Avengers A.I. #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Sam Humphries & André Lima Araújo
The good news about André Lima Araújo’s artwork in this debut issue is the fact it’s rather unconventional in tone. He’s clearly influence by manga/anime, but his various aspects of his efforts here reminded me of the styles of such other Marvel artists as Nick Bradshaw, Khoi Pham and Ed McGuinness. The effort to redesign the Vision seems like a misstep; this update pales in comparison to the classic look (which will undoubtedly return at some point in the future). Araújo’s approach to settings is distinct. While he has an eye for detail, every one of the backdrops looks rather expansive in scope, but that’s not always fitting. For deep space or a plaza in front of a hospital, it works, but for an arcade or interrogation room, it’s not the best choice. I also found the manner in which he illustrates characters’ faces (especially Hank Pym’s) to be inconsistent and distracting. This isn’t a bad introduction, though, and I’ll be interested to see how he develops as an artist in the years to come.
I have to admit despite my disappointment with Age of Ultron, I was mildly curious about this spinoff book thanks to the eclectic mix of characters making up the title team. I was a fan of Runaways, so it was great to see Victor Mancha return here (though writer Sam Humphries doesn’t do enough to educate new readers about who/what he is). Humphries also uses Doombot for laughs, and it’s a logical and effective choice — though I wonder if it’ll get old in a hurry. I applaud the writer for not dragging his heels in getting the story going; there’s no decompression going on here. In fact, it feels a bit rushed, as three heroes are on a mission and in action in the final act of this opening chapter. Ultimately, what Avengers A.I. lacks is a feeling of permanence. It doesn’t feel like this concept is going to be around for very long, and the Avengers branding is a bit of a stretch. Marvel’s clearly trying to find places in the Marvel Universe as it stands today for Pym and the Vision, but I doubt this will be the ones that stick. The very nature of intellectual property (especially when it comes to super-heroes) is to see it reverted to its original form, and I’m certain the Vision will eventually go back to being the hero he once was in the 1970s. 5/10
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber
I don’t read Superior Spider-Man, so this spinoff limited series wasn’t on my radar at all, but I heard a couple of good things about it. And then I found out Whiteout artist Steve Lieber was illustrating it, and suddenly, I was keenly interested in it. Lieber does a great job with the art here. He presents a group of four villains as regular shmoes. They move and look like real people, not impossibly bulging physical ideals. The Boomerang redesign here doesn’t quite work for me, though; there’s something familiar and generic about the new look, and given the tone of this story, the campier, original costume seems like it would be a better fit. Another aspect of his work here I appreciated was how he conveys the characters’ expressions, bringing out the comedic elements of Spencer’s script. Lieber’s realistic, grounded approach might be unexpected for Superior Spider-Man fans who check this new book out, but I hope they give him a chance.
While the title of this comic book connects it to the world of Spider-Man, in spirit, it feels more like a fit with the world of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. This comic is about fantastic characters existing in the mundane world while occasionally contending with larger-than-life danger. Spencer plays these characters mainly for laughs, but he occasionally depicts them as simply flawed people, especially Boomerang. The reader can’t picture himself or herself in his place, but we can understand why he makes the mistakes he makes. We don’t necessarily cheer for these not-so-superior foes, but it’s fun to follow them. My hope is Spencer doesn’t take the plot in too dark a direction and that he gives us a deeper look into what makes Boomerang’s “colleagues” tick. 7/10
Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1 (DC Comics)
by Ray Fawkes, Zander Cannon, Daniel Sampere, Patrick Zircher & Vicente Cifuentes
The most obvious indication this comic book has some problems is the glut of credits that detail which artists were involved in crafting it and how. About half of the issue was laid out by Zander Cannon, with pencils and inks by others, and the other half of the issue was illustrated by Patrick Zircher. It creates the distinct impression this first issue was rushed into production. The art throughout the issue is serviceable but generally uninteresting. I’m surprised DC Editorial didn’t tap an artist or artists with a darker, more fluid style. The plot is made up of monsters and the supernatural, so the more realistic bent of the line art seems like an odd choice. Furthermore, the digital colors by Hi-Fi are clearly more in the traditional, bright super-hero vein, but darker, eerier tones would have served the story and characters far better.
The greater sin (pardon the pun) is how the story makes almost no sense. Pandora is condemned for nothing more than picking up a shiny object, and one of those who cursed her even admits by the issue’s end there was no reason for her to be punished. Why a group of seemingly omniscient wizards couldn’t determine that in the first place is puzzling, and it isn’t explored here at all. Furthermore, writer Ray Fawkes skips over the origins of Pandora’s weapons, even though finding something she can use against the Seven Deadly Sins is what ultimately drives her. Furthermore, the notion of the Sins running amok unchecked on Earth, causing untold devastation and death doesn’t really hold up. They’re presented as powerful and pervasive, so I was left wondering why any trace of humanity was left on the planet given the centuries the Sins supposedly have to wreak havoc. From the Shazam! feature in Justice League, we know the Sins were imprisoned for quite some time, but there’s no acknowledgement of those events, even though they would factor in heavily in Pandora’s Sin-centered story. This doesn’t inspire me to check out the “Trinity War” story set to unfold in DC’s three Justice League titles. 2/10
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