Avengers Assemble #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Bagley & Miki (regular)/Arthur Adams, Marc Silvestri, Khoi Pham & Mirco Pierfederici (variants)
Editors: Lauren Sankovitch & Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
One can’t say Marvel isn’t up front about its publishing decisions (or at least this particular one). The reason for this new Avengers title’s existence is emblazoned right across the top in a banner promoting the May 4 release of the Avengers movie. That Marvel would want a title that reflects the roster of the big-screen incarnation of the team makes perfect sense, though there’s no denying the arrangement of this lineup of the comic-book equivalents of the same characters feels more than a little forced (especially when it comes to the Hulk). Avengers Assemble definitely stands apart from writer Brian Michael Bendis’ other work on the franchise, as it’s far simpler in tone than most of his other Avengers stories. This is pretty basic super-hero genre stuff, feeling a bit like a throwback to a simpler time. Unfortunately, that means the plot comes off as rather generic. The story lacks any of kind of hook needed to make it feel special, to make it feel worthy of a newly launched title, newly assembled roster and its connection to what’s expected to be a blockbuster flick.
The Avengers are heralded by the world (again) on the occasion of the completion of its new headquarters, yet another Stark-owned building in New York City. As the Avengers celebrate the team’s latest new beginning, an organization with more nefarious goals in mind gathers and plots its path to world domination. The first step on that path is in the desert in the American west, where the Hulk happens upon a superhuman’s raid on a U.S. Army convoy. Meanwhile, the Avengers investigate a threat in Latveria and find themselves unknowingly drawn into the same conflict.
Wow, this comic book has a lot of variant covers, doesn’t it? I haven’t even included a scan of the “Blank variant.” The practice certainly reinforces and confirms the notion this is a product, not a story.
Reteaming Bendis with his original artistic collaborator on Ultimate Spider-Man was a smart idea on Marvel editorial’s part. This new Avengers book is clearly an action-oriented book, and Mark Bagley handles action incredibly well. Unfortunately, he’s been teamed with an inker whose style just isn’t compatible. Bagley’s angular and kinetic style always seems best served when finished with smooth, defined lines, but inker Danny Miki boasts a grittier, looser style. He’s a fine inker when paired with the right penciller, but he and Bagley don’t seem well suited for one another. I also didn’t care much for the designs for the new Zodiac members. Paul Mounts does an excellent job with the colors, bringing a bright, vibrant tone to this traditional super-hero yarn.
There’s a creator credit on the first page I found puzzling. Bryan Hitch is singled out specifically for his design of the new Hawkeye costume. I don’t know if he’s getting credit because the uniform has its origins in the Ultimates work he did for Marvel a few years ago, if he designed the movie costume upon which this new look is based or if he designed it specifically for Marvel’s publishing division rather than Marvel Studios. No matter what the reason, the credit draws attention to those who aren’t credited for their contributions. There’s no mention of who designed the looks for the various other characters, or even who created the characters in the first place. I also found the masthead on the regular-edition cover to be flawed. It reads like it’s mean to be “Avengers #1 Assemble” as opposed to Avengers Assemble #1.
I’ve read a lot of Avengers stories over the years, and of the few I’ve sampled featuring the criminal organization called Zodiac, I’ve always come away unimpressed. I admit, I’ve not read every Marvel story featuring Zodiac, but those I have were rather, well, boring. I had assumed Bendis’ effort to retool and reintroduce the dozen villains would be more novel, but again, I found nothing of interest among these antagonists. Furthermore, the original Hulk seems out of place in this story, even moreso when one noticed Red Hulk is among the Avengers in the second scene. The Hulk get here is the classic “Hulk smash!” version, in keeping with the upcoming Avengers flick, and I do appreciate the script is unencumbered by the character’s recently complex continuity. Nevertheless, there’s nothing in the script for frequent or casual Marvel readers who might be curious about how the Hulk ended up back in his simple-minded, angry phase.
I swore off Marvel’s Avengers line a few months ago when I realized the entertainment I derived from reading them was eclipsed by my frustration with some poor editing and writing choices, notably when it came to continuity. When this title hit the shelves at comic shops this week, I decided to venture back into Avengers territory. Not only am I looking forward to the movie that serves as the marketing catalyst for this new title, but it seemed as though it would be unencumbered by the continuity issues and seemingly never-ending plotlines that frustrated me in the first place. I was right — this first issue stands up on its own. One needn’t really have followed other Avengers comics to appreciate what’s unfolding here. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t come off as all that interesting, and the heroes seem surprisingly ineffectual. 5/10
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