Sunday, December 30, 2012

Avengers Issues 1 & 2 (Marvel Now!)

written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Jerome Pena

The one great thing about this Marvel Now! era is that Marvel Comics will be publishing fewer titles. Unfortunately, some really good titles are being canceled and many titles will start that need to stay in the brainstorm bins. At least there won't be 50 X Men and 50 Avengers titles. Somehow, Marvel Comics continues to confuse many of us.

Jonathan Hickman had probably the best run on Fantastic Four since John Byrne. Hickman bought back some old characters and made them relevant on the Fantastic Four. He really utilized Reed Richards in a manner that really demonstrated his genius. Hickman did the same for Susan Storm. What he did to the Human Torch really bought me in. So when I heard he would be taking over the main Avengers title, I was really excited.

When I picked up Issue #1, I noticed two characters: Manifold from Secret Warriors (a character I loved but didn't see much of in that title) and Cannonball from the New Mutants. So Marvel was really mixing it up. When I opened up the issue, I noticed the awesome Monica Lebeau who was the sister with the afro in an earlier Avengers incarnation as Captain Marvel. On the last page of Issue #1, you also see Sunspot from the New Mutants. Also Hyperion from a Marvel imprint will be on the team as a powerhouse. So I was really excited about this. This would be a brand new Avengers team. I also noticed that several members such as Sun Spot, Falcon, Captain Universe (Monica Lebeau), Shang Chi, and Manifold are people of color. I don't recall this ever happening on the Avengers.

My biggest gripe with this title is that Hickman is doing two things. The first is to line up the main Avengers with the movie. Even Captain America dons the suit from the movie. I don't think its a good idea. I know Marvel is trying to cash in on the movie but movie watchers don't make consistent comic readers. Catering to them never works. Second, Hickman does too much in the first and second issue.

The premise of the story arc is that at one point in the past, Tony Starks came up with this idea that the Avengers needed something new. He approached Steve Rogers and reminds him it was his idea. Guess what the idea is? I bet you can't guess? Get more members on the team. Wait a second, didn't we just have like 15 Avengers titles with 50 different members on each team? Didn't Rogers already execute that idea? So as Hickman brings into the main plot, he has the reader going back and forth with Rogers and Starks picking out members of the team.

The main plot reminds me of All Giant X-Men where Professor Xavier had to recruit new X-Men to save the original X-Men. The "original" Avengers from the movie go to Mars to stop this new intergalactic villain and are captured. Rogers returns to earth and assembles a new team. We learn of the new roster in Issue #2. Outside of that, the first few pages of Issue #1 are confusing.

Two things save this book. The first are the covers. The first three issues have covers that you can link together to see the entire Avengers roster for this title. Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor's artwork is extremely detailed. Jerome Pena's pencils are incredible. While I dig Leinil Yu's hulk, Pena's hulk makes him look scary. Then again any green behemoth who can't be reasoned with and enjoys smashing everything should look scary. Pena's Thor looks Asgardian. His battle scenes are majestic. Pena really really saves this book.

I have to reiterate that Marvel sees these Marvel Now! titles as a jumping in point for new readers. While you don't need any background info to jump into the actual story, if you are not familiar with the New Mutants, Secret Warriors, other Marvel imprints, or earlier Avengers rosters, you won't know who half these people are. I am going to stick with this title despite it's confusion because Hickman did greatwork on Secret Warriors and the Fantastic Four and he has always surprised me.  


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Jeff Hewitt said...

How interesting is the new Captain Universe too? I'm loving this book!