Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Comics Cavalcade: Avengers #1 and More

You may recall that last month we had a little shindig called Avengers Day to celebrate the relaunching of what seems to be upwards of five hundred new Avengers titles. We covered both the best Avengers stories (here, here, here and here) and the worst (here). We embraced and laughed and learned a little bit about both ourselves and our world. But still, one question remained unanswered: were the new Avengers titles any good?

Well, as it happens, I have some of them right here, so let's take a look, shall we? There are a bunch, so these reviews will be pretty short. But still tough. Kind of like Puck.

Avengers #1
Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.

Yes, this is still being written by Bendis, but I went ahead and bought it anyway, being either open-minded, a sucker or both. And, actually, it's not too bad. Bendis still has some of the same flaws that always mar his team books for me -- namely, the characters all talk in the same voice (i.e. Bendis's voice) and fill arbitrary roles based on Bendis's plot needs rather than being driven by their character (see: use of Wonder Man in this issue). But this issue still manages to come at least closer to the spirit of the original Avengers title. Bendis does a couple weird things that you may either like or hate (namely, this storyline is apparently the sequel to a direct-to-video animated DVD, a fact not referenced in the comic) but while I am a bit skeptical about how he will handle Kang and Ultron, I'm willing to keep giving him the benefit of the doubt a little while longer. The JR Jr. art was solid but didn't blow me away.

My Grades: B-. This could go either way. Here's hoping.

Secret Avengers #1
Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato

This comic is kind of an old-schoolers dream, as it's essentially Steve Rogers leading a SHIELD covert ops group on a secret mission that happens to revolve around the Serpent Crown, which once upon a time was a major source of storylines in the Marvel world. And it has the Beast back with the Avengers where he belongs. It's not completely perfect -- I still don't really understand the inclusion of Valkyrie on a covert team, and sure enough she blows their cover about one minute into the mission -- but even the Deodato art seems to be a notch above the norm. It also has a great cliffhanger to boot that should have fans buzzing. Again, I'm not entirely sold on the line-up, but this is a top shelf first issue and with Brubaker's track record, it seems safe to say that this will likely be the most consistently good book among the new Avengers line.

My Grades: A-. A couple roster headscratchers (new Ant-Man? Really?) and a terrible costume for Beast prevent a higher grade.

Avengers Prime #1
Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis

Heaven help me, but I actually really liked this comic. There, I said it. Sure, there were a couple little details I didn't care for -- the title, for instance, is terrible, and the post-Siege argument between Cap and Tony that kicks off the issue seems forced to say the least -- but despite the arbitrary setup (the big three of Cap, Iron Man and Thor just happen to be the only people sucked through a vortex to the nine realms), I really dug it. Some of the credit goes, of course, to the always awesome Alan Davis, who provides great art as usual. But some of it has to go to (gulp) Bendis, who does a surprisingly solid job of making Steve Rogers look like a total badass. The ending was a nice twist also. I'm looking forward to the next issue, amazingly enough.

My Grades: This gets an A-. Funny how great characters and great art can inspire good stories.

Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1
Jim McCann and David Lopez

I have mixed emotions about this series. One the one hand, I love Hawkeye. On the other hand, I still can't figure out any good reason to have brought Mockingbird back from the dead, nor do I buy the explanation for her return. So, there's that. And this issue, while solid, doesn't really change my feelings about her. I've never been a fan, I don't get her relationship with Hawkeye and it just doesn't work for me. McCann, for his part, is obviously a huge fan of both Mock and the relationship (he's apparently the primary lobbier behind her return) and his enthusiasm shows, so the book has that going for it. The art is solid enough as well and it's clear that McCann has spent a lot of time studying back issues, as this first arc brings back both Hawkeye arch-nemesis Crossfire as well as the Phantom Rider. But some elements, like Mock's secret cadre of ex-SHIELD kidnapees just don't work for me (like, what's the purpose of their organization again exactly?) nor am I a huge fan of the use of Dominic Fortune here, though you'd think I would be. overall, then, this issue is just okay for me though it's solidly enough put together.

My Grades: This is probably a B+ objectively, but I can't give it better than a B- at best for personal reasons. I do like Mockingbird's new costume a lot better than her old one, anyway.

Free Comic Book Day 2010: Iron Man and Thor #1
Matt Fraction and John Romita Jr.

Okay, so this isn't part of the new Avengers relaunch, but after my review of the free Iron Man comic given out before showings of Iron Man 2, I wanted to discuss it briefly. This Iron Man / Thor team-up story was also a free comic, given out on free comic book day, which also was back in May. Unlike the comic given to theater-goers, it's actually written by real Iron Man writer Matt Fraction. Further, it features Thor (who as you know is teased in a bonus scene after the credits in Iron Man 2), meaning it even ties in better with the movie than the actual comic they gave out at the movie, which had nothing to do with anything really. Add to that the cool art by JR Jr. and the fact that this comic is totally awesome and you have a real head-scratcher for me. I can't think of a single good reason why this comic wasn't given to audiences at Iron Man 2 instead of the comic that was given out, as it is vastly superior and much more likely to bring in new readers. The story centers on a group who swipes from Stark tech to try and terraform part of the moon, which has negative impact on Earth weather, drawing Thor and Iron Man together. It's a fast paced, fun adventure -- everything a movie viewer and comic reader could want. What's not to love?

My Grades: A+. Unlike all the other comics in this review, which each cost a somewhat ridiculous $3.99, this comic was totally free, making it kind of ironic that it was also the best of the bunch hands down. Marvel, however, still gets a huge F- for not giving out this great comic to film crowds instead of the boring issue they actually gave out. It's a rare Double F- for one comic. What are you thinking, Marvel?!

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