Feb 15, 2012

Avengers #200

So recently Avengers #200 has been thrust back into fan consciousness again, partly because Jim Shooter, the editor-in-chief at the time, and one of the creditted writers, gave an apology for the issue. A rather unsatisfying apology, at least I thought so.

Avengers #200 is a rather loathesome comic, but what's loathesome about it has been pretty thoroughly covered by other people, so what can 80 Page Giant possibly bring to the table that hasn't already been said? Well we'll get to that after the jump. First, I want to make sure you have a nice grounding in the currently accepted view of Avengers #200 (I say currently accepted, because people sure didn't see this comic this way when it came out.)

So here's a few links, some articles to read to get some context before you come back here:


And finally, Jim Shooter's apology:

So now you have the story, come on back and let's see if I don't have something unique to say about the issue myself.

Avengers #200 is a skeevy book. It's supposed to be a 200th issue celebration, but the only plotline in the book at all is basically a non-Avenger's plight. There's no real villain in the story as written (though definitely the character of Marcus, the guy who impregnated Ms. Marvel, is definitely a villain to the reader), and the Avengers themselves basically have no pro-active role at all in the book.

And that's really the thing that's striking about Avengers #200. It's incredibly boring. It's an amazingly boring execution of a really skeevy concept. In fact if not for the reprehensible subject matter I doubt this issue would be able to draw any kind of emotional response at all from the audience, other than a yawn.

The fight scenes in the book, as few as there are, are incredibly boring. Iron Man punching a dinosaur isn't very interesting when there's nothing really at stake. The comic completely fails to have any sort of dramatic tension whatsoever.

Take the pregnancy, for example. The Avengers all treat it like it's just a normal pregnancy -- not a pregnancy that is completely unnatural, with no father and a gestation period of only a few days. No one has any theories, no one shows any worry, no one seems horrified by it. There's not even the natural tensions of a pregnancy -- worry about the mother, the baby, the complications, the pain, the time it takes for it to happen. So you don't have the tension of a naturual pregnancy, OR of an unnatural one. Here, take a look at this:

Phew! Thank goodness there's no
consequences for this unnatural pregnancy!
Wow, offensive to women and to storytelling! Well done, guys.

Because there's no tension about the pregnancy, that plotline resolves itself without any interest for the reader. Then you have an unnatural baby. And once again the Avengers treat it as if it was just a normal kid. Once again there's absolutely no tension.

The result is that the Avengers come across as a bunch of feckless morons. They do nothing pro-active. The only one to do anything with any sense of urgency and pro-active behaviour is Hawkeye. He actually decides that Marcus is evil and goes after him, attacking him and destroying the machine that Marcus was building. And we're supposed to believe that Hawkeye is WRONG. That Marcus is the good guy!

We're supposed to believe that the rapist who was destroying the time stream just so he could have his own way was the good guy in this story. We're supposed to sympathise with this guy. We're supposed to see the fact that Ms. Marvel leaves to live with her rapist in the end of the story as a good thing.

The story might have been able to bury this concept -- might have been able to hide the fact that it's a rape fantasy, if there was anything else going on. But there's not. In this 200th issue double-sized special there's so many slow, boring moments that it's hard to believe it's meant to be a giant spectacular celebration. There are some neat scenes, that would be nice little down-time moments in a regular issue. For example this one:

This scene is happenning while an unnatural child is using a laser torch to build some unknown device in the basement of Avengers mansion! While one of their friends is recovering from an alien pregnancy! Yet, none of those things are discussed, Hank McCoy (a scientist) doesn't offer any theories. Hawkeye doesn't comment on his suspicions. It's just a scene that could take place in literally any issue of Avengers.

Even when they do address the issues of the book, generally it's done in such a vapid, down-played way that the only character who comes across as having a reasonable emotional response to the situations is Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel herself.

 See Carol's reaction there? By the end of the issue she will be agreeing to go live as her "son"'s lover in another dimension, supposedly of her own free will.

This issue is pretty disgusting. But it's also really boring.

If you want a reason to read Avengers #200 do it to make your own judgement about the whole 'rape' issue. If you want a reason not to read it how about the fact that it's a completely boring, un-engaging comic book?

--Andrew S.
(Oh yeah, you can also play, "which part did Jim Shooter suggest", I'm betting the line about using Immortus' machines to control Carol was from Shooter...)

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