It’s the last week of November (and a very happy Thanksgiving to all of you celebrating it this week), but the comics show no signs of slowing down! Quite the opposite, in fact, as this week brings us the conclusion of the main Infinity comic, Infinity 6, as well as Avengers Assemble 21, Hawkeye 14, New Avengers 12, and Uncanny Avengers 14. I should be upfront about this: majorly problematic things have gone down in Uncanny Avengers this week, and I am angry about them.
The last issue of Infinity followed the Avengers leading the remainder of their fleet against the Builders, starting on Hala and moving to other occupied worlds. As world after world is freed from the Builders’ rule, planets begin to declare themselves “Avengers worlds,” in honor of the people who saved them. But after they’re finally won, Gladiator brings back the news that Earth has fallen under the assault of Thanos, and the combined fleet prepares to head back to Earth to save one last world—their own. On Earth, the Ebony Maw (one of Thanos’ generals) tricks the newly-Inhuman Thane (Thanos’ son, whom he has come to Earth to kill, and who has just gained power over death) into a containment trap, to hold him until Thanos arrives to kill him. In Wakanda, the Illuminati learn that Thanos’ generals have gained access to the world-destroying weapons stored there to use during incursion events, and set out for the DeadCity to try to take out Thanos’ forces.
Infinity 6 begins with the assault on Thanos’ pirate fleet surrounding Earth by the fleet and fighters led by the Avengers. The assault succeeds after the leaders of the fleet defeated Black Dwarf on the Peak and used the Peak to help the Avengers break through the barricade and land back on Earth, where they head off to confront Thanos. In Wakanda, the Illuminati defeat the last squad of foot soldiers and break into their headquarters underneath the Necropolis, only to find Black Bolt harnessed to a machine controlling the antimatter bomb and being mind-controlled by Supergiant, leading to her forcing him to attack them with his voice. In the Inhuman city of Orollan, Thanos’ general report to him of the loss of the Peak and the return of the heroes, only to be interrupted by an incoming Hulk. Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive take him on, and Proxima’s spear weakens the Hulk enough to turn back into Bruce Banner, just before the rest of the Avengers arrive and the battle begins in earnest. The Black Maw stays back from the battle, telling the imprisoned Thane that the Avengers cannot save him and all hope is fleeting in the face of Thanos as the Avengers seem to be getting trounced by Thanos and his generals. Back in the Necropolis, Supergiant prepares to activate the bomb, when Black Bolt’s brother Maximus teleports in with Lockjaw, triggers the bomb himself, and teleports both it and Supergiant herself to another world entirely to detonate, saving Earth. At the Peak, Starbrand is able to harness his full powers to obliterate a large portion of Thanos’ pirate fleet, sending the rest into full retreat. Black Widow contacts Iron Man as they’re cleaning up in Wakanda, and she and Iron Man arrange for reinforcements to go to the worst-hit areas, while Iron Man heads off to join the group confronting Thanos.
In Orollan, Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive seem to be succeeding in their assault of the Avengers, when Cap manages to deflect two of Proxima’s light-spears with his shield, sending them straight through Corvus Glaive instead, which distracts him long enough to let Hyperion incinerate him. Captain Marvel assaults Proxima but gets beaten back by Thanos, who is interrupted by the dramatic arrival of Thor. In the midst of their brawl, Ebony Maw releases Thane from his containment field, telling him that as he watches Thanos unable to be defeated by man or god, he has a decision to make—he could be the good and noble man he’s always wanted to be, or he could save everyone, but in doing so, become what he’s fought for so long: the son of Thanos, bringer of death. Thane acknowledges his heritage and reaches out his right hand to touch his father (as physical touch activates his abilities), at which the Maw teleports them away, calling Thane “greater than his father could ever hope to be…No single world can contain what you will become…After all, what is one world for a man that could have many?” Captain America wakes up after being knocked out in the battle and Iron Man tells him that it wasn’t them who defeated Thanos, but Thane, his son. His Inhuman abilities give his left hand the power of death, and the right, the power of living death—which he gifted to both Proxima Midnight and Thanos before disappearing.
The epilogue begins with Black Bolt and Maximus, hiding the Inhuman Codex in the Himalayas, where Attilan used to be located. The royal family of Attilan believes them to be dead, with the only people knowing they survived being the Illuminati. Maximus asks Black Bolt why he’s hiding the Codex where it was before, if not to mean that they won’t be going back to the Inhumans, but in talking through it, realizes that Black Bolt was always planning to detonate the Terrigen bomb, regardless of Thanos’ attack. Instead of giving them the last Inhuman age with the fall of Attilan, he instead has gifted them with a new one. The epilogue continues, describing how all across the universe, not just on Earth, people began to rebuild what had been broken. The Ex Nihili begin to use their powers to repair the worlds the Builders scarred and created new ones for those who lost their own. Gladiator intends to explain the Shi’ar imperial guard to take the place of the heroes who fell in the battles. The Accusers are enfolded back into the Kree Empire, but as always, the empire prepares for war. Kl’rt is crowned the emperor, but, we are warned, all Skrulls are born with conquest in their blood. Annihilus drones manage to capture a portal on Praxis-2, opening a way into the Negative Zone and claiming the world as their own. Under the tutelage of the Ebony Maw, Thane would grow to be something worse than Thanos could have ever dreamed—“a fitting match for the end of everything.” As Infinity closes, we see the Illuminati gather once more, declaring that as their world is dying, they must continue. We see the frozen Thanos and Proxima Midnight enclosed with the Illuminati, and Iron Man closes the issue: “And though it may cost us our very souls, we gather the proper tools necessary…and we build. Preparing for the unthinkable.”
Oh, MAN. I honestly have chills after reading that; that was so good. Hickman has an incredible sense for the power of the understated dramatic narrative, and the way he inserts narration over key transition or concluding scenes is incredibly effective. I could gush about how much I’ve loved Infinity and still do, but I feel like I’d be repeating myself, so I’ll just leave it by saying that they haven’t shied away from the fact that all actions have consequences with this story, and that’s something I love to read about. Ebony Maw tells Thane during the battle, “There is no unwritten, universal rule that says good men always win. So they don’t,” and even with the defeat of the Builders, the defeat of Thanos, and the saving of their world multiple times over, even this is not a true victory. The worlds are still ending, the universes are still colliding, and the Illuminati still are dealing with the incursion events on their own, resigning themselves to more and more drastic methods with each incursion. Infinity’s events are going to echo throughout the rest of the Marvel universe for a long time to come, and for the first time since Civil War, I feel like this is a universal arc that is truly going to be important as we move forward.
The art for this issue, once again, is absolutely gorgeous, with pencils from the undeniably talented Jim Cheung. The color work as well is absolutely stunning, and the battle scenes explode right off the page with pops of color and motion, and it’s amazing. I’ll definitely be picking up the trade paperback of Infinity, and for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, I’d certainly recommend you do too.
Avengers Assemble 21
In issue 20 (an Inhumanity tie-in), we focused on Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, and the Wasp as they tried to deal with the aftermath of the Terrigenesis bomb activated by Black Bolt in Infinity 4. An argument about whether or not Simon’s been using his new pacifist tendencies to make other people do his fighting for him is interrupted by the discovery of a giant naked man in the middle of a neighborhood. The man is named Denny Kedzierski, whose wife Alice recently underwent Terrigenesis and developed mass transfer powers, as Denny has grown to twice the size of a house while Alice, their neighbor and her daughter, and their house have shrunk down to nothing. Jan realizes they’ve entered the Microverse (where Jan had been trapped until very recently), and Wanda helps Jan shrink down to enter the Microverse and rescue Alice, Soo Lin, and Hana from Gouzar, the centaur warlord of the Microverse. Jan’s Pym particles malfunction, and Alice is able to harness her powers to defeat Gouzar and returns them all to normal size.
Issue 21 is also a tie-in with Inhumanity, the arc dealing with the effects of the worldwide Terrigenesis bomb, and features Spider-Girl (Anya Corazon) teaming up with Spider-Woman and Black Widow in order to investigate the disappearance of two Terrigenesis cocoons from a secured hospital, one of which held her social studies teacher. The issue opens with an introduction to geneticist June Covington, also known as the Toxic Doxie, who has managed to purchase what’s revealed to be a Terrigenesis cocoon, but it blows up in her face, leaving her to collect the Inhuman inside the cocoon and declare her intent to “fix [them] both.” Natasha takes Jessica and Anya straight to AIM’s headquarters in New York City to investigate the cocoon’s disappearance, but due to the fact that AIM became a “legit” organization a while back, they technically can’t treat them the same as they would any other villainous terrorist-like group, and have to infiltrate and convince the goons to talk if they can. They succeed, but before they can get any information, they’re captured by Kashmir Vennema, an inter-dimensional arms dealer who partnered with alternate universe versions of herself to exploit greed across the universes. (Vennema—or, at least, some versions of Vennema—appeared for the first time in the Captain America and Hawkeye/Black Widow/Iron Man miniseries.) Vennema reveals that the inhabitant of one of the cocoons—the one holding Anya’s teacher—died during the “process,” but the other survived, and orders her underlings to kill the three heroes as she leaves. Elsewhere, in a research lab, a lab worker is knocked out with some sort of gas by Dr. Covington, who declares her desire to borrow the facilities for the weekend.
Despite the ominous way this issue ended, this week’s Avengers Assemble is much more lighthearted fare than many of the other comics this week, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Anya has a wonderful scene at the beginning of the issue where she comes to AvengersTower to ask for help in finding the missing cocoons, but can’t get her full request out because the rest of the Avengers are in crisis mode over the worldwide Terrigenesis that’s been taking place. After finally managing to explain the situation, Captain Marvel apologizes for not letting her finish her request, to which Anya replies, “S’okay. You’re old. You rile easily,” which is met with a fist-bump from Spider-Woman. Later on, just after managing to infiltrate AIM’s base, Anya asks Black Widow how they’re going to manage to get the goons to talk, to which she only responds with an ominous chuckle. When asked by Anya if Widow is always this terrifying, Jessica’s only response is “Ayyyyyyyyyep.” I’m definitely intrigued by the introduction of Kashmir Vennema closer to the main storylines of the universe, as the last time we saw her was when one of her selves had been defeated by Captain America and Iron Man in Madripoor, but her inter-dimensional operation continued regardless. I’ve not heard of Dr. Covington before, so I’m not sure if she’s a new or established villain, but I am all for the idea of a female scientist studying—and manipulating—Terrigenesis as a fascinating plot point. I can’t wait to read more!
It’s been a while since we’ve read a Hawkeye comic, but it’s always worth the wait, as Hawkeye 13 tied many of the plot strands since issue 9 into a more cohesive whole. It began with Clint learning of his neighbor’s assassination (at the hands of the assassin Kazi, who’s working for the tracksuit gang trying to take out Clint), and follows Clint and Kate to the funeral. Clint gets a call from his brother Barney to let him know he’s back in town, and they meet up at the apartment building, with Barney in the apartment as Kate gets fed up and heads out to the West Coast with Lucky the dog. Clint introduces Barney to the rest of the building’s tenants, who welcome him to the family, while Clint is left alone on the roof, feeling more and more isolated from those around him.
Issue 14 follows Kate’s continued adventures in Los Angeles, as she decides to try to get a job as a hero for hire/private detective of sorts. She knocks on one of her neighbors’ doors to ask to borrow their printer, and meets an older couple named Marcus and Finch, both of whom are African-American men. (They seem nice.) Kate overhears that the orchids for their wedding have been stolen, which distresses Marcus quite a lot, and Kate volunteers her services to find the orchids. She heads to the florist, and learns that a man named Flynt Ward (sometimes called “Weed Lord”) demanded the orchids and got violent when the florist said no, beating him up and setting fire to his shop after stealing the orchids. But the florist is too scared of the man to press charges, and when Kate tries to get the help of the police, she gets turned down flat. Kate gets frustrated in the middle of a grocery store and a random passerby stops and helps talk her through it. Thanks to the passerby, she takes it upon herself to crack the case—pretending to be an orchid buyer at Ward’s door (and gets it slammed in her face), breaking into his greenhouse (and gets tossed out by his “bellboys”), and following him around town and taking pictures. He sees her while taking photos, and tries to pull a hit and run—but Kate keeps taking pictures. He gets booked for it, and Kate heads back with the last remaining orchid plant for her neighbors’ wedding. She heads back to the grocery store, where she gets congratulated by the passerby from before, who gives her files to write her cases in and index cards, but when she looks up to ask his name, he’s not there, and the cashier tells her she’s been the only one in the store for a half an hour. Meanwhile, Ward receives a phone call in prison from his employer, none other than Madame Masque, whom he tells that he’s finally found Kate Bishop.
Hawkeye 14 is a wonderful romp through Kate Bishop’s slightly rose-tinged world, although it seems the rose-tinting is wearing off little by little as she figures out just what it means to live on her own as an adult, with no support—financial or otherwise—from anyone but herself. Kate’s gung-ho attitude and determination to get the orchids back for her neighbors is quite endearing, and reminds me of how much I really do like Kate, even if she has no earthly idea how normal people take care of themselves. The police detective she’d been bothering has warned her off wanting to do some sort of clichéd partnership-thing, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Detective Caudle again. But who is this mysterious disappearing cat-food man from the grocery store, and why is he trying to help Kate? (I’m going to laugh so hard if it turns out to be Clint in disguise or one of the West Coast Avengers who Clint called to keep an eye on her.) No matter what’s in store for Kate—and if Madame Masque has any say, it won’t be pleasant—I’ll be waiting eagerly for the next installment of Hawkeye!
New Avengers 12
Last issue, the Illuminati were confronted during an incursion event by an alternate universe’s Builders, who pull them through to their World Killer ship in the other approaching world and notice (and end) the Ebony Maw’s mind control of Dr. Strange. The Builders tell them that the fractures in the spaces between the universes have barred their travel between universes, and that Earth is the axis point for the death of the universe. The Builders think that destroying all Earths would either save or prolong the multiverse’s existence, and tell the Illuminati that if they have the ability to destroy their own world, they should do it. In Wakanda, Proxima Midnight leads the charge through the city’s broken walls, searching for T’Challa, because she believes he has the last remaining Infinity Gem. Thanos’ generals discover an armament of antimatter projection bombs beneath the city, as well as the imprisoned Terrax and Black Swan.
New Avengers 12 begins in the aftermath of Infinity 6, as Shuri, the queen of Wakanda, confronts Black Panther in the ruins of the Necropolis. His own personal guards break their spears—and their oaths—to him, and tell Shuri that T’Challa has been meeting with Namor in the Necropolis while Wakanda has been at war with Atlantis. She asks him why, and when he cannot tell her (they’re meeting for Illuminati business), she casts him out of the city and leaves. Namor emerges from where he’s been hiding, and applauds him somewhat mockingly for his bravery at not giving up Namor’s location, and tells him that now he knows what it’s like to face death having lost everything he holds dear—just as Namor has. “What we used to call life has very little worth these days. Welcome to the very edge.” We jump to Black Bolt and Maximus, where Maximus tells Black Bolt that the Terrigen bomb greatly diminished Black Bolt’s sonic powers, which they’ll have to hide from everyone else. In Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, Strange bars himself in his rooms, tired of watching while others make consequential choices, and decides to draw on all the resources at his disposal as the sorcerer supreme to help in the coming events. In Necropolis, the Illuminati finish checking all the antimatter bombs for sabotage from Thanos, and talk to Black Swan about the recent events. She taunts them, saying their world has been spared once again by the hands of others, not their own, and that the threats they’ve faced are nothing compared to what’s out there in the universes. If the Builders seemed like an insurmountable threat, she asks, what of all these other, greater, more powerful groups of beings who want to avert the universes’ end just as much as the Builders did? “Empires have collapsed. Kings have fallen. Men have perished. Worlds have ended…and that’s just the beginning…Everything dies.”
The world may have been saved from the threat of Thanos’ invasion, and the Builders may have been defeated, but it seems like the problems are only just getting started. Black Swan has threatened the Illuminati with a warning: what you’ve been doing so far is only stopgaps. This will not end, unless you end it. What are you willing to do?
I’m almost afraid to find out.
New Avengers 12 is listed as the final comic in the Infinity storyline, but it doesn’t seem like an end—it seems like a beginning. The worlds are still colliding, the time-space continuum is still shattered, the universes are still dying, and so far, there’s nothing that they’ve figured out that can stop the downward spiral. I’m sitting here in horrified anticipation—I can’t wait to see what comes next, but once we get there, I think I’ll find that perhaps I wanted to wait after all. We’ll have to see where the next story brings us, but I’m calling it now: it won’t be somewhere good.
Uncanny Avengers 14
Somehow, Uncanny Avengers is still running despite the abysmal creative decisions from its writer, Rick Remender, as issue 13 left us with Banshee defeated by Cap, Havok, and the Wasp, while Wolverine is practically dead at the hands of his resurrected son Daken. Havok and Cap realize the key to success might be to separate the Twins, and Wanda reveals to Simon that she’s only going along with the Twins’ plan to bring all the mutants to the ship…but as a free, united army of mutants, in order to take down the Twins. Jan tries to get through to the Twin’s ship, but is confronted by the resurrected Sentry. Rogue and Sunfire discover the badly hurt Wolverine, who tells them that Wanda’s helping the Twins and asks them to stop them all, leading Rogue to absorb some of his power and set off to likely kill Wanda.
From what I’ve been seeing before the comic has even come out, this is Not A Good Issue. We’ll have to find out.
…This wasn’t a good issue. I am almost shaking with literal rage as I put down this comic, and that doesn’t happen very much.
Uncanny Avengers will no longer be on my pull list. Not for any reason. Let’s get into why, shall we?
Issue 14 starts off with a black page, with the narrator talking to someone named “Katie,” telling her the truth about how they failed as heroes, being anything but. We cut through different timelines, seeing Kang gathering people such as Stryfe, Venom (May Parker), Doctor Doom, Ahab, Magistrate Braddock, Deathlok, and even Arno Stark, as they all battle the timeline being unwritten by the crux of the Red Skull’s onslaught. In the Akkaba nebula, Rogue and Sunfire head to stop to Scarlet Witch, with Rogue declaring she means to end her when Shiro warns that Logan wouldn’t want bloodshed. Meanwhile, Wanda and Simon begin the spell, asking the Twins for no interruptions, but what the Twins don’t know is that the two intend to bring a fully capable mutant army to them in order to stop the Twins, rather than go along with their plans. Rogue and Sunfire are assaulted by Daken and Grim Reaper just before they reach the spellcasting area, and a healing Wolverine bursts in to take on Daken to give the two a chance to stop Wanda. He sends Sunfire to get Simon away from Wanda, insisting on non-lethal methods, but once Wanda is unprotected and Wolverine is restrained by Daken, Rogue comes up behind Wanda (internally blaming her for all of the problems mutantkind has suffered), and impales her straight through her torso with her borrowed claws. She lets Wanda fall off the cliff, with Simon going after her, but in her distraction is attacked by Grim Reaper, impaled through the chest from behind, and is electrocuted and incinerated after Wolverine begs him not to. Simon finds the severely injured Wanda at the bottom of the cliff and the two of them summon their remaining strength to complete the spell after declaring their love for each other. Simon dissolves into the ionic power Wanda’s using, and as Wanda calls all the mutants of Earth to rise, she falls to the grass, dead.
The comic ends there.
Reading those pages, I felt nauseated.
Let me put that into some context: I was a biology student in college, with a focus in pre-medical sciences. I have worked in a human and animal dissection lab. I have observed multiple surgeries up close and in person in the operating room. In none of these situations have ever I felt the slightest bit nauseated.
When I read this comic, I felt sick to my stomach.
Through all six issues of Infinity, through all of the countless tie-in comics and battles shown on the page and soldiers and villains and heroes who died in that arc, not one page showed a death as brutal, graphic, and bloody as the ones I just saw in the pages of Uncanny Avengers.
In the space of eight pages, three heroes died. Two of them were women.
I have had enough.
In the space of three months, Rick Remender has brutally killed off three of Marvel’s most important female characters: Sharon Carter, the Scarlet Witch, and Rogue. Yet nobody at Marvel has seemed to realize that this is a huge problem. Let me reiterate this: three important, long-standing, iconic female heroes have been violently and graphically killed in the pages of Remender’s comics. One of them (Sharon Carter) is due to appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, being released in April 2014. Another (Rogue) is appearing in X-Men: Days of Future Past, which comes out in May 2014. And the third (Scarlet Witch) has been cast in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, being released in May 2015. What’s going to happen when female fans come looking for these brilliant, dynamic characters in the pages of the comics, and find them dead? They are not just important in terms of movie marketability, though, as they’re some of the best-known and most important characters within the Marvel comics universe. (Wanda herself has literally changed the fabric of the comics universe not once, but twice, and Rogue has been one of the most popular and consistent members of the X-Men since the 1980s.)
And yet, whenever I look for an explanation as to why, I’m only met with “oh, it’s comics, people die all the time, why are you so mad about it?”
Why am I mad?
Because when Captain America died, it made front page newspaper headlines. When Phil Coulson died, a fandom nope’d so hard that the studios brought him back and gave him his own TV show. If Wolverine had died, the news media would have exploded with the story.
Yet three female heroes have died in the space of that many months, and I’m expected to shrug it off with an “Oh, comics”?
Rick Remender’s repeated choices to kill iconic female characters in graphic, brutally violent ways with no apparent reasoning or plot points behind them other than “increase the emotional pain of a male hero” are upsetting and concerning, especially given the historical disregard the comics medium has for killing its women. As a female fan, I’m being told that I shouldn’t be angry about this because “that’s how comics work,” because “death is great character development,” because “if you’re upset that just means the writer did a good job.”
I’m not upset merely because characters I know and love have been ripped to pieces on the pages in front of me (both literally and in terms of characterization). I am incensed because every time a woman is killed in comics, I see one less person on the page that looks like me. Slowly but surely, every single female death erases a little bit of the representation I feel that I have in comics, only to be replaced by some new white male superhero who I don’t see myself in and who offers me nothing as a fan or a consumer of comics. It’s one more reason the “fake geek girl” stereotype exists to separate me from the “real comics fans” who jeer in surprise every time I walk into my local comics store on Wednesdays to pick up my pulls for the week. It’s one more reason I get questioned as to my knowledge of comics every time I wear my Avengers shirt, when the guy next to me in line is wearing a Green Lantern shirt and nobody asks him who the third Green Lantern was.
I strongly encourage you or anyone you know who’s a reader of comics to let Marvel know just how you feel about what Rick Remender has been doing in his comics. Send a letter to email@example.com (don’t forget to mark it “okay to print”) to ask them why women’s deaths keep getting thrown around as cheap plot devices. Ask them why Rick Remender is still being given books to write, when he pulls these sorts of stunts that are as wholly unacceptable and alienating to large portions of his audience. Ask why they insist on showing iconic, well-loved, dynamic women getting fridged in order to serve as tools to motivate a male hero. Ask them why they think their treatment of women is acceptable, because it is not.
I realize that more often than not, comics deaths are not permanent. The Scarlet Witch and Rogue may yet return, perhaps even in the next issue. It might all be a bad dream! They could get resurrected! It doesn’t matter. The fact remains that the writer believed that it was a good idea to show these women violently killed on-panel, and that’s what he wanted the readers to see. The fact remains that two major female characters were used as emotional cannon fodder, and nobody seems to bat an eye. The acceptance of this problem is equally as troubling as the problem itself. The sacrifice of female characters on the altar of male angst has been the norm for too long, and every time we let it go by without saying anything is another day we’re left with fewer and fewer women in comics. If the pattern continues, someday, we’ll be left with none.
Every time a female character is killed for no valid reason, we are told once again by the comic industry that women are disposable.
I don’t know about the rest of my female readers, but I’m tired of being told that I’m something that’s disposable. It’s time to change this.
I read comics, and I have a voice. I am woman; hear me rage.
Next week, we’ll be looking at the Avengers Annual 1, Fearless Defenders 12, Iron Man 19, Inhumanity 1, and Young Avengers 13! The Marvel release calendar lists Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand 2 as well as issue 3 as being due to drop next week as well, but that seems…not quite right.
Eve is asexual panromantic, a graduate student with no time for sleep (but always time for comics), a senior contributing writer for the Rainbow Hub, and an avid consumer of any type of media she can get her hands on. When not perusing her incredibly large collection of Marvel comics, she can be found reading, knitting in front of the TV, or on her laptop.