I finally saw Avengers...

"So, is Avengers the greatest superhero movie ever?"

"I don't know. I haven't seen it yet."

You need to see it..."

This exchange took place on Facebook back when The Avengers debuted in theaters in May. My friend Anthony could not believe I had not seen the movie, given my place (whatever that is) in the world of semi-professional online nerdery. What he didn't know is that I had been over the so-called "comic book movie" for some time. I had not bothered to see a superhero flick since the sensory overload of Iron Man 2, and even then, it was more of a social outing than a "must see" for me. So, already having missed Captain America and Thor, I had not made plans to see The Avengers, even though the trailers looked great...

As I'm sure you are aware, The Avengers came with unprecedented fan-fueled fanfare. This only solidified my desire to miss it.  What was it? My family-man concerns? My career worries? My slow-but-steady drift away from mainstream comics (and it doesn't get any more mainstream than The Avengers)? Was I outgrowing superheroes?
No. In fact, I have spent the better part of the last few years trying to master the rendition of superheroes. Even if I didn't always read mainstream books like what everyone else was reading, I still got excited about plenty of Marvel stuff. I even write about them from time to time. If anything, I may love the characters too much. I didn't want to turn into one of those dudes who tries to light the internet on fire with complaints about how the movie "got it wrong"... Whining about how superhero films were jumping the shark by diverging from continuity or crying about the superiority of Kirby designs over the contemporary costumes. That brings up another thing. Jack Kirby had a hand in creating every character in this movie (the cosmic godling who appears after the end titles was not created by Kirby, but was a direct knock-off of one of Kirby's greatest characters for that other mainstream publisher), but he essentially died broke, and his family will not see a dime from all the cash brought in by this blockbuster of blockbusters.
Don't get me started...
I could go on, but the point is that up until yesterday, I was totally cool with missing this movie. But yesterday, my wife and daughter both had other plans, and I could not get motivated to draw. Say what you want about the genre, but unless they are totally wack, superhero films make me want to draw, so I saddled up and headed to the local multiplex to catch The Avengers.

It's probably the best superhero movie ever.

At first, I was put off by the scope of the story. Cosmic threats so powerful, they have the Norse god Loki on a leash? Isn't that a bit much for the first movie? But then I remembered that The Avengers is actually a sequel. The next logical step in the progression of Marvel's shared universe of movies. Two Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor set this movie up. We know who these characters are. We know what they are capable of on their own. "And then came a day unlike any other..."

Beyond the lightning-in-a-bottle scenario they were able to pull off getting to this point, whoever selected Joss Whedon to write and direct The Avengers deserves a lion's share of the credit. The movie encapsulates everything that makes superhero comics (particularly Marvel comics) work. The characters are flawed. Apart, they're each so powerful and capable that they command complete respect. But put them together, and they are as likely to destroy each other as to defeat the enemy.
Here, Whedon shines. He knows that a gathering of tough guys of this magnitude will erupt into violence and why. And he's perfect at writing it. When Captain America interrupts a scuffle between Thor and Iron Man by asking Thor to put down the hammer, my hand involuntarily went up as Thor replies "You want me to put my hammer down?" because I knew exactly what would happen next. Not aware that Whedon wrote the screenplay, I muttered to myself "whoever they got to write this is the bomb..."
And that's just one example. The Avengers is as loaded with subplots and surprise twists as any trade paperback I can recommend. Each character gets their moments to be exalted, humbled, and then raised to greatness again. Black Widow and Hawkeye (both former reformed Iron Man villains in the comics) bring a slick, dark edge to the film.
Hulk is perfectly utilized. The jade giant's alter ego Bruce Banner is the only character whose star from his previous film (Ed Norton) was not present in The Avengers, but Mark Ruffalo was so good as the tortured physicist that Norton wasn't missed. The relationship between Banner and Tony Stark was complex, well conceived and and excellently executed.
Again, one of the themes in this film about the Earth's Mightiest Heroes is humility. Whedon takes the characters apart, so that they will be willing to put aside their differences and personal fears in order to work together. Their doubts about one another are replaced with trust that is earned the hard way.
So if I haven't been clear enough, The Avengers was dope. I reserve the right to change my mind about that "greatest ever" tag, but I was not disappointed by it, despite the outrageous expectations I had going in. Marvel has successfully created a shared universe and continuing-yet-accessible narrative on the big screen. That's something I would not have thought possible.


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