Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do, Banner

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 19th, 2012

Variant coverAvengers Assemble #9
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Steve McNiven (regular)/Bobby Rubio, Joe Quesada & Avengers movie still (variants)
Editors: Tom Brevoort & Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

While I think Marvel and DC’s constant relaunching and renumbering of its ongoing super-hero titles is irksome and offers only short-term gains, I feel it’s a shame the debut of this new creative team for Avengers Assemble won’t benefit from the spotlight of a new start like so many titles that make up the publisher’s Marvel Now! campaign, because it’s one that not only Marvel fans should check out, but anyone who enjoys super-hero genre comics. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s sharp sense of humor and her exploration of parallels and polar differences between two founding members of the team make for a thoroughly entertaining and intelligent read. This is the sort of accessible and fun Avengers comic that should’ve been ready for viewers of the Avengers movie when they emerged from theatres this summer, and it reminded me a great deal of the classic Justice League run by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. Don’t miss this Avengers comic. I almost did.

Variant coverVariant coverTony Stark and Bruce Banner have a lot in common. They’re among a handful of the planet’s most brilliant minds, the military sought to exploit them both to develop and serve as weapons, and the things they’ve created with their seemingly limitless intellect has enabled them to save lives and help mankind. But they’re very different men as well. Stark has lived a life in the spotlight, a life of privilege, and he sees technology as the gift that will elevate humanity. Banner, meanwhile, has tried in vain to hide from the world, and he feels if left unchecked, technology will be our ultimate downfall. They’re also quite competitive, and that leads them to make a friendly bet about who can best response to a potential crisis brewing in Antarctica.

Stefano Cariello’s characters have always been expressive, and I enjoyed his work on Avengers: The Initiative a few years back. But with this project, brings a more polished and refined style to bear that serves the storytelling incredibly well. The heroes’ faces are so emotive and detailed, he conveys the comedic moments and reactions perfectly, and that’s one of the reasons I’m reminded of the innovation of the beginning of the humor era of DC’s Justice League in the late 1980s. I think my favorite of the artist’s depictions of the heroes are when they’re out of costume. Their casual clothes actually look and drape like real clothing, not like drab incarnations of super-hero costumes. In their down, these stalwarts look like regular people, especially the unkempt Bruce Banner.

I love the new non-exile Hulk. I don’t know how this new status quo came to pass or how brain-addled Hulk maintains a more social attitude now, and honestly, I don’t care. The overall tone of DeConnick’s script is thoroughly accessible. You don’t have to know about Avengers Vs. X-Men. You don’t have to know about “Avengers Disassembled.” You don’t have to be up on a single moment of Avengers history from the past decade to follow the story and enjoy it.

Humor isn’t something new for one to find in DeConnick’s writing, but the beats here and the repartee is pitch-perfect. the plot turns super-heroing into something of a game, and the playful tone among the title characters is not only entertaining, but it also speaks to a sense of camaraderie, to character dynamics, to friendship. In a weird way, this feels a bit like co-workers razzing one another. DeConnick balances the humor with some real tension; when the story gets serious, it turns quickly, adopting a grave tone, but in a matter that doesn’t make the story feel disjointed or inconsistent.

As fun as the dialogue and interplay are, what really grabbed my attention and never let go from the start was DeConnick’s comparison of Iron Man and the Hulk. She uses them to present opposing philosophies, and it’s interesting to see how such disparate points of view grew from what was basically the same starting point. Tony Stark is a man who was transformed into an unimaginably wealthy celebrity, and it was his gift with science that did it. Banner was instead transformed into a monster, reviled instead of worshipped, robbed of any measure of happiness or normalcy. One sees technology as the path to prosperity, the other — leading to the apocalypse. One sees the good that’s been done with science, while the other recognizes the harm. Despite their common ground, they’re also separated by social status — the privileged versus the poor. It’s a fascinating study in contrasts and similarities, and the world views the writer explores through them make for an interesting debate. 9/10

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One Response to “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do, Banner”

  1. Captain Jim Says:

    Thanks to this review, I went out and picked this up today. I’m very glad I did. Very enjoyable and it literally had me laughing out loud. Finally! A Marvel NOW title I really liked.