Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Scott Kolins
The team is formed. Respect is won. Government clearance is secured. So why are the Avengers already drifting apart? In EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES #5 by Joe Casey and Scott Kolins, the powerhouse line-up begins to falter as underdog heroes rise to take their place.
Here, the Avengers are again in action, clashing with another classic supervillain—Count Nefaria. As a team of combatants, the Avengers continue to prove themselves remarkably capable; but as a team of superstar personalities, they’re less successful. Casey manages to beautifully convey the clash of personalities, without judgment and without detracting from the characters’ heroism. Giant Man anguishes over the Wasp’s safety and, consequently, reconsiders their membership; Thor’s god-status only alienates the Avengers, despite his reaching out to his distraught teammates; Captain America continues to be haunted by wartime memories which undermine his combative performances; and Iron Man begins to lose control of his team. Perhaps this line-up is too powerful, too independent, too preoccupied with their own interests to stick together for long, and nowhere has this been better portrayed than here. The characters don’t seem selfish or arrogant, merely unaccustomed to thinking like a team. And it’s a little bit tragic but all the more realistic to see the superstar line-up begin to fracture.
There’s light in the darkness, however—a theme that Kolins and colorist Wil Quintana use to great effect. Most of this issue takes place at night, with sharp contrasts of light throughout, light winking from a bowstring as Hawkeye hides in a shadowy alley, light leaking through dungeon grates as Captain America hangs shackled to a stone wall, light bleeding from stained-glass chapel windows as Giant-Man rejects the superhero life. Symbolically, this play of darkness and light is significant as an indicator of transitions. It also emphasizes the fact that the Avengers’ spotlight now turns upon emerging heroes who previously lurked only in the gloom of crime and misunderstanding.
This sense of transition is furthered by Kolins’ emphasis on movement. The characters are all in development, a progress that’s represented physically. A snowstorm blows the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver into a temporary safe-haven, a dining hall that allows them time to consider a new type of life, one where running from hatred and fear would no longer be necessary. They are always in motion, hoping for a rest. Movement is also detailed as the very essence of Hawkeye—in the flap of his tunic, in the arch of his boots, in the emergence of a grin, in the swing of his arms. He, like the sibling mutants, soon finds himself in a rare moment of stillness, in a roach-infested bar, aptly named “Bottom of the Barrel.” Here, Hawkeye also considers a new type of life, one where helping others doesn’t expose him to false accusations. But, unlike the mutants, Hawkeye seems to find peace and hope in this issue. After Hawkeye explains his situation as a mistaken criminal, a new friend offers to pay for dinner. At that moment, where Hawkeye’s good intentions are finally recognized by another, the background details disappear. All is still. All is dark, except the two characters. And by focusing solely on the characters, Kolins stretches this moment, a significant moment where a transition is finally achieved—a friendless hero is guided towards the legitimate world of the Avengers. This scene is touching, inspiring, finely crafted.
Actually, this entire series has been brilliant so far. Casey and Kolins are at their sharpest, providing insightful character portrayals, rousing stories, and respect for the Avengers’ rich history.
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