In “All-New, All-Different Avengers,” Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar have formed a new Avengers team where the all-new roster is populated by all-different incarnations of many familiar heroes. That familiarity is what brings the cool to Mark Waid’s story and characters, or — as issue #4’s intro self-deprecatingly states — “at least the ones that were around that day”; there’s a whole new chemistry to explore between these oft-called replacements, and Waid begins to flesh out those interactions now that the team’s origin has been established. Despite Waid’s low-budget, closeout approach to the team, Mahmud Asrar gives the book a big-budget feel, reminding readers these are the Avengers, even if they’re not fighting off an alien armada or exploring the multiverse.
Though it’s a notion that might sound strange to those who have missed recent Marvel storylines or Alex Ross’ bright cover, Thor and Captain America engage in a full liplock as part of that new chemistry. This public display of affection is not the focal point of the issue, though, and is in fact a very small part of it — so small it doesn’t even clearly indicate any kind of budding relationship, despite what Ross’ cover implies.
Instead, Waid spends more time focusing on the youngsters, continuing to examine the tense dynamic between Nova and Ms. Marvel and adding some levity via Spider-Man. Miles and Kamala’s uncomfortable reaction to The Vision’s cold, clinical demeanor is a lighthearted touch that perfectly balances that very behavior, and Nova’s deliberate counterpoint to their emotions is all but priceless. The Vision’s calculated moves and to-the-point dialogue give the character an edge that’s rarely been seen since his early years. Most refreshing is the return of Jarvis — Edwin, that is, not the artificial intelligence developed by Tony Stark — whose disdain with the Avengers’ less-than-luxurious circumstances is convincingly and hilariously delivered by Waid.
Asrar’s style has a lighter touch that balances the outlandishness of the Avengers with their relative pedestrian surroundings. When the Thunder Goddess or Iron Man soars through the skies, Asrar captures the majesty of it and simultaneously makes the team’s sole quinjet look rather secondhand and about as imposing as an old rusted Chevy. These Avengers don’t have a luxury mansion, a shining skyscraper or untold gazillions to spend on dimensional transporters, but — when faced with saving the city — the team demonstrates why they’re Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Asrar makes that clear, and Dave McCaig’s colors play along; there are no fancy gradients or attempts to dazzle, just a simple embellishment of Asrar’s art, which adds to both the extraordinary and the everyday.
Past Avengers relaunches have largely been intent on making the team bigger and all-encompassing; “All-New, All-Different Avengers” #4 takes the opposite approach. Waid dials back the scope and combines the new and the familiar with a blend that passes the Avengers smell test but freshens it up with new dynamics; the old order changeth, sure, but it’s still recognizable and just as fun.