For anyone who's argued that Brian Michael Bendis hasn't written a 'real' Avengers comic before -- whatever that means -- the first issue of the newly relaunched "Avengers" should silence those criticisms. This issue has a feeling reminiscent of the last time "Avengers" was relaunched by Kurt Busiek and George Perez. There's that same feeling of a return to a time that, let's be honest, never existed. Part that return, part a celebration of the idea of the Avengers being the preeminent team in the Marvel universe, "Avengers" #1 sets things up by introducing the team and having trouble quickly finding it.
Beginning in the future of the DVD film "Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow," the story revolves around the children of some of the Avengers overcoming the tyrannical rule of Ultron only to become tyrants themselves. Kang confronts the new Avengers team, demanding that they help him stop the next generation of the group before they unmake the universe through their arrogance and misuse of power. While the Avengers don't quite jump into the fray yet, the plot introduction plays out well with Kang's self-serving desires actually doubling as a heroic idea. Of course, there appears to be more to Kang and his plan.
Before Kang's arrival, we see Steve Rogers building up the Avengers, presumably not just this team, as he recruits a variety of heroes from the team's recent history and, specifically, brings together the main squad. With Maria Hill as his liaison, the new team draws heavily upon the New Avengers, but with the addition of Thor. Wisely, Bendis just jumps into things, presenting us with the new team, allowing for a small bit of interaction before Kang arrives -- and is promptly met with Thor's greeting for the villain in a fantastically executed sequence. It's quick and big and exactly what you expect from a comic like this.
Despite my comparison to the Busiek/Perez "Avengers" relaunch, the execution here isn't exactly the same. Busiek and Bendis have very different approaches and styles, but the larger feeling is what's shared. Both relaunches have that 'the Avengers are back!' feeling built in with heroes gathering, old villains returning, and a problem that only the Avengers can solve presented.
Plus, there's John Romita, Jr. providing the art. Sometime in the last ten years, Romita went from a very solid, well-liked artist to being the defining Marvel artist of his generation. With over 30 years in the business and almost every piece of art done for Marvel, Romita has worked on such a wide variety of Marvel titles and characters that him drawing "Avengers" seems like a perfect fit. Who else but the definitive contemporary Marvel artist for the definitive contemporary Marvel title? And he knocks it out of the park here.
Romita shows off his ability to do big, dramatic moments of action, and to deliver the smaller character moments, like the two-page sequence of heroes' reactions to Rogers asking them to be part of his Avengers. While there are a lot of smiles, there's also a healthy mix of surprise, and even muted reactions. Romita carries that over to the early scenes in Avengers Tower where the new team mingle a little before being interrupted by Kang. Then, it's heightened emotion and a more dynamic feel to the art.
Included in this issue is the first part of an oral history of the Avengers by Bendis that's made up of people talking about the group beginning with the formation. It's an interesting idea, but Bendis' execution is a little sloppy. Some voices, like Thor's, don't sound right, while others go a little overboard. In an effort to make the story come through as real as possible, what we get doesn't quite match what we see in the comics, even his as far as tone goes. That it continues in "New Avengers" #1 is a good way to link the books, but could turn off some readers who just want to buy one of the titles.
"Avengers" #1 does exactly what it needs to: heralds the beginning of "The Heroic Age" with the reformation of the Avengers. Bendis's writing has the appropriate weight to it and Romita on art helps a great deal in getting the epic feeling across. This is the title that some fans have been clamoring for ever since Bendis wrote "Avengers Disassembled" and it's a fantastic debut.