Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Everyone knows why I'm reading Avengers Academy anyway.

Yesterday's Talking Comics With Tim was an interview with Avengers Academy writer Christos Gage. Of course I dove in hoping for information on one of my favorites, and I wasn't disappointed:
O’Shea: With Avengers Academy–while the students are the core of the series, it’s the instructors that offer almost as much interest for me. For example, I love your use of Quicksilver. Was it your idea to have him in the cast, or how did he get added? Are there certain eras of Quicksilver history that appeal to you and fuel your approach to the character?

Gage: I asked for Quicksilver because I thought he fit in perfectly with the theme of the instructors being Avengers who have flawed, checkered pasts. Avengers Academy is meant to be a place of redemption for student and teacher alike. Just as the best counselors for people trying to stay off drugs are recovered addicts, the Avengers Academy teachers are people who’ve been down some tough roads and come back. Quicksilver was a teen villain, then a teen hero. He was raised to be a terrorist and grew to be an Avenger. My favorite point in Quicksilver history is when he first joined the Avengers…he did this incredibly heroic thing in terms of breaking from Magneto, and putting himself out there in front of a world that hates and fears mutants…but the whole time he was constantly backseat driving and second-guessing Captain America, of all people! Now that’s what I call cojones. Quicksilver is so much fun to write because he gets to say all the snarky things I want to say to people who irritate me, but don’t want to get smacked in the mouth for.

Two things here, number one that yes, that point in history is absolutely one of the best things about Quicksilver. He'll give even Steve Rogers shit. The prototype for Horrible Boss in his life is none other than MAGNETO, a man he has worked for multiple times (a man who repeatedly showed a willingness to just leave him to die even after they found out they were related, a man who actually killed him once--long after they found out they were related), but that doesn't make him grateful just to be treated like a person. He'll let anyone no matter how good (or how bad, because he was always the guy standing up to Magneto in those Silver Age X-men) know when he thinks they're going in the wrong direction or just not acknowledging him enough. I believe it leads back to sincere trust issues, but even then it really takes some nerve, and I like to read people with some nerve.

The second is the one the part I think a lot of fangirls will take issue with:
Quicksilver was a teen villain, then a teen hero. He was raised to be a terrorist and grew to be an Avenger.
I remember a panel was being passed around on Tumblr a few months back where it states that he was trained by Magneto. Thing is, I absolutely love this idea because as I said yesterday about the children of supervillains, the harder it is to break free of the parent the more heroic it is. I actually like the idea he had a few years to indoctrinate the kids and the twins still sabotaged and then left him. It shows a great deal of strength to begin with that they left this incredibly terrifying person, but when you make it that they left him after several years of training because putting the stuff into practice was too horrible it seems like a feat of Herculean strength. Not only that, every time Pietro and Wanda stood up to him it wasn't because they were shocked by the new revelation of what sort of people they'd fallen in with, it was because they still managed to hold onto their values despite being trapped in the group and cut off from the support network that taught them those values.

I do get the feeling, though, that we're witnessing a slight retcon. I think they are slowly being retconned to join Magneto at a younger age than originally intended. I like this, again, because it emphasizes the character strength it took. I used to use they'd just simplify the Maximoff's origins and have them raised by Magneto all along, but I can't help but notice that losing their mother at birth and being passed from Bova to the Franks to the Maximoffs to the streets (or rather, hillsides) to the grip of Magneto finally to a decent life in the Avengers seems to fit their attitudes somehow. They kept getting bounced from place to place and only had each other. (I would like the Citadel of Science "stasis while waiting for a proper family to adopt" explanation traded for a retcon that their mother was a time-traveling mutant, which would nicely explain why neither twin has powers even approaching their father's and truly simplify their origins--but somehow I doubt Marvel will ever realize that there's a really easy way to explain those powers right under their fucking noses.)

I'm optimistic about Gage in a way I'm not about Heinberg. After how Maximoff twins have been handled since Disassembled I really appreciate that a writer thought about their history so he could concentrate on actually portraying the sort of person the character was originally created to be. I would a hundred times prefer that to an in-depth metastory that continues the cycle of weakness to explain how the cycle started. (You can do your explanations and excuses while you're portraying the character as actively heroic, thank you.) They've been pretty much destroyed from all sides in two consecutive crossovers, and ever since then the plots, flashbacks and expositionary dialogue has only served to underscore them as a woman who couldn't handle her powers or not having the family she wanted and a man who couldn't handle losing his powers or losing the family he had. Even now when the lie storyline presents Quicksilver as someone who couldn't own up to his own deeds and had to take the easy way out, Gage's emphasis on his past as a villain and how he broke free of that mitigates the impression and really makes me expect that his coming clean will be a major revelation that's used to advance the overall story arc in AA. And while I'm waiting for that, and for Wanda to finally get repaired, it's still a relief to see at least one of them handed to a writer who recognizes the strength of will that was present in the Silver Age over the plot-induced madness.


  1. There's a part of me that thinks Pietro doesn't deserve to come back after the loss of life he caused in the aftermath of House of M and Son of M, but Gage is one of the best writers Marvel has, and he's handling the character well.

  2. Dan -- I have a mental list of places in HoM and SoM where Pietro's responsibility for the loss of life can be seriously mitigated and explained away if the writers choose to seize on any one of them. Someday I'll get around to posting them, but it really came off as a total spiral out of control of his actions because they were trying to explain how a character so historically GOOD (and he really is the moral voice in a lot of stories) can believably become a villain. The horrifying thing was that they took him so far down and did so many things to cement it in place I really think they meant for this to be something that would stick and not be explained away as Maximus. It was one threat panicking him and impairing his judgment leading to depression and unwise actions that even more greatly clouded his judgment leading to a crazy action that completely threw away his sense of reality. It was one reason piled on another piled on another (with some very strongly implied/possible reasons adding to it) which basically came out to: The Quicksilver you know is dead, this is how he died.

    He's a really good fit for Pym, because Pym's story is that of trying to build back his life after a bout with severe mental illness, and Pietro's is one of recovering from drug addiction that stemmed from deep depression.

    Stay tuned, I'll get to the longform post eventually. It just requires I look over the icky House of M and Son of M again, and the stomach-turning villainy period in X-Factor (which I fucking avoided like the plague.)