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Three of “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)

More deadly than a locomotive

It’ll be the first blockbuster out of the gate, and it may turn out to be the most lucrative of the lot.

“The Avengers” opens May 4, and some pundits are predicting that it will make more money this summer than all the other new movies, the KISS/Motley Crue tour, the Olympics and Oscar Meyer combined.

Actually, no pundits have said that yet, but some of them are about to say it because they’re liable to say anything.

The online ticket selling service Fandango recently bestowed the title “Most anticipated movie of the summer” on “The Avengers,” based on a survey of the site’s users.

For people who have never been able to rouse themselves to care about comic books, the excitement over “The Avengers” might be a bit puzzling.

In “The Avengers,” several of Marvel Comics’ greatest superheroes team up with an archer and a woman who, despite wearing a black, rubber body suit and having catlike reflexes, is legally prevented from calling herself Catwoman. So she calls herself Black Widow instead.

The archer is named Hawkeye for reasons that have baffled our country’s greatest minds for decades.

Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk (known simply as “Hulk” to the people in his Yoga class) round out the cast of characters.

“The Avengers” is a cinematic first, of sorts – less significant than “The Jazz Singer,” but more significant than “The Wedding Singer.”

It is the first time an all-star team of superheroes has come to the big-screen.

“The Avengers” is the comic book equivalent of such rock supergroups as the Traveling Wilburys, Velvet Revolver and Crosby, Stills, Nash, Ant-Man, and Young. It’s what the Pro-Bowl would be if the players had superpowers and were a lot less apathetic about the outcome.

Superheroes tend to be lone wolves of varying acerbity. But every so often in comic books, they are forced to band together to fight villains that none of them could defeat on their own.

In “The Avengers,” the villain is Loki, whom Thor managed to defeat on his own in a movie released last summer.

This is a seeming contradiction that I trust will be addressed in “The Avengers” with at least one line of dialogue, two emphatic gestures, or 3,000 special effects.

Despite their differing backgrounds and mindsets, the members of superhero teams always manage to settle their differences and work together for the common good.

“In these ways, superhero teams clearly have a lot in common with the U.S. Congress,” according to the superheroine, Pollyanna.

One thing I have always liked about superhero teams is how they can be composed of both superhuman and human members.

Hawkeye has no special powers, but Thor and the Hulk readily accept him as a full member.

I like to imagine that the Norse God turned to the nearly omnipotent green behemoth at some point during the organizational phase of the Avengers Inc. and said, “Call me crazy, but I think we’re going to need a guy who shoots arrows.”

As for Black Widow, her powers are subtler than those of Thor or the Hulk, but they’re no less real.

Just as Magneto controls metals and Aquaman commands sea life, Black Widow rules latex.

Contrary to what some people might believe, the greatest thing to fear from a movie about a superhero team is not that superhero movies will wear out their welcome.

No, it’s that a person’s favorite superhero won’t get enough screen time.

Movies about superhero teams are crowded by design and so it is inevitable that some of the lesser known characters will be reduced to cameo appearances.

It is for this reason that I predict “The Avengers” will consist of about 90 percent archery.

Steve Penhollow is an arts and entertainment writer for The Journal Gazette. His column appears Sundays. He appears Fridays on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and WBYR, 98.9 FM to talk about area happenings. Email him at A Facebook page for “Rants & Raves” can be accessed at