel superhero teams, they were the least memorable to the average man on the street. There’s a reason why Spider-Man and Wolverine were inserted into the lineup. If anything, that made them perfect fodder for Marvel Studios. They had fanboy recognition and lots of history to mine, showing that there were existing stories that proved that they are viable characters. Yet at the same time, there would be a public unaware of who these guys were and they’d get drawn in by the hype, seeing the non-Hulk guys as something fresh and new.
I recall how cautiously optimistic I was about Iron Man ever since seeing the very first picture of the armor as designed by Adi Granov, the man known for illustrating the hell out of Iron Man’s armor in Iron Man: Extremis. The early photo of Robert Downey Jr. with the glowing chest looked perfect and from all accounts, he was genuinely excited to be playing the role. I even recall an interview where director Jon Favreau claimed that he had read every single issue of Iron Man to get his head in the game.
With the then-upcoming Incredible Hulk coming out, there was a rumor on the internet that both movies would share the same scene. Like some event would occur and we’d see the incident from Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s point of view, respectively. I even made a joke about this in the first page of Ultimate Edit way back when. There were definite rumblings that they were building towards something big. It didn’t happen, but it wasn’t too far off.
Part of me was afraid. Comic movies are incredibly easy to screw up. I’ve seen Dr. Doom look tame. I’ve seen Galactus as a cloud. I’ve seen a movie studio that refused Sentinels in an X-Men movie. I’ve seen Juggernaut with cheesy rubber abs. I’ve seen Daredevil and Superman Returns and Spider-Man 3. I wanted so much for Iron Man to be what it should be.
Other than removing a subplot because of the US Air Force throwing a hissy fit, that’s what we got. Iron Man was the movie comic fans have been wanting to see. Thing is, it wasn’t JUST a good movie. After the credits, Nick Fury appeared and told Stark that he wasn’t alone in the superhero game (though as far as SHIELD knows, he is, which is weird in retrospect) and introduces the Avengers Initiative. And some people go, “HOLY SHIT.”
It continues weeks later when Incredible Hulk comes out and we have a scene at the very end where Tony Stark tells Thunderbolt Ross that they’re putting a team together. Not to mention that there are definite callbacks to Captain America existing in that movie’s continuity. Marvel Studios was planning on not only doing a bunch of movies in a shared universe, but funneling it into a gigantic team-up.
Each movie featured more and more references to other movies. Iron Man 2 showed a half-finished version of Captain America’s shield, introduced Black Widow and ended with a shot of Agent Coulson finding Thor’s hammer in the middle of a desert. Though if anything, Iron Man 2 gave me pause. Not just because it was the weakest of the Avenger movies, but also because they went out of their way to point out that Stark was only going to be an Avenger in a minor capacity. Like they were sitting us down to explain that Robert Downey Jr. was going to only get a couple scenes in Avengers because he’s a busy dude, so don’t get your hopes up.
Thor and Captain America were both extremely solid in my opinion and brought everything to a head. The end of Cap’s movie showed a teaser trailer for Avengers and the hype continued.
The trailers honestly didn’t do much for me. Plus I still felt a little apprehensive. A movie with so many characters? I don’t want another Spider-Man 3. Plus the Avengers haven’t been known to be used especially well in other medias. Back in the 90’s, they gave us that bewildering Avengers cartoon that decided that Captain America, Thor and Iron Man weren’t worth talking about, so they went with Tigra, Wonder Man and the like instead. Then a few years ago, Marvel started releasing animated movies such as Invincible Iron Man and Ultimate Avengers and those sucked on ice. ESPECIALLY Invincible Iron Man. Try that animated turd and be amazed by how unwatchable it is.
And so I saw Avengers. And it ruled. My fears — including the idea of Tony Stark being a glorified cameo — were unfounded. It gave me the opposite reaction of Siege #4. I want to see it again after watching all the others over again on DVD. I want to read about the next installments of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor’s movies and where they lead to next. I want to hear about new characters being brought out of the ether. I want more.
I can’t believe they pulled it off. DC Comics and Warner Brothers briefly tried and immediately tripped over their own feet before they could make a single step. Marvel simply got their shit together and while there were so many reasons for things to fall apart, they pulled off one hell of an impressive project.
It’s movie history is what it is. Bravo.
Also, whoever came up with the idea of the final post-credits scene deserves a statue in his or her honor.