Sunday, December 18, 2011

GN Review -- Avengers, v. 1 (2010) / Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita, Jr.

It seems to have been a long while since there was an official, honest-to-goodness Avengers team. With big, universe-shaking crossovers like Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, and so forth, there just hasn't been time to put things back together and try to make at least a semblance of a return to the status quo.

Until now.

Brian Michael Bendis brings his flare for grand storytelling and his obvious love for this team and its characters straight to the table, reassembling the team he'd pulled apart in the Avengers Disassembled storyline from several years previous.

Immediately thrusting our heroes into a time-spanning, reality-shifting adventure brought on by the arrival of one of the Avengers' greatest foes, Kang the Conqueror. Appearing from the future, he reluctantly pleads with the heroes to stop their children from becoming horrendous supervillains who ruin reality. Of course, coming from Kang, things aren't quite as simple as he says they are, but it's enough to send the newly-formed team into the future as reality begins to collapse in on itself.

The writing was overall pretty good. It was uplifting to see Steve Rogers, now back from the dead, handpicking and recruiting heroes for the new superhero team. I certainly enjoyed the overall concept of the time/reality plot, although it got a little confusing to follow in certain places, occasionally distracting from the narrative. The dialog was not particularly memorable, though you did get the occasional gem when he paired some heroes--Spider-Man and Spider-Woman come to mind.

One event in this story that stood out in a negative way was Wonder Man's attacking of the new team. Yes, he warns Steve Rogers not to assemble them and acts all weird, but we're given no concrete reason why he's doing this, leaving me very frustrated at his sudden disappearance. I also did sometimes feel the strings of repetition being pulled in the back of my mind. So, Ultron and/or Kang are going to be responsible for ending the world, or reality, or existence at some point? Well, I've never heard of that one before. Bendis at least manages to take that particular plot point and infuse a sense of urgency into the endgame this time, leaving us to wonder if and when any loose ends will rear their heads for the heroes.

I was less impressed with the artwork in this story. I've never been a big fan of John Romita Jr.'s style in comics, but it does work well in some places. Sadly, this didn't feel like one of them. I think the exaggerations his art lends itself to, coupled with the number of characters and scale of the events he was drawing, just left things looking under-wrought and mischaracterized in places. His work during Straczynski's run on Amazing Spider-Man was very good. Here, it just seems perhaps he was spread too thin.

Overall, this was a fun read. The plot was not bad, the art is so-so, and the execution felt hurried at certain points, but it was good to see the Avengers--the REAL Avengers--re-formed and back in action. I'll look forward to see what happens next. Recommended.

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