Issue(s): Avengers #341, Avengers #342
In fact the issue starts with a sadly familiar scene.
This would have been meant to recall the Rodney King incident specifically, but other events like the killing of Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst are also mentioned in this story. And this sadly remains a topical subject; at time of writing the #BlackLivesMatter movement exists to try to raise awareness of incidents like these.
A protest is happening outside a police station, although the protesters apparently include people on both sides of the argument, all mixed together.
But a more violent group of counter-protesters show up and start intimidating the crowd with weapons, including nunchucks. This is all across from a police station, with police standing right on the other side of a barricade. But the police don't seem to mind. And then Rage shows up.
Rage drives off the counter-protesters.
Rage is dubbed by the media as the Avengers' spokesman.
At an Avengers training session, Rage wonders why the Avengers aren't doing anything about the incident, and his views are contrasted with the Falcon's.
The Falcon being in the more moderate position shows how his character has softened since the days when Leila Taylor was a radical and had his ear.
Another surprising contrast is with the normally impulsive Night Thrasher, who doesn't feel he's got a right to get involved since he lives a very privileged life.
Cap and the Falcon, in their civilian identities, later go to Rage's address to talk to him. They meet his grandmother and find out that Rage, despite his size, is only fourteen years old (as we saw in the background check that was done when Rage joined the team, but since the check wasn't actively looking for a candidate's age, it wasn't flagged).
At the same time, the group of counter-protestors we saw earlier are revealed to be Sons of the Serpent, and they return in full gear.
The New Warriors try to stop a fight between them and the crowd.
They're observed by the new Hate-Monger, who begins manipulating their emotions (or maybe Namorita's ugly costume is just making everyone angry).
Then Rage shows up.
Since the Warriors were as much defending the Serpents from the angry crowd as anything, they wind up in conflict with Rage.
Meanwhile, Night Thrasher's doubts about getting involved are forgotten thanks to a racist protester (although, again, the Hate-Monger has something to do with it).
Finally the Avengers, or, you know, four of them, show up.
The Avengers and the New Warriors wind up fighting each other (with narration from the Hate-Monger).
The Sons of the Serpent take the opportunity to get out of there. And the fighting stops when the Hate-Monger also leaves. But the arguments don't stop.
I mentioned in the entry for New Warriors #15-17 that Fabian Nicieza did a really great job of contrasting the New Warriors to the Fantastic Four, with the Warriors becoming practically bystanders in their own book while the FF (and Silver Surfer) dealt with a threat that was more appropriate to their power levels and experience. That's much less the case here. First of all, the Warriors hold their own in the mini-fight with the Avengers. But more importantly, the Avengers are making the argument that their experience shows that trying to deal with issues of social unrest is beyond the abilities of super-heroes. This has been an argument in super-hero comics since at least the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow run, and it's come up at Marvel a number of times (the aforementioned early appearances of Leila Taylor, for example, or Avengers #80). It's always a tough argument, because we want our superheroes to fix these problems, but they can't without Marvel's "world outside your window" getting tossed out the, er, window and the universe becoming something more like The Authority. But if you're going to bring this kind of thing up, you'd better make sure that the people articulating the "we can't do anything" position have got a strong argument or are proved right in the end. Or they wind up looking like whiny do-nothings, crabby oldsters compared to the fresh idealistic new kids. Which would be somewhat understandable if that were really a direction we wanted to go in with the Avengers, or if these were issues of the New Warriors' series written entirely from their perspective, but Nicieza doesn't really commit to that direction (and of course, Marvel wouldn't want him to).
It's also worth remembering that the reason we have concepts like the Sons of the Serpent and the Hate-Monger, even though it trivializes the real problems they represent, is precisely so that the heroes have something to punch in the face. What's weird about the exchange between the Avengers and the New Warriors is that the Avengers don't let the New Warriors in on either the real problem or the super-symbolic equivalent. "Kids, we can't stop institutional racism but we sure as hell can go beat up on the Serpents, so come on!" would be a lot simpler. Maybe Niceiza is deliberately going for something more nuanced, but at the same time when he does have the Warriors looking into the real world side of the problem, he immediately waters it down.
Sure. Irish people getting hassled by the cops was a big problem in 1991, and that's certainly the nuanced all encompassing sentiment you'd expect from young kids. After paralleling Rodney King and namechecking Bensonhurst, you can't turn around and genericize the problem. The problem was (is) the relationship between non-white minorities and the police and/or white people. If you're not going to go out on the limb to deal with that directly, stick to guys dressing up in Serpent costumes.
On that front, the Avengers look up info on the Serpents. Their records show that the last group to encounter them was the Defenders, and they "weren't very meticulous record keepers".
Cast no stones, Avengers! Your own records don't seem to be up to date. You guys were the last to encounter the Serpents, in Avengers annual #19.
But the Avengers learn that the Serpents were once funded by J.C. Pennyworth, and they locate a building owned by Kyle Richmond (who Pennyworth worked for) that is currently for sale, and surmise that it would be a good place for the Serpents to be operating out of. Meanwhile, the New Warriors reach out to Rage and ask them to team-up with them for their independent search for the Serpents. They learn the identity of one of the guys in the Serpents and find a note from him pointing to the same building. So everybody converges on the building.
One interesting bit is when one of the Serpents hesitates to attack Captain America.
It shows how powerful Cap's reputation is, and it also suggests that Cap does have the ability to influence public opinion if he were to speak out on these issues.
There are no recriminations when the New Warriors show up.
Although i guess the idea that Rage's... rage feeds the Hate-Monger is a metaphor for the Avengers' side of the argument. But it feels more like blaming the victim to me.
Easy for the white guy to say.
When it's all over, Cap tells Rage that he can't be an active member of the Avengers anymore, because their charter prohibits minors from participating. But he can continue as a trainee.
Cap is acting like he's learned a lesson since refusing to take in Marvel Boy in New Warriors #1, but i wonder what that lesson is. If it's the fact that Marvel Boy became an active super-hero anyway, then Cap's solution for Rage doesn't seem to work. Because there's nothing to stop Rage from remaining active even though he's training with the Avengers, and indeed Night Thrasher passes him his contact info in the same scene.
The real solution would be for the Avengers to take the New Warriors under their wing, kind of like the way the X-Men did with the New Mutants. Acknowledge that these kids are going to get involved in field work no matter what they say, and so steer them towards missions that are appropriate for their power and experience levels. Instead it seems like the Avengers are just going to let these kids put themselves in danger, and as long as it's not sanctioned by the Avengers, it's not their problem.
I'll also note that in real life, if a member of an organization came out and made the statements Rage made to the press at the beginning of this issue and then was subsequently demoted, there would be serious outrage over that. I doubt that the Avengers put out a press release saying that they found out that Rage was under age, so people would probably only see the demotion in terms of Rage's comments. This seems like the type of topic Larry Hama might have explored if he had remained on the book, but it's unlikely to be something that would be addressed if it's coming from a pair of fill-in issues. Which, to get away from the specifics of this issue for a bit, has been a problem with the Avengers lately: the constant changes in creative teams mean that we don't have any ongoing stories, subplots, or character arcs. Nicieza, to his credit, is ambitious with the plotting of these issues, despite what i think are the flaws. But in the end these issues don't amount to much more than a deck clearing exercise, getting Rage off the team so that Bob Harras doesn't have to deal with him.
This is the standard ending for a Hate-Monger story (compare to the final scan in Fantastic Four #279), and it's as annoying as always. This story opened with an analogue to the Rodney King beating. People have a right to be angry about that, and suggesting that anger about that is equivalent to racism is a horribly misguided way to show 'balance'.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after the New Warrior's battle with Terrax in New Warriors #15-17. The footnote says #15-18 but i am assuming that is a mistake since New Warriors #18 isn't part of the Terrax battle and it begins a storyline that makes it unlikely that Night Thrasher would be training with Chord in this arc.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showAndrew Chord, Black Widow, Captain America, Edna Staples, Falcon, Firestar, Guardsman II (Michael O'Brien), Hate-Monger (Animus), Justice, Namorita, Night Thrasher, Peggy Carter, Rage, Silhouette, Vision
I wish Marvel WOULD abandon the "world outside your window" principle and go for real change.
Posted by: Thanos6 | November 13, 2015 3:19 PM
Maybe Fabien Nicieza is an Alan Smithee type name they put on fill-ins that were generated by the comic writing manatees and their idea balls.
Posted by: Bob | November 13, 2015 5:09 PM
Eh... Try the early 2000s Wildstorm stuff. Or even earlier Ultimate Marvel to a lesser degree.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | November 13, 2015 6:39 PM
I did, and while I appreciated the willingness to shake things up, I didn't care for the writing as a whole.
Posted by: Thanos6 | November 13, 2015 8:48 PM
Fnord, I have to disagree with your low opinion of this story. Firstly, I disagree with you regarding the "black anger" theme. (I have to wonder by the way if the "Irish" was meant to be Irish COPS can be just as bad or as good with minority suspects as black cops.) You're forgetting when this story came out. It came out a few weeks after the Crown Heights riots and the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum:
Posted by: Michael | November 13, 2015 10:08 PM
I liked these issues. I wish Fabian had become the new regular writer instead of Bon Harras. The Avengers should have adopted the New Warriors as their junior branch.
Posted by: Steven | November 14, 2015 12:59 AM
Feckin Irish :-)
Posted by: kveto | November 15, 2015 8:33 AM
Given that is a subject i have written about a lot I'll try to step gingerly around the potential mine field this subject entails.
Fnord12, to be fair this is a problem with a LOT of media in general when it comes to "cobtroversial" issues. It's the Both Sides Do It" argumentative fallacy media outlets (and as a result, the public) defaults to in a misguided, false attempt at "balance." It's kinda unfortunate that Nicieza undercuts his own story by falling into that trap, but considering the firestorm that occurred when, say Captain America fought Tea Party analogues, i can understand the caution from a PR standpoint.
Also this particular arc had an an additional purpose besides "ripped from the headlines" examination: the OTHER point is for Nicieza to promote the New Warriors by contrasting them with the Avengers. I've always said the Warriors are the Super Hero versions of "The Real World" which was becoming a "thing" right around this time) And so, we get to see the passionate rebellious "hip and in-your-face" (and yes i feel dirty just saying that) upstarts face off against the relatively "stogy" "establishment" heroes. It helps differentiate between they styles of each groups and confirms that the groups don't just contrast in terms of powers, but in attitude (and attitude ) in a way that makes the group Nicieza has a hand in shaping look "cool."
Despite my seemingly cynical synopsis i actually kinda dig this issue (being a "90s" kids who watched MTV and paid increasing isue to social issues probably helped.) Yes i was dispointed in the cop-out ending, but i enjoy when books try to tackle issues like this (it WAS one of the things that drew me to X-books after all.) And i thought the almost generational conflict between the made sense. More important the transfer of Rage to a team that would better service his temperment went a long way to make my tolerate a character i hated before this. In the warriors he actually became (gasp!) FUN, even while still ABMing it up. And the revelation about his age made a lot of sense ofhis previous behavior.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 15, 2015 9:45 PM
Re: the Avengers not doing more to help race relations- there's not much they can do if they don't want to take over the country and rule it by force. People only listen to Cap BECAUSE he tries to keep his views neutral.
Michael, that was more or less my thinking, as well. It's what comes to mind whenever any story has a character criticizing superheroes for not doing anything to fight against racism & injustice. Every single time Green Lantern / Green Arrow #76 gets reprinted and I have to read that speech about GL supposedly not helping "the black skins," my first reaction is "Okay, what EXACTLY do you want Green Lantern to do?"
Most racism is institutionalized. More often than not it is encoded in law, and that means that the only way to fight against it is to mount legal challenges, to push for laws to be overturned or rewritten.
Just look at what happened in 2013 when the conservative majority of the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act. Was that a racist decision? Quite possibly. So if the same event took place on the Earth of the Marvel universe, what should the Avengers do? Throw the Supreme Court justices into prison in the Negative Zone? When Wisconsin passes so-called "voter ID" law gets and shuts down the DMV offices in minority-heavy areas with the intent of suppressing non-white votes, what are the Avengers supposed to do, beat up Governor Scott Walker and the state legislature?
And of course there's the problem that if superheroes DID do something to combat racism, the Marvel universe would look very different from the real world. You might as well have some character criticizing Reed Richards or Tony Stark for not creating solar-powered automobiles that cost five bucks and last forever. They don't do that because those things do not exist in our own world.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 16, 2015 11:27 PM
Well, Hal is a bad choice for that kind of plot for two reasons- (a)he's usually written as tasked with protecting multiple inhabited planets, which most people would go crazy trying to do and (b) Sinestro DID try to intervene to make his home planet a "better" place and look at how that turned out.
Posted by: Michael | November 17, 2015 12:15 AM
"You might as well have some character criticizing Reed Richards or Tony Stark for not creating solar-powered automobiles that cost five bucks and last forever. They don't do that because those things do not exist in our own world."
Er...you know that's basically what Tony is trying to do now (or at least when Fraction was still writing Iron Man, anyway.)
Also I have to disagree about Cap's views usually being "neutral." (Hi, Civil War!) It might have been true "then", but now it's more to convey a shorthand as to which is the right "side" (since no one out-of-universe wants to make Captain America "look bad" or anything.)
Ironically enough Rage's concerns were expressed about 15 years later by Marvel's ORIGINAL ABM, Luke Cage in New Avengers (I forgot what issues they were, but it was about how the Avengers were going to start "protecting the streets", or something to that effect. This is a concern that continues on to be debated in modern comics.
That being said, and as much as I hate Rage at this point, I don't think his initial action was wrong. I think, say Spider-Man would just stand there and let people instigate potentially dangerous conflict (while the Avengers can't do anything about racism, they CAN do something about riot control to prevent harm and preserve lives) Also, while he would have been a lot less confrontational about it, I REALLY don't see Captain America just plain tolerating someone using a slur like that. Not without a big lecture, at least.
And yes I know, I wrote a post an an essay broke out. But i'll just make one more point. Reading this synopsis and the ones from other comics done around this time I never realized what a HUGE PUSH they gave the New Warriors! Was there a book they DIDN'T guest star in? And then eventually they'll end up being "linked" with the Spider-Man books. It's kinda funny looking at the hype they got here compared to around 2006, when they'd become Marvel Universe's punching bag.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 18, 2015 11:49 PM
"Also I have to disagree about Cap's views usually being "neutral." (Hi, Civil War!) It might have been true "then", but now it's more to convey a shorthand as to which is the right "side" (since no one out-of-universe wants to make Captain America "look bad" or anything.)"
Of course, in Civil War, Cap's side was meant to be the bad guys and fascist Tony Stark was on the right side!
Posted by: Morgan Wick | November 18, 2015 11:52 PM
Do we ever get an explanation for this Hate-Monger? (beyond he's basically just a D'Spayre for the 90s.)
I know he re-appears in Nomad and Justice's mini, but I don't think we get any more origin there and we eventually just went back to the Adolf Hitler clone Hate-Monger in Dan Jurgens' Captain America. Did he die and I missed it?
He looks a bit like that abstract Hate entity (Master Hate? Lord Hate? Can't remember/don't care). Wonder if that was intended or just the word "hate" made everyone think of a grey bloke with wild hair back then.
Honestly, this character could function well enough as a central antagonist for the New Warriors (since he can obviously play on Thrasher and Rage's racial insecurities and has a connection with Justice on the basis of appearing in his series). If I were writing New Warriors, it's definitely something I'd consider, as I've said before the team sorely lack a main arch-enemy that isn't borrowed.
Posted by: AF | March 18, 2016 4:58 PM
@AF, I don't think this Hate-Monger was ever given an origin (at least not that I have ever seen). He has more recently been going by Animus, since the other Hate-Monger reappeared in the Jurgens CAP. I think he was last seen in a HULK fill-in issue by Fabian Nicieza several years ago.
Posted by: Dermie | March 18, 2016 6:13 PM
I liked these issues, and the comments were great too. Flawed story but enjoyable.
Posted by: Urban Commando | April 29, 2017 4:56 AM
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