Marvel Comics and DC Comics are both in the midst of relaunching their flagship team books, with Marvel’s Avengers #1 dropping after an extended build-up in the weekly "No Surrender" series, and DC’s Justice League: No Justice weekly series leading into multiple new Justice League titles.
If it sounds like a case of two similar scenarios, that’s cause it is. And this isn’t uncommon for the “Big Two” publishers; remember just a few years ago when both Batman and Captain America died in high profile events, were temporarily replaced by their former sidekicks, and were "stuck" in time before eventually returning in high profile events, each within months of the other?
But even in that very specific case, the devil is in the details – the broad strokes line up, but the stories aren’t necessarily the mirror they seem to be. In movies, they call this "twin films" - like when Dante's Peak and Volcano erupted in the same year, or Deep Impact and Armageddon put two movies about meteor strikes on a collision course at the box office. It's what happens when the trends in a medium point in a clear direction - but different creators take those tropes to different places.
So how do Avengers and No Justice measure up when it comes to the “tale of the tape?” We’ll spell it out below, diving into the vital stats of these two seemingly similar superhero stories.
And oh yeah, light spoilers ahead for Avengers and Justice League: No Justice.
Avengers and Justice League: No Justice both represent pivotal points for their respective publishers.
The industry is coming off a (seemingly still ongoing) wave of relaunches. For DC, Justice League: No Justice is the publisher’s first major title relaunch since its “Rebirth” initiative restarted their entire line in 2016 for the second time in under a decade. For Marvel, Avengers #1 was only the latest in a string of first-issues, relaunches, and spin-offs for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – but proffered with the intent to scale back that trend by focusing on fundamentals and be part of a new direction implimented by new Editor-In-Chief C.B. Cebulski.
Avengers spins out of “No Surrender,” a 16-issue weekly Avengers story that revived the title’s classic numbering and was intended as an end to the era of Avengers that birthed the New, Mighty, Uncanny, U.S., and other varieties of the team. On the flipside, No Justice is four-issue weekly series meant to redefine what the Justice League is all about, and expand its influence to new frontiers and new teams.
But both are chasing the same sort of idea – a team franchise that encapsulates everything each respective universe has to offer; No Justice by finding a book to fill every niche, and Avengers by focusing on a core idea that can go almost anywhere.
The Team Rosters
Though both new rosters for the Justice League and Avengers focus on bringing in big guns and classic members, the philosophies behind the teams almost couldn’t be more different. Avengers launched on the heels of the weekly “No Surrender,” a story which marked the end of an era of Avengers in which there were multiple teams with numerous, ever growing rosters and which brought all the various teams together. As a result, the new version of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has been pared down to a core seven members with an eighth rotating spot, appearing in only one title.
Conversely, Justice League: No Justice is moving in the opposite direction – bringing together the various Justice League teams and several tangentially connected groups to form new specialized squads (sound familiar?). But No Justice won’t pare the teams (which also include characters who have traditionally been villains) back down to a core squad. Instead, it’ll bring the Justice League to where the Avengers just were – a group of interconnected teams with numerous members in their own titles, anchored by a core Justice League team stacked with the League’s big guns.
What it comes down to is almost a case of ships passing in the night, with the zeitgeist of each team’s make-up intersecting on two opposite moving streams. DC’s new vision of the Justice League is a “something for everyone” conglomerate that will also include the Teen Titans, and Titans, along with several splinter Leagues. On the other hand, Marvel has reined in its ballooning Avengers line-up for a centralized, one-size-fits-all approach.
Both Avengers and No Justice center around an unfathomable cosmic threat heading toward Earth, having been called forth from ancient slumber by recent events in the Marvel and DC Universes, and both feature an unexpected character tasking the heroes with almost impossible missions. Both sets of villains are also godlike entities with near-limitless power, and both sets of villains hail from beyond our universe.
For Marvel, it's the Dark Celestials.
And for DC, it's the newly-created Omega Titans.
And… That’s really all we know about both Marvel’s Dark Celestials and DC’s Omega Titans. But they're both huge armored titans with Jack Kirby-esque patterns, carrying a mysterious purpose and the means to obilerate planets.
The Dark Celestials have a bit more history behind them than the Omega Titans, given they’re an offshoot of the Celestials, characters created by Jack Kirby in the 1970s. But like the Omega Titans, they’ve only just begun to arrive in the pages of actual stories. The Omega Titans represent four fundamental aspects of reality, while the Dark Celestials each have titles designating specific jobs – and both are titanic, world-destroying threats.
Then there’s the side matter of the characters pulling the strings in each story.
In Avengers, it’s Odin who tasks Black Panther with ending the Dark Celestial threat, while in No Justice, it’s Brainiac that calls the heroes (and villains) together to face the Omega Titans. Both are characters with a history of antagonism towards Earth’s heroes, though Brainiac has pretty much always been a villain, and both have deeper insight into the workings of their respective universes.
The Continuity Connections
Marvel and DC have both dialed in on aspects of their company legacy as driving forces behind their flagship team books, with Marvel building Avengers on the secret cosmic history of the Celestials as the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, while No Justice spins out of Dark Nights: Metal in which the Justice League breached the Source Wall, a central part of the New Gods mythos.
Then there are the bigger continuity implications of each story. In Avengers, that theme takes on a much more direct role in the story, which uses the framing device of an ancient group of ultra-powerful beings with modern counterparts to set the stage for the invasion of the Dark Celestials. On the other hand, No Justice is more about subverting the well-worn gap between heroes and villains, and turning story elements like the Multiverse and the Source Wall on their heads.
That said, both stories revolve around new context for old secrets, and in establishing new aspects of previously existing story elements. Of course, that’s a lot of what modern superhero stories tend to be about, but for both Avengers and No Justice, that legacy is used as a throughline to new, potentially universe-defining ideas.
The Long-Term Story Ramifications
Perhaps the biggest comparison between Avengers and No Justice is the role they occupy in both publishers’ lines – not just in form (a weekly series followed by a relaunch), but in the positioning of both series as the publishers’ flagship franchises. For Marvel, this means bringing their Avengers line back to its core essence, eschewing almost everything but the core heroes and the concept of “threats no single hero could face.”
At DC, this means building an entire wing of their publishing line on the Justice League. Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League Odyssey, Hawkman, Titans, and Teen Titans are all launching, relaunching, or retooling out of No Justice, which ties the titles together under the “New Justice” banner with sprawling teams and a whole line of books – similar to where Marvel’s Avengers franchise was until very recently.
For Marvel, Avengers is about bringing back a bread-and-butter concept - a "getting the band back together" story that will lead to a stronger base. On the other hand, No Justice is leading toward almost the opposite - a bold, uncertain new frontier for a team that just recently rediscovered its roots.