The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Today, a big, bright Avengers movie filled with quips and heroics is lighting up screens all over the country. This week, one of the grimmest runs of Avengers comics comes to a close. Earth's Mightiest Heroes? Not always.

Technically, there was a book called Dark Avengers a few years back. It featured villains posing as heroes. The reason that New Avengers has been even darker than that is because it's had Marvel's smartest heroes slowly becoming villains. And it ended with with one of its greatest villains acting a lot like a hero.

This is essentially a series recap for New Avengers, so major spoilers follow.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Launched by writer Jonathan Hickman in 2013, New Avengers started with the ambitious upscaling of a few familiar premises: a group of heroes bands together to stop cosmic evil from destroying worlds. But these characters formed the newest version of Marvel's Illuminati, a secret collective culled from some of the smartest, most respected and powerful heroes in their reality.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

The heroes faced a big challenge.

Earths from alternate realities were crashing into the native Marvel timeline (616). The problem was too big for just one genius to handle.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week
The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Right away, the Illuminati had to consider some rather unheroic actions. How far would they go to prevent the premature end of the entirety of existence?

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

The Black Panther was already allying with Namor, who destroyed much of the Panther's kingdom while imbued with the power of the Phoenix Force. Things were tense.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

The threat they faced was destroying entire realities, and they had to consider the notion of doing the same to preserve the existence of their own. An early plan required the re-assembly of the Infinity Gauntlet, which galactic conqueror Thanos one used to try to wipe out reality.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

That's right: the heroes were going use a weapon wielded by one of the universe's most sadistic bad guys. And the guy who had to put the Infinity Gauntlet on? Only the most noble dude in Avengers history.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

When that didn't work, the Illuminati did something really bad. Using Dr. Strange's magic, they made Captain America forget everything they'd been working on.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

They continued to hold a fugitive from a dead reality in a secret prison. OK, she's evil but such an act is still out of character for these heroes.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

As things went on, the Illuminati continued to slide down a slippery slope. They let a Galactus destroy another dimension's Earth to buy their native one more time. They lied to each other and their families, betrayed promises and launched secret attacks on each other's kingdoms.

Dr. Strange in particular went to some dark places.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Oh, that whole incident with Captain America didn't go according to plan.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Time kept winding down on the clock. Spying on other realities for information, the Illuminati watched as The Great Society — Hickman's alt-Earth riff on DC Comics' Justice League — reckoned with the same threat in far nobler fashion...

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

then they debated them...

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

and beat them...

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

and killed their planet.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

That's just the first half of the run.

New Avengers co-existed with the mainline Avengers book — also written by Hickman — and was a darker twin to that series' more optimistic altruism. The two runs eventually intertwined very tightly during the Time Runs Out storyline, with a militarised Avengers/SHIELD hybrid run by Captain America hunting down the Illuminati to make them pay for their accumulating transgressions. This week sees the final issues for both titles — Avengers #44 and New Avengers #33 — with incredibly grim denouements for each.

It is the finale of perhaps the bleakest era in Avengers history. The good guys don't win. Worse yet, there was never any chance of winning.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Hickman's tenure has pretty much been a total subversion of conventional superhero tropes. The smartest, strongest most socially elevated members of Earth's superhero population were not the best of humanity.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

And Doctor Doom, the Fantastic Four arch-villain who tried for years to conquer the world? He's the one who arguably came closest to saving the multiverse.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Granted, the actual cosmology governing the plot logic of Hickman's collective Avengers oeuvre is damn confusing. Trying to actually have things make chronological sense is daunting. But, that doesn't matter, really. The most radical thing about New Avengers is that all of those terrible personal sacrifices have been for nothing. The heroes don't win the day. In a way, this subversion is also the apotheosis of the Marvel Superhero Concept: this is the world we live in and these heroes are just like you and me. In New Avengers, Mr. Fantastic, the Black Panther and Iron Man and the rest aren't better than the average civilian. They stand in for the worst foibles of the human psyche.

The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week
The Darkest Avengers Series Ever Ended This Week

Marvel is about to usher in big changes. Starting next week, their huge Secret Wars crossover, written by Hickman and presumably continuing this saga, will lay the groundwork for a Marvel Universe that will look a lot different than it did before. After what Hickman's done with the publisher's marquee superteam, the Marvel Universe will have to feel different too. (And the previews we've seen for the next comic-book incarnations of Avengers teams certainly presage a shift in approach.) This weekend, millions of people are going to thrill to a version of the Avengers that comes together as a team. The excellent New Avengers comic shows that the super-group can also be just as compelling when the weight of multiple worlds has them falling apart.


Comments

    I really enjoyed Hickman's Avengers run, especially the New Avengers series. My favourite issue was the confrontation with the Justice League, but I also loved when they were on the run. Everyone had beards, Captain Britain should always have a beard.

      Definitely! Beards had this stupid association with hippies, commies, and the homeless for the vast majority of comic book history (it's an American thing...), but it's about time the manly face-mane was accepted as more than a weakness.

      Also, yeah, this run is definitely right up my alley as a fan of Alan Moore's works. There's a profound difference between stories like the new avengers film where people overcome adversity, and things like new avengers where there's no light, just ugliness. It needed to happen.

      When I was reading Frank Miller's daredevil I was hoping it would go there, but the punch was pulled. Still good, mind.

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