Bendis’ Avengers: Avengers: Prime

In the pages of Siege, Bendis finally reunited the three core Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. With Marvel’s trinity back in the game, it seemed as if the Avengers were returning to their glory days. Indeed, at the time of Avengers: Prime‘s publication, I could tell that Bendis was reforming the classic Avengers from the ground up. Twelve-year-old me was filled to the brim with excitement. A limited series, focused exclusively on the three biggest Avengers of all time, written by the guy behind New Avengers? Needless to say, I bought and read every issue. What excited me the most was the re-connection between Cap, Iron Man, and Thor. After Civil War, how could Cap and Iron Man forgive each other? After so much time away from the Avengers, would Thor’s presence help mend the old wounds between these two? Beyond the character moments, the comic was simply beautiful to behold. Alan Davis’ artwork brought the action and adventure to life in a bold and eye-popping manner. Seeing the big three Avengers venture off into otherworldly realms and adapt to their surroundings was a lot of fun. Overall, I have very fond memories of Avengers: Prime, kicking off the Heroic Age.

The big three are back

The Heroic Age was a bold new era for the Marvel Universe and its heroes. Following the events of Siege, Norman Osborn was finally out of power, and Steve Rogers was the next “top cop” of the Marvel Universe. All seemed right with the world. The superhuman registration act was abolished and Marvel’s heroes were reunited, including Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. Although things seemed to be turning out well for the heroes, there was still plenty of work to be done. Old wounds, particularly between Captain America and Iron Man, needed time to heal. Considering the unresolved nature of Civil War, these two lead Avengers had to have a serious talk before they could work together again. Additionally, Thor’s home, Asgard, was almost completely destroyed during Siege. It would take time, and a lot of help from the Avengers, to get Asgard back on its feet. In the midst of personal conflict and devastated homes, the Avengers were also needed in the world at large. The aftermath of Siege left a world in dire need of its heroes. This was a second chance to start the Avengers from scratch, without repeating any of their recent mistakes over the years.

Picking up the pieces

Indeed, Avengers: Prime embodies this fresh start for the team. Bendis uses this mini-series as a way to clean the slate for the Heroic Age. Avengers: Prime begins with the unresolved tension between Steve Rogers and Iron Man. Rogers clearly has issues trusting Stark, recalling his recent mistakes during Civil War and Secret Invasion, which led to Osborn’s rise to power. Stark, by contrast, is fed up with Rogers’ rigid sense of morality and unwillingness to let things go. Thor, meanwhile, is frustrated with his allies’ petty bickering, feeling more detached from his fellow Avengers than ever. Still, the three Avengers continue to work together on clean-up after the events of Siege. Eventually, the Avengers discover a mysterious portal, which takes each of them to a different one of the nine realms. Rogers, Iron Man, and Thor find themselves separated and lost in strange new lands. The Avengers must then find each other and figure out who is behind their abduction into different realms. Along the way, each Avenger stumbles upon several allies and enemies across the realms. Eventually, the three main Avengers have to work together for the first time in years, overcoming their differences in order to defeat their mysterious foe.

They’ve got their work cut out for themselves

Throughout Avengers: Prime, Bendis highlights the vital role that each of the three Avengers brings to the team. First and foremost is Steve Rogers, the original Captain America. Despite Rogers’ “holier-than-thou” exterior, Bendis slowly reveals Rogers’ own insecurities throughout the story. Even though Rogers has won a major victory by the end of Siege, he’s well aware that there is still plenty to fix going forward. The broken trust between Rogers and Stark is a major obstacle that Rogers has to overcome. At his core, Steve Rogers is a soldier. The man needs a team on which he can rely, and when he doesn’t feel he can rely on Stark, Rogers can’t work alongside him. Mending the broken trust between Stark and himself is only the first step in this second chance Rogers has been given. Rogers is the type of hero who has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and, being placed in charge of national security, Rogers feels a greater sense of responsibility than ever. Steve knows that any move that he makes next is crucial for this second chance, and he can’t afford to repeat the mistakes which resulted in Civil War. Aside from the internal conflict, Bendis also shows off a lot of Rogers’ fighting skills as well. Indeed, when Rogers first arrives in the land of the dark elves, he manages to take down an entire barroom of these creatures with ease. Rogers may be the least powerful of the three Avengers, but he is certainly the most skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Combining Rogers’ leadership and fighting skills, Bendis shows why Steve is so important to the Avengers.

Captain of the ship

Complementing Rogers, Iron Man/Tony Stark is just as vital to the Avengers. While Rogers is given a second chance to lead the team, Stark’s second chance is to earn the Avengers’ trust back. This is quite the task for Stark, considering his numerous mistakes during events such as Civil War, Secret Invasion, and Dark Reign. Yet after all of his personal blunders, Stark still wants to prove himself to his friends. Bendis depicts Stark as the most flawed and human out of the main three Avengers. He’s made many mistakes, but he’s trying to be better. In the face of Rogers’ moral superiority, this is quite an intimidating challenge for Stark. Still, Bendis portrays Stark as a mechanic at heart, believing that “Anything can be rebuilt. Anything”. Where Rogers thinks on a conceptual level, realizing that things need to be fixed, Stark focuses on how to fix things. For example, Stark presents some ideas on how to rebuild Asgard, and he is able to repair his own armor when he’s stranded at the beginning of the series. This technical mindset makes Stark essential to the team. Bendis also gives Stark the most attitude of the three Avengers. Stark provides many quips, sarcastic remarks, and general comic relief. This becomes an advantage for the character, who is able to talk his way out of several situations. In one scene, Stark convinces the troops of Fafnir, the dragon, to flee, bluffing that Thor is on his way to smite them. Stark’s quick wit and technical genius make him an essential asset to the Avengers.

Such a way with words…

Completing Bendis’ Avengers trifecta is Thor, the god of thunder. Thor is often depicted as the connective tissue between Rogers and Stark. Despite these characters’ issues, they both come to Thor’s aid during and after the siege of Asgard. Thor was never part of Civil War and generally has no quarrel with either of his teammates. This neutrality of the character essentially makes Thor the glue that holds Rogers and Stark together, at least until they can resolve their conflict. Additionally, Thor is the most useful of the three Avengers when it comes to traversing the nine realms. Living for several millennia and traveling across many realms in his lifetime, Thor brings a plethora of knowledge and experience to the Avengers. Indeed, it is this experience which guides Rogers and Stark through the events of Avengers: Prime. Thor is often the Avenger who brings context to the events of the story, guiding his teammates throughout their fantastical voyage. On top of his personal experience and even temper, Thor is also by far the powerhouse of the Avengers. This raw power has been missing from the team for years, leaving them without a mighty warrior to fend off larger threats. For example, it’s Thor who ultimately takes on Hela, the main villain of the story, determining the fate of all existence. Without the might of the thunder god on their side, Rogers and Stark would be nearly defenseless against all-powerful enemies. Tempered by humility and wisdom, Thor makes a big difference as the muscle of the Avengers.

Just a regular Thursday for him…

The one major character outside of the big three Avengers is Amora, the Enchantress. Amora’s conflict with Thor serves a unique purpose throughout Avengers: Prime. Similarly to Stark and Rogers, Amora initially lets her past conflict with Thor interfere with her judgement. Indeed, Amora teams up with Hela, the goddess of death, in order to kill Thor and destroy all of existence. Eventually, however, Amora realizes her own folly. Recognizing that she allowed her personal conflicts to cloud her mind, Amora decides to help Thor in order to save the universe from Hela’s wrath. While Amora does not necessarily forgive Thor for their past conflicts, she acknowledges that she cannot let these issues put all of existence in jeopardy. Furthermore, while Amora recognizes her problems with Thor and Asgard, she would rather take the time to settle them, rather than simply end all of existence. It is this momentary setting aside of conflict which mirrors the Avengers’ own predicament. Rogers, Stark, and Thor, must all come together, despite past conflict, to stop a common foe. In this way, the heroes can gain the opportunity to resolve their own issues.

Look who came to her senses…

Putting aside their internal conflict momentarily, the Avengers are given the chance to start from scratch. Indeed, Avengers: Prime is an adventure that very much takes the team back to basics, stripping them of previous baggage. To begin with, the mini-series only features the three core members of the Avengers, cutting the roster down to the bare minimum. These three different heroes must unite to fight a common foe, who none of them can defeat on their own. This very concept is at the heart of the Avengers’ origin, starting the team from the ground up once more. On a more physical level, each of these Avengers is stripped down to his most basic skills/tools. Steve acquires a new shield and armor in battle, Stark modifies an old Iron Man suit with the technology available to him, and even Thor has to make do without his hammer for a while. Physically stripping down the Avengers, Bendis distills them down to their core. Steve is a soldier, Stark is a mechanic, and Thor is a warrior god. Starting from scratch gives the Avengers a chance to begin anew with each other as well. Taken away from the world of their previous mistakes, the Avengers get a chance to fight alongside each other again. This battle, for the fate of existence is morally straightforward, giving them the opportunity to unite over a common goal. Taking the Avengers away from Earth for a while also allows them to remember their own camaraderie. Steve and Tony begin to banter again, even sharing memories over a fire in one scene. Thor is forced to rely on his friends, remembering what makes them such trustworthy and formidable allies. While none of the Avengers can simply forget their past mistakes, they can start fresh, going back to the bond that made them into Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Recognizing that they have to move forward and do things differently, the Avengers use their circumstances to rebuild themselves from the ground up.

Just some casual campfire talk

These ideas generally come across very well in the plot. Yet it takes a while for the story to really get moving. For the first couple of issues, Bendis focuses on the Avengers’ separation, as each member navigates through a different realm. Seeing each Avenger find his way in unfamiliar territory is fun for a while. Still, Bendis drags the initial premise out for a little too long. It’s not until three issues in that the Avengers all find each other again. Considering that this is a five issue mini-series, most of the time seems to be spent on the separation of the Avengers. It’s when the team finally reunites that the story finally starts to pick up. The moments of bonding are nice to see, especially the scene with all three Avengers reminiscing over a campfire. I think there could have been more scenes like this one, just showing the Avengers sharing a quiet moment of friendship. It reminds the reader of the Avengers’ humanity and common bond. Bendis definitely could have removed the love interest for Rogers, instead focusing more time on the friendships between the Avengers. Additionally, taking Rogers and Stark out of their element was a lot of fun. Giving both characters new weapons and armor in new territory makes for a very different, fantastical kind of Avengers story. There are also a lot of great action set-pieces, especially during the final fight, when the Avengers rally an army against Hela. Iron Man riding Fafnir the dragon is a particularly amazing image. Hela herself was a good villain for the story, giving these big name Avengers a worthy foe. Hela’s motives for destroying all of existence are shaky. Simply being upset because Asgard is now on Earth seems fairly petty, failing to justify the destruction of the universe. Still, the villain’s motives are inconsequential, considering the main focus is on the heroes and their reunion.

They may not be Avengers, but they’re assembled

Overall, Avengers: Prime is a good intro to Bendis’ Heroic Age material. The mini-series shows exactly what a classic Avengers series can be under Bendis’ pen. There are some great character interactions, the action is fast-paced and exciting, and the series is generally a lot of fun. There isn’t too much to think about in terms of plotline, but Avengers: Prime is certainly some good, old-fashioned Avengers fun. I do wish that Bendis had focused more on the healing between Steve and Tony. I was waiting for a big heart-to-heart discussion between the two about Civil War which might clear the air. Yet Bendis doesn’t do much past the initial argument and concluding apology between Tony and Steve. The campfire scene, again, was nice, along with all of the witty banter between Steve and Tony, but I felt that the characters forgave each other a little too quickly. Generally, though, Avengers: Prime does a good job at re-establishing the big three of the Avengers. Things may never be the same between them, but the Avengers’ trinity still share a bond which allows them to move forward together. Avengers: Prime pushes its heroes to go back to their roots, simultaneously allowing them to move forward.

This is a bit much

Avengers: Prime appropriately lays the groundwork for Bendis’ Heroic Age. Following this reunion of the big three, the Avengers will re-assemble, stronger than ever. Steve Rogers hand-picks his own Avengers team, one which includes Iron Man and Thor. This team will be the flagship of the Heroic Age, an era in which Rogers is the head of national security. Following Avengers: Prime, Rogers, Stark, and Thor, will be the faces of this Heroic Age. Not everything is perfect, however. During the Heroic Age, the trust issues between Rogers and Stark resurface. Specifically, discovering the existence of the Illuminati, Rogers will become furious with Stark. Debates over power and control from Civil War will resurface during this storyline, showing that Avengers: Prime may not have entirely resolved Rogers and Stark’s conflict. Finally, the existence of Asgard on Earth will prove tricky, to say the least. While Stark will aid in rebuilding the fabled land, Thor’s home will bring its own problems to Earth. During Fear Itself, for example, the fear deity known as the Serpent will attack Earth. This leads the gods of Asgard to abandon Earth, severing the relationship between gods and mortals. Left to fend for themselves, the mortal heroes must fight the serpent without Asgard’s aid. Although Avengers: Prime ushers in a new era, things are still far from perfect.

Reunited and it feels so good

That’s all for today. What do you think of Avengers: Prime? Do you like how Bendis portrays Marvel’s trinity? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter, @book_column, and be sure to share the blog with your friends! Thanks for reading! Check in on Monday, when I begin my look at Bendis’ main Avengers title!

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