Mighty Avengers #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frank Cho
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover artists: Frank Cho (regular) & Leinil Yu (variant)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN
When I was a kid, it wasn’t long after I discovered the world of super-hero comics that I was drawn to the team books. I loved me them team books, even through my teens and into my adult years as a comics reader. I still love super-hero team books. I’m a sucker for a good team book. Unfortunately, Mighty Avengers #1 is not a good team book. It’s a good-looking super-hero comic, and Bendis’s story is fairly accessible. But in this first issue, the characters contradict themselves, react blindly for no good reason and speak to one another in such a high-speed, pitter-patter banter mode that it would give Aaron Sorkin a headache. There’s certainly some fun to be had here. Seeing the heroes take on giant monsters was amusing, and Bendis offers up an interesting take on Tony Stark. In the end, though, this new title reaches for the stars but fails to really take flight with its debut issue, and the cliffhanger doesn’t instill confidence regarding what’s to come.
Tony Stark, the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., selects Ms. Marvel to lead the New York-based team of Avengers, the top team in his initiative to establish government-sanctioned super-hero teams in all 50 states. Together, they set to the task of selecting their lineup, and they do so just in the nick of time. A legion of monsters erupts from beneath Manhattan. As the new team of Avengers — Ms. Marvel, Iron Man, the Wasp, Wonder Man, Sentry, Black Widow and Ares — does battle with the behemoths, Iron Man worries that there is a connection to bizarre atmospheric and geothermal events wreaking havoc the world over.
I think it was a mistake on Marvel’s part to release this book the same week as Captain America #25. Cap is garnering a lot more attention, and I suspect that as readers’ scramble to grab a copy of the death of a comic icon, this new Avengers launch will be eclipsed and even go unnoticed by a portion of the potential fanbase.
I think it’s safe to say that Frank Cho is best known in the industry as a cheesecake artist. Given that this lineup of Avengers features three female members, I was pleased to find that the T&A factor in their portrayal was not terribly overt or distracting. Where Cho really manages to turn heads is with his depiction of the uglier characters. His vision of the sort of monsters originally envisioned by Jack Kirby in Silver Age issues of Fantastic Four is appropriately immense and impressive but also playful and colorful. I didn’t much care for the two-page spreads that serve to introduce each new recruit; they’re far too busy, and images and text converge in a trying clutter. Jason Keith’s colors are vibrant and serve as an important cue that the reader can expect a lighter, super-hero romp from this book.
There is one visual in the book that’s far too gratuitous in terms of sexuality, but one can’t really blame the artist. Bendis, by retooling a classic Avengers villain as a shiny, naked woman, is clearly writing to Cho’s “strengths,” but it’s terribly obvious and completely unnecessary.
There’s a solid bit of dialogue early on in the book in which Iron Man explains to Ms. Marvel that the lineup should be a diverse one, that a team of powerhouses wouldn’t be equipped to handle more delicate, sensitive situations. It makes a lot of sense, which makes it all the more frustrating that this new roster consists of five powerhouses and a couple of other heroines. It’s also disappointing to see the heroes take so long to figure out that the Mole Man is behind the monster mash. Any reader with the slightest familiarity with the villain can see it right away; it makes no sense that experienced heroes are so slow on the uptake.
There are a couple of elements here that I find intriguing. Ares’s inclusion is interesting, and it’s nice to see someone picking up on the strong work that Michael Avon Oeming and Travel Foreman did on the 2005 Ares limited series. I also liked Bendis’s script for Stark’s thought-processes. It figures that a genius of his level would have multiple trains of thought and codes running through his head at any given moment. But the rest of the script isn’t nearly as clever, though Bendis certainly strives to make it so. The back-and-forth between Stark and Ms. Marvel is so frenzied that it seems impossible that the characters would even have a chance to consider what they’re saying, hearing and thinking. Furthermore, the only members with a clear motive for joining are Stark, Ms. Marvel and Ares. The others seem to be there because, well, they were Avengers before and gosh darn it, they like it.
From a marketing perspective, Mighty Avengers faces another challenge. Of its seven members, only one — Iron Man — is any kind of an icon or name brand. If this is meant to stand up as a major Marvel team (or even the Marvel team), there need to be more familiar figures with which more casual comics readers or newer ones can connect. 4/10