Battles Within – Avengers: Endless Wartime

Endless Wartime is that rare look inside the Avengers lives that we do not often get the pleasure of having.  It is a refreshing tale brought to us from Warren Ellis and Mike McKone about the Avengers and a threat from the past making its return in the present.  Not only do they face this physical threat, but for some of them they also battle ghosts, spirits of the past that have never left them and now rear their heads years later for better or worse.

Avengers might be the title on the cover but this is a Captain America story through and through and it opens up with Steve reflecting on his life.  And his life is hard though he is the only one who knows that.  He is a man out of time and not only out of time, but out of place and he feels it acutely.  There is even a point where he states to the other Avengers that he has nothing.  For him, there is only the team as he has no friends and no family and nothing to keep him going except for whatever mission is at hand.  Due to the emergence of some recognizable technology from one of his past missions, Cap cannot help but feel obligated to deal with it while also dealing with the memories that come accompanies it.

Though Endless Wartime might be a Captain America story it is also a tale to a lesser extent about Iron Man.  Tony might be a billionaire genius, but even years after he has proven himself time and time again, he cannot escape the shadow of his father.  He brands everything with his name upon it not only out of vanity, but if he does enough and gets recognized enough, perhaps in some way he will finally escape his father’s constant presence and perhaps in some way make him proud.

Simultaneously this is also a chronicle of Thor and how the present threat takes him back to a darker time in his life.  Haunted by shame and humiliation about a period in his life where he lost control of his senses to a berserker rage, Thor has never gotten over it.  He too feels the shadow of his father’s disapproval, the memory of which has followed him through the years and he wants nothing more than to prove himself worthy and regain his honour.  It is a task he would rather perform alone, but if there is one thing the Avengers do – that is stand together.

Ellis spins a tale of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes that the regular titles do not often take the time to tell.  Yes, he gives us the usual threat that the Avengers must come together to battle but he takes that threat and spins it by tying it to their past, specifically Captain America and Thor.  He takes the Avengers down an emotional road, having them fight two battles and not knowing if they will come out the side of either one.  Bendis told some great stories during his tenure as well as many writers in the past, and now Hickman is doing the same, but none has shown us something as intimate as this in quite some time.

Family is also a prominent theme in the book, showing the reader that the Avengers are the same as anyone else.  They fight and argue like the rest of us but even in the face of danger they try and have fun.  Due to Ellis’ great scripting, the banter between the characters comes easily and never seems forced or corny.  Tony is hilarious as is Clint and Natasha while Carol takes charge one minute and makes fun of Tony the next.  The characters ring true to their personalities and it really elevates the book above many others being published today.

This is the first book in Marvel Comics’ new original graphic novel line and if this is anything to go by, they are off to a great start.  Superb art by Mike McKone elevates Ellis’ script to showcase it in all its glory even though Bruce Banner bears a striking resemblance to actor Bruce Greenwood.  The next book to come out in the new line is Family Business by Mark Waid, James Robinson and Gabrielle Dell’otto.  If is half as good as this, it will be a must buy as well.

5 out of 5

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