Saturday, March 12, 2011

Avengers: The Origin by Joe Casey and Phil Notto

Loki is unhappy and looking to mess with his brother, the Hero known as Thor. He picks a fight with the Hulk, hoping to possess and take him over, but the Hulk, even as persecuted as he is by humanity, isn't about to start killing people wholesale. When he is tricked into taking out a section of railroad, he makes sure that the train is saved. But the Hulk's actions are seen as an "attack", and the news of this is everywhere.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, Donald Blake, the earthly form of Thor, is sent a message in Futhark, the language of the Vikings, which only he understands as a message from his father, Odin, calling him to battle the Hulk. But is it really from Odin? And the Hulk's 'rampage' doesn't only attract his attention, but other heroes as well, such as Doctor Henry Pym and his wife, Janet Van Dyne, the Heroes known as Ant Man and the Wasp, and Tony Stark, who wears the armor and guise of Iron Man. Iron Man, Ant Man and Wasp have homed in on a signal sent out over the airwaves that have attracted Thor as well.

The signal was put out by a bunch of students, led by Rick Jones, who are looking to take the Hulk in, but they were trying to contact the Fantastic Four. Unfortunately, the FF are too busy to help, but the four heroes who have shown up might be able to help. And meanwhile, the Hulk has found a place with a traveling freak show/carnival, and when they confront him, he fights back. After defeating Iron Man, Thor takes on the Hulk, but the fight is all in his mind.

The Carnival folk agree to take the Hulk with him, if he helps them out, and they need to do it without freaking anyone out. But Thor is non-plussed by the vision he's had, and he feels that Loki is behind this and takes off in search of his brother. Meanwhile, the other three heroes and Rick Jones set up shop in Stark Industries. Hank and Jan build a larger and more powerful version of the helmet that allows Hank to communicate with and understand ants and other bugs, and use it to track down the Hulk in Colorado. But he also tells his ants to help to take care of the Hulk, and they undermine the ground beneath him, sending him plunging into the earth.

He's already not happy to being made to play "Mechano", a supposed automaton, and the attack by the insects sends him over the edge. He strikes out at them, nearly collapsing the tent. His friend, Bea. the Bearded Lady, tries to calm him down, but her fellow performers force her to flee before the tent collapses. While the three heroes fight with the Hulk, Thor takes on Loki in the land of the Trolls. The trolls have allied with Loki provided that he can bring them Thor, which he has. But an angry Thor is more than powerful than either a single powerful troll or an illusion of many multiples of his brother attacking him. He drags Loki back to Earth, where he presents him as the author of all the events behind the Hulk's "rampage", which pretty much ends the fight.

And so it is time for the Heroes to part. Or will they? Will they decide that this was actually an opportunity in the disguise of a pretext and that their coming together is a gift they shouldn't give up? And who will be the startling fifth member of the group when it comes together?

This graphic novel expands the original origin story of the Avengers from a small bit in a multiple-story comic to a multiple-issue comic with a much expanded story and characters that fleshes out the story. While the origin of the Avengers has always included Thor and Loki, this one includes Rick Jones, the boy who Bruce Banner was protecting when he was hit with the gamma-ray blast that turned him into the Hulk, and fleshes out the people of the circus who took the Hulk in.

In the end, while going over the very same ground as before, it provides a much more entertaining and fleshed out story. We get to see the original gold-plated Iron Man armor, and the original alter-ego of Hank Pym, Ant-Man, before he was Yellowjacket or Giant Man, or his many other changes through the years. Thanks to this not actually being the first published Avengers story, we get to see other members and other notable events in the Avengers history thanks to Janet VanDyne's hopes and dreams.

Yes, this story has been done before, but rarely this well or this well-fleshed out. It was nice to return to the Origin of the Avengers and see how the team came together, though several members have yet to join, even stalwarts like Captain America or Hawkeye, it satisfies, and I wanted to see more. Recommended.

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