As I noted about a month ago, it’s genuinely unfair for me to tell you about things I dislike without letting you have an idea of the things I like as well. After all, when Roger Ebert writes a movie review, he’s not handing down the Truth From On High; he’s just telling you what he thought of that movie. It’s up to you to decide whether that’s useful to you. So with that in mind, here’s a positive post for you, filled with love and affection for a medium I love despite my occasional frustration.
And yes, I do love ‘Acts of Vengeance’. I can almost hear the cries of shock and anger before I even finish the entry: “‘Acts of Vengeance’? It was nothing but a big dumb crossover full of superheroes hitting each other! It didn’t even make any sense! If all those supervillains really teamed up, why would they just switch opponents instead of ganging up on people! How could you love something that was just a bunch of brainless fight sequences?”
Because it’s a bunch of AWESOME brainless fight sequences. This is a crossover that’s firmly and unpretentiously a popcorn summer blockbuster translated into comic book form, with tons of spectacular battles stitched together with just enough of a plot to make it all plausible. Yes, it’d make much more sense for the villains to gang up on the heroes, instead of coming up with a cockeyed plan that was almost bound to fail. Why, it’s almost as if they were being somehow manipulated by an untrustworthy trickster god who was really more interested in pissing in Thor’s Cheerios than in actually coming up with a plausible scheme for world domination on behalf of six people he doesn’t care about! (Seriously, this crossover is Loki in full-on prick mode. Absolutely nobody gets anything good out of this; the villains wind up in as much chaos and confusion as the heroes. You can almost picture Loki pouring himself a cognac at the end of each issue and sipping it slowly while he watches the highlights on Mystic Pay per View.)
Of course, with the plot being as thin as it is, the story lives and dies on its big moments. And this crossover does not skimp on the big moments. There’s an epic Thor vs. Juggernaut slugfest (that also introduces the New Warriors, comics stalwarts through most of the next decade); there’s a running subplot where Spider-Man gains the Captain Universe powers and proceeds to fight way above his pay grade against the likes of Graviton, Dragon Man and the Hulk (he actually punches the Hulk into orbit at one point); there’s a hilarious fight between the grey Hulk and the Grey Gargoyle (hint: being made of stone does not actually help much against the Hulk); there’s a wonderful tie-in Damage Control miniseries written by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie; Walt Simonson’s debut on the Fantastic Four falls within this crossover, and you actually get to see Victor von Doom’s idea of a prank (along with how efficient the FF’s security system is, and which members of Congress are secretly mutants)…and I haven’t even gotten to Quasar vs. the Absorbing Man, Magneto vs. the Red Skull (turns out teaming an ex-Nazi with a Holocaust survivor was not such a great plan), the first appearance of the new Psylocke, and the Punisher vs. Doctor Doom.
In every comic fan, deep down, there is a thirteen-year old kid waiting to get out. ‘Acts of Vengeance’ is everything that thirteen-year old kid could ever want, plus a scene where Quasar fights Venom and the Living Laser accidentally jumps through the Watcher’s portal to blow up Thunderbird in an alternate universe. How can you possibly go wrong with all that?