Thor, Iron Man, Captain America star in Marvel's new 'Heroic Age'

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 and Thor. “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

Views: 3647

Comment by Blaze Morgan on May 20, 2010 at 5:56pm
It's "outside continuity" where I find I have no faith. The creative folk in charge have little or no concept of how to write heroes as heroes. Forget having a clue. I don't think they have any DESIRE to write heroes as heroes. I've read too many interview snippets where the writers waxed merrily how much fun they had with Avengers who were psychopathic killers and freaks.

Once upon a time, Marvel characters were heroes with feet of clay and comics were Good. Over time, the clay has creeped up and up. Today, the feet of clay now reaches right up to their chinny-chin-chins. And comics are Sporadically Tolerable.
Comment by Figserello on May 20, 2010 at 7:16pm
At least the Heroic Age didn't kick off with a small innocent creature getting its neck snapped...

Gotta look on the Brightest side.
Comment by Philip Portelli on May 20, 2010 at 11:41pm
Tony Stark's *rebirth* seems to be an attempt to sidestep any guilt he should have after "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion". Now he has no memory of those events which is just too convienent for my tastes. I guess Marvel realized their new movie franchise stars a hero most of the other heroes dislike and distrust. I am willing to give these MANY new books an honest chance but I think I'm crossovered and out by now!
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on May 21, 2010 at 7:00am
Blaze Morgan - I agree with you. And here are some Fogey ruminations...

ITEM: Let's call a spade a spade. DC and Marvel are duplicating each other again. At least it's not "Secret Wars" and "Crisis on Infinite Earths" again, but still...

ITEM: DC and Marvel have driven off the readers who would WANT to read episodic heroic fiction with no darkness, grimness (glumness...) and appealed to those who like the dark side of comics. NOW, they want to turn it around, and get back those earlier readers (one sitting right here, hello!), assuming that those who liked the grim-and-gritty stories will hang on anyhow. Yeah, good luck with that.

ITEM: Captain America was dead... but he got better. Thor was dead, but he got better. Hawkeye was dead, but... well, you get the gist. So what happened to the edict that "Dead is dead" in the MU? And when the creators don't care about this junk, why the hell should I?

ITEM: Let me throw some names out. Archie Goodwin. Roy Thomas. Stan Lee. John Byrne. David Micheline (sic?) Bob Layton. These are writers who GOT the "bright side of [comic book] life", and their stories were of the type that I'd want to read. Who's writing for Marvel now? I know that Peter David is magnificently adaptable, and I read his stuff knowing that he has every direction covered; he could get this to come out right. Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid can pull it off, but I don't think either of them are working for Marvel. And I'd buy John Byrne's work, no matter what he's writing. But I think that a lot of the current crop of writers wouldn't know 60s and 70s style optimism if it came up and bit 'em on the ass.

It's another gimmick. THAT'S ALL. It seems that Marvel Comics MUST have an ongoing cross-universe scenario going at all times... I don't know of a span recently when they haven't. And shoot, I don't even know if I feel like waiting for the trade on these...

I will tell you one thing that MIGHT draw me in for a while... and everyone will laugh. But I think that 256 million colors has made for a very ugly and unsightly slapdash of coloring in comics, allowing many shades of muddy gray and hiding art behind a colored wall. A series that was done in four color, or even sixteen color, would attract my attention - because first, it would show a real "return to the Heroic Age" in my eyes, and second, it would let us see the art on its own merits (if it has any.)

I remain,
Eric L. Sofer
The Silver Age Fogey
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on May 21, 2010 at 7:04am
Oops, forgot one! ITEM: Funny how the most important Avengers JUST HAPPEN to have movies out now or very soon. Ya notice that, with no forthcoming films, there's no such renaissance for any X-Men, hmmm?

Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on May 21, 2010 at 10:55am
This was a light week for me, so I sampled Avengers #1. (At four bucks a pop, though, comics are becoming increasing cost-prohibitive to “sample”.) Issue #1 was better than I expected, and although the text piece put me off (because of the portrayal of the Thor/Don Blake relationship), I’ll likely stick around for the conclusion of the first story. For someone who has found the vast majority of Marvel’s output over the past few years to be virtually unreadable, I thought Avengers #1 did a good job of picking up where “Avengers Disassembled” (and I) left off.

In this bright and shiny new MU, though, I don’t understand the need for Avengers and New Avengers and Secret Avengers and Avengers Prime. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m extremely ambivalent about Avengers Prime but I will likely buy the first issue out of curiosity. Also it doesn’t strike me as particularly “Avengery” I plan to try Secret Avengers (as well as the new Steve Rogers title) based solely on the strength of writer Ed Brubaker.
Comment by Alan M. on May 21, 2010 at 11:49am
Blaze Morgan said:
The creative folk in charge have little or no concept of how to write heroes as heroes.

I disagree. Van Lente & Pak on Incredible Hercules, Slott, Waid, Wells, Stern, et al. on Amazing Spider-Man, Parker on Agents of Atlas, Slott on Mighty Avengers, Straczynski on Thor, Abnett & Lanning on Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, even Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man... All these books (and possibly more, but these are the ones I read or am familiar enough with to speak of) pretty firmly have "heroes as heroes."

Personally, I think even in the books that are much more gray area — New Avengers, Daredevil, the various X-books — the heroes ultimately come away acting heroically, even if it's less clear what that means/what the consequences are, but I can concede that that could be subjected to a matter of taste.

Eric L. Sofer said:
So what happened to the edict that "Dead is dead" in the MU?

Oh, my friend, that's been gone a LOOONG time — since Magneto was revealed to be not dead in Morrison's New X-Men run at least. At the time, Quesada argued (paraphrasing), "I never said 'dead is dead' -- only that there would need to be a really good story to justify a resurrection."

It's another gimmick. THAT'S ALL. It seems that Marvel Comics MUST have an ongoing cross-universe scenario going at all times... I don't know of a span recently when they haven't.

Sure it's a gimmick; so what? Most of what's out there is a gimmick. "Let's get all our headlining superheroes together in one team!" — gimmick. "Let's have the modern versions of our heroes meet their Golden Age counterparts!" — gimmick. Hell, "Let's do a guy who dresses up in a costume and fights crime" is a gimmick. What matters, all that ever matters, is what's done with those gimmicks. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not, but the fact that it's a gimmick doesn't matter.

And me? I like the shared status quo-ness of the Marvel universe, whether it's Acts of Vengeance or Onslaught or The Heroic Age. That's one of the things I've always liked about Marvel, how their shared universe tends to be a little more cohesive than DC's, and I think the current Marvel editorial department is doing an excellent job of building on that shared cohesion.
Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on May 21, 2010 at 12:27pm
Thanks, Alan M., for pointing out all the good stuff. You wrote the post that I should've written (and now I don't have to).
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on May 21, 2010 at 12:58pm

Okay, gimmicks is gimmicks - but there's "heroes get together every month to fight the foe no single hero can face", and there's "every month you must buy at least five books to get the entirety of the story - and if you don't get them, you will not understand the story enough for it to make sense."

Shared universe - EXCELLENT. Guest stars/crossovers - EXCELLENT. Full universe crossovers with no break - NOT SO EXCELLENT.

It's not just Marvel, of course. Simultaneously, DC had "Blackest Night" and "New Krypton" crossing over between books... and this lead RIGHT into both "Brightest Day" and "Attack of the Supermen" or whatever the freakin' thing is called.

I'm not talking about an in-continuity gimmick. I'm talking about a sales/marketing gimmick. It's a matter of taste; I am sure that a lot of readers like the ongoing comics that focus on the Marvel Universe and the characters in it, rather than on the characters themselves and their individual adventures. But it DOESN'T suit me, and I can't help but feel that they're trying to screw readers out of hard earned cash by forcing them to read crossover titles. YMMV, as always.

Comment by Blaze Morgan on May 21, 2010 at 1:06pm
Alan M. - I can't argue that those titles had a good helping of the Right Stuff, but sadly "Hercules", "Agents of Atlas", and "Mighty Avengers" have all been snuffed. ("Mighty Avengers" didn't even have the courtesy of a finale issue like "New Avengers". It just ended virtually in mid-sentence). I realize most are getting some sort of second chance, but since the effort we liked got cancelled, I can only assume the new efforts will be Different.

But you're right, there are creators out there who give it a solid effort. I guess my cynicism is towards...I dunno. All I know is, whenever they announce a new story policy of letting a little sunshine in, **somebody** closes the blinds in short order.

(Personally, I thought Straczynski was dull dishwater on "Thor". However, his current effort on "Brave & Bold" is spectacular!"


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