“Avengers Assemble” #1 is clearly a comic book focused on the concept of acting as a team as a group of villains are collected together under the banner of The Zodiac, convinced cooperation will lead them to greater success. Unfortunately, this is pretty much all that is made clear throughout what proves to be a rather frustrating and confusing issue.
The concept of “Avengers Assemble” is sound: offer another Avengers title focusing directly on the team assembled in this summer’s highly anticipated blockbuster film. The problem with the first issue is the story feels just as forced and cobbled together as the commercial idea behind it — there’s no reason offered for why the Zodiac have formed, which is just the first of many questions the comic leaves us with. What is the secret power being promised by Cancer to the rest of his nefarious team? Why is there an army convoy driving through the desert carrying a precious yet unnamed “package” — and where on Earth are they, for that matter? When we reach Latveria we are offered a scene wherein Hawkeye and Black Widow are staking out an unnamed target; when they peer through the window at their location they react to something “weird” on the other side. We don’t get to know what that is, either. Finally, a big angry Taurus arrives, but do we get to know why he is so angry? I’m sure you can see the frustrating pattern emerging here.
I understand the need in comics — especially superhero comics — to leave an audience with questions. If you leave an audience with nothing but questions, as “Avengers Assemble” #1 does here, we lack any and all reason to care about the punch-fest occurring on the page. Quite uncharacteristic for the extremely talented Mark Bagley’s usual work, the action in “Avengers Assemble” #1 is choppy and unsettling, depicting Hulk at the bottom of a water attack in a prone position in one panel then standing completely dry in the following with the baddie nowhere in sight. Pointless fight scenes like this only serve to undermine any consequences to the actions on the page as the characters will just be fine regardless. If we aren’t given reason to care about the characters, the lack of plot details leaves us even colder. This is not to mention the odd dialogue coming from an unusually-chatty Hulk, whose characteristic monosyllabic rejoinders are uncharacteristically employed in effort to convince soldiers he’s an innocent bystander. This may be in effort to make the Hulk seem more relatable or heroic but it clashes awkwardly with most other depictions of the character.
“Avengers Assemble” #1 is a very strange comic that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. While the movie tie-in will ensure strong sales, I can’t help but get the impression there is no purpose to the book beyond the specific collection of film-adapted characters. It is worth noting Bagley’s pencils in static moments are as strong and clear as ever, bolstered by Paul Mounts’ colors, which bolster the impression of this being a traditional superhero comic. I just wish the plot contained something new, despite the traditional superhero look. With comic shop shelves overflowing with comic books with “Avengers” in the title, the directive of “Avengers Assemble” #1 should have been to provide a driving force to stay aboard for issue #2. Unfortunately, much like whatever the bad guys are up to and whatever’s inside the stolen package, this force is left entirely out of the book.