By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
May 18, 2010 -- It’s morning in America again – at least, the America in which Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Avengers live.
For a couple of years in Marvel comics, Norman Osborn – yes, the Green Goblin – has been America’s top cop. He was head of the Avengers (which he staffed with murderous supervillains) and the black ops/intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D. (which he renamed H.A.M.M.E.R. and staffed with thugs). This was on the heels of a “civil war” between superheroes, and a debilitating invasion by shapeshifting Skrulls from outer space. The bad guys were in charge, the real Avengers were on the run, and Captain America was (temporarily) dead. Grim days.
And then Osborn invaded Asgard.
That event, called “Siege,” proved a step too far, and the president revoked Osborn’s authority. A little late, as the Shining City came crashing down in Norman, Oklahoma, and thousands – including Norse and Greco-Roman gods – lay dead.
But now, according to Marvel’s top editor Tom Brevoort, “Thor, Captain America and Iron Man stand united together for the first time in many years, at the center of a reorganized Avengers, so that’s setting a particular tone for this moment.”
It’s a new day, one formally titled “The Heroic Age,” which affects all of Marvel’s superhero titles. “It’s a time in which the heroes are back on top, and there’s a renewed sense of optimism,” Brevoort said.
And it’s been in the works for a while.
“From the point at which we embarked on ‘Avengers Disassembled’ years ago, we knew there would come a time when Cap, Thor and Iron Man would again stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and that’s something we’ve been heading towards for some time,” Brevoort said. “The fact that these characters are reuniting now carries a lot more emotional weight and power to it given that it’s been so long since we’ve seen that.”
“I think we all knew where we were going post-‘Siege,’ even though ‘Siege’ wasn't called ‘Siege’ and ‘The Heroic Age' wasn't called ‘The Heroic Age,’” said Matt Fraction, writer on Invincible Iron Man
. “This would have been ... more than two years ago now.”
The whole tapestry of “Heroic Age” will unfold over time. But four Avengers books are launching from “Siege,” and the team’s Big Three are getting attention right away:
* Avengers Prime:
A five-issue miniseries shows how Thor, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers learn to trust each other again.* Iron Man:
“He's back at square one,” Fraction said, “in mind, body, soul and professional life. No armor to his name, no company to run ... living in a motel in Oklahoma. We spent two years taking away everything he has and now ... now we get to watch him rebuild his entire life.
“Also: new armor.”* Thor:
Asgard’s destruction leaves a hole in the “Nine Worlds” of Norse mythology, and what replaces it is very old – and very scary. Thor will be “terrified,” Fraction said.
“What do gods look up to?” he asked. “These guys. These are the gods of Bor and even earlier – these are primal forces of space/time given physical form. This is The-End-Of-All-Things.”
But Fraction won’t ignore Thor’s earthly connection, through alter ego Dr. Don Blake.
“He's looking for what, precisely, his purpose is, post-‘Siege,’” Fraction said. “It'll come as no surprise that a big theme of our first few stories is going to be ‘reconstruction.’ And Thor/Blake is constantly examining just who he is and what he is. Man in a god-suit? God in a man-suit? Neither? Both? What does that mean? What does any of this mean?”
* Captain America:
The original, Steve Rogers, has a new miniseries coming, as well as an ongoing role in Secret Avengers
with a “new set of objectives,” Brevoort said.
As to the current Captain America, Cap’s former sidekick Bucky Barnes, he “will be dealing with the returned threat of Baron Zemo,” he said. “Zemo, having learned that the current Captain America was once Bucky, has embarked on a vendetta. From his point of view, Bucky’s return has discredited the one significant thing his father is known for, having been responsible for Bucky’s death at the end of the War. And so he embarks upon a very personal campaign against Cap, one that will have some serious consequences for the future.”
It may be a Heroic Age, but it obviously won’t be one without complications!Art: 1) Thor #611, due in July, Matt Fraction's first issue as writer. 2) Age of Heroes #1, first of a four-issue miniseries depicting how The Heroic Age impacts different characters. 3) Captain America #609, due in August, part of the new Star-Spangled Avenger's battle with Baron Zemo. 4) Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1, first of a four-issue miniseries establishing the first Captain America's new status quo. 5) Invincible Iron Man #25, which restored Tony Stark's mind just in time for The Heroic Age.
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at