Avengers Annual #1

There always seems to be something special about Christmas-themed comic book stories, and Kathryn Immonen and David Lafuente truly do put something special in comic fans' stockings in the form of the hilariously uplifting "Avengers Annual" #1. It's Christmas Eve at Avengers Tower, and there are fortunately no super-villains, natural disasters, or otherworldly menaces plaguing the team on what starts out as a relatively silent night. But all is neither calm nor bright, as an unexpected threat emerges from within as the team disperses to settle down for their respective long winter's naps.

This threat, though, is really no threat at all, but instead a rather comical misunderstanding that fuels an issue's worth of laughs and good cheer. It's the kind of story that's sorely welcomed after the enjoyable but exhausting "Infinity" event had dominated the Avengers titles for the past several months. The Avengers who remain in the tower come Christmas Eve are all looking for a little bit of solitude, but when a super powered teenage girl named Zamira seeking the same thing attempts to do so in a tower that's not as deserted as she believes it to be, no one gets the peace and quiet they're seeking.

Zamira's voice-based powers cause all kinds of commotion when interacting with Tony Stark's new defense systems for the tower which are, guess what, voice-based. But this kind of irony only part of makes Immonen's story so delightful. The funny bits, like the Hulk trying to be polite but getting a door smashed into his face for his trouble, are priceless. Immonen's character dialogue is clever and loose; Cap, for example, shows his upbringing by uttering exclamations like "Nuts!" and "Shoot!" Immonen's Steve Rogers is a man who clings to memories of the past, but not at the expense of the present, and is perfectly comfortable using an iPad to look at old photos. Speaking of Cap, the sole sequence outside of Avengers tower is Cap volunteering at a nearby soup kitchen and befriending a homeless vet. The scene has its comic moments but is also poignant, exemplifying both the spirit of Cap, and the spirit of Christmas. It's a diversion from the lighter mood of the rest of the issue, but is well-placed as a sort of interlude.

Lafuente has a loose style of his own, one that's well-suited to the lighter nature of this issue's story but also works well for the aforementioned Cap scene. Lafuente adds a comic touch exactly where necessary; an exaggerated facial expression here, a slapstick moment there, and perfectly complements Immonen's superb comic timing. He also excels at drawing a kinder and funnier Hulk, robots, and snowy New York City streets.

"Avengers Annual" #1 is a very fun, enjoyable and kind-spirited Christmas delight, and not a bad value with a thirty-page story for five bucks. It's a great treat for aficionados of both The Avengers and Christmas stories, delivering excellent examples of both.

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