The aftermath of one of Marvel’s most widely-panned event comics for some time might not seem like the most fertile ground for launching a new ongoing series, but “Avengers A.I.” #1, by writer Sam Humphries and artist Andre Lima Araujo, has the two things a launch needs: talented creators and a strong premise.
That said, it does notionally spin out of the conclusion of Marvel’s latest “Age of Ultron” crossover in a fairly direct way. Hank Pym, having created an evolving virus to defeat Ultron, must bring his new creation under control. To do that, he assembles a new team of Avengers to contain the damage — a team currently comprised of A.I.s.
Leaving aside the question of whether A.I.s are a good choice for attacking an aggressively spreading A.I. (isn’t that a bit like fighting fire with gasoline?) the idea of a tech-focused Avengers team is potentially interesting. Placing Hank Pym at the center makes sense, giving him a well-defined role beyond “the insecure, potentially crazy one”, and Humphries’ characterization goes a long way towards making the character likeable. Much of the issue seems to be devoted to setting up Hank as a lead, but frankly the character needs it. Humphries’ strength is that he convinces, rather than instructs, readers to get on Hank’s side.
One potential concern this issue raises regards the scope of ability shown by the current team members, Vision, Doombot and former Runaway Victor Mancha. The former’s upgrades seem unusually high-level (sure to be a plot point sooner or later) but the abilities of the latter pair are only vaguely defined. The personalities of each are distinct (Doombot is great, and sure to be an instant favorite), so it’s not as if they don’t have a reason to be in the cast. When a team has three robots on it, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a clear demonstration of how their powers differ, just as you’d expect a “Martial Arts Avengers” comic to clearly demonstrate how Iron Fist, Daredevil and Wolverine’s abilities differ in its first issue.
Araujo’s pencils are mostly good, but consistency is a slight issue. In his best moments, you can see a Jimmy Cheung’s influence creeping in, but you can also spot some of Cheung’s weaknesses in the repetitive, blank expressions. Most of the time the action is fluid and the framing inventive, but then other times, the fundamentals are off (the perspective on Monica Chang in one panel is all wrong). That said, it’s not a bad looking book by any stretch, and Araujo definitely has the range to execute Humphries’ script.
Recent Marvel launches have a lot of strong competition, but “Avengers A.I.” #1 manages to stand out as something other than just another “Avengers” book. It’s got its own feel, a cast of somewhat obscure characters and a unique concept driving it. That’s more than enough to convince me to stick around for the next issue.