Avengers: Heroes Welcome
Marvel Comics (2013–published to comiXology April 29, 2014)
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILER: Mark Brooks
INKERS: Mark Brooks (including cover), Jaime Mendoza, & Carlos Cuevas
COLORIST: John Rauch
LETTERER: Joe Sabino
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Mark Basso
EDITOR: Bill Roseman
Sam Alexander’s teacher gives a lecture in his class about how superheroes aren’t doing enough and are just a bunch of clowns in costume…the usual nonsense. Since Sam was also Nova at the time he brings his doubts to the Avengers (roll call: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, She Hulk, Luke Cage, and the Wasp). They show him that superheroes can’t solve every problem. They can’t control the world, can’t change who people are except by being examples to others and saving the lives they can. This is showcased through Nova saving a woman from a fire last night and suggesting that even though they can’t see it and it won’t be on the evening news he may well have inspired her to do what she can to make the world a better place, or at least she seems so happy that she didn’t burn to death in her own apartment. When MODOK launches an attack the Avengers head to stop him, and the young Nova is invited to come along. After all, he’s a superhero too.
I’m going to break format and get the stuff I didn’t like out of the way. Yes, the characters all have the same way of speaking except for Nova (who is coming with doubts) and his teacher (who causes those doubts in his anti-superhero rant in class). The art isn’t bad but it’s not all that spectacular either. A few of the gags, meant to lighten the mood, don’t really work and just come off as silly. And of course it’s mostly a bunch of superheroes standing around talking about being superheroes and how limited they actually are despite their amazing powers and gear, so that might be a bit of a turn off. The only action we see is a flashback to Nova saving a girl from a fire. Instead of watching the heroes stand around talking maybe show other flashbacks to the heroes in action or scenes around the world demonstrating what they’re talking about?
That said there is a lot for a superhero fan to like about this comic. These are complaints made against superheroes or what leads to more cynical takes like Watchmen or The Boys, the misunderstanding that superheroes are not gods. They can stop a war but as Superman once noted they can’t stop the root causes of war, bigotry, or hate. All they can do is put out the proverbial and literal fires they can, and show people that one person can make a difference, and maybe that person will be inspired to do what he or she can. That changes the world for the better. This book explains what it means to be a hero regardless of the press or lack thereof, and even if some people only see their silly costumes (which Cap calls a uniform, a line I think Bendis stole from an X-Men comic because Wolverine said the same thing once). The hero puts the needs of others before himself/herself and puts their life on the line for others not even knowing if they’ve inspired the same courage or urge in others. They do it because at the time it was the right thing to do. I find it amazing that this is the same writer messing up Superman lore when supposedly nobody “gets” Superman. Here’s a 2013 story that gets Superman and why people like me love superhero stories. Then there’s this scene.
I don’t know what Captain America was being asked to do, but that’s not the Steve Rogers we’ve seen in comics recently. It’s not even the superhero comics we’ve seen recently.
While the presentation has a few hiccups, and you can make the case that it’s a bit preachy (given the subject that’s almost obvious but it’s a one-shot side story and not the main Avengers title) overall I liked it. It’s a good example of what superheroes are and why superhero fans of many ages and genders gravitate to them. If you want to know what a hero is (the question the anti-superhero teacher gives his students) this is one to check out.