Today I have my first update to a team guide, and it’s a team I have had a love/hate relationship with over the past decade – The Definitive Guide to the Uncanny Avengers!
Don’t need a full reading order right now, but want to know what the Avengers are doing with the X-Men’s “Uncanny” adjective? Keep reading for a brief history, where to start reading, what the team has been up to in 2017, and just how much of it you can own in oversize format.
Who are the Uncanny Avengers?
Uncanny Avengers is the comic title given to books featuring the “Unity Squad” of Avengers. The squad was first formed in the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men to more-closely link mutants with the wider superhero community. Later, this remit would be expanded to include Inhumans as well (at least, in sentiment, if not in practice).
That’s the in-story reason for these Avengers assembling, but what was the publishing reason? How did the Avengers wind up with an “Uncanny” title in their fold?
First is that Marvel lacked for a single, obvious, blockbuster “flagship book” in the way DC had begun to wield Justice League in their New 52 continuity.
This wasn’t simply a problem of sales, since Uncanny X-Men had historically been a Top 10 selling comic, but one of how to know where the biggest stories in the Marvel Universe were happening. With the X-Men virtually divorced from the rest of the universe from 2006-2012, this was a chance to pull them and their fans back into the center ring of the Marvel circus.
Second is that Rick Remember found some of his longer-term plot threads from the ultra-hot Uncanny X-Force cut short in the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men. Instead of losing the longer thread of his Apocalypse plot, it continued here with the benefit of being able to integrate Captain America, Thor, and Scarlet Witch into the story. Also, Remender – who was incredibly popular with fans at the time – got to be the author to pick up the plot threads of Xavier’s fate at the end of AvX.
And, third, there was Rogue.
Rogue is one of a small handful of X-Men who don’t quite have the star power to anchor their own long-running solo series but whose presence can equal strong sales for a long-running team book. Mike Carey had just used her for several years to excellent effect in his X-Men Legacy (which was wrapped up by Christos Gage).
Rogue’s recent character arc founder her more confident and in-control than ever before. That meant she didn’t really fit in with any of the other X-books launches in Marvel Now, with their heavy focus on being for or against Cyclops. Given her origins in Avengers Annual 10 and her leadership role in the wake of House of M, it made for an interesting and prickly plot point for Rogue to try to fit in on an Avengers squad. (A similar rationale found Havok in the initial cast).
Rick Remender essentially told just two stories with this team from 2012 to 2015. One is the Apocalypse epic he had teed up in Uncanny X-Force, with a large out-of-continuity alternate future component. The other was the re-ascendence of The Red Skull in the wake of AvX. That second plot was promoted out of Uncanny Avengers to become a line-wide event called Avengers & X-Men: Axis in 2014 – it is effectively issues #26-34 of Uncanny Avengers under a different title.
After Axis, Remender continued for a vestigial five-issue run with a totally odd team that included Doctor Voodoo and Sabretooth that was promptly cut off by Secret Wars. It’s most-notable for bringing into question the paternity of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver around the time of the Age of Ultron film, which seemed to sour a great many fans to the tiny run.
Marvel continued the flagship status of the title in All-New, All-Different Marvel, packing the team with Captain America, Rogue, Deadpool, Cable, Human Torch, Quicksilver, Doctor Voodoo, and a new Inhuman character named Synapse.
Deadpool writer Gerry Duggan took a while to find his footing with the team – the early issues feel like a Deadpool spinoff rather than Marvel’s mightiest heroes. However, his direction for the team gelled just before Civil War II and returned the book to flagship status – and Rogue to being its featured star. I went from dreading catching up on this title to putting it at the top of my to-read pile.
Where to Start Reading Uncanny Avengers
This question isn’t quite as simple as it seems!
You absolutely can pick up this title from Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 1: The Red Shadow with no problem. However, because of Remender’s long game of plotting, it’s a much more interesting read if you’ve first read his “Dark Angel Saga” from Uncanny X-Force and are at least aware of the ending of Avengers vs. X-Men. If you’re reading on a fixed-cost platform like Marvel Unlimited, I say start with Uncanny X-Force and work your way up.
It doesn’t really pay to pick up the 2012 iteration of the title anywhere after the first issue, since it just tells two huge stories, and there’s little fun to be derived from the first 2015 iteration.
You can also pick the title up from its All-New All Different Avengers reboot late in 2015 with Uncanny Avengers – Unity Vol. 1: Lost Future. I’ll warn you – the first arc just ain’t great. However, it sets up some establishing threads of why Deadpool is involved in the team and who Synapse is that you’ll need to appreciate future issues.
Uncanny Avengers in 2017
The Uncanny Avengers briefly tied-in to Secret Empire earlier this year, but the title has really been on a continuity-loving tear in bringing Beast, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and Wonder Man back to the franchise.
Finally, under Duggan’s pen (and Jim Zub’s for the past few months), this team feels not only more connected to The Avengers, but like it’s own unique book rather than a strange outgrowth of the X-Men franchise.
Unfortunately, that’s coming to an end at the close of 2017 with issue #30! In the first quarter of 2018, the casts and creatorsof all of Marvel’s Avengers titles are condensing down to a single, weekly blast of Avengers for a huge story arc called “No Surrender.”
It will be another few months until we learn what books will emerge from the other side of that story – and where Rogue, Quicksilver, Synapse, and other characters who have been unique to this title will next appear.
Current Collection Status
Uncanny Avengers exists entirely within the “Collection Era” of Marvel, where it’s rare for even a single issue to go uncollected in an initial release format. The first volume of Uncanny was initially released in Premiere Hardcover, with the subsequent volumes going directly to paperback?
If we know every issue has been collected why bother checking on the collected status? Why, because of Marvel’s coveted deluxe, oversize hardcover format, of course!
|2012||Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 1||27||27||27|
|2014||Avengers & X-Men: Axis||9||9||9|
|2015||Vol. 2 (& Ultron Forever)||6||6||0|
|2015||Avengers: Rage of Ultron OGN||1||1||1|
There is little doubt in my mind that Marvel will put the 30 Gerry Dugan / Jim Zub issues into a single omnibus a few years down the line. It’s a big, glossy, mostly self-contained run starring Deadpool, and Marvel is addicted to Deadpool omnibuses right now.
The question that remains is if Marvel would deign to squeeze in that marooned Volume 2 run into that omnibus, since it’s too small for its own OHC. I think signs point to “no,” since the only theme Duggan really picks up from there is having Quicksilver and Doctor Voodoo on the team. It would be jarring to read that pre-All-New-All-Different arc and then be dropped into Duggan’s post-Secret Wars story.
But, wait … there is a chance it could happen!
Marvel could collect the five-issue Remender series along with his Avengers: Rage of Ultron graphic novel, which links that team to the unseen early days of All-New, All-Different Marvel. The story is one of the few that takes place in the big storytelling gap that Marvel established after the event to give writers room to set up new status quo for their books.
Duggan’s run even has a direct sequel to the events of the OGN that doesn’t make one lick of sense if you haven’t read the OGN material.
(Plus, you could potentially include Ewing’s three-issue “Ultron Forever” story as a prelude to this – and even features some of that Rage team, like Lady Thor.)
With the OGN at effectively 5ish standard issues, that would place this middle material in the 10-13 issue range – enough to stand as its own OHC but also small enough to fit into an Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 2 omnibus!
Would you want that middle material in a Duggan/Zub omnibus just for the sake of completeness? Would you buy it as its own OHC? Or, is it better left abandoned?
If you aren’t sure yet, it’s time to get to reading! Visit the Guide to Uncanny Avengers to get started!