Thursday, August 27, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Avengers 160

George Perez, artist and dreammaker
for all 12-year-old geek boys.
I'm going to start a tradition here: Throwback Thursday, where I reach back to films, comics and books that shaped my imagination and fed into my faith, unbeknownest to me, decades past.

Let's start with Avengers 160, written by Jim Shooter, drawn by George Perez and inked - and I mean lovingly inked - by Pablo Marcos. I think this is the first time I saw what inks could do to enhance good pencils. I stopped and learned the name of the inker, I was so impressed.

The short synopsis: the Grim Reaper, one Eric Williams, a second rate villain, the brother of our resurrected hero Wonder Man, shows up and handily beats FIVE Avengers with a surprise attack and some fancy tech. He does all this for one reason and one reason only: he wants to know if Simon Williams, his brother is truly alive - or if the Vision, an android with Simon's brain patterns (collected from Simon's mind after he was stone cold dead) is his real brother.

So he puts both heroes on trial with the Black Panther as their defense counsel. The one who is false must die, for he cannot have two brothers. Oh, and to make sure the Avengers play along, they each have wristbands attuned to their particular molecular structure. They cause any trouble and ZZAAAAPPP, they are knocked out after searing pain. [And you thought a bark collar was cruel.]

Man, this was heady stuff. I got Avengers backstory, legal procedure [sort of] and the question of what makes us human or not. Who's the real brother? The guy who died and got up from the dead or the android who can phase through walls?

And how are they gonna get out of this? I mean, this guy will kill one of them no matter what - 'cause psycho guy only needs ONE brother.

Let me tell you I have re-read this comic probably 20 times easily. The surprises, the pacing, the action and the drama as these men sit in a chair and tell their sordid past. You see, Simon Williams was a traitor to the Avengers - but he died a hero, being killed by Baron Zemo for switching sides. Still, a lot of shame and yes, fear - because he died. It is not an experience Williams ever wants to go through again.

And as for the Vision? He had hoped to be a man. He knows he was a created synthezoid, but he did have Simon Williams brain patterns. He liked so many of the same things. He has even fallen in love. He'd begun to think he was almost human, you know? But in a great set of dramatic face-offs and one huge reveal, we find that the answer is...




...wait for it....



...neither.

T'challa, the awesome Black Panther, makes Simon Williams reveal what his jungle senses already suspected: the man Simon Williams is no more. His eyes, covered all these issues by red lenses, are uncovered, and we see that this "man" is furnace of pure energy!

Then the Vision stands up and tells Erik no, he is not Simon Williams, and so he must die. He had his hopes, but he is not his brother. "I am the Vision, and thus, I am content!"

They are heroes. But they are not human. Not at all.

They are more brothers to each other now than the two boys who grew up together.


Erik, seeing that the moral compass has swung to point out his bigotry, reacts with rage - and blasts everyone into unconsciousness. Then, gathering his dignity, he decides that after killing the Vision he'll get his brother and fix everything...

...except Simon Williams ain't the boy he knew.

Seems he's changed a bit more than Erik thought.

Seems those bands don't work on his NEW molecular structure.

Seems that Erik's own weapon won't even begin to hurt the now invulnerable in every sense of the word Wonder Man.

He K.O.s Erik and wakes everyone up. In the touching denouement, the Beast asks if he can help in any way and Simon says, "Just leave me here alone for awhile, O.K.?"

Simon thus closes a chapter of his life. He has stopped, single-handedly, the villain who came into being because he blamed the Avengers for for Simon's death. He effectively un-justifies all of Erik's evil actions. They were not based in love and justice, but anger, self-loathing and self-justification.

Years ago, this story resonated with me, because I had a terrible relationship with my brother. He was eight years older and between his issues and my immaturity, it was horrible. I was terrified of him.

But I found brothers in close friends and slowly filled in some of the gaps. Later in life, I discovered I was not the man I wanted to be and called on Jesus to save me.

More than that, I wanted Him to be my brother.

To do that, I had to die to self and be given His mind, His heart, His way of thinking. As a gift, not as a philosophical or ethical goal. I mean a supernatural gift that freaked me out.

Like Simon Williams, I had to state who I really was and what I had done wrong.

Like the Vision, I had to admit that I wanted to be someone else, but I was not.

This is what it means to be born again folks. You get a new birth from the Spirit of God.

Jesus pointed it out in John 3:3-8
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
 - and also how we become brothers this way:
John 14:15-19
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

It is the supernatural Spirit of God that unites us, with Jesus as our Big Brother. He is the Truth, and you know what? The world don't want it. I mean that sincerely. We just don't. Like the Grim Reaper in the Avengers tale, once we hear it, we start ZZZZAAAPPPing to keep our own P.O.V.

But if we listen to Christ, and do what He says, we love Him and will be brothers on that fact alone. We won't be deceived by outward appearances anymore. We will "know the truth and the truth will set you free."

I loved this comic. I loved the story Jim Shooter told. I loved the pencils and the inks.

Most of all, I loved what it said: we are not bound to be brothers of evil or the misguided by blood. We can be free to be brothers by the spirit - and that transcends all mortal flesh.

Amen.

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