This week saw the release of Marvel Comics’ The Avengers #7 by Mark Waid, Jeremy Whitely, Phil Noto, Mike Del Mundo, Marco D’Alfonso and Cory Petit which had the big hook of being the series’ debut of none other than Victor Von Doom, The Infamous Iron Man. The one-off issue was a welcome break from the confusing time-travel Kang The Conqueror story of the previous arc; more than setting up stories to come in the future, it provided the perfect model for an Avengers story in 2017 and introduced the next great comic book double-act that no-one was expecting.
The highlight of the issue was the back-and-forth between Von Doom and Nadia Pym, aka The Unstoppable Wasp. While the rest of the Avengers know all about Doom and have fought him countless times, Nadia only knows what she heard of him when she was growing up as part of Russia’s Red Room (an assassin training program for young girls). As a result, she sees him more as one of the most accomplished scientific minds of his generation who also managed to master the mystic arts rather than one of the world’s biggest supervillains. Doom, meanwhile, partly in an attempt to prove to the Avengers that his intentions with the team are pure, treats Nadia as a peer both in science and in superheroics, and trusts her to be the key player in his plan.
Doom and Nadia’s dialogue is so charming and appealing, it feels almost out of place in this current Avengers volume which so far has been all about big, fate-of-the-spacetime-continuum drama. It’s exactly what the series needed, though, and allows all of the characters, not just Doom and The Wasp, to showcase character development, personality and their role within the team outside of what is expected of them as a superhero.
Doom’s inclusion in The Avengers may not have seemed like the greatest idea at the time it was announced, but having established himself as a repentant former villain seeking acceptance as a hero, his presence on the team shakes things up in all the right ways. It’s reminiscent of when the Avengers would welcome members such as Hawkeye and The Vision, characters who started out as enemies but eventually became trusted members of the team. Doom as an Avenger is kind of like adding a new member to your team in an RPG — it unlocks a ton of new bonus interactions, and it’s going to be great to see how the likes of Spider-Man, Thor and Hercules deal with having Doctor Doom watching their backs.
The plot of the story is a charming one-off that sees Doom forced to seek the Avengers’ aid in dealing with a mystic disturbance located at a girls’ camp named after Susan Storm. The villains of the issue are teenage girls meddling in power beyond their ken, and the story is way more about the journey than the destination, an approach that is absolutely fine for a book like this. The Avengers, as a team and as a franchise, has been what dictated the Marvel Universe’s direction for so long under the watch of creators like Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, that it’s a breath of fresh air to see them simply get to be superheroes.
Right now, Marvel’s line is being directed by the course of the Captain America titles, and while Secret Empire is overtly a result of that, Civil War II ultimately proved to be a result of that as well as Steve Rogers manipulated the events to his favor within his own title. Doom’s introduction to the title gives The Avengers a chance to shake off the shackles of what’s “important” in the greater Marvel Universe, and focus on being fun superhero stories featuring your favorite characters.
The previous arc of The Avengers didn’t quite live up to that; starting the volume with a confusing Kang The Conqueror crosstime caper came off as confusing at best and alienating at worst. Some this might come down to the addition of Jeremy Whitely’s fresh voice breathing new life into Waid’s Avengers as the Princeless writer also co-wrote the best issues of the previous volume when the series was All-New, All-Different Avengers. Whitely also stewards The Wasp in her solo series alongside Elsa Charretier, and has the strongest handle on the character’s bubbly and unique voice, which is key to making this standalone issue successful.
Phil Noto’s art is as dependable and gorgeous as ever in this issue, and the color assist from regular series artist Mike Del Mundo makes the pages sing. As the issue goes on and more magical aspects of the plot are introduced, the colors help carry the entire narrative and the whole creative team seems to be working in perfect sync. Del Mundo, with assists from Marco D’Alfonso manages to capture the retro-nostalgic feel of Noto’s iconic style while keeping the tone and palette of his own run on the previous arc, which is an impressive tightrope to walk.
The one thing that deserves some criticism is Noto’s take on The Wasp, who has unrecognizable long-locks that make her look more like a brown-haired version of Noto’s Black Widow than the spunky, energy-filled Nadia Pym we’re used to from Charretier. It’s not even necessarily Noto’s fault, but it feels like someone in editorial should have told him to lop off a few inches whenever Nadia is on panel. Aside from that, it’s as beautifully drawn as it is well-written and marks a perfect jumping on point for the series if you were put off by the opening story arc and its confusing time-travel shenanigans.
The next arc of The Avengers sees the return of Avenger X, who was introduced in Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s The Avengers: Four miniseries. Unfortunately, if you didn’t read that title, then it’s just more confusing continuity so far, like the “Kang War One” arc. The Avengers as a franchise has felt aimless since Jonathan Hickman’s departure but this issue provides Marvel with a blueprint of where it should go for 2017. Hopefully, we get more stories like this in the future and less stories about what The Avengers mean to Marvel’s past and future continuity. This is way more fun.