In 2004, Brian Michael Bendis officially took over writing duties for The Avengers. At that time the book was selling only mildly well. Fast forward a few months and Marvel would launch one of the most successful team books in modern history, New Avengers. Bendis’ idea was a simple one, how come only DC is allowed to use their biggest characters on the same team? Naturally he was referring to the JLA. He wanted to do the same thing with New Avengers to combine all of Marvel’s biggest characters together with some of their least known characters for a diverse and interesting team book. What we didn’t know at the time was that secretly Bendis and then Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada were also laying the foundation for a groundbreaking ten-year long storyline, the likes of which have never been seen before in the comic book industry.
My plan of action over the next few days, and likely weeks is to cover as many major milestones in the Marvel universe that lead to their current event, Avengers vs. X-Men as possible. Given how many events and specials have been made in the last eight years, I’m likely going to skip on one or two you think should have been covered, so if that’s the case just leave a comment and I’ll see if I can add it in.
Currently I’m looking at covering the events and special starting with Avengers #500, moving onto House of M, Messiah Complex, Messiah War, Second Coming, and finally Schism. From there I will switch sides from the X-Men to the Avengers and cover Secret War, Civil War, The Initiative (only general), Secret Invasion, Dark Reign (only general), Siege, and Fear Itself. That will bring everyone up to speed on exactly what Marvel’s ten-year plan has been. It’s should be a very interesting journey for those interested. So let’s begin with the four issues that set everything off.
Warning: I have no way of discussing these comics without spoiling key story plot points. I won’t explain panel-by-panel, but I will discuss the major changes brought about by these issue. To begin with, I’m going to look at the Avengers Disassembled storyline from Avengers #500 to #503, which essentially brought an end to the Avengers, and laid the groundwork for the next eight years of stories from Marvel Comics.
To begin, the Avengers line-up during this time period was Ant-Man, Captain America, Captain Britain (Kelsey Leigh), Falcon, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Vision, Wasp, and Yellowjacket. At the end of the story, all would leave the team, die or be otherwise incapable of performing their duties. So what could possibly happen that would destroy Earth’s mightiest team? One of their own.
The four-issue event starts off with Jack of Hearts, who had died in a previous storyline, coming back to the Avengers Mansion. Ant-Man rushes to greet him only to hear Jack say “I’m sorry” before detonating and killing Ant-Man instantly, along with half the Avengers Mansion. This first emotional attack forces the Avengers to send out a white distress call, meaning all Avengers assemble. Meanwhile Iron Man and Yellowjacket are at a UN conference where the Avengers’ are supposed to be reorganized under UN jurisdiction. Iron Man starts flipping out at the Latverian diplomat, and realizes he’s drunk even though he hasn’t had a drink in ages. The question starts being asked, who or what is attacking the Avengers on such a personal level?
When the remaining Avengers assemble at the mansion Vision comes flying towards the group in a Quinjet, and crashes it directly into what remains of the mansion. He then says that he has no control over what he is about to do, and summons five Ultron robots, which go on to attack the surviving Avengers. Vision then collapses, seemingly dead. As the Avengers start battling the Ultron robots, She-Hulk loses control of herself for the very first time, becoming more like her cousin, an uncontrollable Hulk. She ends up ripping Vision in half, and seriously hurting both Wasp, and Kelsey Leigh, before she’s rendered unconscious.
With the Ultron robots destroyed, every single Avenger in history rallies to the what little remains of the Avengers Mansion to show their support and try to assist in any way they can. Suddenly a Kree army appears out of nowhere and a massive battle breaks loose. During the battle Hawkeye is mortally wounded and killed, bringing the Avengers death total up to three.
It is eventually revealed by Dr. Strange that all of these events were the result of the Scarlet Witch. Many years earlier the Scarlet Witch had subconsciously created two children from the essence of Mephisto and soul fragments from Master Pandemonium. It turns out that every time she used her powers she created reality warps, which were affecting her mind. Bending reality at a whim comes with a severe cost, one that eventually made the Scarlet Witch go completely insane. Believing the Avengers took her two children away; she vowed to prevent them from doing the same again. In the process she not only killed her husband, Vision, but also set a series of events into motion that would change the Marvel Universe forever, beginning with House of M.
With the Wanda put in a trance by Dr. Strange, her father, Magneto arrives to take her away. He apologizes for her actions and realizes that he is partially to blame for her sanity because he never respected the incredible mutant power she had. After the chaos ends it is revealed that Tony Stark has lost his fortune with the Avengers Mansion being completely destroyed and because of his supposed drunken state, his shareholders have pulled out of his company. He can no longer finance the Avengers and as such leaves the group. Shortly thereafter all of the Avenger disband feeling they failed to be there for each other, and in their current state have way to live up to their saying…
“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!”
And so ends The Avengers, and begins a decade-long storyline.