BC looks at current MARVEL books, Part 1

Avengers 1 Cover

AVENGERS #1  (Marvel Comics, January 2017 cover date)  Writer: Mark Waid.  Artist: Mike del Mundo.  Color Artists: Mike del Mundo with Marco D’alfonso. Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit.  Main Cover: Alex Ross.

 

    There are too many Avengers titles at Marvel. Having multiple versions of the team, in our opinion, takes away from the importance and impact that this group and the name “Avengers” used to have. The Avengers was my favorite team book for several decades of my long comics-reading life.  Shortly after the Secret Invasion ended, I grew weary of the large number of books with Avengers in the title, and just stopped reading them and caring about them . It hasn’t gotten any better.*** We’ve got proof. See the end of this review for a full list of current Avengers offerings.


     Nevertheless, I was attracted to this book and pre-ordered it (one of our Pre-Order Picks back in September) because of the writer (Mark Waid) and the inclusion of my favorite Avengers villain, Kang.  I’m more disappointed than I am excited by Issue #1, as detailed in our Rating System. However, this book is worthy of your attention.


    The line-up of this team consists of Wasp (Nadia Pym), Thor (Jane Foster), Captain America (Sam Wilson), Vision, and new recruits Hercules  and possibly Spider-Man (Peter Parker).  A consequence of the events of Civil War II resulted in Tony Stark losing the deed to Avengers Mansion, which sees the current team operating out of an old hangar.  Parker Industries, now located in the Baxter Building (where are you, FF?) offers five floors for the new Avengers HQ along with a newly designed quinjet.  


     The story plays with time paradoxes, and revolves around an action that Vision initiated in an effort to control or limit Kang’s range.  Which brings a raging Kang to the present day and a burning question he asks of the Vision.  We won’t spoil it for you. It’s a mind-bender of a concept once you wrap your head around it.  I had to read the book twice in order to fully grasp Waid’s abstraction. It’s clever, and the kind of plot twist that Waid excels at. 

 

BC RATING SYSTEM

 

STORY: Waid knows the background of primary villain Kang as well as his earlier incarnation, The Scarlet Centurion. He uses that knowledge to introduce some new abilities to Kang, such as the skill to “doctor time like a surgeon without leaving scars.” There are many cool surprises in this issue. I hate to beat on the same point, but the art fails to enhance this. A missed opportunity.


      Among the time-related abilities of Kang, is the power to see past events by following a person’s lifeline backwards. Kang uses this to try and find out where Vision has hidden what he has come in search of. When that fails, Hang blames the Avengers even though Vision acted on his own.  Kang and Scarlet Centurion band together to alter time in a cruel way that may destroy the present team before it has a chance to accomplish anything. It’s a frightful concept by Waid. We can’t wait to see what he does next.  We are in for the full story arc, but probably not beyond unless the art team changes.


     Waid also understands the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man and uses his trademark wise-cracking comments in measured doses to good effect.  Spider-Man often suffers when appearing in team books because other writers feel a need to use him as the humorous foil in every panel he appears in, ruining the effect with saturation.


      I think I like Waid’s writing best when he alludes to earlier scenes in Avengers history.  Maybe that’s why I like the new AVENGERS #1.1 so much more than I do this book. The new Wasp has to enter the ear of a disabled Vision to try and repair him from within.  It reminds me a a classic Roy Thomas scripted Avengers story where Hank Pym as Ant-Man did the exact same thing.  I hope Waid continues to plant similar Easter eggs in this book for older fans of The Avengers to pick up on. However, that older story devoted much of the issue to the internal exploration of Vision, with very imaginative art.  In Avengers #1, the event takes up two whole panels, so we are spared seeing how del Mundo might have envisioned such a journey inside an android. Maybe Waid knows the limitations of his artist, and was doing us a big favor by rushing through the scene.   3 points.

 

ART:  While Mike del Mundo has his fans, we are not among them.  There are no clear lines to offset the annoying use of the same three or four colors on each page which mutes everything together.  You have to concentrate to be sure what you are seeing. There is a scene where Kang uses his time-bending powers to make a skyscraper completely dissolve, as it’s inhabitants free-fall to the ground. The only way the readers knows that this occurred is due to the dialogue that tells us what happens. Instead of the art showing us the inherent drama in such an action, readers can’t really tell what’s going on.  It’s a glaring example of the ineffectiveness of this art style. The backgrounds of almost every panel in this comic appear to be fading away.  Del Mundo’s art could definitely benefit from the addition of a good inker.  1.5 points.

 

COVER:  A dynamic Alex Ross cover with the Avengers launching into action from the center is spoiled by two  things:  an excessive use of red and orange that mutes the impact, and that obnoxious #1 Now! red box in the upper right corner that is so glaring that it interferes with appreciation of the art.  1 point.

 

READ AGAIN?  Absolutely. You’ll need a second read for sure in order to absorb the full impact of this complex story-line.  It’s a good one, and a neat spin on some time-travel concepts. It also requires a second read to make more sense of the art so that it doesn’t detract from the story. 1 point. 

 

RECOMMEND?  Yes. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a book written by Mark Waid. Too bad it lost some BC rating points due to the art. 1 point. 

 

TOTAL RANKING: 7.5 points.  Most readers should like this. A good example of a team book that is scripted well.  

 

*** There are 8 Avengers titles in the recent Previews catalog featuring books on sale in January 2017:  Avengers #3; Avengers #3.1; Avengers #1.MU (Monsters Unleashed); Great Lakes Avengers #4; Marvel Universe Avengers: Ultron Revolution #7; Occupy Avengers #3; Uncanny Avengers #19; and U.S. Avengers #1.  In the collected editions, there are an additional 3 trade paperbacks featuring the Avengers:  All-New All-Different Avengers Vol. 3: Civil War II; Avengers K Book 4: Secret Invasion (translated from Korean); and New Avengers By Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol 2.  Completists (as we used to be, no more) would need a bank loan just to pick up all the Avengers books released every month!


 

Avengers 001 1 2017 digital Minutemen Slaye

AVENGERS #1.1  (Marvel Comics, January 2017 cover date) Writer: Mark Waid.  Penciler: Barry Kitson. Inker:  Mark Farmer.  Colorist: Jordan Boyd. Letterer: Ferran Delgado. Standard Cover: Barry Kitson & Jordan Boyd. 

 

     This is not the first time that Marvel has revisited an Avengers storyline from 50 years ago, enhanced it,  and told it again for a new audience. We’ve enjoyed those trips back in history, especially Joe Casey’s 2004-2005 work on the AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES maxi-series and its sequel. We have a feeling that AVENGERS #1.1 and future issues will earn a place on the same pedestal. 


    THE AVENGERS was our favorite book growing up, the one that we haunted the spinner racks of our local drugstore for on a monthly basis. Where else could you see a majority of Marvel’s heavy hitters of the time in a single book? = The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man and the Wasp, and Captain America (after Issue #4).  When I picked up my copy (sigh, which I no longer have) of Issue #16 I was shocked to see the team line-up changing.  At the time, I guessed that it was getting too difficult to find a suitable foe for such a powerful team.  In this re-telling Waid has Giant-Man tell Captain America that “we’re too fractured . . . None of us, including Thor, have the bandwidth to give this team the focus it deserves . . .”


      So, time to disband the old team and bring in a trio of untested former villains (Shades of the Thunderbolts! I wonder if this served as inspiration for that title!) and put them under the leadership and guidance of a proven veteran, Captain America. I can’t remember the villain that Cap, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch faced in that original issue, but the inclusion of The Frightful Four in this new version is a solid choice. It provides the perfect opportunity to show, not tell, how inexperienced the new members are at winning as a team.

  The cover page seems to indicate the purpose for this re-telling.  To go behind the scenes and re-tell how Captain America turned an unlikely team into Avengers.  Hawkeye acts the way I remember him doing back in Avengers #16  — cocksure, haughty,  and working hard to overthrow Cap as leader.  Scarlet Witch is self-conscious and introverted. Quicksilver is protective of his sister, and quick to anger. 


     Waid also allows us to see the doubts that Captain America had, unsure that he was strong enough to mold them.  He introduces the skeptical and intimidating members of the media, something that comics back in the 1960’s never had to deal with. 


     I love the inclusion of the original letter pages, including the blurbs for then-current Marvel comics. Only nine titles back then!  Very affordable for the times. 

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BC RATING SYSTEM

 

STORY:  I knew this story already, but Waid spices things up with additional insights and new material. Amusing commentary from The Wasp in the opening pages. The cheers of the crowds for the old team recalls one of the best Avengers maxi-series of all time: “Avengers Forever!” 2.5 points.

 

ART:  It’s great to see Barry Kitson’s art again.  His work on this title pays homage to classic Avengers artist Don Heck while intensifying everything with a little Barry Kitson flavor.  There are some caption-less and dialogue-free action panels near the end of the story that are wonderful. 2.5 points. 

 

COVER:  The cover illustrates the passing of the baton from one group to another, a perfect way to indicate the contents. The new team is in the foreground with a look of determination on their faces.  The old team is in the background, somewhat obscured by the brightness emanating from the new members, as if looking down and judging from the clouds. The title logo resurrects the original logo. The only thing spoiling this is that damn #1 Now! box.  2 points. 

 

READ AGAIN?  Definitely.  Like an old photo album, it makes you want to see more so you look it over again.   1 point.

 

RECOMMEND?  Yes. Great story.  And, for anyone who wants to visit the original Avengers stories, this is a more economical way to do it.  Those back issues are getting pricy! (Avengers #16, May 1965, valued at $1,000 in 9.4 Near Mint condition.)  1 point. 

 

TOTAL RANKING: 9 points.  Call your comic store right now to make sure they hold a copy for you.

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