Saturday, July 24, 2010

ALL AGES sometimes really means ALL ages: Marvel Adventures Super Heroes – A Review

I doubt you’ve even heard of this comic. If you had you probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance because of the Marvel stamped on the cover. To add further confusion, each issue thus far has sported a bigger character logo above or below the actual title. So, you might think that issue 1 was Iron Man, issue 2 was Thor, issue 3 was Captain America, and issue 4 was Nova. Maybe I’ll find out the rational for this one-day, but this really secretly is a new Avengers title and it’s mighty good!

Paul Tobin is the writer of this series and the first four issues have been penciled by Ronan Cliquet, inked by Amilton Santos, colored by Sotocolor, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. To date each cover has been illustrated by Clayton Henry and friends. I have to mention the creators right away, because all of their work is so superb. The combination of Cliquet and Santos reminds of Stuart Immonen’s style back when he was drawing Superman regularly years ago (with maybe a little Alan Davis thrown in). There is such smoothness to the lines and the facial expressions perfectly handle the varied emotions of the characters. The panel layouts are great and the dense story flows effortlessly. The colors are phenomenal too. We’re talking I need to get some original art material here.
I’m going to try to forego my usual ultra detailed panel by panel description of the issues, because it would take me forever to do so. However, I do want to touch on some of the elements of the story that I find so appealing. First, it’s a whole new universe. Now, I’m not certain (may need to ask the writer some day) if this story is actually a continuation of the last MASH title that ended a few months ago, but it really doesn’t matter. Here’s the cool thing. The Invisible Woman (Susan Storm, not Susan Richards) is in the Avengers and it appears that she’s at least the co-leader of the team. Trust me, it works -- magnificently. Adding to that is the budding romance between her and Steve Rogers. Sue still loves Reed, but it reminds me of when high school sweethearts go away to different colleges, you never know whom you might fancy in a new place. It’s not like they’re engaged or anything and to be honest, she doesn’t even really acknowledge her feelings yet. A common complaint about super hero comics is the constant retread of old ideas just told in a new more modern way (even in the Ultimate universe). Well, I’ve never seen this before and right now I can imagine that anything could happen.

Another thing I like is that Nova is on the team and HE HAS THE CORRECT UNIFORM!!! He definitely is the new kid on the block, so he’s still in the “proving himself” mode. In issue 4, Captain America (thinking they have an easy mission) says, “…this might be a good chance for Nova to shed his rookie status. Work without a net, so to speak.” So, you’ve got that whole “coming of age” aspect going on, which is good for some humor. Now Nova is still young enough (out of high school though) to act like that (versus how Johnny Storm is portrayed in the regular Marvel U after years of being a hero). In issue 3, he finds out that some of the team is fighting Diamondhead. “DIAMONDHEAD? You’re fighting Diamondhead? He’s MY VILLIAN! I’ve fought him like FIFTY TIMES! DON’T do ANYTHING! I’m coming to HELP!” It’s just so awesome, I love Nova so much.

I guess I should mention the rest of the team. We’ve also got The Vision, Iron Man, Thor, and the Black Widow. Now one of my earliest issues of the Avengers was number 160, where the Grim Reaper captures him and Wonder Man. So, he has always been one of my favorite characters. Remember the days when the Vision was THE only character to appear in the corner box on the covers. The Vision has gone through so many changes over the years, I’m really enjoying this back to basics approach. Having him disable someone by phasing his hand in their body is just so cool. Although, seeing him at his proper power level is great, it’s the emotional drama that I really like. In issue 3, he decides on a human name, Victor Shade. The rest of the team is commenting on his choice. “Whenever I hear of Victor, I think of Victor Von Doom” “Maybe you could think of a name with less menace to it.” “We need to think in terms of public relations. Victor Shade is rather DARK don’t you think?” “ENOUGH! Do I ridicule YOUR names? Do I NOT LISTEN to YOUR ideas? Do I MOCK your THOUGHTS? Your FEELINGS? YOU TREAT ME AS A MACHINE!” as he slams his fist on a panel. “AND I AM NOT!” The Vision even gets a girlfriend at the end of the issue (don’t worry she’s not the reality altering Wanda Maximoff). More evidence that this series isn’t rehashing old stories.

I really like how Natasha is portrayed here as well. In issue 2, we discover that she’s working secretly with Reed Richards to help “steer” Sue from “the sidelines’. I have no idea what it’s all about yet, but it’s just one of several ongoing plot threads. Each issue so far has been stand alone, but it’s also building into a larger tapestry. I totally enjoy this breaking out of the story arc format we have today. This isn’t part 4 of 6. It’s just issue 4 of the title. The character interactions, the dialogue, the out of costume moments all remind me of the Uncanny X-men and the New Teen Titans when they were at their peak. However, I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as “old school” like the way Spectacular Spider-Girl is written (which I also love), in case that’s not to your liking.

There have been a plethora of villains so far: Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants (#1); Mysterio (#2); Diamondhead and the Owl (#3); and Kraven the Hunter (#4). Kraven as a licensed bounty hunter enlists the Avengers help in apprehending a certain (red and black, slightly nuts) mercenary, who they never actually name, maybe because it has the word “Dead” in it. It’s funny though. They’ve also encountered guest stars like the Blonde Phantom and Namor. I anticipate that anyone could show up (did you catch Gwen Stacy entering the bookstore on the first page above). It all just flows so naturally.

I honestly don’t know why they didn’t use the Avengers name in the title, considering Marvel just launched several new Avengers series. I would never have discovered the book myself, if I hadn’t picked up the first three issues at the library. Afterwards, I asked my comic store to back order them for my own collection (I hope the gold coloring on issue 2 doesn’t mean it’s a second printing). While I wouldn’t put this in the same writing style of the incredible Thor: The Mighty Avenger series, but like that title this is an all ages book that really can be enjoyed by more than just kids. You owe it to yourself to try an issue out.

Now, I’ve got to determine if Tobin’s Marvel Adventures Spider-man title is just as good.

Grade A+: Absolutely wonderful. Simply put, the BEST Avengers book on the stands today and one of the best Marvel titles!!!

I'm on vacation with my family right now and will back posting on 2010 August 20th. Thanks to Greg (07-31), Lee (08-07), and Gwen (08-14) for filling in for me while I'm away.

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