One of the first tie-ins to Secret Wars, Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #8 explores how this tertiary Avengers team chooses to interact with the more prominent Avengers and the Illuminati. Tensions are high, and the universe hangs in the balance as the Mighty Avengers weigh their options. But is it good?
Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #8 (Marvel Comics)
Part of the fun of Captain America and the Mighty Avengers has been Al Ewing’s stylized use of the recap page, which has always been fitted to Luke Cage’s voice. This isn’t a summation of previous events, it’s a letter to the community letting them know that the heroes are there for them. Ewing expertly uses this to emphasize what sets this book apart from the myriad of other Avengers-related titles. Captain America and the Mighty Avengers is about heroes being heroes. The most recent issue is no different, but gets its point across in a different way. The Mighty Avengers aren’t heroes because they punch things in this chapter. Rather, they’re heroes because they reason well.
The issue opens up as the Mighty Avengers meet with Steve Rogers, the former Captain America. He explains to them that the multiverse has been collapsing and that the Illuminati have reformed in secret to try and prevent this from happening. The news brings about some debate between the members of the team before they ultimately make their decision.
The choice to have this issue so clearly tie in with Hickman’s titles (specifically Avengers #39 and New Avengers #28) does create some balance issues here. While the battle between Steve Rogers’ Avengers and the Illuminati was depicted in great detail in those titles, here it is relegated to a few panels, with Ewing choosing to focus on the aftermath of the battle. For those reading all three books, this works perfectly, as the climax to the book sees some character interaction that many felt was missing from Hickman’s books. But for those who are only reading Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, it likely feels like they had a chunk of the story cut out.
That being said, the focus on the characters here is an excellent decision. The climax of the issue focuses on Blue Marvel and Spectrum as they confront Reed and T’Challa on their decision to form the Illuminati in secret. There’s been a subplot developing throughout Captain America and the Mighty Avengers that has focused on just how powerful Monica really is, and her scenes here emphasize just how foolish it was for the Illuminati to not include everyone in making their decisions. This is only exacerbated as Blue Marvel confronts Reed. Adam is one of the premier scientists in the Marvel Universe and a juggernaut as well. His exclusion from the club is particularly problematic, and Ewing plays with this confrontation in full. The Mighty Avengers show reasoning and a sense of humility that has been absent from the Illuminati’s actions, and the differences between the two groups is highlighted in this conversation.
While Ewing’s script is solid, Ross’ art is just as dynamic. The facial expressions of his characters and his use of lighting really helps to communicate the emotions these characters are feeling. There’s a pompous air about both Reed and T’Challa here as they do their best to dismiss the accusations levied at them by Adam and Monica. And Luke Cage looks utterly furious with Steve when he finds out that Captain America joined with the Illuminati in the beginning. While little of the battle is in this issue, Ross uses great staging in his panels in order to capture both the scope and intensity of the combat in a very limited amount of space.
With that short battle though, comes the space to use for developing characters. And in Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #8, Al Ewing makes a choice that many writers would likely consider risky. He addresses Monica’s ability to change her appearance. Throughout both this series and its predecessor, Mighty Avengers, Monica has appeared with a relaxed hairstyle. Ewing has touched on it before, most notably in a scene in Mighty Avengers #6, but here he full on acknowledges the implications of Monica’s actions.
Sam Wilson, the current Captain America, calls Monica out on going back to the “new” look in front of Steve and Monica admits that she was going with the appearance that Steve would perceive as less threatening. The implications in this conversation are fairly nuanced for a comic book about superheroes. Monica is acting on the idea that Steve, while certainly not an outright racist, still has a subconscious bias against the way a black woman with dreadlocks appears as opposed to one with straightened hair. And at the same time, she’s using that assumption to subvert his expectations of her as a superpowered individual. On a meta level, Ewing is asking the readers to examine their own presumptions. Do we, as readers, find Monica more threatening when she adorns a more natural hairstyle? Is she more dainty and less aggressive with a relaxed one? Ewing deserves credit for bringing this depth to a superhero comic and in a way that fits with the overall narrative of the issue. This isn’t drama brought in to create drama, it’s an organic part of the story.
Is It Good?
In many ways, Captain America and the Mighty Avengers is the most classic feeling of the current Avengers titles. Its focus on character interaction and the familial nature of team dynamics hearkens back to a number of popular runs on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes throughout the years. This most recent entry is no different. Al Ewing’s script is emotional and complex, taking risks that many writers would avoid, and the art by Luke Ross drives the issue forward. The tie-in to Avengers and New Avengers both strengthens the issue while providing its biggest flaw, but Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #8 is a good entry in a title that anyone who likes character work mixed in with superheroes should be reading.