By Darryl Ayo
Uncanny Avengers, number nine
Rick Remender and Daniel Acuña
Marvel Comics, June 2013
At some point I was listening to a podcast featuring the comic book writer Matt Fraction. He mentioned his friend “Rick Remender” and I was super disappointed. I thought the guy’s name was “Remainder,” like a math problem. Fraction and Remainder, that’s a great set of names. In any case, Rick “Remainder” was writing Uncanny X-Force at the time which you may have heard about as “pretty good,” maybe even “great.”
Oddly enough, when Mr. Remender was finished writing that story, he was so attached to the adjective “Uncanny” that he named his next story “Uncanny Avengers.” The funnier still is that he secretly seems to have baited and switched that story into being a sequel to Uncanny X-Force.
A lot of readers (including me) read the fifth issue of Uncanny Avengers and were taken aback (offended) by a scene contained therein. Remender was dragged across the coals for writing the scene, oaths were sworn and time marched on. Currently, the ninth issue of this Uncanny Avengers is out and Remender has picked up the remainder of the previous controversy.
Notes: issue five took place after the first story arc but before the second story arc of the series. It was the first issue that I personally read. Apart from the offensive scene, I enjoyed the comic.
Issue number nine is a firmly entertaining and funny story. I will say that the sociopolitical debate between Avengers felt artificial or wedged in (to mitigate the damage caused by the prior controversy) but I don’t know that it is possible for the comic to have responded that quickly, from a production standpoint (Marvel Comics come out more frequently than monthly). It feels like a debate. I’ve heard it described as “Rick Remender versus the readers” (David Uzumeri? Joe Hughes?).
Reading through, even though the situation and dialogue feels a bit “message-y,” I appreciated it. How come? Because I appreciate controversy, particularly when it is about matters of social justice, minority rights and things of that nature. Even through the heavy filter of metaphor that “mutants” represent. I very much like that this is something which is talked about. I like that [the character named] Rogue gets to shout down points that were previously left unchallenged. I like that [the character named] Scarlet Witch got to expand upon the original points [delivered in issue five by the character named Alex].
Being heard is so important. When you’re a person who is discriminated against you learn that society as a whole simpy doesn’t care about you. Society will make its rules work against you, judge you as a person based on what other people in your large social group have done–society will damn you twice before you get out of bed in the morning. Worst of all, before you get back to bed, some of your peers will throw the rest of your race/sex/gender/religion under the bus to save their own skins. It’s nice to be heard. Even if minds aren’t changed, it is nice that society has to deal with having heard your perspective.
The thing that works for me about Uncanny Avengers is that every issue is a fight. Not just with fists but with philosophies. [the character named] Janet brings a completely different view to the table than [the character named] Alex. Almost all of the characters stand apart from the others in some ways. Some characters are polar opposites, others are more closely matched but disagree about the fine details. It is a very good cast. History shows (Uncanny X-Force) that Rick Remender’s strongest talent is in balancing an ensemble cast. If you know me, you know that ensemble casts are my favorite story structure. From my perspective, most comics writers (whether superhero genre, crime genre or any other genre) seem more comfortable with single-protagonist storytelling. Nothing wrong with that! I keep an open mind to all sorts of storytelling and I’m sympathetic to what other writers want to do with their stories. But for me, if we take away my interest in comics as an art form, take away my desire to explore storytelling in general and just focus on what *I* like: give me a good ensemble cast and I’m good to go.