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Comics You Should Own flashback – Avengers Forever

I probably should have written a lot more about Avengers Forever back in the day, but I didn’t. If I wrote this today, this would be twice as long. This post might be a tad short on the details, but I hope it gives you some idea about why this wacky tale is so good!

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Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek (writer), Roger Stern (co-plotter, issues #2, 4-12), Carlos Pacheco (penciler), Jesús Merino (inker), Steve Oliff (colorist), Graphic Color Works (separations), Richard Starkings (letterer), and Albert Deschesne (letterer).

Marvel, 12 issues (#1-12), cover dated December 1998 – February 2000.

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There’s actually not a lot of SPOILERS in this post. I just didn’t get around to it this time!

Avengers Forever should have had a bigger impact on the comics landscape, shouldn’t it? First of all, it’s an absolutely beautiful book. Pacheco’s art really began to take off with this book. Second, it’s a compelling story that involves all of Avengers history – and I do mean all of it. Third, it introduced the new Captain Marvel to the Marvel Universe. I know Marv’s two subsequent series didn’t really take off, but still – it’s a significant event.

I’m not saying Avengers Forever didn’t have an impact, it’s just strange it’s not treated more like a watershed event in Avengers history, because it is. This is a sprawling epic of the kind we used to get in comics but don’t very much anymore [Editor’s note: I wrote this just when DC and Marvel began their crossover-itis up once again. Prior to five years ago, crossovers had been out of fashion for a while in comics]. Avengers Forever is that kind of story – it spans centuries and universes and packs dozens of characters into its pages, but it one way, it’s much better than the super-sized stories we used to get and are now getting again – partly because it’s the work of one creative team. Busiek has a tight focus on the story he wants to tell, which raises it above the usual big-time story in that nothing contradicts anything in another book. This is a dense book, one that takes its time getting where it needs to go but never scrimps on the all-out action, and rewards you with a careful reading, because it holds up, despite so many opportunities to go off the track.

The story, boiled down, is somewhat simple. Immortus, “Master of Time!”, wants to kill Rick Jones. He is opposed in this venture, naturally, by the Avengers and their unlikely allies, the Supreme Intelligence of the Kree and Kang the Conqueror. Everyone knows that Kang eventually grows up and becomes Immortus, right? Well, I didn’t when I first read this, but luckily Busiek reminds us often that it’s the case. At the end of the first issue, Libra of the Zodiac helps Rick reach into the past and future and collect seven Avengers from different times to help him with the threat posed by Immortus. These Avengers are: Giant-Man (or Goliath) and the Wasp from the present day; Captain Marvel and Songbird from the future; and Captain America, Hawkeye, and Yellowjacket from various points in the past. This group will help fight Immortus.

Immortus, it turns out, is working for the Time-Keepers, three weird-looking dudes who watch over time. They are concerned that the human race, with Rick Jones as the catalyst, will develop awesome powers and take over the universe. So they decide to kill him. The Avengers fight back. That’s pretty much the whole story, although Busiek uses this to explore every aspect of Avengers history and show how it relates to this scheme of the Time-Keepers.

Yes, that’s right – this is a continuity-obsessed geek’s dream book. I want to look at how Busiek uses continuity to his advantage, because the actual breakdown of the issues would go on way too long. Suffice it to say that there are many fights, lots of dialogue, oodles of double-paged spreads, and a grip of pages with panels crammed onto them. Pacheco is up for it all, whether it’s the Old West or some distant planet in the future. In the last two issues, he draws practically every Avenger who ever lived, and each with stunning precision. I haven’t read JLA/Avengers [Editor’s note: I still haven’t], but I can’t imagine Perez doing a more detailed job than what Pacheco does here. Anything Busiek throws at him he renders beautifully. The story, like I said, takes us all over the place, and we see the 1950s Avengers, the Empire of Rickard, dinosaurs in the Old West, Chronopolis – all leading us to the final showdown, when Rick meets his future self and realizes he’s going to be tied to Captain Marvel for a long time.

Story continues below

The reason this book rises above any other star-spanning epic is because it’s all grounded in Marvel history. This is where Busiek shines. There has been a trend recently to ignore Marvel continuity as too convoluted and difficult to understand. The Ultimate line is a result of this, but now, after six years [Editor’s note: Remember I wrote this some time ago], its continuity is becoming daunting for the casual fan. Whenever you publish titles that take place in the same world and last for years, continuity problems will ensue. Busiek shows us that it doesn’t need to ruin good stories.

Busiek is, of course, uniquely qualified for this kind of story. He’s been a comics fan for years, and an obsessive one at that. He’s also a very good comic book writer. In Avengers Forever, he simply sets about reconciling every contradiction in the timeline of the Avengers. That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Well, it can be done, as Busiek proves. He shows how the Avengers could meet Immortus in ancient Egypt, how the Avengers could exist in 1959, why Libra has acted strangely in the past, and why Professor Horton claimed the Vision wasn’t the original Human Torch. He even throws in Lex Luthor for good measure (I kid you not). Avengers Forever is the work of a comics professional, who takes the time to read comics, understand them, and try to place them in their proper context. Busiek, who showed his obsession with history in Marvels and continues to show it with Astro City, is the kind of person you want writing this, because you’re guaranteed that he will know what he’s talking about when he puts Kid Cassidy in his comic.

Ultimately, the story sets the stage for the next phase of Rick Jones’ evolution. It also re-establishes Kang as a major villain in the Marvel U. Busiek’s use of Avengers from various times in their history seems arbitrary (it still does to me, even though he explains the choices), but it does allow him to show how the characters have changed over the years. The annoying thing about a lot of comics writers today is their ignorance of or disregard for history. Busiek knows that even the lousy stories in Marvel history have some merit, and he uses these ideas accordingly. It is somewhat arrogant of writers today to think that everything after Lee and Kirby and the other Marvel pioneers is crap and they can simply build on what those three gentlemen did. Busiek doesn’t share that attitude. He uses ideas from the mid-1990s in the book as well as stuff from the early 1960s. As he points out in the footnotes to the book (each issue has footnotes at some point), you don’t need to know all the stuff, but if you’re interested, there they are. Avengers Forever shows the mark of a good comic book writer. It’s a fresh, relatively unique story for which you don’t need to know all the minutiae (a little would help, but not all of it), but if you are a comics-obsessed geek, you’ll be in heaven. I rarely read the Avengers, but I enjoyed the story simply for what it was. Busiek is able to keep it accessible while mining the 35-year history of Marvel’s greatest superhero team.

Avengers Forever is out in trade paperback, and I recommend it for anyone who has ever picked up a Marvel comic. It’s high adventure, thrilling fights, nice characterization, and an attention to detail that is breath-taking. It won’t change the world, but it will put the fun back into superhero comics for a while. And be sure to check out the archives, which are slowly being fixed! Slowly but surely!


AMEN! Fantastic story!!!

The last couple of times I’ve commented on a “Comics you should own” piece by Greg… I’ve said something like “not to my taste”.

So I really want to avoid saying the same again… because its obvious that Greg puts a lot of thought into his recs,

But you know what??

No… just kidding. This was a series I really enjoyed. Kurt Busiek got all the small details right, provided a rock solid action packed story… and the artwork was wonderful. One of quite few comics featuring a big team that I’ve enjoyed in recent years.

I’m not saying Avengers Forever didn’t have an impact, it’s just strange it’s not treated more like a watershed event in Avengers history, because it is.

You’ve inadvertently pointed to a weakness in Kurt Busiek’s approach to writing. He does the “illusion of change” stories about as well as anyone could, using the Marvel heroes, but because the heroes are unfailingly heroic, even when they’re a bit blemished, the stories are predictable. They lack drama. The Kang storyline in AVENGERS was fairly good, but the ending was terrible. Kang’s story wasn’t resolved — Englehart’s final Kang storyline in AVENGERS, which killed him, was much better in that respect — and other writers proceeded to ignore the Kang War. The Ultron storyline was also well done, but Busiek happened to terminate a villain ofher writers like to use, so Ultron came back — and Pym is facing him again in MIGHTY AVENGERS.

“Avengers Disassembled,” from a literary standpoint, is nothing more than another incident of the “Everything you know about _____ is wrong” formula, previously used in Byrne’s WCA storyline. Instead of the Vision’s origin, Wanda’s power, and the nature of the twins being retconned,, Bendis retconned Wanda’s mental state and her power.

I can’t say how many times the “Everything you know. . .” formula’s been used, but the reason people accept the use of it is that it generates “exciting” premises and plots, even if they don’t make sense. Readers react to the characters’ outbursts and hysterics — “Oh, wow! This is exciting!”

I bought AVENGERS FOREVER as it came out, but it’s been years since I re-read an issue, and it will probably be years until I read an issue again. As well done as the storyline was, in terms of mechanics, there was an an absence of drama. It’s unfortunate that “shocking” formulas such as the “Everything you know. . .” formula impress readers more than Busiek’s type of writing. Perhaps too many readers want to see death and destruction.


Sorry for the typos. Mr. Burgas. Could you please close the blockquote and em tags?


1. A really great Avengers story.
2. Two Hank Pyms
3. A recton machine that does everything right to the origins of the Vision, Kang, and Immortus .
4. Songbird as an Avenger.
5. Cowboys, Dinosaurs, Martians, and Talking Monkeys.

I’ve never read this, but it does sound somewhat interesting. I’m kind of nervous about any story that gets involved with Marvel history, because they almost always get something wrong. (Sometimes, they get a lot of stuff wrong.) But it does sound like Busiek is really thorough on keeping the details accurate.

So has any of the future Avengers stuff in this series been contradicted?

I loved Avengers Forever, but I’ve always been a huge Avengers fan, so I really liked the extremely detailed, continuity nerd look at their history. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if someone who was not already an Avengers fan found this story a mess.

So has any of the future Avengers stuff in this series been contradicted?

Well, the Songbird-Genis relationship is never going to happen.

The material in AF #8, which tried to validate both the conception of the twins as written by Englehart and as retconned by Byrne, by saying that Immortus schemed to prevent Wanda from having any children, was contradicted by Heinberg in YOUNG AVENGERS, who retconned everyone else by saying that Wanda captured lost souls, etc. Of course, that means that Wiccan and Speed aren’t actually Wanda’s children. They’re reincarnations.


Ever since this book came out, I’ve wanted Songbird to become the major player in the Marvel Universe it predicts she will. Still waiting…

Great stuff…Busiek is one of the few writers who GETS the Avengers and this mini (maxi?) proves it. I envy you if you haven’t read this yet…it’s that good.

It retcons “The Crossing”. It deserves to be hung in the Louvre for that alone.

Steven: Done and done!

I didn’t really expect future writers to try to work some of Busiek’s ideas into their stories, although it would have been nice. In another 15-20 years Busiek’s going to have to write another one of these, reconciling everything that’s happened since it came out!

@ Greg

That’s the reason that this book isn’t the huge part of Marvel & Avengers history that it should be. After it came out, Marvel decided that it didn’t want to have a universe that had stories like this, or much to do with traditional superhero comics. Don’t know what they are doing now, as i haven’t read [much less bought] a Marvel comic in over a decade.

“The Kang storyline in AVENGERS was fairly good, but the ending was terrible. Kang’s story wasn’t resolved — Englehart’s final Kang storyline in AVENGERS, which killed him, was much better in that respect.”

SRS, as a fan of Kang I have to respectfully disagree.

Having gathered up the bulk of Kang’s various appearances in recent years, I’ve reached the conclusion that by and large, he has been a cardboard character who got a good reputation through 1) an interesting identity/origin (what with him being like seven different characters at one time or other) and 2) appearing in a number of pretty good stories. Kang himself was barely more than a generic bad guy in most of those stories, though.

The main exceptions are Englehart’s stories, and Busiek’s. And while Englehart got there first, I personally have to give the edge to Busiek. I definitely don’t think the old west story in which Englehart attempted to kill Kang off beats Avengers Forever; IMO it was a lackluster coda to the Celestial Madonna storyline. But in any event, everything Englehart did with Kang had long since been discarded and/or undone by the time Busiek came along.

For my money, in Avengers Forever and The Kang Dynasty, Busiek managed to make Kang more interesting, on his own merits, than anyone else has and perhaps ever will. I consider Avengers Forever a fantastic series, but within that I think Kang’s narrative is the jewel in the crown. Not only do we have a villain who becomes the protagonist against something even worse (not by itself an especially novel theme), but we get a powerful man struggling against fate already, then stripped of most of his resources, and finally forced into as acute an example of “must the human will ultimately break in the face of fate” as you can ask for.

And then, after the triumph of the human spirit, Kang points his big ol’ Kirby-esque guns at the spooky, cosmic Time Keepers and shoots them. Now THAT’s an ending. :-)

danjack: Yeah, when I was putting in some scans I thought I should bring up that in the past decade Marvel has changed so much that this kind of comic seems more archaic than it is. They don’t even keep things straight, continuity-wise, on a week-to-week basis, so this kind of comic simply would be unworkable today. I certainly don’t mind ditching continuity in favor of good stories, but it’s kind of neat that Busiek could do this AND write a wildly entertaining story, to boot.

Mr. Burgas, you really, REALLY should read JLA vs Avengers. As someone who has read (almost) every crossover Marvel and DC have done with each other, I can tell you that THIS was the one that got it right- answering every question and dream that fans have had about how such a massive crossover should’ve gone about, from homaging the original, never-published Justice League/Avengers crossover to taking a crack at how the heroes’ life had gone cynically darker in recent times. In fact, I consider this to have been the LAST, honest-to-goodness “superhero event” comic- IDENTITY CRISIS came out after that and all of a sudden, superhero comics that were JUST about heroes were not wanted- they had to have some tragedy or twist to them. As if enjoying superheroes for their own sake were too infantile for grownups (to say nothing of younger people.) I still haven’t seen the (full) AVENGERS FOREVER, but I intend to, precisely because it was exactly like that- a no-bones-about it celebration of heroism in comics.

Thus was my first non-X-men comic and I loved it. As a newbie it gives such a great sense of the history of the Avengers but never talks down to the reader. One of my favorites.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it turned out that Songbird is the mistery female in the Secret Avengers? She’s an interesting character and deserves a fair shot at Avenger membership.

This was a really good series.

Avengers Forever is an AWESOME series; superbly written, incredible art, colors and inking, absolutely necessary continuity configuration… this story is EVERYTHING one could want after years of collecting Avengers comics (pre-Bendis that is).

I had this story as my favorite storyline when we did the top 10 graphic novels/storylines…Busiek hit all the right notes here for me…Heroics, funny moments. nostalgia, great alternate takes, and importantly, fun RESOLUTIONS to confusing Avengers’ loose story threads…

A lot of people hold up Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns as their numero uno. For me, and the lil comic fan within me, I hold this in the same regard for the pure fun I had reading it.

Plus Kang was totally bad-ass in this leading to a great Kang Dynasty event.

I thought this was a great story idea, but poorly executed. Pacheco does a wonderful job, but for me, all of the action fell flat, weighted down by exposition. What better medium for “show rather than tell” than a comic book, but instead Busiek uses the tell and then tell and then tell some more approach.

Unless you don’t like Perez’s art, I highly recommend JLA/ Avengers. It’s pure fun super-hero comics. I can’t imagine anyone who reads Marvel and DC super-hero comics disliking the series.

While there are some rough spots (most notably the massive info-dump Vision origin issue), I really liked Avengers Forever. Pacheco’s slick visuals and Busiek’s character interactions made for a fun read. Like many readers commenting here, I’d read few Avengers comics before AF, but I could follow it fine.

“A lot of people hold up Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns as their numero uno. For me, and the lil comic fan within me, I hold this in the same regard for the pure fun I had reading it.”

You’re forcing me to say it aren’t you? Avengers Forever is much better than Watchmen. There, I said it; can’t take back now. Heads commence exploding.(I can smell the keyboards of dozens firing already)

“Wave upon wave of demented Avengers marched cheerfully out of oblivion into the dream”

JLA/Avengers is the end of an era for both universes. Identity Crisis and Avengers:Disassembled have almost guaranteed that series having no sequel.

Friggin’ love it. Busiek can do no wrong with Avengers.

I don’t know… “Avengers Forever” had fun moments, and I’ve been reading Avengers for long enough that I recognized all the continuity references… so I guess I SHOULD have enjoyed it more than I did. But the hard truth is that it left me cold. Even as I read it, the obvious effort to tie together loose continuity threads started to grate on me.

At one point I began feeling actively annoyed at the various “continuity fixes” that were offered, ingenious as some of them were, because I could TELL that a big effort was being done to tie together minor details of stories written in different decades by a dozen different writers. And don’t get me wrong, that can be an amusing/clever exercise if done smoothly, but Avengers Forever was a tsunami of continuity-fixes, all those little details that had never really bothered me being tied up so carefully that it ripped me right out of the story. I couldn’t help but see the metaphorical strings being pulled to micromanage all those grains of continuity. Halfway through the series I couldn’t stand the continuity-fixes anymore, and lost interest in the story as it was crushed under the weight of the all the countless clever fixes.

Maybe it’s just me. I’m not too hung up on continuity “inconsistencies”. I don’t mind that there are different versions about what happened with Joe Chill. I don’t care about incorporating everything that happened in the 40 years of Avengers (or JLA, or F4) history into a linear continuity that includes everything. In my opinion most bad stories should just be forgotten or glossed over – Johnny Storm never married Alicia Masters, Bruce Wayne was never arrested for murder and later let someone else take the fall for it, Batman never traveled back in time through hypnotism, and so on. Bending backwards to “fix” a bad old story by cleverly explaining how it fits into 50+ years of continuity seems like a pointless exercise; it’s NOT that important to make every single story ever told about a character fit into a disturbingly detailed timeline. I believe in allowing each reader to create his/her own personal continuity; the stories are pieces that you can keep or discard as you see fit. So I probably wasn’t the target audience for Avengers Forever, even though I’ve been reading the Avengers since Cap’s Kooky Quartet and recognized practically all the references – because I don’t think “fixing continuity holes” is important, and seeing so many “fixes” crammed into the same series didn’t seem clever to me, it seemed forced. After a while at just seemed a little… masturbatory. No offense meant to any of my comics-reading peers and friends who may feel otherwise; it’s just how I felt. :(

Seriously, I’m sorry if that last line offended anyone, I couldn’t think of another word to express it. Avengers Forever was an extremely well-done labor of love, whose technical qualities I recognize, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, just throwing in my two cents.


The problem with having a “personal continuity” is that you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed or annoyed when those bits you want to ignore inevitably come up *again* in a story you want to get into. For better or worse, it’s the company that owns the characters who sets up their continuity. As readers, all we can do is avoid those stories we don’t like (and tell the publishers why we did so, though there’s no guarantee they will listen.)

A writer doesn’t get the luxury to ignore things (unless given permission by the editors.) He HAS to deal with all the facts others set before him, AND he has a responsibility to leave a legacy for those who will write the characters after him. Thus stories like FOREVER are needed sooner or later. However, even such stories are fun when done well. Which is of course, a matter of opinion.

I liked AF, but *necessary*? Hardly. I hadn’t read The Crossing or the Space Phantom stories, never gave The Vision’s origin a thought… if the story was never published, the absense of of the fixes would not have mattered to me. Personal continuity has served me well for years, and will continue to work for me for the forseeable future.

Also, most bad stories end up being ignoredby creators. I haven’t read a reference to Johnny & Alicia’s wedding, Nightcrawler being the son of a demon, teen Tony Stark, or “Sin’s Past” in years. There’s no need for the writers to fix them if they are just forgotten. If they offer a fix, then the bad story gets overturned, which is usually a good thing.

Someone with more time than me should compare compare AF and Crisis on Infinite Earths as exemplars of Marvel and DC’s respective attitudes towards continuity.

I don’t think any of the continuity fixes in AF were necessary, but I enjoyed the series anyway. Busiek’s ability to tell a good story and strong character work enables his stuff to transcend being continuity porn in a way that say, Green Lantern: Rebirth can’t.

Simply ignoring bad stories should be a good policy. A story written expressly to fix a problem is rarely anything more than that. “Avengers Disassembled” demonstrates the problems with that policy. Byrne’s WCA storyline had effectively been buried, but when a writer wanted to repeat it and an editor okayed the idea, there it was, standing up in the grave and moving, even though it was a rotten corpse. If Wanda and Vizh’s children had been brought back in “The Crossing” or brought back in some other way, then “Avengers Disassembled” probably couldn’t have been written.

Wraith, I believe that Englehart’s work with Kang should be viewed in the context of the old single timeline approach to time travel. In that context, connecting Kang and Rama-Tut to Immortus was brilliant, and engineering the death of Kang, as Immortus did, formed a closed loop.

The justification for bringing back Kang was that there were multiple timelines, multlple Kangs, etc., but the corollaries to that structure are an infinite number of Earths and timelines, which effectively negate the reason to do a time travel story, unless the writer wants a time traveler to revel in alternity.

Now, at Marvel, writers want to do time travel stories, but they don’t want to deal with infinity, so, (e.g., Bendis and Heinberg) they’re doing single timeline stories with paradoxes, etc. again. I think that’s an idiotic policy to have. An editor sometimes has to prevent a writer from taking the easiest route to finishing a story.


As far as I know, Marvel has no time travel policy… I recall Mark Gruenwald publishing one, back in the early 90s, but if any stories were ever vetoed on the basis that “this doesn’t work/make sense with our time travel rules” it must have been a very temporary situation.

I don’t mind. As you note, if one eliminates the possibility of changing one’s own history one ends up taking away much of the fun of time travel stories, while a set of rules that can result in time paradoxes obviously doesn’t work in a fully logical way even by itself. It’s all pretend, anyway.

As for Englehart, tying Kang and Rama-Tut in with Immortus was definitely inspired. What really impresses me about that is that Immortus was such an obscure character. I thought Kang’s death scene itself was rather arbitrary and unconvincing, though. It looked like a very plot-necessity-driven accident, unless Immortus would claim to have sabotaged Kang’s gear, which was certainly not mentioned in the story. And as a death scene it was rather dubious, both by comics standards and in comparison with previous fates that Kang had met.

On the whole, I think that even within the context of the story, it seems much more plausible that Immortus was just taking an opportune moment to fake out the Avengers to head off any suspicions about future meddling on his part.

I don’t mind. As you note, if one eliminates the possibility of changing one’s own history one ends up taking away much of the fun of time travel stories, while a set of rules that can result in time paradoxes obviously doesn’t work in a fully logical way even by itself. It’s all pretend, anyway.

Pretend or not, the story’s plot still has to make sense, or it’s a terrible story. I’ve seen several reviewers react to a bad time travel story with variations on “Time travel stories make my head hurt. Why do they have to be so hard to understand?” Good time travel stories aren’t harder to understand than other SF stories are. The grandfather paradox was logically impossible, so writers stopped doing stories that invoked it. The idea that whenever a time traveler goes back in time, he creates a new timeline and leaves the original one is easy to understand.

If the threat in a time travel story is a logical impossibility, the writer shouldn’t be doing the story.


Pacheco’s never been this good again (and he’s been very good)

“I’m kind of nervous about any story that gets involved with Marvel history, because they almost always get something wrong.”
In this case, Busiek knows the history pretty much without flaw, and, if anything, what happens is that the story *corrects* things that previously *were* wrong in the history itself (see: anything Byrne did with any version of the Avengers).

Also, rather than being a continuity *exercise* I found it more of a continuity *romp.*

Finally, Greg, if you liked this, I don’t see how you could possibly fail to like JLA/Avengers. It felt to me like almost a companion piece to this when I first read it.

I certainly don’t mind ditching continuity in favor of good stories. . .

I wonder if you could expand on that, Mr. Burgas. I’ve seen that sentiment before. Brevoort has said as much on his blog , and a CBR reviewer recently referred to the discontinuities in “Avengers Disassembled” as small details. If discontinuities render important plot elements invalid, they’re hardly “small.”

Opining that continuity shouldn’t interfere with good stories is like saying that all the movies that star _______ are terrible movies. That seems reasonable, and people might accept the claim at face value, but the implication is that _______ is a lousy actor, whereas the truth of the claim depends on identifying what makes each of his movies terrible. His acting might not be a factor in the terribleness of any of them.

People might cite “The Crossing” as continuity that would have interfered with Busiek’s AVENGERS, but the Space Phantom gimmick wasn’t necessary, or even good. Kang and Mantis were alternate future versions reaching back to the present; there could have been a storyline written that eliminated that alternate future and informed the Vision and Wanda that the twins were real, just missing, solving two problems at once.

If people are going to say that continuity is less important than good stories, they should provide examples of interference. I don’t believe there are any. Any problem posed by continuity can be dealt with.


Insoasmuch as I liked AF, I liked JLA/AVENGERS crossover even better.

Steven: Phew. That’s a whole can of worms, right there. Let’s consider the MAX line, just as one example. Bendis said “Alias” DEFINITELY took place in the Marvel Universe, and later brought Jessica Jones into the “mainstream” portion of the superhero world. “Fury,” on the other hand, was pretty much a completely new character, simply using certain vague similarities to the “Marvel Universe” Nick Fury. Ennis wanted to use people’s idea of who “Nick Fury” was based on the existing continuity, but he also wanted to tell his own story. So he didn’t have to do as much leg work establishing the character, because we all thought we knew who “Fury” was. That might be a bad example, but Ennis didn’t stop existing continuity from getting in the way of telling his story.

I’m sure there are others, but as I’m not as much of a continuity-guru as some people, I often forget what’s “canonical” and what’s not.

I wouldn’t have allowed the Jessica Jones retcon, since it’s incompatible with decades of published comics, but the retcon doesn’t really cause practical problems, as long as plot points involving Jewel are avoided.

I don’t know what the Ennis and Fury material involved — does that mean the continuity conflict didn’t matter?

I’m primarily interested in knocking down the too common assertion that continuity shouldn’t get in the way of good storytelling. That’s been used as a blanket justification for gross violations of continuity — in the case of “Avengers Disassembled,” turning a heroine inside out. As with the movie examples, if there are problems with a story’s mechanics, those can be traced to individual paragraphs/panels or even individual sentences/balloons. Eliminating the problems is a matter of editing the material skillfully or, if there are problems with the premise, telling the writer to start over with a new premise.

BTW, one major difference between the old AVENGERS comics, (going back to the ’70s, at least) and the current ones is that the characters now are less realistic. Decompression has arguably resulted in more “realistic” dialogue, but there are no beneficial effects on plots, and less space for the quiet scenes with heroes that readers pleaded for in the ’70s. In Bendis’s ___ AVENGERS issues, the heroes go from situation to situation, from conflict to conflict, with no sense of time passing. I don’t see how a person can argue that decompression has benefited anyone except possibly the writers, who do less work now.


Ever since this book came out, I’ve wanted Songbird to become the major player in the Marvel Universe it predicts she will. Still waiting…

Me too!

I absolutely adore Avengers Forever (I voted for it in the story lines poll). Great review, Greg. It really gets to the heart of what makes this story great: using a comics history to enhance a good story.

This didn’t hold up for me so well on second read-through. Of course, I’d just finished the Busiek run on Avengers proper and was beginning to see the large amount of contrivance a team book like Avengers (and Justice League of America on the DC side) required. Pacheco’s art was some of his best, but the Avengers concept just no longer holds much interest.

The fix in Avengers Forever for the Crossing totally doesn’t work because Space Phantoms were only able to assume subjects that already existed, so if all the newly introduced characters were Space Phantoms who were they templates of?

Another conceit of their powers was that when they return to Limbo they always materialise exactly where their subject was specifically shunted to there but this definitely wasn’t shown for any of the characters they were supposedly masquerading as during either story.

So, here’s the thing – I don’t think a great comic series should exist largely as a way to retcon a bunch of stories from the 90s I’ve never read. I was actually digging this series pretty well until issue 8, where it turns out the whole story is just a giant retcon machine, and it’s mostly retconning stories that aren’t even about the actual characters in Avengers Forever! Why are you retconning stories about Vision and Scarlet Witch and Iron Man in a story that they’re not even in?!

That kind of soured the whole thing.

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