Avengers/JLA #4 of 4 “The Brave... and the Bold”

Our story opens with a series of viewscreens showing calamity and disaster as a universe dies, as someone monologues about the end of this reality while we see a nebulous face that calls itself the “sentience of the universe”. It speaks to the “last son of Taa”, as people in Kirbyesque space suits on board a rocketship attempt to escape. A speech begins but our host cuts it off, saying, “Blah, blah, blah!”

Damn, that made me laugh. Our host is Krona and he explains to someone off-panel that the face, and the hand that appeared at the inception of his universe are proof that there’s some sort of sentience that gives life to them. Over on the next page, we see his audience is Metron, who listens with interest. Krona explains his plan is to force the universes together, and to compel their sentiences to come forth and give up the knowledge he seeks. And if the universes die? Well, what does a guy who’s already destroyed a bunch of other universes care? All that matters is he gains the knowledge he seeks

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In New York City, everyone’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is caught in the middle of the insanity as he rescues webbed-up kids from a burning building. Elsewhere, we see the New Warriors heroing up along with others such as the Defenders: Nighthawk, Gargoyle, Red Guardian, and the Valkyrie. Worldwide, heroes are doing damage control as go-to government suit Henry Peter Gyrich says on TV that people shouldn’t worry, and somebody’s on top of things. In another New York, we see Infinity Inc. and the Titans also handling the madness that’s gripped their world, saving lives as corporate suit Morgan Edge says contact with the moon is spotty, but hey, everyone should relax, things’ll be fine.

Meanwhile, on the moon…

Yeah, sometimes I forget the Vision is one of the most powerful Avengers. Viz wants to drop everything and find his kids, and it takes a mental time out from J’onn J’onzz to calm him down long enough for Scarlet Witch to intervene. She calmly points out how twenty minutes ago they didn’t even have kids, and in ten minutes they might not even be married. Vision listens to his (at the moment) wife and they fall into each other’s arms, finding strength with one another. Damn, do I miss this couple.

Later, Hal Jordan in his Silver Age Green Lantern uniform explains how Krona can mentally control others like he did that gang from issue #3, and with the twelve artifacts in hand there’s no telling what they’re up against. Bearded Thor says that’s enough speculating, and it’s time to get to the guy. Hank Pym says that’s easier said than done but Iron Man chimes in, and he and Flash ver. Barry Allen have a few ideas for that, and Barry himself says they need a ship and Atom’s technical know-how. Superman says that’s all fine, but they need a leader, and he nominates… Plastic Man. Just kidding. Plastic Man disappeared sometime during issue #3 and I didn’t even notice. No, Supes nominates Captain America. Cap’s surprised, but Batman backs up Supes, and Martian Manhunter confirms every Justice Leaguer is on board with this. Cap nods and it’s time to go to work.

Aquaman has provided an Atlantean warcraft, and members of both teams swarm all over it to prep it for the trip, and I love how several of the heroes are half out of costume for the task, as capes and masks do tend to get in the way. Wonder Woman touches base with Wanda and she explains that as long as she has something to do she’s fine, and I appreciate how Kurt isn’t pretending Wanda is hurting any less than Vision; she’s just coping in a different way. Later on, the Vision and Scarlet Witch, one of comic’s greatest couples, ponder the future and hold each other in their arms. What happened to this couple? Oh, right, Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada happened.

Janet and Hank talk, and the man is wracked with guilt over something he hasn’t done yet, but she assures him compared to the fate of two universes, it’s not important. Hank reluctantly agrees, saying that sacrificing their happiness is nothing compared to what others face, like the guys in the other room, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, who if they win will wind up dying again. But Barry and Hal are stoic and note that as long as there are good people to take up their legacies, they couldn’t ask for anything more.

While Barry and Hal talk about old times, Thor and Aquaman converse, noting how good it is they’re fighting alongside each other rather than against each other. Superman and Cap have a heart to heart and apologize and it’s a nice scene, but it really doesn’t make up for the rampant douchebaggery this pair indulged in over the past three issues. Cap gives Supes his shield, saying that while he’s in command on the ship, DC’s Finest will need the extra protection against Krona. Supes reverently accepts the shield and it’s go time.

On board the ship, Thor’s got his magic hammer Meow-Meow powered up and combined with Flash on his Cosmic Treadmill, and they’re going to attempt to breach the barrier between them and Krona. Back home, Iron Man says that “converting speed to a vibrational wave that shifts the temporo-dimensional locus” would never have worked. I like how Kurt points out how utterly insane comic book physics in the DC Universe are compared to the Marvel Universe. Not that Marvel physics make a whole lot of sense themselves, but compared to DC they almost seem grounded. Vision is plugged into the ship’s sensors, and he spots an opening and Wanda uses her chaos magic combined with Thor and Flash’s power to break through to…

Um… yeah, damn. Using Galactus’ hollowed out corpse for your summer home is pretty hardcore. The gangs’ arrival doesn’t go unnoticed, as Krona smirks and watches the ship on his viewscreens. He decides they aren’t worth his time right now, and activates his minions. Members of HIVE, AIM, Kobra, and HYDRA open up on the ship with massive cannons, praising glory to their new lord and master. Parademons prepare to board the downed ship alongside what I think are Mole Man minions (or they might be Deviants. Kurt and George have decades worth of material to call upon, and I’m hard pressed to keep up with the awesomeness). But as the cannon fodder show up…

Damn how I love these visuals. Martian Manhunter establishes a mindlink with both teams and Cap starts giving orders. Wonder Woman, Goliath, and Aquaman get the minions’ attention while Lantern and Thor split their ranks, and Atom and Vision sneak ahead to see what’s next. Moloids attack as well as others, but Cap’s direction turns the two teams into a devastating fighting force. And Batman… goes off and does his own thing.

And just as things are going so well, the chronal shifts hit; Wanda and Aquaman are gone, replaced by Green Arrow and Quicksilver, and Goliath is now Yellowjacket. Silver Age Hawkeye is also on hand. Cap tells Manhunter to link up with the new guys and fill them in on what’s going on, and then the Royal Flush Gang shows up on giant flying playing cards. And just as quick aside, I love the hell out of the Royal Flush Gang in all their iterations, up through their appearance on Batman Beyond. There’s just something so satisfying about a supervillain team with a theme. Oh, and Hawkeye and Green Arrow hate each other again. That’s so sad; I was hoping for a bromance for the ages.

Elsewhere in Galactus’ body—maybe the colon?—Metron notes that Krona’s defenses are impressive but his minions could do with an upgrade. Maybe Krona should have hired Taskmaster to train his guys. Krona can’t be bothered with slaughtered stooges; his work is at a critical stage and he’s got the two universal avatars in is grasp. He asks Metron for help in making the two give up the goods but… Okay, just a moment while I marvel at the stuff going on behind the scenes, like the artifacts whipping around in some cosmic centrifuge behind Krona, and Metron watching Wonder Woman beating the living hell out of the Wrecking Crew in high def. Sorry about that; it’s just that there’s so much to see, and so much to stare in awe at. Metron bows out, and Krona points out he’s the one that led him to the DC Universe in the first place, and aren’t they both seekers of Truth? But Metron questions Krona’s true motives, and as he Boom Tubes out, he says he’s going be interested in the outcome. Meanwhile…

Yeah, I can’t add anything to make the sheer fun of this panel any better. Batman reports to Captain America that he’s cleared the bombs and the gang can sneak in, but he undergoes a chronal shift and he’s gone from modern Batman to ’60s-era Neal Adams Batman. Worse, Batroc ze Leapaire arrives feet first. In another part of Galactus, Elongated Man and Plastic Man along with Beast, Black Knight, and female Yellowjacket come across a power field. Beardless ’90s-era Hercules whoops ass, but Screaming Mimi lays him low, then Black Canary takes her down. Aw man, I would love to see Mimi get chronally shifted and come back later as the heroine Songbird.

More bad guys are on hand and they’re the big guns: it’s the Extremists along with Felix Faust, Baron Zemo, Nebula and… holy crap, is that… yeah, it’s Prometheus. Damn, and they all just took out Reed R—oh, it’s just Flatman. Red Tornado uses his powers to suck at the energy field and forms a gap, and Cap—-now in his “The Captain” outfit—orders the gang through. Thor and ’90s Mullet Superman fight alongside one another as the rest of the gang slams into this newest wave of baddies. Hawkeye is almost crushed, but Barry Allen swoops in for the save, and Dream Slayer kills both of them.

We have our first two fatalities, but Captain America urges everyone to press on. But Hal is enraged, and he powers up as he and Atom both go through different iterations. Ultimately, Kyle is back with his Cosmic Cube power-up from issue #2 and Dreamslayer has been slain. Green Arrow picks up Hawkeye’s quiver and mourns him in his own fashion, while Cap urges everyone to push on. And push on they do.

They’ve got Machine Man in there, people. Machine. Man. And in the panel below this one, we’ve got Falcon, Azrael, a cast of Hawk-People, and in the next panel there’s a group of cold and heat wielders. And then there’s this little gem on the following page.

All with Monica Rambeau on hand, who’s Captain Marvel in fact if not in name. Thumbs up, Perez and Busiek. Thumbs. Up. Firestorm sees Molecule Man embedded in stone and Wasp tells him to get back in the game, and as a nice aside she shoots DC’s Killer Moth in the face, just like she previously shot Dragonfly of the Ani-Men. I’m sure I probably missed fifty Easter eggs like that in this issue alone. But oh no! J’onn’s been taken out by a chronal shift. Cap knows now’s the time to get into the field, but he’s confronted by [sigh] Prometheus, who’s uploaded Batman’s fighting skills, and says this will be more than enough to defeat him. Sorry, Prometheus, I think Reb Brown’s Captain America could beat you.

Meanwhile, Batman has whipped Batroc’s butt, but he’s got a legion of villains to deal with. Fortunately, Black Widow, Huntress, and Black Panther are on hand to lend an assist. Superman’s gone blue and lost the shield, while Cap’s got the energy shield and punks out Prometheus, saying, “Neural chaff. Hypnotic lights. Preprogrammed skills. Try fighting the Wehrmacht, Mister: it teaches you focus!”

The heroes—don’t ask me to name ’em all—are pressing onward, fighting decades worth of two companies’ supervillains—really, don’t ask me to identify ’em—and it looks like the good guys might have a chance in hell of winning. But then Krona shows up and everyone can see Marvel’s Eternity along with… the female DC Comics equivalent whose name I never discovered… and the pair are in agony while Krona is monologuing like a boss.

More of the classic ultra-violence follows, with nice little bits like Iron Man lending Kyle Rayner some technical know-how that allows the Green Lantern to develop an utterly devastating cannon. The citadel is shaking, and coming apart, and they’ve only got minutes, but the minions are near-mindless in their need to stop the heroes. Attuma leads his Atlantean minions, but beardless Aquaman with the liquid hand, master of all sea life, knocks them out cold. Yeah, you go ahead and make those he-talks-to-fish jokes; Aquaman’s always been a bad-ass and most people just didn’t notice.

But then Asgardian giants are suddenly on hand. So Wonder Woman brings the house down and swears the bad guys shall not pass. As the heroes take advantage of her holding the line, Diana prepares to face off against Surtur alone, but She-Hulk shows up and is about to go down fighting at her side.

Superman is assaulted by a group of radiation-themed bad guys, and Krona has taught them Kryptonite’s wavelength. Things don’t look good for our Man of Steel, but a dying Vision gives up the last of his solar energy to save Supes. As a host of magic heroes block off Krona’s reinforcements, Supes reaches the last barrier but he can’t get through. Luckily, Thor sees Superman’s efforts and loans him the hammer.

Superman bursts through, but he and everybody else are blown away like the proverbial leaf on the wind, as—oh, wait, we’ve got a Silverclaw sighting. I guess since Busiek and Perez created her, she was due a cameo. But Krona shows up and he’s flush with power and a sense of winning. He’s the biggest bad-ass on the block, and not even Superman armed with Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer can stop him. Krona is in rare form and explains how boned everybody is, only there’s just one slight problem. It turns out Barry Allen and Hawkeye aren’t quite as dead as everyone thought; it seems Cap suggested the pair fake their deaths as a last resort.

Krona’s magic centrifuge is breached and his twelve artifacts suck him in. Krona goes boom and Barry Allen disappears, replaced by Wally West as things start to go back to normal. Eventually, the only people left on the battlefield are the Justice League and Avengers line-ups from when this craziness started. The two sides can only speculate as to the final cost. The heroes look to the skies, where they see hands between the Earths, and they wonder if it’s Krona again. Only… it’s not.

For better or worse, Hal Jordan is the Spectre again. Superman finds the Vision and can’t sense any activity from him, but Thor assures Supes they’ve got people who can help him. Supes spots Thor’s hammer and tries to lift it, but he can’t anymore. Thor explains how the enchantment only allows the “worthy” to lift it, and the reason why Supes could before is Odin is stern but not stupid; the enchantment can be bypassed in times of great peril. It’s a nice explanation and a helluva lot better than the “It’s been sentient all this time” idea that Jason Aaron introduced in his, my opinion, hit or miss run on the Thor series.

But the gang can’t stick around and chat, because Galactus is re-forming. Flash super-speeds the Justice League away, while Thor uses his hammer. Supes and Cap exchange salutes and damn it, all is forgiven. Both teams return home.

In the epilogue, we learn the Grandmaster’s not dead anymore.

We discover that Metron planned this from the start, diverting Krona to the Marvel Universe while Grandmaster was waiting for him. In the end, it seems all sides won. The heroes were victorious, both universes survived, Grandmaster won his contest, and Krona, reduced to a cosmic egg to become a new universe himself, will have his answers. And Metron? He’ll have answers as well as he watches Krona hatch and grow. The two cosmic entities depart, suggesting that hey, maybe they can do this again some time.

JLA/Avengers was a hell of a ride and I loved it, but in retrospect reading it was bittersweet. After this series was the beginning of the end of the time when comics were, well, good. At DC we soon had Identity Crisis, which was a dark and mean-spirited series where Sue Dibny got raped by Doctor Light and Batman got mind-raped by Zatanna. Then Maxwell Lord became a supervillain, while Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman hated each other, and then we got Cry for Justice where Roy Harper was utterly destroyed by the murder of his little girl Liann. DC relied on nostalgia, bringing back Hal Jordan and Barry Allen when in my opinion we didn’t need them. Then there was Flashpoint, which should have been the beginning of big things for DC, but instead we got the New 52. DC just hasn’t been the same since.

And Marvel? Brian Michael Bendis took over the Avengers, then we got Mark Millar’s atrocious Civil War, and from that, One More Day. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve seen comic quality degrade and prices go up, with an over-reliance on events, and with every story written specifically for the trade paperback format. So when I look at JLA/Avengers I see not only the greatest crossover of them all, and not only George Perez’s finest work and his magnum opus, but the end of an era.

Tag: JLA/Avengers

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  • Michael Weyer

    * The whole “Marvel bit” of Mar-Vell hitting Black Adam while Shazam is nailing Ronan the Accuser, is just brilliant.

    * Again, the hardcover omnibus is a must read with the second volume detailing all these bad guys, a running count of Wasp costumes and the scores of Easter Eggs.

    * Hawkeye being the one to finally save the day was a genius thing. All these super powered guys and it’s the normal guy with an arrow who does it.

    * Again, the Hal/Barry stuff is interesting to read as back then, folks assumed they were “truly dead for sure.”

    * Once again, when you want to show how bad-ass some cosmic threat is, have him take out Galactus with ease.

    * Perez had to take a few months off doing this series and it shows, the attention to detail is ultra-mind blowing and Busiek has noted Perez threw in bits even he never noticed until it was published.

    * Your talk at the end sums it up, this was the end of the era before the “new grim and gritty” took over at both companies and Busiek (a man who clearly never liked those changes) had no idea he’d be doing such a swan song to a glorious era for DC and Marvel. But damned if it isn’t awesome and worth the 20 year wait.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Excellent point about Hawkeye. He did something similar to the Collector if I recall during the Korvac Saga. Not bad for a guy who once felt so useless he became a second rate Giant Man.

      • GreenLuthor

        Yeah, Hawkeye was able to take out the Collector all by himself during the Korvac Saga. Then the Collector was disintegrated by Korvac, which is why Grandmaster arranged the Contest of Champions, which JLA/Avengers #2 was basically an homage to.

        And Hawkeye later managed to essentially beat the Grandmaster all by himself. (He goaded Grandmaster into accepting a wager, then completely cheated to “win”, like the former carny he is.)

        Taking down two Elders of the Universe, when your whole shtick is using a weapon that’s been obsolete for centuries? Really, you kinda have to like Hawkeye. He fights alongside true powerhouses like Thor, Iron Man, and Vision with just a bow and arrow, and it still seems like he belongs on the team more than just about anyone else.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Yeah Hawkeye’s awesomeness has been severely deflated over the past few years as he has become a sidekick to Kate Bishop. She is an even better archer? How do we know? Because they told us, that’s how.

          Honestly Hawkeye has been shooting since he was a kid, he made a living at it. Then he was an Avenger for many years, braving the most epic of threats. And then Kate comes along and some editor says “Yeah, she’s better.”.

          • Xander

            I’ll admit I liked Kate’s first appearances in Young Avengers where she’s basically funding the team and earns Clint’s respect. It seems like it’s been all downhill from there.

          • GreenLuthor

            It seems to be a not uncommon problem with adding diversity via legacy characters; it’s not enough for them to take over the costume/name, but they also have to be better than the long-established character. Not that the diversification itself is a problem, but you don’t need to devalue the previous characters, either. Have a 16-year-old black girl taking over as Iron Man (well, Ironheart)? Sure, fine, whatever. But she was able to reverse-engineer the armor all on her own, because she’s so much more intelligent than Tony Stark? Nope, don’t care. Yeah, there’s too many fans who’ll complain about diversification even as a concept, but when the new characters are such blatant Mary Sues, you’re gonna get readers who will legitimately dislike the new characters completely on their own (de)merits.

            (Not that there’s not other ways to devalue older characters to elevate newer ones, or that it’s always a case of diversity. I found Kyle Rayner a likeable enough character on his own, and I can see why DC wanted to spruce things up a bit. But making Hal Jordan a psychopathic mass murderer to get Kyle as Green Lantern was just a terrible way to do it. Fan acceptance of Kyle was hurt right from the start because readers were (not wrongly) mad at the way Hal was written out.)

  • Xander

    Identity Crisis and Hal coming back to being Green Lantern from Spectre killed my love of DC comics. The spiral you mention afterward has kept me away. I know some people heralded Rebirth as DC’s return to greatness, but that sure didn’t last long with Heroes in Crisis looking like Identity Crisis II.

    Marvel convinced me to stop buying Spider-Man comics with One More Day. These days the only Marvel title I’ll consistently get is Deadpool, but that may come to an end this fall with the latest reboot to a number 1 issue. Seriously, not every comic needs to start over at 1 when a new writer comes on.

    Finally, I loved this issue. I missed Kyle and Wally not being around more, but it was a great end to the series that I felt started off pretty shakily.

  • Captain’s Orders

    Those last two paragraphs…I have never agreed with something more in my life

  • GreenLuthor

    “What happened to this couple [Vision and Scarlet Witch]? Oh, right, Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada happened.” To be fair, John Byrne happened first.

    Batroc vs. Batman. I know Batman has his whole “best at everything” thing going on, but… I’d still like to think Batroc could give Bats a run for his money. (I just love Batroc. Can’t explain it, but… he’s awesome. And ze outragos Franch accent is just so… comics. And, hey, Feige, he’s one of the few villains the MCU didn’t kill off, bring him back already!)

    Mjolnir… sentient? Yeah, sometimes I see something that makes me glad I haven’t been keeping up on current comics. (Mostly whenever I see anything from current comics; your coda pretty much sums up my feelings.) (Though I will admit I could probably be persuaded to someday read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but I’d probably read just about anything Ryan North wrote.)

    I liked Barry Allen well enough, but he worked a lot better dead, as the ideal that Wally would strive to live up to. He kinda became Wally’s own Uncle Ben figure, and I think it made both Wally and Barry better characters.

    And I don’t know if I’d call JLA/Avengers the “greatest crossover of them all”, but that may be due in part to the existence of Archie Meets the Punisher.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Well true, John took a sledge hammer to the couple and it was years before we saw them reunited…and then broken up again during an era where editors thought readers couldn’t identify with married couples.

      • GreenLuthor

        Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but I have to wonder what “readers can’t relate to a married Spider-Man, he should be single and back to living with his aunt like when he was 15” implies about how the editors view the readers. (I mean… they basically pulled out the “living in their parents’ basement” stereotype of comic book readers right there…)

        And we shouldn’t forget that in addition to breaking up Wanda and Vision, Byrne also had Wanda go a little crazy and turn evil. Which has kind of become the writers’ go-to thing for her about as much as Hank Pym’s mental illness has defined him. Though I suppose we can’t entirely blame Byrne on that one, as much as the other writers who couldn’t come up with better stories and so just rehashed the character-ruining moments of the past. *Sigh*

        (Have I mentioned I don’t care much for modern comics? I have? Okay, just wanted to make sure.)

    • Xander

      I can’t agree with your penultimate paragraph more. It seems like the writers of him after his return almost agree with you because his personality in the New 52 and on the Flash show seems much more Wally than Barry.

  • Honest Mistake

    I bought the JLA/Avengers series when it first came out – I was a big fan of both teams at the time – and I loved it back then. I’ve gone back and re-read it several times since, most recently when you started this multi-part review, and I think for the most part it really stands up well. (It’s certainly better than almost anything that’s been produced in the past decade or so.)

    With that said, I do have one major dislike when it comes to the final issue: the fact that Superman was apparently only “barely worthy enough” to be allowed by Odin to wield Mjolnir due to the desperate nature of the situation really irritates me whenever I come to that point in the book..

    By that time, Mjolnir had been wielded by Beta Ray Bill, Captain America, Eric Masterson, and a couple of mooks named “Red” Norvell and Dargo Ktor (check out Thor #384 if you missed out on Dargo’s illustrious career). Several of these individuals didn’t just use Mojolnir briefly in an urgent situation; Bill, Masterson, and – it’s implied from the story – Ktor all wielded it for extensive periods of time.

    (To make matters worse, in subsequent stories Thor’s hammer would go on to be wielded by the likes of Jane Foster, Loki, Squirrel Girl, and the Destroyer. Now, I’ll grant you that Busiek didn’t know how Mjolnir would be used – or misused – in the years after he wrote JLA/Avengers, but talk about a devalued commodity!)

    Anyway, the point is that I don’t see anyone on on either list that can even come close to Superman in terms of worthiness by any reasonable definition except Captain America (who, ironically, has only been able to wield Mjolnir briefly, in times of great need), Superman is consistently portrayed as the heroic archetype, the greatest and best hero in either the Marvel or DC universe. To put it bluntly, It’s ridiculous to think that he somehow fell short of the “worthiness standard” set by the likes of Eric Masterson or Dargo Ktor.

    About the only way I could buy that is if the definition of “worthy” is based directly on Thor’s personality. So if “worthy” means being an overconfident, short-tempered, self-aggrandizing party animal whose nobility comes primarily by birth…well, by that standard Superman doesn’t really measure up. But if I were Odin, once the battle was over I would’ve begged Superman to stay in the Marvel universe to take over the role of Prince of Asgard in the interests of achieving a massive upgrade over Thor.

    But that’ just me…

    • GreenLuthor

      I’d agree with the idea that the “worthiness” standard has been diluted via overuse, and some of the characters you mentioned (Loki? Seriously?) probably shouldn’t have been using Mjolnir. Although some of the wielders mentioned would probably be considered “special circumstances”.

      -Red Norvell was exactly deemed worthy; Odin purposely allowed him to use Mjolnir. (Odin was facing a prophecy of Thor’s death, so he gave the hammer to some rando, making him Thor instead of… well, Thor. And then the prophecy was fulfilled when Norvell died as Thor, so Odin was spared the death of his son. Which… dick move, Odin.)
      -Eric Masterson first used Mjolnir when he was merged with Thor. Since he was sort of part Thor, it’s arguable whether he was technically truly “worthy”, I suppose. (At first, Eric would basically swap places with Thor when activating the hammer, like Billy Batson and Captain Marvel in the Golden Age, or Rick Jones and Captain Marvel. Later, Thor’s consciousness was banished or somesuch, but Eric was still physically transforming into Thor’s body, just with his own mind in control instead of Thor’s. One could probably “rules lawyer” it that it wasn’t exactly Eric using Mjolnir, but the amalgam of Eric and Thor. Maybe? It’s been a long time since I read those issues.)
      -Beta Ray Bill gets a pass, because he was the first true “worthy wielder”, so that was kind of a Big Thing at the time. Plus, Bill’s awesome. Being the first, I wouldn’t lump him in with the others.
      -I guess you could maybe try to argue that Dargo is from an alternate Earth, so maybe the rules are a little different? But, really, I don’t think I care enough about him to bother.

      (I’d assume Squirrel Girl was done more as a joke, but I think they took the joke a bit too far. Overwhelming Doctor Doom with squirrels is one thing, beating Thanos off panel (with the Watcher there to assure us it’s the honest-to-goodness real thing) is something else entirely.)

      But, really, it does come down to what makes someone “worthy”. If I had to explain it, especially in such a way to allow Captain America to be worthy but not Superman, I’d probably say one of the qualities needed is the heart of a “true warrior”; knowing when to fight, when not to fight, how the battle needs to be fought, all that. Thor’s a Viking god. Captain America’s a soldier. (While I have no problem with Cap not killing in the present day, I’d disagree with Mark Gruenwald’s notion that Cap also never killed in WWII. He was a soldier in one of the biggest wars in history. Not killing any enemy combatants in years worth of battles under those circumstances is a bit far-fetched.) Superman may be the most moral and noble guy, but if the Viking god-weapon wants a warrior, Supes could plausibly not be the right person for it. He’s a fighter, but is he a true warrior? I just can’t see Superman fitting the same role that Thor or Captain America could.

      (Actually, looking up some information here… seems that Walt Simonson’s idea for Beta Ray Bill was pretty much that warrior idea; he even specifically cited Superman as someone who wouldn’t be able to use Mjolnir due to his strict policy against killing. Although he also said Captain America wouldn’t be worthy either, due to being too much an American symbol for a Norse weapon.)

      Anyhoo, that’s how I would justify it if I ever had to. Not that I’d ever truly have to.