By Jekylhyde14 2 Comments
I once heard someone describe writing comics like writing a haiku. In each issue you have so many pages, so many panels per page, and so many words you can fit in each panel to tell your story. Being a genre that’s part visual and part literary, comic writers get the added advantage of having illustrations to back-up their words but are restricted in the amount of words and time they have to get their point across. The literary restrictions of the medium often force writers to take story-telling short-cuts to fit their stories into the confined space of a single-issue. These short-cuts are often pointed out by critics to mar comics as trashy literature. However, being a long-time fan, I’ve come to see these plot short-cuts as the necessary evils they are and even have grown to appreciate how certain writers can wield them creatively enough to make them welcome additions to their stories rather than annoying hindrances to plausibility. That being said, we do have decades among decades worth of comic stories filled with these plot holes and examples of telling over showing. My favorite type of story-telling short-cut often used by comic writers is when they TELL you how to feel about an event that’s just occurred so you don’t feel like your favorite heroes are acting like villains. Comic writers reach for this short-cut when they’ve had their main character (or characters) do something morally questionable when they don’t intend for you to question the character’s moral standing. I’ve found that there are MANY examples of this in the Avengers throughout the years, and I wanted to use this series of blog posts as a creative way of pointing them out.
I’m a big fan of Post-Modern literature. These are stories that use alternate perspectives to rethink narrative and history. In other words, they take multiple perspectives of an issue into account to break down the idea that there’s only one kind of morality or only one way to look at a conflict. For instance, Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day tells the story of the Industrial Revolution and World War I from the perspective of anarchists or how William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch tells the story of heroin addiction from the perspective of someone trapped in the disease (rather than having its ills delivered down to you by an anti-drug initiative). Superheroes have suffered in the face of Post-Modernism. One man’s champion of justice is another man’s restrictive fascist. It’s lead to many modern writers struggling with characters who are supposed moral pillars like Superman and some nasty new outlooks on superheroes as characters like Garth Ennis’ Boys. Taking post-modernism to heart, I’ve decided to take a look at some of these short-cut moments within the pages of the Avengers from a new perspective: The harsh perspective of an opposite point-of view. After a series of these, I hope to come up with a brand new way at looking at the Avengers and their history or, rather, an alternate history of the Avengers using the same stories. I do this not because I don’t see the Avengers as heroes but because I want to prove that the world of comics is, was, and always has been as morally complex as our own. You just need to look at it a certain way. I’m going to write these posts as my very own Marvel fan-fiction character Felix from my World Search series (http://www.comicvine.com/forums/fan-fic/8/marvel-world-search-series/584653/). Without further ado, here’s Felix’s perspective on the events of The Avengers #268 by Roger Stern, John Buscema, and Tom Palmer:
They’ve been called Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, champions of justice, and the best hope for the future our modern world has. I know things about the Avengers that prove they’re anything but. I see them as nothing more than a mechanism to defend the status quo and force it on the rest of us. Despite the humanitarian efforts they perform in the eye of the public, there are other, more sinister missions they engage in on a regular basis that would make many free-thinking individuals question their judgment and morality. I understand that the Avengers are heroes to many and most people will close their eyes and ears to the information I’m going to put before them. I hope those of you with free wills and good conscience will see it in yourselves to question a group that is allowed to trample over our freedoms and lives in the pursuit of a “better” world. In many cases, you’ll see, it’s hard to distinguish the actions from the Avengers from those “villains” they demonize in the press.
There are those who doubt its existence, and recent announcements by the Catholic Church don’t help in this regard, but Limbo is a real place with real inhabitants trying to live decent lives. Take my good friend Jim Clayton and his wife Avesma whose family was victimized by the Avengers underneath the shroud of Limbo. Jim was an honest, American worker in the automotive industry who fell into Limbo after his car factory was shut down amid the energy crisis of 1979. Winding up alone, unemployed, and directionless in the changing economy of the early 80’s, Jim awoke one morning to find himself in the formless void of Limbo. Never being one to shy away from a challenge or hard work, Jim eventually carved out a place for himself in the mind-bending realm by building a small cottage from debris near the outskirts of Chronopolis. Eventually, Jim met the love of his life, Avesma, who just happened to be a Dire Wraith. Avesma and her people had been exiled to Limbo after an attempt by the Wraiths to infiltrate and conquer Earth was thwarted by the Avengers and an alien android called Rom. I make no excuses for the Dire Wraiths’ attempted conquest of Earth, but will point out you can’t blame an entire species on the failings of its government. By this point, the mighty Dire Wraith Empire had been reduced to a rag-tag band of refugees flooding Limbo for sanctuary. Avesma, herself, is a kind-hearted being with a warm personality. Jim was attracted to her kindness and would always joke that it’s hard to beat having a wife that can shape-shift into ANY woman. Jim and Avesma married and set to work trying to build a small community in Limbo on the edge of Chronopolis.
Eventually, their small community and the new Dire Wraith population came to the attention of Chronopolis’ ruler, Kang the Conqueror. Now Kang is admittedly a controversial public figure. His repeated attempts to conquer Earth as well as all space and time are well documented, but he is Chronopolis’ rightful leader and the only major employer close to Limbo. Many young Dire Wraiths found employment and purpose guarding and maintaining Kang’s factories spread throughout Chronopolis. Avesma’s young nephew Grex was among the ranks of Kang’s security force. Being grateful for their newfound jobs and lives, The Wraiths did the best they could for Kang and Chronopolis. This, unfortunately, would be their downfall.
Amid one of his infamous schemes, Kang teleported three members of the Avengers (Wasp, Hercules, and the Black Knight) to Limbo by surprise. Belligerent and confused, the members of the World’s most prominent superhero team searched Limbo for answers. In the meantime, Kang sent a small security force of Dire Wraiths to intercept the band of heroes and lead them to Chronopolis. Unfortunately, a massacre was all that followed the Avengers meeting with the Wraiths. As Avesma tells it (since the skirmish happened not far from the cottage she shares with Jim), the Avengers attacked the small group of Wraiths with deadly force as soon as they laid eyes upon them. Hercules pounded them to pulp with his demigod strength; the Black Knight sliced and stabbed with his Ebony Blade; and the Wasp used her famous stings with fatal force. The small security force didn’t stand a chance and, to make matters worse, their demise was witnessed by a majority of the Dire Wraith population settled in Jim and Avesma’s small community. The Dire Wraith community was incensed by this senseless act of violence and set upon the Avengers to detain them. Unfortunately, the bloodlust of these “heroes” knew no end and the Avengers went on to slaughter every Dire Wraith that had the nerve to approach them.
(Images of Dire Wraith Genocide taken by Jim Clayton)
After the dust had finally settled and the Avengers moved on to assault Chronopolis, Avesma and Jim were left to mourn their small community. The three Avengers had killed a majority of their community and the Dire Wraith refugees that had been left alive after the invasion including Avesma’s nephew Grex and his parents. Those still breathing would now be too few to save the Dire Wraiths from extinction making the Avengers culpable of genocide. The worst part was, when confronted with this dubious action, the Avengers defended their massacre by explaining to the press and authorities that if they hadn’t killed the Dire Wraiths then Kang would have done so himself through torture. This excuse is as laughable as it is disgusting. Why would Kang torture his own employees to death? Especially considering there is a limited population in Limbo to hire. Yet, the US Government accepted and endorsed this excuse for genocide like it happened every day. Even the Geneva Convention was hesitant to bring charges since Limbo lies outside their sphere of influence. I, however, do not accept this excuse and will call this act of violence the war crime of Genocide that it is.
Since the Dire Wraith Genocide, Jim and Avesma have done the best they can to pick up the pieces of their shattered community. With the population drastically reduced, it’s become harder for them to farm for food in the haze of limbo (if you think regular farming is hard then just try growing grain in an abstract concept). They have also had to face the hard truth that the days of the Dire Wraith species are numbered and they struggle to find a glimmer hope in this fact. Jim and Avesma are working hard with the doctors of Chronopolis to find a way to mix their DNA, create a race of human/wraith hybrids, and one day have children. The process is slow, though, even with all the medical technology space and time has to offer. The most tragic thing about all of this is that they struggle in anonymity. Most people don’t know a thing about the Dire Wraith Genocide and those who do refuse to admit the Avengers were at fault. The Avengers themselves refuse to apologize or even give sufficient reasoning for the murder of so many Dire Wraiths. This is strange for a group who claims to avoid killing if and whenever possible. Perhaps that policy only applies to human lives. The fact remains that the Dire Wraiths will be gone within a generation and there’s no one to answer for it. I urge any of you who are as troubled by this fact as I am to start speaking up and against the Avengers for this act. Their defense of US land and policies does not give them the right to act as judge, jury, and executioner to an entire species. For those of you who aren’t convinced of the Avengers fallibility yet, just wait for my next installment...