Friday, April 18, 2008

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

Years ago, the Super-Adaptoid was being taken by S.H.I.E.L.D. to one of its labs, when A.I.M. managed to overwhelm the convoy and steal it. Now, with the Vision, an artificial being, being inducted into the Avengers, both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. Government are having shit-fits. Neither trusts the Vision, who admits readily that he was originally made to kill the Avengers. But having broken free of his creator and decided for himself what he wants to do, he has decided to join the Avengers, and they are welcoming him.

But the Government doesn't see it quite that way, and they arrest the Vision, taking him to a small room and scanning and interrogating them. With Captain America taking more time to work on his own, he has given up leadership of the Avengers and nominated Hank Pym, better known as Goliath, for leader. Hank quickly finds himself obsessing over the responsibilities of his new position.

Of course, the Vision isn't the only member new to the team, the Black Panther, better known as T'Challah of Wakanda, has also joined, and is trying to make a new life for himself in America, a new life that doesn't go over very well with some of the people in his country. After seeing him adopting the identity of teacher Luke Charles, and attempting to reach the Black youth of America directly, they decide he has betrayed his nation and hire Death Tiger, a Wakandan Assassin, to take him out.

All that is put to the wayside when the Super-Adaptoid reappears once again, cloned many thousands of times by A.I.M. But the experiment is out of control and the Super-Adaptoid clones overwhelm and kill the A.I.M. Scientists on the small island.

The Avengers race to the scene, and Goliath assumes a leadership role and stays behind to deal with many of the clones. Quickly losing control of his emotions, he smashes and breaks the clones left and right with his giant form, just managing to survive. When the other heroes find him, it is obvious something is wrong, but they cannot get him to tell them what.

Black Panther finds that one of the children in his class is being systematically beaten and bullied by some of the other young men, and although he tries to reach out to the boy, the young man rebuffs his attempts to reach out.

Hank Pym, meanwhile is terrorized by nightmares of fighting the Super-Adaptoid clones. He derides himself as worthless and quickly adapts a new identity, Yellowjacket, a brash and crude man who takes on small-time crooks and thieves. But when he shows up demanding to be let into the Avengers, claiming he's more effective than "that loser Pym", it's the first sign of his mental instability. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s resident psychiatrist says it would be better for Hank Pym's mental health to play along with his new identity for now, and Wasp, loving Hank Pym, persuades the rest of them to do so. Yellowjacket even claims to have killed Pym.

Captain America returns, but Wasp persuades him to also go along with it, and Yellowjacket declares that he and Janet will get married, and invites many other heroes in New York to their wedding. But the party is infiltrated by villains, and in the ensuing fight and chaos, Hank comes back to himself and defeats the heroes by returning to giant-size. But he's chastened by the experience and steps down from leadership.

Meanwhile, back at the school where he teaches, T'Challa is about to leave for the day when Death Tiger ambushes him. The fight attracts the attention of the abused student who, seeing his teacher attacked, kills Death Tiger with the gun he smuggled into the school.

Meanwhile, the original Super-Adaptoid tracks the Avengers down and attacks the Vision, who fights him with the help of Hawkeye. But by saving the humans in the street, the people's opinion of him does an abrupt 180, and they accept and cheer him on. Meanwhile, Black Panther meets with the abused student, now about to be tried for the murder of the Death Tiger. He shares the secret of his identity, which the boy agrees to keep, and to face the consequences of his actions like a man.

Hawkman assumes the leadership of the Avengers... just as his love, the Black Widow leaves him, perhaps for good. Nevertheless, the torch is passed, and Wasp and Goliath take a short leave of absence to deal with Hank's mental troubles.

This book is a reprinting of the second "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" series, that came out in 2003. It introduces many of the classic Avengers heroes and plots, such as Hank Pym's mental instability, only the beginning of which is chronicled here. Since this book pretty much has it all, anyone interested in the Avengers will find this book a must-buy. And even if you aren't interested in the Avengers, any fan of comic-book action will also find much to admire in this collection.

At $25, it's pricey, but gives a lot of bang for the buck. Well worth the price and a very enjoyable read,

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