Thursday, December 9, 2010

Joaquin Phoenix-ing The Avengers

We've discussed Bendis' far less than 100% accurate "Oral History Of The Avengers" previously. But with installment that appeared in (New) New Avengers #7, he goes beyond simple carelessness to out and out mindless, destructive revisionism.

We all know the history of how Hank Pym became Yellowjacket, and married Janet Van Dyne, right?? Shortly after the Ultron fiasco, Pym vanishes, and the new hero Yellowjacket shows up at Avengers mansion. First he assaults and trusses up Jarvis:

And then he boasts how he killed Pym:

When the Avengers don't immediately make him a member, he kidnaps the Wasp, and after a single kiss:

They get married, but the Circus of Crime infiltrated the wedding, and as Jan is being crushed in the coils of a python:

The explanation?

All of that was from Avengers #59-60 (1968-69). And that's been the story ever since. Consider, for example, Avengers #213 (1981), as Iron Man privately contemplates Pym's history and the debut of Yellowjacket:

I could cite you a billion other examples, but long story short--it's always been the case that Hank Pym had a bit of a psychotic break, and took on the Yellowjacket identity due to a "temporary schizophrenia," all the Avengers including the Wasp were initially clueless (as was Hank himself), he married, Jan, and he got better.

Until yesterday, when we learned this:


It was all a PR stunt? There was no lab accident, no schizophrenia, no fight with the Avengers? It was concocted to avoid "the media circus," to send them "on a wild goose chase" so they could have a "normal wedding?" And Yellowjacket was thought up earlier by Pym, and "Janet's PR firm" decided it was the perfect time to launch the new character? And all of the other Avengers went along with it?


Even if that weren't 100% at odds with what we were shown...even if it weren't 100% at odds with what the other members of the Avengers were thinking privately to themselves decades later...even if Bendis could somehow get us to swallow that, the whole premise makes no sense.

"Avoid a media circus?" If, say, Kim Kardashian's fiance were to disappear under odd circumstances, and just a few days later she married some other guy--whom no one had ever heard of before--do you believe there would somehow be less media interest? Wouldn't that not only jump start the media circus, but send it into hyper-drive?

Furthermore, if you were trying to do a normal wedding without the media, would you send out engraved invitations...

...or land right in front of Avengers Mansion--and in front of TV cameras and throngs of fans!--in an open flying device?

That's pretty much the exact opposite of "knocking the media off the trail" and "getting married in as normal a way as possible."

And the wedding was very public knowledge, as the Circus Of Crime had enough time, and knew enough details, to waylay the real much for diverting attention, eh?:

This. makes. no. sense.

Clearly, as an anti-publicity strategy, it would have been the stupidest plan ever. As a PR, performance art stunt, it makes Jaoquin Phoenix look like a genius.

What if, you may ask, Bendis was getting a little bit meta here? Maybe he's just showing Jan and Hank trying to use this oral history to "spin" the somewhat embarrassing facts of the wedding day, to try and restore their reputations from being thought of as a psycho and a conniving ditz who would take advantage of a mental incompetent to trick him into marriage?

Well, the problem with that reading is, do you think Hawkeye would go along with that charade, decades later? Do you think that Sue Richards and Crystal (wedding party members who were also quoted in the history) would go along with that?? Do you think that Tony Stark would lie to himself in his private thoughts to preserve the charade?

No, it seems that, unironically, Bendis is trying to rewrite a major piece of Avengers history. Why? To make Hank and Jan "look better"? To "modernize" the Silver Age story to better fit his idea of a cynical, media-dominated modern world? Because he can't resist re-writing history that he really, really wishes he'd written himself? Because what Roy Thomas and Jim Shooter and a dozen other writers put down just wasn't good enough for him, so he's going to blithely change the events and motives of everybody involved??

Frankly, I can't wait to see where he goes next. What other bits of Avengers lore is he going to summarily dismiss/ignore? Is he going to claim that Hank never smacked Jan? Maybe we'll find out that the Kree-Skrull War was just a publicity stunt, or that Mantis wasn't really the Celestial Madonna, or that Doctor Druid wasn't really chairman of the Avengers (OK, that last one I could live with). Maybe the worst line-up in Avengers history never happened. The possibilities are limitless, when you can arbitrarily retcon history for no good reason!!

Recently, Bendis boasted that he had written more issues of Avengers than anybody else. Apparently, he's not satisfied with that, as he's going back to re-write all the ones he didn't originally write...


Siskoid said...

Maybe Mephisto changed it. He's got a thing for marriages.

notintheface said...

Mr. "Chaos Magic Is Complete Bullshit" Bendis rewriting Avengers history in his own warped image? Imagine my surprise!

This is like letting your 4-year-old draw over your prized Rembrandt with a brown crayon.

Martin Gray said...

Good Lord. I read a far pars of the first instalment of the 'oral history' but gave up as it was so clunky. But now Brian Bendis is just making up stuff? What a load of pish. Joe Casey did a decent job of revising the story in Earth's Mightiest Heroes II a few years back, spinning things to make Jan and co look better without changing the original story as presented at all. But that's not good enough?

Dan said...

I haven't read any of the oral histories because frankly they suck. Now I see that I was saving myself an aneurism by doing so. I'm done with Bendis. He's become second rate anyway by stretching himself so thin over so many books. Brubaker for president.

Sooo what do we think of the new Doctor Solar and Magnus Robot Fighter? Awesome? Yes, we think so:)

Nicholas Yankovec said...

I had assumed that these stories were pretty much unchangable, as the first appearance of Yellowjacket marked Pym's second bout of amnesia/mental breakdown, and paved the way to future stories about his problems.

Also, the Yellowjacket persona was used a lot by Busiek, in the Avengers Forever series, and later when Pym split into two physical parts. None of these stories could have taken place with Bendis' new history.

And yet - the Avengers are still one of the best selling titles. I just don't understand why!

notintheface said...

So Hank faked a schizophrenic episode? Where's Detective Bobby Goren when we need him?

snell said...

Well, it sounds more like, in the Bendis version, "Hank just unveiled the new Yellowjacket persona to befuddle the media, and only after the wedding did he reveal it was him." No schizophrenia, fake or otherwise. But really, it's impossible to tell exactly what happened in his version, exact that none of his implications make sense.

Bully said...

We've also got the retconning of Bucky being purposefully trained for the job of Captain America's sidekick rather than accidentally stumbling upon Steve Rogers in the Cap uniform. I don't know whether Ed Brubaker originated that one or not. At least it makes a little more logical sense, but of the great scenes in Marvel Universe history has been "revealed" as propaganda.

MOCK! said...

And to think The Avengers was a title I collected religiously for undone by Bendis....ugh...

Kandou Erik said...

I don't know what Bendis was thinking on this either; frankly, the entire Oral History thing has been a very bad idea on Marvel's part, them obviously thinking this would make up for the extra dollar price. I don't buy comics to read a novel, Mr Bendis. And how long is this going to go on for, anyway? And is it going to be collected as a proper novel, or something - is that what Marvel is hoping to get out of this, besides wasting valuable paper.

I can see I'm one of the few people here who still very much like Bendis -- but this is a very good example of him just slipping up completely.