Welcome to the D-List: Avalanche
Avalanche was introduced in Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #141 (Hey so was Pyro!) as part of the newly formed Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He was created by legendary writer/X-Men savior Chris Claremont, who was also responsible for introducing many other new mutants to the Marvel Universe. The very first time we see this new Brotherhood, Avalanche is joined by other Claremont creations Pyro and Destiny, as well as returning characters Mystique and Blob. Pyro is tall, slender and smoking (Do you remember the good old days when you could smoke in comic books and hospitals?); Blob is…well, fat; Destiny is clearly blind; Mystique is blue; and Avalanche is just some guy sitting on the couch. But while he may be the least interesting stylistically, this mysterious D-list character has the power to level city blocks with a wave of his hands.
I’ve always wondered what that “A” on his chest stands for…
The only thing known about Dominikos Petrakis (I bet he’s Greek) before joining Mystique’s Brotherhood is that he is from the Greek island of Crete (I knew it!). Fun fact: “Petra” from Petrakis is the female form of the Greek word for “rock.” For many years, Avalanche’s real name was identified as Dominic Petros, with Petros being the male form of “rock.” Over the years, certain bits of dialogue and mannerisms have hinted at the possibility of Avalanche being a former military officer, but that has never been made official. What is certain about him is that Avalanche was born a mutant with the ability to generate seismic waves from his hands that allow him to manipulate earth—also known as geokinesis. What’s also certain about Avalanche is he’s kind of a jerk.
After the failed assassination attempt on Senator Kelly, Avalanche briefly left the Brotherhood and attempted to blackmail the state of California for money (Surely this is the real reason the West Coast Avengers were formed). Avalanche wasn’t alone in his quest for money; he was joined by a villainous superhuman known as Landslide! (Earthquake-themed villains attacking California? Seriously? That’s like a Maple leaf themed villain attacking Canada). After a rocky battle with The Hulk, Avalanche decided it might be best to rejoin Mystique and her team, which then became the government-sponsored Freedom Force.
Like any good D-list character, Avalanche was never prominently featured for much of his career as a mutant terrorist/government employee. He did, however, have to make an uncomfortable choice during his time with Freedom Force. While losing a battle to the Iraqi mutant team Desert Sword, Avalanche’s teammate, Crimson Commando, was seriously injured. Avalanche carried him to a nearby military helicopter so they could escape to safety, while Blob and Pyro were too busy fending off their opponents to join in the escape. Avalanche opted to leave Pyro and Blob behind rather than risk his own life waiting for them. He would later apologize to Pyro, but once again left his buddy’s side not long after learning that Pyro had contracted the terminal Legacy Virus. Like I said, Avalanche is kind of a jerk. What is he gonna do next? Kick a puppy? Punch a baby? Destroy the Eiffel Tower?
Avalanche during his brief stint as a wristwatch model.
Later, Avalanche appeared working for Banshee, who had assembled a team of villains to form the mutant police force known as X-Corps. Unbeknownst to the rest of the X-Men, the villains were actually under mind-control. In the final issue of the arc featuring X-Corps, the villains were freed of their mind-control and Avalanche used his power to destroy the Eiffel Tower (Oh come on!). But what I find most interesting about Avalanche is not the fact that he did stupid and awful things in his villainous career—that’s to be expected. What is interesting is his behavior after the mutant population was decimated to fewer than 200 in an event known as M-Day, and when the X-Men, along with most of the remaining mutants, relocated to San Francisco.
After being absent from comics for quite some time, Avalanche was brought into the X-Men’s cast of characters again by writer Frank Tieri and editor Nick Lowe. Dominikos, under the guise of “Nick,” opened a bar in downtown San Francisco, named it “Nick’s” (very creative), and decided to actually help his fellow mutants. Norman Osborne (Yep, that Norman Osborne) was the head of national security for a brief period and tried to put together his own team of X-Men in response to mutants and humans rioting in San Francisco. While Avalanche did join in the rioting, he did so alongside some of his fellow mutants—many of whom were established X-Men.
This illustrates a drastic change in Avalanche’s persona, as he was never loyal. He left Mystique’s Brotherhood, he abandoned his teammates in Freedom Force, he abandoned Pyro when he was ill, but with Mutant-kind’s back against the wall, he helped his people. Once the rioting in San Francisco had settled and the opposition from Osborne had been dealt with, Avalanche moved onto the X-Men’s mutant sanctuary, Utopia, and took orders from Cyclops during the “Second Coming” and “Fear Itself” storylines to help protect not only his fellow mutants, but humanity as well. It is fascinating to see a character, even one with such little backstory, turn from complete selfish and destructive behavior to a person willing to put his life at risk and not only help his own kind, but aid in the protection of humanity, the very people he spent years terrorizing.
Having been a fan of this character since childhood, I was excited to see him used in a heroic capacity and fight alongside the same people he had fought against for nearly three decades. However, In Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 #1, the Red Skull devised a plan to eradicate Mutants, and used Avalanche as a mind-controlled pawn in his scheme. I was happy to see Avalanche used in this book, and was hoping that the Avengers and X-Men would rescue him from the Red Skull’s control. Unfortunately, before anyone could realize Avalanche wasn’t acting like himself (to be fair, he was acting like his old, murderous self), he leapt to his apparent death.
From “X-Men: Evolution” where instead of something Greek, they gave him the name Lance Alvers. Get it? Alvers, Lance. Avalanche. That sounds like one of my jokes.
While it certainly saddened me to see another of my favorite characters killed off, he was deemed important enough to retain his mutant power after M-Day, and have action figures and statues made of him. He also appeared in the three widely released animated X-Men series, having a particularly large role in “X-Men Evolution.” Here, the majority of the characters were re-imagined as teenagers. Though Avalanche kept his selfish and angry nature, he was shown to have the capacity for heroics and frequently aided the X-Men in taking down large-scale villains.
Surely I am not the only comic book fan who would love to see Avalanche used in future X-Men stories, as I believe its most interesting when heroes become villains and vice versa. While certain characters may not appear for years at a time, surely there are writers and editors at Marvel who are happy to use D-list characters in their stories. I am quite certain that more creators will come through the X-Office and reintroduce this character so he may once again shake up the mainstream Marvel Universe.