The Marvel Universe is packed with iconic stories, teams, and moments that have cataloged the exploits, victories, and losses of so many characters. But in the early years of the company’s Silver Age, one character played a huge part in some of the world’s most important characters and pairings. But even as his star continued to shine and grow over the decades, he was increasingly pushed aside. But how could Marvel forget Rick Jones, Marvel’s most valued sidekick to so many heroes?
Though he would not gain his own identity for many years, Rick Jones epitomized what it was like to be a superhero ally. Like so many others, his origins began with tragedy, for it was his trespassing that forced Bruce Banner on that fateful day when his body was charged with gamma rays, transforming him into the Incredible Hulk. That guilt always motivated Rick to support Bruce and the Hulk and do whatever it takes to help more than hinder.
His story continued as he formed the Teen Brigade, a collection of young adults who existed to keep tabs on the Hulk. Eventually, their ham radio messages eventually led to the accidental formation of The Avengers, a team that has remained Earth’s premier superteam ever since. When the Teen Brigade disbanded, Rick stayed on and focused on spending more time with the heroes, even trying to be the next Bucky, something Steve Rogers never took well to. But it wouldn’t be long before Rick’s story would soar to the stars as he became partners with Marv-Vell and later bonded with his son Genis-Vell as Captain Marvel.
Karma finally caught up with Rick after his space adventures when he was kidnapped and experimented on by The Leader and MODOK to become the gamma-irradiated hero A-Bomb. While he put up good fights as this new force, he would eventually be healed by one of Banner’s alternate personalities. At this point, Rick’s presence in Marvel began to wane significantly, as he was next thought to be a hacktivist known as The Whisperer, whom a Hydra-connected Captain America eventually imprisoned. Unfortunately, his story ended temporarily when he was killed by a firing squad with his last words: “Avengers Assemble!”
At Al Ewing and Joe Bennet The immortal Hulk, Rick was reanimated as a gamma-blasted corpse who spent most of the series bound to another gamma-irradiated being named Del Frye due to the leader’s interference. Since then, Rick has regained some semblance of normalcy, but the series has since proven that he’s nothing more than a narrative tool that’s quickly brushed aside once its purpose has been served. But why would Rick be the focus of so many stories just to be a tool towards a greater goal?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer as to how or why Rick’s story changed so drastically. But one thing that has been retained is that he has always been regarded as one of the most important heroes in a universe with literal gods and icons among humans. Without Rick, the face of the Marvel Universe would look drastically different. But thanks to his foresight, he was able to provide the world with a beacon of hope to turn to in The Avengers, and helped the Hulk realize he could be more than a monster. Though he’s not as prominent as he used to be. There’s still hope that Rick’s story will continue in a more meaningful way and that Marvel’s most memorable hero will return to the spotlight.
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