It's baseball season once again, and while many of my friends are celebrating and planning their next trips to the nearest ballpark, I'm keeping my usual casual distance from the sport. I don't hate baseball by any means, but I don't share the same passion for it so many others do... unless, of course, the baseball game in question involves The Avengers, and the stakes aren't just another notch in the win column, but the safety of a planet and every living thing on it.
Which brings us to Marvel Adventures The Avengers #26 (by Jeff Parker, Ig Guara, Sandro Ribeiro, Ulises Arreola, and Dave Sharpe), one of the most amusing Avengers comics I've ever read, and what is perhaps the greatest baseball game in the history of comic books (sorry, X-Men).
The Marvel Adventures line was a group of ongoing series launched in the mid-to-late-2000s aimed at drawing new and younger readers into the world of Marvel Comics. The idea was to bring in top comic book talent and craft standalone stories for readers of all ages, so you could pick up any single issue and get a fun, new story featuring Marvel characters you recognized and may have learned about from a TV series, movie, or toy line. It's all in the spirit and fun of the Marvel Universe without all that intimidating continuity to untangle. As a result, the creative teams were able to get rather inventive, and often quite silly, with their self-contained tales.
In Marvel Adventures The Avengers #26, Earth's Mightiest Heroes land in India, where a race of bug-like alien creatures have apparently begun attacking the populace. Thanks to Ant-Man's insect know-how, they're eventually able to translate the language of the creatures and discover that they're not attacking, but attempting to ask for help. See, the Silver Surfer recently showed up on their planet to tell them Galactus is on his way to devour it, and they heard that Earth is the only world that's ever managed to repel the Devourer and his incessant planetary-level hunger.
So, in their condescending and rather confusing way, the aliens simply want to know Earth's secret. As Spider-Man points out, these creatures are... well, they're kinda jerks. The Avengers go wherever help is needed, though, so Captain America gives one of his trademark Epic Speeches and off the team goes to the planet Baston-Kar to see if they can talk Galactus out of this particular meal.
Galactus, of course, isn't easily swayed. He's hungry, he wants a planet, and he finds inhabited worlds particularly satisfying. The aliens know from Earth history that Galactus was once swayed away from the planet by being bribed with the extraordinarily powerful Ultimate Nullifier, but even after Ant-Man manages to steal the device from Galactus' ship, the Devourer of Worlds isn't worried. He's now convinced that the Avengers wouldn't dare actually use such a device, as it would end life as they know it. Spider-Man calls his bluff, because he's Spider-Man, and activates the Nullifier.
Peter Parker, it turns out, has done plenty of research about the Ultimate Nullifier's implications, he knows that the device isn't supposed to be just wipe everything out, but rather "nullify" any particular advantages or disadvantages, creating a level playing field. So, with the odds even and endless reality-shaping possibilities at their fingertips, the Avengers and Galactus decided to settle the fate of Baston-Kar by other means than fighting.
Storm proposes a game of chess, but that ends in a stalemate, while also leading to my single favorite Hulk line in Marvel Comics history. So Captain America proposes another solution, one that's both fun and classic American: baseball.
Now, you may think you've read epic Galactus stories before. You may think you know everything that character is capable of. You may even be one of those people who think Galactus and his "he shows up to eat a planet, gets talked out of it, and leaves" schtick is boring at this point. But trust me when I tell you: You need to read the comic where Galactus calls his shot, Babe Ruth-style, while Ant-Man is at the mound and Giant-Girl (the Janet van Dyne of the Marvel Adventures universe) is in the outfield waiting to make the catch.
Now, the issue doesn't end with baseball. I won't spoil the final amusing twist of the story here, but the Avengers (with a little help from the Surfer) do continue to come up with creative solutions to their Galactus problem, until finally the cosmic icon is both sated and willing to abandon his original meal plans. It's clever, it's funny, and believe it or not it's actually a fun superhero book for kids that teachers them that violence isn't always the answer, even when you're a Super Soldier like Captain America.
So, if you're looking for comics to read with kids, go grab some of the old Marvel Adventures volumes, and be on the lookout for this issue in particular. It's also available via Marvel Unlimited, so if you have a subscription you can go read it right now.