Before Avengers vs X-Men. Before Secret Invasion. Even before House of M; Brian Michael Bendis wrote a story that started the ball rolling to make massive changes to the Marvel Universe. That begins here with Avengers Disassembled.

Join Josh and Allan in the Hypertime as we discuss a heavily criticized book that would ultimately lead to some of the biggest stories that the universe had ever seen.


Now for the show notes!

Origins:

Brian Michael Bendis

Brian Michael Bendis had already made a name for himself prior to jumping aboard the closing issues of Avengers. He had a beloved run on Daredevil and had helped launch the Ultimate line of comics with his long run on Ultimate Spider-Man. In 2004, he was tasked with taking on a team book, something that he was weary about doing. Not just any team book, but The Avengers, the flagship team book of Marvel Comics even though it wasn’t necessarily rocking it sales wise.

This was done during one of the first retreats that at the time Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada had arranged at the end of 2003 in an effort to clean up characters and define who they should be. When the Avengers came up, Mark Millar and Bendis would create a stir. They would compare the Avengers to what DC was doing at the time (and had been doing since 1996) by having their big guns on the book (the “pantheon”) and thought Marvel should be doing the same. Why is Jack of Hearts in Avengers and not Spider-Man for instance? Or Wolverine? Why isn’t “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” actually “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”? One of the selling points was something MIllar mentioned – when growing up as a kid, he didn’t have to buy the Batman/Wonder Woman/Superman books separately – he would just pick up Justice League and get his fill on them for a lesser budget.

Joe Quesada

The commotion would catch the attention of Quesada and then-Executive Vice-President of Marvel Bill Jemas who thought it was a winning proposition. Bendis came close to not writing the book, but after thinking on it a lot and knowing it was either going to be him or Millar writing it, he ultimately reached out to Quesada to take the bull by the horns and request to write Avengers. 

Quesada approved without hesitation, having made the choice prior to Bendis asking. He had plans for Millar to write the book, but after speaking with David Bogart (Managing Editor) who was friends with Millar for a long while, he learned that Millar had reservations and wasn’t likely to write the book. He still took the chance and told Millar he was going to write the book, but when it came up that Bendis was interested as well, Millar was willing to give up the book and have Bendis do it. Bendis would soon be speaking with Tom Brevoort (someone who was adamantly against the Bendis/MIllar shake-up) who had plans to breathe life into Avengers around issue #500 finally came around when seeing what Bendis had in mind.

How did he decide to tackle it? By “blowing it all up” in a summer blockbuster type approach that he thought everyone would want to see. He wanted the Avengers to have a moment where something bad happens to create something new and beautiful. Their “Dark Knight moment”. He also didn’t particularly like the cast of characters at the time, part of what went into the discussion at the retreat. Bendis had an idea in mind, and he was going to bring about the end of this era of Avengers.

Having worked with David Finch already on Ultimate X-Men, Finch was the one that came to mind. Bendis felt that Finch had helped him when it came to pulling off a team book, and was able to illustrate what Bendis had wanted pretty well, so Bendis thought it would be a great fit for another team book. When they reached out to Finch, he said he would do it as long as Captain America was involved.

He had been given a list of “casualty candidates” and was surprised to see Hawkeye and Vision on the list. Ed Brubaker had warned him that killing Hawkeye would put a bullseye on his chest to fans…which made him want to do it even more because of how scary it was. Brubaker would be right. In fact, Quesada warned him about killing certain people too. He specifically brought up George Perez, who hadn’t written the book in a long time, and how Perez would absolutely care about who was killed. It was a good reminder to Bendis that characters he kills are someone else’s babies, and how would he like it if someone killed one of his characters for instance. The joke between him and Quesada was:

BMB: Usually, when a creator comes in and says, “I want to kill this character” – I do that about every three days to Joe…he’s stopping answering my calls.

JQ: No I don’t – what do I always say?

BMB: You said that if I can kill a character that I ask for, Chuck Austen will kill Jessica Jones.

JQ: Damn right.

Story:

This began “The worst day in Avengers history” as noted by Reed Richards and Hawkeye. The Avengers became under threat by…well…everything and everyone. 

  • Jack of Hearts, previously killed when saving Scott Lang’s (Ant-Man) daughter, seemingly comes back from the dead and explodes at Avengers mansion killing Ant-Man. 
  • Tony Stark winds up drunk at a U.N. Conference, despite not having drank anything, and threatens to kill the representative of Latveria in front of all the world leaders. This ultimately leads to his Tony being asked to relinquish his position as Secretary of Defense for the US.
  • Vision crashes a Quinjet into the mansion’s remains where Avengers such as The Wasp, Captain America, Hawkeye, Falcon, Captain Britain and She-Hulk are going over the wreckage with authorities. Vision steps out and melts after pelting some Ultron robots down.
    • This scene is something that occurred to Bendis during the retreat.
      • “I remember on that day, saying to Nick Lowe that a quinjet sticking out of the mansion is about one of the most horrifying things for the team to see, and what that would mean to Avengers who were, say, coming home to the mansion.”

She-Hulk goes into a rage, tearing the Vision in two blaming him for the death of Scott Lang and then attacking the remaining Avengers.

Iron Man shows up during She-Hulks rampage after smashing a car on Cap sending him to the hospital, swatting at miniaturized Wasp, and knocking out Captain Britain. He is able to knock her out, but the injuries are pretty severe including the Wasp who didn’t revert back to normal size like she normally would when injured in the past.

All of this also leads to friction within the team. Tony’s history of alcohol abuse causes Hank Pym and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) to doubt Tony’s sobriety when he proposes the idea that everything is connected, which angers Tony causing him to split. The Avengers then get a call from the mansion, and when they arrive, are greeted with a big turnout of heroes from Nick Fury, to Namor, to the Fantastic Four, Moon Knight, and more. Due to the Code White nature of the attacks, the previous Avengers have shown up to help.

Despite everything going on, Nick Fury requests everyone leave to avoid contaminating a crime scene. That is until Kree aircrafts overhead shows up that the Helicarrier isn’t picking up and raining down blasts on the city. Cap is able to interrogate one of the Kree who says the Supreme Intelligence claims today is the end of the Avengers and then more troops are teleported to ground level. During the battle, Hawkeye is injured and goes to extreme measures to take out the Kree in a fashion he approves of. So he uses a jetpack from a nearby Kree and flies into the thrusters of the main ship causing it to explode and kill himself.

Dr. Strange shows up and says that magics are being abused. During the conversation, the realization becomes clear – the Scarlet Witch is behind it all – or at the least could be. She has come to understand her powers as “chaotic magic” that can bend reality to her will, even without actively attempting to according to Dr. Strange. The possible reason?  Her attempt at happiness by bringing two children into the world by magic only to have them erased by Agatha Harkness (and memory of them too). Through flashbacks, we see Wanda hearing about having two children with no recollection of it. She brings it up to Agatha who, off panel, seems to explain it to her.

After the discussion with Strange and where she is at, the Avengers show up to meet Wanda who is now in front of her family including the two children, Vision, and Agatha. Cap greets her first. As he tries to get through to her for help, she summons a Red Skull character with troops and blast him through the window with gunfire. The Avengers are waiting outside and Wanda tells them they won’t take her kids away, then she summons more bodies to fight for her such as Rogue, Hulk, Ultron, and more.

Dr. Strange shows up in time to bring Wanda down, but possibly for good. While not dead, she is “gone”. Magneto shows up as they wonder what to do with her. Magneto flies off after claiming Xavier was right and had failed her.

Months later, there is a get-together at the ruined mansion with people remembering their fallen comrades. During this time, Iron Man comes clean that he isn’t going to fund the Avengers anymore.

Pietro shows up during the meeting and informs them that Charles Xavier is working with Wanda to repair her mind. The most he gives them in terms of location is “out of the country” and then splits after issuing his apology.

The Reaction

Hate. Oh boy was there a bunch of hate. It was also Bendis’s first real introduction to how angry a fanbase could be. But it was also a learning experience for him. He learned that not everyone would enjoy what he did, or more importantly, how happy he was in doing it. Some people were enjoying Avengers for what it was, and here comes a newbie onto the book, and wrecks everything immediately thinking people would like it – which obviously wasn’t the case. In his own words:

“Basically, I had come onto a book that wasn’t my book, and I blew it all up. It was nothing different than walking onto a playground, going over to some tinker toy set and kicking it. I thought I was being awesome. I thought, ‘Here’s some awesome book I’d like to read,’ but if you were enjoying the book the way it was, it was upsetting.”

The hatred for his actions were so large that death threats would become a common occurrence, and would continue for a while, even into his writing House of M in 2005.

There were some instances of criticism he wasn’t going to take to heart. For one, people would bash his writing style for the Avengers. Bendis took a more conversational approach with dialogue. He wanted it to feel more natural as opposed to how some characters can be written in a more rote “I need to get the plot moving” sort of way. This method of writing would also lead to another criticism – The Avengers arguing with one another. Bendis swiped this aside also since Hawkeye had often been butting heads with characters such as Captain America, and when you add in the stress of what was happening in the storyline at the time, it made even more sense for characters to be on edge.

Obviously some of the criticism was killing characters like Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Vision. Weirdly enough, some people also criticized his killing of Jack of Hearts…despite Jack of Hearts already being dead and being brought back as a zombie for the sole purpose of killing Scott Lang.

One person that they gauged reactions with when discussing the story was Stan Lee. Despite all the fan hatred, Stan Lee was very much okay with what was going on. To him it was exciting. It kept the books interesting. Regardless of how things change, even if it’s possibly for the worst, the likelihood is that you will come back for more if you’re already invested in the characters. Based on the sales for the books – that’s exactly what happened.

The Legacy:

While some people turned around on Avengers Disassembled after seeing it through to the end and where it would lead to in the future; much of the backlash is it’s lasting legacy. Another one of the points was continuity issues – although some of them are less anger inducing than some made them out to be (Captain Britain not being in costume one panel and in it the following panel). Two points that are important to the plot are the idea of Chaos Magic that Dr. Strange claims doesn’t exist (despite having used it in the past and contradicts other storylines with the Scarlet Witch) and the fact that Wanda IS aware of her children and what Agatha did to her (after the event in Avengers West Coast and it’s annual).

Many of the issues people found with Avengers Disassembled would also be corrected later on in subsequent series. Character such as Vision and Ant-Man would find their way back through various means (time travel with Ant-Man during The Childrens Crusade or Vision rebuilt by Tony after Fear Itself). Some other storylines that tried to fix the problems with Avengers Disassembled:

  • AXIS
  • Amazing Spider-Man (Straczynski)
  • Marquis of Death (Fantastic 4 Mark Millar story)

Aside from that, it’s also important to remember that Avengers Disassembled was the beginning of much of what followed in the Marvel Universe. It was literally the first domino that would lead to stuff such as the various Avengers books (New and Mighty), House of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion, and more.


Sources:

https://www.cbr.com/disa-bendis-sembled-brian-bendis-talks-avengers-disassembled

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/bendis-brings-lessons-learned-on-avengers-disassembled-to-superman

https://www.cbr.com/bendis-looks-back-on-his-term-as-the-avengers-assemblyman

http://legacy.fanboyplanet.com/interviews/mc-brianmichaelbendis2.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avengers_Disassembled

https://web.archive.org/web/20150926042721/http://www.newsarama.com/4378-avengers-reassembled-3-brian-bendis-the-flagship-captain.html

http://web.archive.org/web/20041210080412/http://www.newsarama.com/pages/Marvel/Disassemble.htm

https://sktchd.libsyn.com/off-panel-257-the-energy-with-brian-michael-bendis

https://www.youtubez.com/index.php?q=aHR0cDovL3dlYi5hcmNoaXZlLm9yZy93ZWIvMjAxMDAzMTgwMjA3NTYvaHR0cDovL2VuLndpa2lwZWRpYS5vcmcvd2lraS9BdmVuZ2Vyc19EaXNhc3NlbWJsZWQ

Follow the podcast on Twitter: @HypertimePod or send us an email at hypertime2podcast@gmail.com

Follow Josh on Twitter: @jmille99

Follow Allan on Twitter: @TheAllanMuir

Also check us out on https://vgu.tv/ where we post show notes and our Twitter @VGU_TV. If you’re into video games, we also have a couple video game podcasts worth checking out in Players Club Podcast and WIN.

Intro and Outro Music: “RetroFuture Clean” by Kevin MacLeod

RetroFuture Clean Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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