You have to give Brian Michael Bendis this much – when you figure he will zig, he zags. I don’t think anyone would have expected that the first issue of the whole “return to the classic Avengers” deal would revolve around the plot of the Marvel Straight-to-DVD movie, “Next Avengers,” about the sons and daughters of the Avengers in the future. Nor would you expect a comic that was more or less marketed as “here, old school Avengers fans, a comic to make you happy” to include a plot point that will most likely greatly irritate “old school” Avengers fans.
Avengers #1 – a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma – and also a good comic book, to boot!
The issue was drawn by John Romita Jr., and I suppose it works as a bit of a Rorschach test for your art tastes – I like Romita Jr., so I thought it looked good, but if you’re not a fan of his, I don’t think this issue will suddenly turn you around.
Here are some preview pages (the last four pages are meant to be read as two double-page spreads, I just didn’t feel like going through the extra effort of merging the two files together, so use your imagination, people!)…
As I noted above, those kids are the kids from the Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow DVD movie that came out in 2008. What I like about how Bendis introduces them into Marvel continuity, though, is that you really don’t have to know about the movie to get the comic. Look at that sequence above – if you didn’t know that there was a movie featuring those characters, you’d just be “okay, these are some new characters who look sort of like the Avengers” and then when you find out later in the issue that they are the sons and daughters of the Avengers you’d be like, “Oh, okay.”
That’s a great bit of continuity. Reminds me of last week’s Return of Bruce Wayne, with the usage of Vandal Savage and Anthro – if you get it, you get it – if you don’t, well, you still “get it”, just in a different way.
The Wonder Man scene above is the thing that I was telling you about in the beginning. I must say, it made me laugh when I first read it. I thought, “Imagine the old school Avenger fan reading this comic, going ‘Oh boy, my Avengers are back’ and right off the bat, one of their favorites is acting all weird and villain-y.” Hilarious.
By the way, “Oh, Simon, how can you say that?” That was a really weird line from Cap.
In case you were wondering “When was Wonder Man in jail?” Wonder Man went to prison during the Dark Reign: Lethal Legion mini-series by Frank Tieri and Mateus Santolouco. So yes, prominent references for this issue of Avengers include a straight-to-DVD movie and a mini-series barely anyone read. That mini-series, by the way, was riffing off a plot point from New Avengers #51 (#51, right?) where Wonder Man began ripping the concept of the Avengers on national television (that it was Wonder Man who did it seemed to be one of those “pull a name from a hat” type of deals – which was especially weird since it was Bendis himself who most recently had used Wonder Man in Mighty Avengers, and Brian Reed also had him as a supporting cast member in Ms. Marvel at around the same time, and his actions in those places sure didn’t seem to line-up with going off on the concept of heroism on national TV, but I guess when it was something like “we need an Avenger who is not currently being used in any other comic to go off on the concept of the Avengers – who’s available? Stingray? Living Lightning? That’s it? Okay, Wonder Man it is!”). It’s not really a big deal, though – the dude went to prison due to a plot by his evil brother, it’s certainly understandable that he’d be a bit shaken, and so long as he doesn’t become, like, an outright villain, it’ll be okay.
Steve Rogers’ reasoning behind putting together the “main” Avengers team is very good, as it is pretty much “all the most famous heroes.” We get a lot of nice character bits, particularly between Hawkeye, Spider-Man and Spiderwoman, especially as the latter deals with being in the “big leagues.” Hawkeye’s return to being Hawkeye was handled nicely. Iron Man and Steve have some nice intereactions. Bendis does a fine job mixing all the characters together. Although one thing that struck me as odd was the whole “Thor doesn’t know who Bucky-Cap is” thing – seriously, no one mentioned to Thor who the guy dressed as Captain America that he’s fought alongside of three times now (Secret Invasion, Siege and Iron Man Disassembled) is? Seemed like a pretty big stretch just for a minor joke.
Anyhow, once the team is put together, the rest of the issue involves an interesting use of Kang as he tries to enlist the Avengers in stopping their children in the future. Bendis does some interesting stuff with time travel that was fun to see (like the concept of Iron Man seeing Kang wielding a powerful device that Iron Man recognizes from an IDEA he had, an idea that he promised himself he would never actually see come to fruition, and yet, since Kang has it, he must have done so in the future).
The end of the issue is weird, in that Bendis goes to the Next Avengers till again for the cliffhanger ending, which is odd, because if you didn’t see the movie, you’ll likely think it’s a certain “imperfect” Peter David character, so I don’t know if it really works as much of a cliffhanger. But I’m cool with that, because even if you don’t know who the character is, you at least know that there’s SOME twist and a mystery to be solved the next issue, which is okay by me.
So what you have in the issue is an intriguing addition of new characters into Marvel continuity, an impressive “bringing the team back together” series of scenes, a great use of Kang, a mysterious and interesting villain and some very nice John Romita Jr. artwork. All together, that’s a fine package!
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