Marvel Adventures Avengers #32

Background

Despite the expanded roster, only five Avengers – Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and Giant-Girl – are on hand for writer Paul Tobin's latest effort.

Story 'The Big Payoff!'

  Marvel Adventures Avengers #32
Summary: Spider-Man appears

It's an Avengers alert! The IRS has conducted an audit of the group, and several members – notably Wolverine – are delinquent in their payments. What's more, the IRS expects them to file under their real names, which the Avengers refuse to do: secret identities, don't you know. The IRS is willing to make a deal, though: they'll be permitted to file under their code names, provided the Avengers are willing to do the IRS's dirty work. Seems several supervillains haven't been paying their taxes either. It's up to the Avengers to see that justice prevails! So:

  • Luke Cage and Giant-Girl corral the Whirlwind, and the Hulk captures Bullseye, both of whom refuse to pay taxes on the ground that they prefer to keep their own money.
  • Spider-Man takes on Oog the Monster (?), who refuses to pay taxes on the ground that he's not allowed citizenship rights, and as such objects to taxation without representation. (I like his snazzy beret.) Rather than fighting, the two keep up a philosophical debate that lasts all the way to the third-last panel.
  • Iron Man takes on the Man-Bull, who hasn't been filing because he doesn't understand the tax code. It takes a bit of brawling before he's willing to admit that, though.
  • And the Avengers collectively take on the Absorbing Man, who's just generally anti-social.

In the end, Iron Man covers everyone's back taxes, and no one has to give up their secret identities. Much to the IRS's discomfiture, however, they saved all of their receipts, and intend to seek a number of tax deductions to reduce the overall pressure on their finances.

Action in the mighty Marvel manner!

General Comments

I really want to give Paul Tobin a chance... but then he goes and writes issues like this. The whole story revolves around the idea that the Avengers with secret identities haven't been paying taxes on their income. This prompts all sorts of questions, like:

  • If all of these supervillains are on the loose, shouldn't the Avengers be busy tracking them down as public menaces? Why do they need the IRS to force them to do it? Especially since that at the beginning of the issue the Avengers are simply chilling out at Avengers Tower, not engaging in anything superheroic.
  • Since when do the Avengers draw salaries?
  • Assuming that they do, how are they paid? If the IRS won't allow you to pay taxes under a code name, I bet banks wouldn't allow you to have a chequing account under a code name either.
  • Wouldn't Wolverine and Storm, as resident aliens in the USA, pay taxes in their home countries in any case?
  • And doesn't Spider-Man, etc., pay taxes under his civilian identity? Why is he being forced to pay taxes twice?

I'm being facetious here, putting more weight on the story than it can bear. I'm sure Tobin intended this to be a light tale riffing on the comedy created by mixing superheroic high fantasy with the mundane tedium of paying taxes. That sort of juxtaposition has been a winning Marvel formula for decades.

The problem is that, just like in issue #31, the story moves from a serious adult issue – why people should pay taxes, even when they don't like to and can evade the responsibility – and treats it idiotically, with the Avengers reducing their own tax problems by fighting supervillains. I've tried to say this before, but perhaps I haven't been clear enough, so I'll put it in all caps:

YES, IT'S A CHILDREN'S BOOK, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN THE AVENGERS SHOULD ACT LIKE CHILDREN.

This is a common mistake that writers new to the children-and-youth-fiction genre make. Children are very, very interested in adult life, because they know they will be adults soon, and the adult world is mysterious to them. They appreciate it when the mysteries of adult life – particularly, how adults are supposed to behave – are broken down for them. Parts of this book do that well, especially the bit where Spider-Man and Oog (anybody have any idea who he is?) discuss what taxes are and why we pay them. But the rest of it – the smug and sneering IRS bureaucrat who takes glee in forcing the Avengers to pay taxes, the idea that the government would blackmail the Avengers into doing their own jobs, etc. – is insulting to the readers' intelligence; yes, even the youngest readers.

The best issues of this book—issues featuring Ego the Living Planet, or MODOC, or Galactus—succeed at telling stories children and adults can enjoy at the same time. The salient fact of these issues are that in these stories the Avengers behave in just the same way the Avengers of more adult-oriented books do: the concession made to children is a simpler story and a lack of adult themes. But the Avengers still behave responsibly and act in ways that adults would recognize and understand.

The sooner we get back to that kind of storytelling, and away from "the Avengers are just twelve-year-olds in adult bodies," the better off this book will be.

By the way, that's two issues in a row now where the climax of the issue is the Hulk finally showing up at the battle and felling the Big Bad with one punch. Once was enough, twice is repetitive and dull. Come on, Tobin, let's raise our game a little.

Overall Rating

I liked the Spidey-Oog debate, and I liked the battle with Whirlwind, and I liked Matteo Lolli's pencils. But even with all of that I can't go higher than two webs.

Footnote

I see that Marvel Editorial threw in a five-page preview of Jeff Parker's latest X-Men: First Class project. I can see why they would do that – another young-reader friendly book, a familiar name—but still, yeesh, Jeff Parker isn't writing Marvel Adventures: Avengers anymore, and Marvel Editorial has to rub it in.