Fan Review: The Avengers -- Better than the comic books?

Grumpy Fanboy
Yahoo! Special Projects

For years, comic book fans have waited for the ultimate comic book movie: a film that not only delivers on super-powered action but one that actually brings the universe only imagined in comic books to life.

Where The Avengers (and its forerunners Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The First Avenger) differ from other super-hero movies is Marvel’s retention of full creative control. That is, unlike most other films based on comic books where the characters are simply licensed to a film studio, they instead remain in the hands of the comic creators at Marvel themselves.

As a reader of almost four decades, I place a great importance on faithfulness to comic book canon. I winced when Spider-Man spun biological webbing instead of from mechanical web shooters. I groaned at an original X-Men lineup that didn’t include Scott, Jean or Warren. I was furious when Galactus appeared as a formless space cloud.

My expectation is that The Avengers should stay true to the original comic book source material like no other film franchise. So does it deliver? To answer the burning questions on the minds of fanboy purists and longtime Avengers readers (and without dropping too many spoilers), here’s how the film compares to the comic book:

1. Who leads: Cap or Iron Man? The rivalry between Cap and Iron Man for leadership of the Avengers goes back decades. Tensions flared in the late 1970s when Tony Stark battled alcoholism (from the classic “Demon in a Bottle” story arc) while serving as Avengers chairman and Cap had to step up during his many absences. Events came to a head in 2006 when Cap and Iron Man each led his own Avengers team on opposite sides of the Superhuman Registration Act during the “Civil War”.
In the Avengers film: Cap and Tony do lock horns but Cap takes his natural place as leader.

2. Do we see Hank Pym or Janet Van Dyne?
Hank Pym (Ant Man) and Janet Van Dyne (Wasp) were part of the original lineup that included Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk from Avengers #1 back in 1963.
In the Avengers film:
They are nowhere to be seen in the film version.

3. Any hints of more Avengers other than the main cast? The Avengers do enjoy a deep bench compared to most superhero teams. But Iron Man, Cap, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye are the only ones show in this first film. If there are any plans to introduce more members in future sequels (I for one would love to see the Vision, the Scarlet Witch and Ms Marvel), there are no hints as to who might join the roster in this film.

4. How similar are The Avengers to the Ultimates? Between Thor’s missing helmet, Cap’s wingless mask and Samuel Jackson’s casting as Nick Fury, one could easily conclude that Avengers is really the film adaptation of The Ultimates, Marvel’s alternate reality reboot of the Marvel Universe geared towards a more mature audience. But the similarities are purely cosmetic. Despite appearances, the characters in the Avengers are definitely old school Marvel, more faithful to Stan Lee’s original vision than Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s grittier version.

5. Is Loki's Army the Skrulls? We already know Thor’s brother, Loki the god of mischief, is the villain. But who are those flying foot soldiers we see in the trailers? Are they creatures from one of the other Nine Realms? Are they AIM or Hydra? Or the Atlanteans? Joss Whedon publicly denied months ago that they were the Skrulls, quashing much speculation from fans. Instead, he recently revealed that Loki’s allies are the Chitauri. But wait, aren’t the Chitauri just the Ultimates universe version of the Skrulls? So they’re not the Skrulls but actually they are. The great mystery behind the enemy horde in the Avengers could also be one of the biggest pranks in comic book movies.

Grumpy Fanboy is still looking for the alien power battery, magic word or radioactive spider that will give him super powers. In the meantime, he writes about superheroes in his blog,