Posted by Don MacPherson on January 24th, 2007
Marvel Adventures The Avengers #9
“A Not-So-Beautiful Mind”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Pencils: Juan Santacruz
Inks: Raul Fernandez
Colors: Impacto Studios
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Cameron Stewart
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Marvel Adventures imprint
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN
I haven’t paid much attention to Marvel’s younger-readers line since the first couple of issues of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four. I dismissed the line as rehashing old stories I’d already read and striving for a simpler tone to appeal to the little tykes. A couple of months back, though, Cameron Stewart’s cover art for this particular comic book started making the rounds, and I, like many others, was immediately tickled and intrigued. I asked the manager at my local comic shop to add this issue to my pull list, and I’m pleased I did. Writer Jeff (Agents of Atlas) Parker brings the goofy storytelling of DC’s Silver Age to this unusual lineup of heroes and oddball villain to achieve a delightfully entertaining story that will appeal not only to young, new comics reads but longtime fans of the medium and super-hero genre as well. Despite the oversized craniums of the characters, this isn’t the most cerebral of super-hero stories, but it’s funny, energetic and clever in its own campy way.
The Avengers track a tech-theft from Stark Industries to a hidden cell of Advanced Idea Mechanics scientists. The unethical tinkerers pose little threat to the seven powerful heroes, but what they don’t expect is to be brainblasted by the cell’s leader, M.O.D.O.C., the Mental Organism Designed Only for Conquest. Determined to keep the seven heroes in his control, he arranges for them to be subjected to the same process that transformed him into a ruthless villain with an enlarged brain. But something goes awry, forcing M.O.D.O.C. and his underlings to flee, and creating new Avengers, still dedicated to saving lives, but with much different methods and attitude.
Santacruz’s artwork reminds me of Pat (52) Olliffe’s simple but compelling style. He captures a Silver Age look when it comes to the giant Atlantean monsters that turn up later in the story. The heroes have a dynamic, iconic and clean look when they burst onto the scene in the opening splash page, but it makes for a nice contrast with their distorted appearances later in the issue. Of course, the Avengers in M.O.D.O.C. mode is the core appeal of this issue, and Santacruz pulls it off nicely. His usual style doesn’t seem to lend itself to exaggeration so much, but he breaks out of that usual mode and presents some wonderfully over-the-top takes on these nasty versions of Marvel heroes.
Stewart’s cover is an absolute thrill, and not just because of the M.O.D.O.C. theme. Stewart’s art these days usually demonstrates a strong Jack Kirby influence at play, but this cover shows something different. He seems to channel Mike Zeck and the late John Buscema in these can’t-miss depictions of changed champions.
M.O.D.O.C. is given something of a sidekick here in the form of an inept A.I.M. scientist by the name of Karl. The character and the dynamics between him and his big-headed boss reminds me of the sort of interplay we’d see from writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League America scripts when their take on Injustice Gang would turn up. As a concept, the faceless henchmen of A.I.M. are rather ridiculous to look at, and this script treats them as such.
This self-contained issue and its eye-catching cover are well timed. Parker’s script demonstrates what fun the character can be. Some strong buzz about this issue should prove to be something of a boost for the upcoming Super-Villain Team-Up: M.O.D.O.K.’s 11 five-issue limited series by writer Fred Van Lente.
The greatest fun in this issue stems not from M.O.D.O.C. himself but from the altered Avengers. I like that they don’t become villainous like M.O.D.O.C., but they do end up just as conceited, overbearing and nasty. The dialogue for these multiple M.O.D.O.C.s is a treasure. They talk like Silver Age villains, and that makes their efforts to defeat other villains all the more unusual and entertaining. The infighting among the heroes makes sense in the context of the characters, given both their established and altered personalities. 8/10