With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Stuart Immonen, Daniel Acuna, Mike Deodato, Howard Chaykin
Issues: New Avengers (2010) #1-13
During the Civil War era the Avengers teams were split up, leading to two ongoing Avengers series. The official team and the unofficial rebels. I guess fans liked having two Avengers series, and Marvel kept them going even when it made a lot less sense. Even when multiple popular characters are on both Avengers teams!
With the main Avengers series starring the heavy hitters of Iron Man, Bucky-Cap, and Thor, the rest of the “Occasional Avengers” decide to move into the old Avengers mansion as an official second team. For some reason.
The team is lead by Luke Cage, whom writer Brian Michael Bendis has done a fantastic job with. The series is grounded by Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ relationship as a superhero couple and new parents. Cage has grown into a wonderfully complex character and a great leader; he’s easily Bendis’ best legacy from his Avengers work (I would say the other is Spider-Woman, but she turned out to be the Skrull Queen sooo….).
Volume 1 introduces our team of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, The Thing, and Victoria Hand – former right-hand woman of Norman Osborn. It’s an odd team, but the gender and diversity ratio is easily one of the better Avenger make-ups. Still, I can’t help but feel that part of the reason Bendis’ stuff is so satisfying and fun is that he gets his pick of the A-listers. Spider-man? The Thing? Wolverine? Sure, why not!
The initial plot brings Dr. Strange back to the team. In the previous iteration of New Avengers, Dr. Strange had lost the power of the Eye of Agomotto. It was bequeathed to a new Sorcerer Surpreme – Doctor Voodoo. I kinda dig Strange walking around all moody in a long coat still doing magic shit.
Somebody from another dimension seeks the Eye. Several members are possessed and enraged, and the sky cracks open as demons pour into our world. It boils down to an epic battle of survival while Strange and Voodoo concoct a magical way of dealing with everything.
Stuart Immonen’s art is an absolute treat. His style of clean lines and classic poses perfectly encapsulates the Marvel style, and works incredibly well for a main-line Avengers comic. Even the weird light-demons are all varied and cool. I particularity love all the double-page spreads we get, often several back-to-back.
In the end Doctor Voodoo sacrifices himself to defeat the Big Bad. His turnaround as Sorcerer Supreme was disappointingly short-lived (a year, maybe). The arc was really fun, showing off how the diverse team works together in a crisis, and also making all the magic mumbo-jumbo fun instead of eye-rollingly ridiculous.
That first Volume is a great start to a new Avengers series. It’s incredibly disappointing that Volume 2 then drops the ball so badly. An entire issue is devoted to finding a nanny for Luke and Jessica’s baby. An entire issue. It’s Squirrel Girl, by the way (good fit, but still).
The next issue mostly involves a date between Luke and Jessica, which I happened to enjoy. Bendis clearly loves Luke and their relationship. But again, an entire issue? They fight a doombot at the end, presumably because it’s a superhero comic and they have to fight something.
Issues #9-13 presents a weird A-B format. The present day story involves our team breaking up an ex-HAMMER ring of villains up to no good. There’s also a seemingly random past-tense story starring Nick Fury in the 50s as he creates a very weird Avengers team for a Nazi-hunting task.
The 50s story takes up way too much panel-time for how dumb it is. It also features some really terrible art that makes every character look oddly round and short. Nick Fury has never looked less menacing. It’s even more jarring as Mike Deodato, one of my favorite artists, handles the present day stuff. One artist per comic, please!
At the very end it’s revealed that the McGuffin item the 50s team were after (which weirdly includes Kraven the Hunter and Sabretooth) is a super soldier serum. Our present-day team can then use that serum to save the life of Mockingbird, who was injured in the initial fight. Why we needed an entire B-story to explain Nick Fury knowing about the serum I have no idea. Mockingbird is saved from her multiple gunshot wounds but what powers or effects that manifest are yet to be seen.
Dividing the comic up into two stories (with two very different artists) was a poor choice, made even worse that neither story was the least bit interesting. It’s an awkward misstep for a promising Avengers series. I still actually prefer this team to the more famous team in the adjective-less Avengers (2010) series. Hopefully future stories will get back on track, and stick with a better artist.