Monday, April 06, 2015

The problem of escalation.


I haven't really loved Jonathan Hickman's Avengers run, even though if I see a copy in the quarter (dollar) bin I'll usually try it. Like today's book! New Avengers #30, "Beyonders" Written by Jonathan Hickman, pencils by Dalibor Talajic, inks by Rick Magyar.

Hank Pym, Yellowjacket, has returned to the 616-main Marvel universe, after a recon mission through the multiverse searching for "the destroyer," Rabum Alal. (He may not have had to search that far...) Instead, Hank found something much worse: "...the Ivory Kings...the white lords from wild space. The Beyonders." Although some of the heroes remember the Beyonder from the first two Secret Wars, these Beyonders are staggeringly more powerful than that "child unit." The Ivory Kings and their troops attracted the attention of the Builders and the Captain Britain Corps, but that was just bait for a trap. And neither the Builders nor the Corps were the target: their destruction is incidental, as the Beyonders destroy multiple universes worth of Celestials single-handedly, before finishing off heavyweight cosmic avatars like Infinity, Eternity, Lord Chaos and Master Order, and the Living Tribunal. Hank tells the assorted Avengers and Illuminati present that it's all over. Well, of course it's not, there's still all those Secret Wars books, man.

I do like how Hickman both gives Hank something to do that seems suited to him; and portrays him has having been damaged by what he's seen but still holding it together as best he can. This is mainly an exposition issue, setting up future events; so it's just a bunch of guys standing around talking about far-off events of cosmic import, but while it didn't grab me at first, Talajic's art is an interesting choice for it. It doesn't have the sense of "cosmic grandeur" that someone like Jim Starlin might bring, and the cosmic battles with the Beyonders and the Celestials are somewhat static, shooting beams out of their hands affairs; but that could be attributed to Hank trying to give an account of a "battle taking place in multiple realities" as clearly as possible. That and Talajic's Avengers all seem haggard, and small. The beards several heroes sport aren't sexy Stephen Amell-stubble, they denote men that have been working to the point they've stopped taking care of themselves.

On the other hand, I'm already having the same problem with the Beyonders that I do with DC's Anti-Monitor: even an infinity of them couldn't destroy several infinities worth of alternate realities. Wouldn't they be destroying other universes with other Beyonders or Anti-Monitors, too? But the question of over-escalation is what I'm worried about. The Celestials were Kirby-created, giant alien space gods. Eternity was a manifestation of the universe. Showing them get completely jobbed taken down definitely raises the stakes, but if the heroes win...what's next? Fighting Whirlwind again? This isn't to say you can't have good, even great stories with omnipotent villains like Korvac or Thanos; but they have to be used sparingly. (Thanos isn't always omnipotent, but you get the idea. I would say he's overused lately, but at least there's still some mileage to be gotten out of him, unlike Korvac. Although I've seen two separate cartoons with Korvac, which is not something I would've ever bet on. We may have to come back to that...) Grant Morrison has tried to continue escalation to the point that you the reader are involved, if not threatened, in the story; but I don't know if that would fit in with Marvel or the Avengers.

Let's see if I can get my point across with a counter-example: assuming the Avengers save the universe, after Hickman leaves the title, if I was writing Avengers? The first issue, the surviving heroes are coming down from their victory, with some characters staying with the team, others going on to something new. Meanwhile, Batroc breaks into Avengers Mansion (or Tower, or whatever their base is) on a mission to steal something--maybe info on the Beyonders or something--and completely clowns them. Everyone thinks, after facing multiverse-destroyers, a guy that kicks a lot shouldn't be a problem; but Batroc plays it smart (probably on someone else's game plan) and divides to conquer. He's not traditionally a weapons guy, but I'd cheat just a little, to give him one or two backer-supplied doodads to bench Thor, Hyperion, and/or Captain Marvel. Some Avenger--quite possibly Iron Man--would be stunned that after defeating super space-gods, someone with no powers would come at him; and consequently would get kicked in the face really, really hard.

Batroc might even get away with it. The message would be, every day is a different challenge, and none can be taken lightly. Also, some days you win, some you can still lose.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

I'd go with that. And Batroc too of all villains.

I could see Cap just making that weathered old Clint Eastwood face, simply saying "I'll Be Damned." to himself.