My take on Batman: Knightfall is going to have to wait. As I was studying it, I was struck by how identical it is to Death/Return of Superman and felt like it deserved a fairer shot. So I decided to massively jump ahead in time for this column, going with this event because it’d be fun to write on and Marvel has way more events than DC so I might as well get it out. After this I’ll largely be back in order but I reserve the right to jump.
So here we go, digging into a saga that kicked off the event addiction at Marvel. Usually trends start with a quality book such as DC’s fixation on the reality of its universe beginning with Crisis. Was that the case here? Well…
Avengers Disassembled (Avengers 500-503 and Avengers Finale, 2004)
Plot: The Avengers face an onslaught of threats over a single days, leading to several deaths for the characters and a profound sense of insult for the reader.
Background: There is a staggering amount of spite behind this story. Extreme meddling led to Avengers writer Geoff Johns leaving Marvel for good, in part because Brian Michael Bendis wanted to kill Scott Lang, who Johns was using. After he left, Bendis was asked to take over the book, which he agreed to on the grounds he could kill Lang and fill the team with a-listers. He got his wish, derailing several books in the process including Christopher Priest’s Captain America book. In fact, Priest retired for several years due to his hurt over this. Oh and Johns eventually became the head of DC. Seriously this book had a seismic effect.
Story: This is an absolute mess of a story. I can’t put it any simpler. This is a book that only exists to shock the reader and clear the table for a team of a-list heroes, though thanks to the movies the Avengers before this book actually bear a greater resemblance to the big names than Bendis’ future team which consisted of his favorites with Wolverine and Spider-Man for sales. The story is essentially 4 issues of death and shock fight imagery with little connecting tissue. The deaths aren’t even good deaths. And what does all of this build do? A moment of character assassination for the Scarlet Witch that is so vile it feels like an evisceration to longtime fans. All this book amounts to is an endless electroshock session. This is NOT a good story.
Art: Normally art redeems a story like this. One More Day is gorgeous after all. David Finch is a major talent too, currently killing it on Batman. But this is a really ugly book. Most of what Finch has to draw amounts to scenes of destruction with the occasional mass fight scene. It’s a muddled mess. Every now and then he gets in a good face shot but otherwise it’s a lot of roaring ugliness.
Does it stand alone? It likely stands alone better now than it did in 2004. The characters are far more familiar now thanks to the movies. So if you take this as a what if about the end of days for The Avengers, it’s really not at all far off from the what if comics. The end is still an insult though.
Importance and Impact: This literally reshaped the entire industry as we know it. This is the dawn of the event miniseries despite being in its own book. This is the template almost every single Marvel event following has continued. It also established the idea once and for all that Marvel heroes really hate each other, which has continued through Civil War, World War Hulk, Avengers vs X-Men, Axis, and Civil War 2. The one good thing it led to: Young Avengers spun out of the book. That said, without exception everything that happened in this event was rolled back. All the dead are alive. Scarlet Witch had her turn explained as Doom influenced. The characters get along again for now. But the scars aren’t forgotten.
Final Verdict: On one hand this is the defining moment that led to the modern event era. On the other, this is one of the single worst comics I’ve ever read. This is a minor event only for that reason but for the love of all that is holy, jump straight to New Avengers vol.1 #1. That’s great. This is just atrocious. I want to say more but what else can I add? This book was a massive insult to longtime readers so it could desperately chase new readers.
Bonus Material: None. Though New Avengers: Breakout, the first arc of that book, was given a novelization which focused on Hawkeye. Hawkeye was killed in Disassembled. It’s not very faithful.
Next: Zero Hour: Crisis in Time