The Avengers And Philosophy edited by Mark D. White (book review).

Trying to get a handle on what ‘The Avengers And Philosophy’ would focus in Marvel Comics’ premiere team, I realised this was chiefly addressing villains becoming heroes which goes back to the first major change in the line-up introducing Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch together with Captain America, making how they describe ‘the kooky quartet’. Only two of the philosophers notes that Hawkeye was manipulated by the Black Widow in his activities rather than being truly villainous and even then, he had self-doubts about their actions. None of them point out that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch left the employ of Magneto when he and the Toad were whisked away by the Stranger to a far-off planet. There is also a serious examination of the multi-alias Henry Pym and his own fractured behaviour which has gotten worse over the years. One of the problems of being on Marvel Earth is that there aren’t many career opportunities for the super-human or mutant. Fight crime or do crime and time. You aren’t going to be employed for using your abilities otherwise. More up-to-date, a look at Norman Osborn and how he organised the Dark Avengers.


You would have thought that there might have been some discussion about the various team dynamics over the years. The nearest comes with a discussion of a need for these people to have somewhere they can meet being more important than beating up the bad guys together all the time. Although a good point is raised that they can probably take on many of the villains on their own, some of their foes did band together, as with the Masters Of Evil, so it did make sense to take them on as a team. When the original team changed to Cap, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch and then the return of Henry Pym as Goliath this time, there was a significant power downgrade, thus ensuring that the villains might last more than a page. Considering that even in WW2, Captain America was both a leader and team player, it’s hardly surprising that this was emphasised with the Avengers.

There is some discussion as to what makes these heroes what they are. Considering that even other people have become Captain America over the years, none of them have considered from the public point of view is all they see is fighter not who is actually behind the mask. The majority of Marvel’s super-heroes are effectively nobodies under the masks so it’s no wonder they become iconic in costume. None of them picked up on the one major fight when Luke Cage originally took on the name of Power Man and then soundly and publicly beat the original villain to keep claim to the name. That Power Man later became Atlas by the way.

Speaking of whom, there is an odd point made that Luke Cage only dates super-humans. Considering that he has both super-strong skin and strength, I would have thought this was the wise move unlike that of a rivalry company’s popular alien. Who wants to crush a less invulnerable woman to death in your arms when there are plenty of attractive super-humans around? Just a shame no one told him about safe sex but then what brand of super-condoms would be available? Maybe it’s time that Reed Richards came up with condoms made from unstable molecules?

In many respects, this book focuses on characters that weren’t covered in the other ‘Philosophy’ books and Hawkeye and Henry Pym really get the treatment. So, too, does the Vision as to just what he is. Considering that his brain patterns were based off of that of Simon Williams aka Wonder Man, you would have to consider that he is more than a simple humanoid robot.

A lot of attention is given to the Kree-Skrull War from the 1970s and the more recent ‘Civil War’ and all its aftermath. It’s rather interesting seeing that many of them were relying on Marvel’s ‘Essential’ collection to grab what they needed. Then again, with a fifty year history, even the most ardent comicbook reader couldn’t possibly own them all.

Even if you haven’t read all the stories, there is enough explanation to fill you in on what they are driving at. As you can see from above, I’m not altogether sure I agree with them but that is the whole point of philosophy, to debate issues. There are a lot of things I wish they had covered or did more of. I mean, considering the number of times these Avengers have been killed and resurrected, what must it have been like to have gone through the process. They have more in common with the Vision than they realise. There is some discussion as to the levels of godhood and that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and by that connection, any creators who’ve worked on the various Avengers titles, being top of the tree. How Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, can have the Illuminatus moment and know that there is someone watching her and anyone she associates with and talking to them is still pretty pervy. Then again, that applies to anything we read and there is an examination of Jen talking back to us which is pretty unique.

About the only thing missing is a look at the new film but I have a feeling that there might be a sequel, then that might still be covered. What is covered will make you think and that’s the whole point of philosophy. Assemble!

GF Willmetts

August 2013

(pub: Wiley-Blackwell. 232 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £11.99), $17.95 (US), $ 21.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-118-07457-2)

check out website: www.wiley.com/wiley-blackwell


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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