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Avengers Assemble

Home • More Comics Reviews and FeaturesNovels

September 01 2010


Avengers Assemble
by Samodean

Avengers Assemble

May 19th, 2010 was “Avengers Day.” For the first time in five years an actual issue of Avengers hit the shelves, completely relaunching the Avengers franchise. Adjectiveless, New, Mighty, Young, West Coast, Secret or any of the related teams have been the central comics of the Marvel Universe for decades. So, there was no better way for Marvel to launch their “Heroic Age” initiative than with a whole new lineup of Avengers titles. With Secret Avengers just wrapping up its first story arc and Avengers and New Avengers halfway through their introductory arcs, I figured now is a good time to step back and look at them one-by-one.

Avengers

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: John Romita, Jr.
Lineup: Captain America (Bucky Barnes), Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Wolverine, Protector, Maria Hill (Director)

This is the primary title in the Avengers lineup. It features many of the characters fans associate with the Avengers: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, as well as some new additions to the roster. Overall, it’s an interesting team, but Bendis seems to miss on some character traits. Throughout his career, Bendis has been more of a character writer than a story writer; it’s what I’ve liked about much of his work. Unfortunately, the overall narrative in some of his comics has gotten lost behind all the dialog.

So, in Avengers, it’s almost as if he’s trying too hard to tell the bigger story and losing some of the smaller details that made him famous to begin with. His Spider-Man seems too inexperienced and his Thor and Iron Man are just bland. When the story slows down though, the true Bendis style comes through.

The story itself took a little while for me to get on board with. Time-traveler Kang the Conqueror, one of the Avengers oldest villains appears to tell the Avengers that their kids are wrecking the future, if they’re not stopped the entire timestream could collapse. It’s pretty cool to see the characters from the Next Avengers animated movie being brought into continuity, and some later reveals, such as the Maestro really caught my interest. Sadly, once time travel was introduced to the plot, the next couple issues got a bit complicated.

First of all, you have a bunch of exposition explaining everything, then it all gets weird. With the time stream weakening, all kinds of insanity crosses over to the present-day Marvel U. The Avengers fight everyone from Apocolypse and his Four Horsemen to Galactus. It all seemed to be spiraling out of control until the recent Issue 4. Near the end of the issue, Bendis finally seems to be getting the plot on track, and I’m interested once again.

The art has been widely praised, and rightfully so as Romita is one of the greatest artists of all time. I do have some complaints, though. As prolific as he’s been throughout his career, I just don’t feel that Avengers is a good fit for him. When I think of Avengers, I think of bright, vibrant, larger-than-life characters. Romita’s style isn’t BAD, I just don’t think it’s the right one for this title. Additionally, some of his character designs just feel off. Romita draws Spider-Man better than just about anyone else in the world, and his agile characters like Spidey and Hawkeye all look great, but some of the more iconic characters just feel off to me. His Iron Man is way too blocky, and his Cap and Thor just seem stiff. Again, I’m not saying it’s bad, and I love Romita, but the overall presentation just doesn’t work for me. However, I can’t wait to see Romita get ahold of Red Hulk in Issue 7.

New Avengers

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Stuart Immonen
Lineup: LUKE F’IN CAGE, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ms Marvel, The Thing, Victoria Hand (Director)

The way I see it, Avengers is the comic Bendis HAS to write. New Avengers, however, it the comic Bendis WANTS to write. Every aspect of New Avengers is just perfect. The team fits together more naturally, opening more options for Bendis to have fun with them, and he certainly does. The banter between Wolverine and Spider-Man in Issue 2 is just priceless, but it’s easy to see that Bendis just enjoys writing this one. The only complaint I have is that there’s just too much overlap between the two teams’ rosters.

The story is just big and fun. Dimensional invasions and demonic possession isn’t much simpler than time travel, but it all flows a little better here. Bendis doesn’t waste time trying to explain too much of it; we just accept whatever Doctor Strange tells us, and everything that doesn’t make sense at this point is just a mystery to be solved later. Science and sorcery aren’t that different, thematically, but the difference in how they’re handled sets the tone of the story. A writer feels the need to explain the science, but sorcery is supposed to be mysterious. Also, the pacing is much better in New Avengers. Each issue builds on the one before, leading to an epic resolution.

THIS is what an Avengers comic is supposed to look like. Immonen knocks it out of the park here. There really isn’t much to say, because it’s just damn good. My only issue is I feel the double-page spreads are a bit over used, but I have nothing but praise for the quality and style.

Secret Avengers

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Mike Deodato
Lineup: Steve Rogers, War Machine, Beast, Black Widow, Valkyrie, Nova, Moon Knight, Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady), Sharon Carter (Director)

Ed Brubaker has stepped up to the plate with his own team of Avengers, with a completely unique style. While Avengers and New Avengers are big action, Secret Avengers is more subdued, with a slower pace and more depth. There’s a reason this guy has been Writer of the Year three times. The team the former Captain America has assembled is astounding. They’re going up against a wide range of threats, and you have a great combination of strength, stealth and science. Each member compliments the others. You can tell Brubaker is still growing into this one and trying to get a handle on some of the characters. His Moon Knight feels a bit off at times, but I love his Ant-Man. Obviously, after spending several years with the character, Brubaker does a GREAT Steve Rogers.

The concept of Secret Avengers is an interesting one. While the other, higher-profile teams are mostly reactive, this one is proactive. They use their intelligence-gathering capabilities to find threats before the threats find them. There’s a lot of fun espionage and black-ops going on here, but when it’s time to throw down, it’s handled well. The first story arc was a bit of a surprise, with this “secret” team getting into a huge battle on Mars, of all places. Hopefully the story will be getting back to what we’re expecting after some recent revelations.

Secret Avengers doesn’t fit my archetype for what an Avengers comic should be, but I like that. Secret Avengers is supposed to be something different from the norm for the franchise. It’s written differently and it should look different. There are lots of shadows, but it never feels dark. The big fight at the end of Issue 4 was suitably epic for two forces of that magnitude clashing. I just can’t wait for the team to get back to Earth and out of those stupid space suits. Moon Knight without a cape just looks stupid.

Overall

Of the three primary titles, I absolutely feel like New Avengers is the best of the bunch; great story, great characters, beautiful art and just tons of fun. It’s definitely the Avengers title to buy. Avengers isn’t bad, but I just have too many personal issues with it at this early point to flat-out recommend it. For those that want a nice change of pace, you can’t go wrong with Secret Avengers; though if it’s your only tie to the Avengers franchise, you may miss out on some of the more important stories.

Beyond that, the Avengers family of comics has more to offer. Avengers Academy teams iconic characters like Hank Pym and Quicksilver with young heroes learning to use their powers for good. While the students have been told they’re the best of the best, they were actually chosen because they’re the ones most likely to turn to the dark side. The kids know the truth, but the instructors don’t know that the kids know. Good fun.

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade started off great, with the second issue FINALLY being published just after this writing. The former Young Avengers are on a quest to find the Scarlet Witch. Magneto is a central character in this story, and I’m very interested to see where things go, assuming they ever finish the damn thing.

I’m not sure if the world needs Avengers Prime. The miniseries is supposed to be telling the story about how Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and Thor all become allies again after some serious issues between the “Big Three.” However, two issues in, I’m just not seeing it. They’ve been separated, which is fine, but the story doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to reunite them, and with only three issues left, that’s a lot of loose ends to tie up.

One of my favorite comics in the bunch is the second cousin to the Avengers; Thunderbolts. The Thunderbolts have long been a team of supervillains varying between pretending to be heroes and actually being heroes. This iteration of the team consists of Luke Cage honestly trying to rehabilitate a bunch of prisoners. With teammates like Crossbones (the man who shot Steve Rogers) and the damn JUGGERNAUT, Cage constantly has to watch his back and try to keep the team under control. Some of the characters legitimately want redemption, but not all of them. The comic is heavily character-driven, with a ton of badassery to balance it out.

All in all, it seems like Marvel’s Heroic Age is off to an impressive start. While there are still some opportunities for improvement, we’re only three and a half months into this new era of the Avengers. There’s plenty of time to grow and improve. For anyone who’s a newcomer to the comic scene, it must be truly exciting, as it has been a long time since we’ve seen “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” doing what they do best.



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