Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Avengers #1 -- A Review

The Avengers #1 (Volume ??)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Klaus Janson

Colorist: Dean White

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

I have a pretty short pull list as I try to keep within a modest budget to support my hobby. Of course, my toy purchases also come out of the same fund, so I’m pretty judicious about what titles I pick up. I rarely get the latest big-event mini-series, because if it’s really good I’ll want to pick up the inevitable hardcover (for 35% off online). Often this means my knowledge of the major happenings of a comic universe is second-hand (Since Jim gets almost everything and talks about it too, I usually don’t feel too left out). However, every once in a while I’m lured into trying something new, possibly getting on the ground floor of the next big title. This lure is especially hard to resist when an artist or writer I like is involved in the title or a favorite character or team and even more so if I only have one book in my box!

This week I picked up the first issue of Avengers. While I could count on one hand and possibly one finger the number of books I have by Bendis, I generally really enjoy John Romita Jr’s art (as long as the characters aren’t cussing up a storm or talking about Spider-totems). I made sure I flipped through the book to see if it looked interesting and it passed that brief inspection. I think the decision was set when I saw that Wonder Man was going to be featured in the next issue, as he’s one of my favorite Avengers. I ended up getting the card-stock white cover, not so much because I hope to get a sketch or signature on it at the Baltimore Comic-con; rather, my reason was more practical. The spine doesn’t have any of those bumps and indentations you usually find on the sub-par cover paper of a Marvel or DC comic. The white cover is pretty “blah”, but the regular one wasn’t too exciting either. Maybe I should have judged the book by the cover.

Now, I missed Disassembled, Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Siege, etc. From what I’ve heard I haven’t been too pleased about the general direction of the Marvel Universe in the last few years, but we’re now in the Heroic Age, which has the potential of returning to the type of stories I like. This title is the lynchpin of the whole new storyline…and it didn’t work for me at all.

First off, I think it’s a huge mistake starting with some sort of time travel – future history story. I mean you’re beginning a new direction and you immediately want to put up some future continuity roadblock in your path. That’s crazy! The book began with the Avenger’s kids (or descendants) apparently killing Immortus (more on that later).

Now, I liked the full-page splash of Captain Steve Rogers, but that’s really the last heroic image you see of him in the entire issue. I mean in some of the scenes he looks like a kid! Maybe it was his wispy hairstyle that was bothering me. Overall the art is hit or miss throughout the issue – some parts look like they were barely finished. I would have thought Klaus Janson would have been able to fill-in-the-gaps, adding his own unique embellishment, but I guess he was just sticking to what JR JR drew.

Next, we have a 26-panel two-page spread, where we see various individuals responding to Cap’s (I mean Steve’s) invite to join the Avengers (or one of its franchise teams). The responses are ridiculous. “Point Me”. “Huh”. “Uh, Cool”. “O.M.G”… I won’t make you suffer through anymore, except for Luke Cage’s question, “Then what was the [expletive] point?”. It’s a good question. We get rid of the Super Human Registration Act, which Steve opposed, but now nearly every super-hero is still going to be working for the government (in some fashion), because he’s inviting everyone to join the Avengers! At least Wonder Man has the good sense to refuse. I was surprised to find out he was in jail. You know, if Steve Rogers is going to be hanging around, he really needs to put on a blasted suit, preferably one with a mask! He’s not inspiring in the least this way.

So, we have the meeting of the big seven in the Avengers Tower. It’s a nice group shot, but Steve is really laying it on thick with the praise. If everyone knows each other’s identity (except OMD Spidey), why even bother hanging around in costumes, especially if they’re just sipping refreshments. Oh wait, they’ve got to be wearing costumes for when the super villain shows up, which would be Kang (in a nice single page splash – although his gun is a little too simple for my tastes).

Kang says he has a warning for the Avengers, but before he can even finish talking Thor blasts him with his hammer out the window. Hawkeye’s dialogue is really bad (where’s Kurt Busiek when you need him), “THAT would be what it’s like to be on the Avengers with Thor”. Really? I’ve read quite a few Avengers books with Thor and I don’t remember him being so impulsive (he would at least pontificate first). When I saw Kang crash through a puny chimney top, I was reminded when the Thing smashed Terrax though several buildings in FF #242 – now that was impressive.

Kang reveals that he has some doomsday device that Tony recognizes and based on his reaction, must be a pretty substantial threat, but seeing Iron Man panic like that is a bit out of character to me. Apparently, Tony thought up this device himself, which gets everybody mad at him -- again. In this scene when Kang says he has “words from the future that you need to hear”, we have Spider-Man quip “Do I ever find true love?” with his hands clasped together like he’s making a wish. Groan. Have I really been away from mainstream Marvel that long for my favorite characters to sound like this? Did I mention how happy Wolverine seems to be?

Before disappearing, Kang claims the Avenger’s children are going to do something to destroy the world, blah, blah, blah. Then we have a lot of talking heads discussing time travel, how they must help their kids, etc. etc. As the comic portion of the book ends, we learn that a Maestro-type Hulk is working with Kang.

The book is padded with some other filler, such as a two-page spread of people’s faces who signed up online to be an Avenger or something. I guess if you had your picture in the book that would be pretty exciting. I didn’t even read the first chapter of the “Oral History of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”. I would have, but then I realized that additional chapters would appear in the other Avengers books, which I doubt I’ll get any of them now (even the Alan Davis one).

I’m a little curious about the next issue with Wonder Man, but we’ll see if I try it or not. It might be good to cut my losses at four dollars and be done with the whole Heroic Age. Better yet, I should dig out my Kurt Busiek/George Perez Avengers issues and read something really good.

Overall Grade D. If you like what Marvel’s been doing the last few years and the way Bendis writes team dialogue, you may love this. However, from someone who was hoping to return to the mainstream (not just Spider-Girl) Marvel Universe, this book was not to my liking at all.

Disclaimer: I did bury my beloved dog a few hours before reading this issue, but I really don’t think that affected my opinion.

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