I’m not usually a big fan of these kinds of anthology series that seem like 4-8 page filler stories about characters that no one really cares about. Marvel has been doing more and more of these kinds of comics lately — oh, here’s what Rogue and Gambit did on their last night on the town, and here’s how sad Cloak is because of what happened in “Nation X.” Mopey, saggy little stories about a whole lot of not much, even when the creators involved might have seemed capable of more.
But “Age of Heroes” #1 is actually quite good. It has not a single weak story within its covers, and it sets the tone for the incoming Heroic Age with wit and style and class. It looks great, too.
The first story, and the best of the bunch, features J. Jonah Jameson, mayor of New York and erstwhile guy-who-pretty-much-hates-dudes-in-costumes. He’s ready to give a speech condemning the superhero community for the events in Oklahoma — you know, the whole Siege and Fall of Asgard and all that stuff you may have heard about in, oh, every comic for the past few months. But when the Avengers show up to save civilians from a huge tsunami and the people of New York cheer at what they see on the video screens, Jameson has to change his tune. He knows how to adapt to this new Heroic Age, even if he saves his earlier anti-superhero drafts for the inevitable time when the Age is no longer Heroic, when this cycle of optimism ends. It’s all written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Marko Djurdjevic, and it’s good stuff.
Rick Remender and Chris Samnee give us a sitcom-ish look at Doctor Voodoo’s romantic misadventures as the good doctor has to stop “the Hypermind from releasing the Grenelinian Legions onto Earth.” This brief story — and the Samnee art makes this one look like the best tale in the issue — shows the contrast between Doc’s real life and his crazy supernatural protector-of-humanity responsibilities. But it does so with more humor than we saw in his short-lived series. I liked this one a lot, and I’d love to see more Remender and Samnee on Doctor Voodoo.
The Paul Cornell/Leonard Kirk “Captain Britain and MI:13” story is only two pages long, but within those two pages we get a few gags, a great sense of who these characters are, and establish the “time-share agreement” between the Avengers and MI:13, so Captain Britain can appear on both teams. It’s a minor, insignificant bit of Marvel continuity, preemptively explaining why Captain Britain might show up in a comic written by Brian Michael Bendis or his pals, but it’s extremely effective. And fun. And Pete Wisdom is a great character, as Cornell and Kirk remind us, seemingly effortlessly.
The issue ends with a Dan Slott and Ty Templeton Spider-Man one-pager. And even in the Heroic Age, Peter Parker can’t catch a break. It’s a one-note joke, but it’s a good note, and it provides an ironic twist on the optimism of the rest of the issue. It’s the perfect, and appropriately timed, counterpoint to the J. Jonah Jameson story that opens the issue. Even Jameson is willing to play along with the new Age of Heroes (as long as it benefits him), but the people on the streets of New York? They just don’t want Spider-Man blocking traffic. I don’t blame them.
If the remaining three issues are this good, I’ll be looking forward to more of these Marvel anthologies. “Age of Heroes” may not be essential, but it’s certainly entertaining.