Marvel’s “Free Comic Book Day 2015: Avengers” is a giveaway aimed to both promote existing properties and to get readers excited about new ones. It’s the latter that will grab most people’s attention, with Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar giving readers a teaser for the upcoming “All-New, All-Different Avengers” title. Despite that book’s title, it’s actually very much in line with the Avengers franchise as a whole.
Waid’s new lineup is a mix of old and new faces, with some falling into both categories. Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and the Vision are all on board, although in the case of Thor and Captain America we have the new heroes using those titles. Likewise, the new Ms. Marvel, Nova, and (fresh from the Ultimate Universe) Spider-Man are on board, reveling in their brand-new membership with the Avengers. It’s the latter three that might cause some eyebrows to rise but, in many ways, it’s completely in touch with how the Avengers lineup has always gone. Ever since the first big roster shuffling (adding Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to the title), the book has always reveled in bringing in the new, the young, the zeitgeist. That’s exactly what Waid accomplishes here; he’s taking the big new heroes of the 21st century and putting them onto a team that should continue to serve as Marvel’s centerpiece. It’s a smart move and one that should serve him well, both in terms of freshness as well as story potential (by using characters that aren’t full-time or even terribly seasoned heroes).
The story itself is archetypal, as the new members of the Avengers go through the paces and remind the readers of the primary Avengers directive. The older members fight off a dragon outside a bank, while inside the kids go up against the Radioactive Man and have to make a hard decision. It’s nothing that a seasoned superhero fan hasn’t already seen, but the story isn’t about the surprise; it’s about the route taken to get to the conclusion. It hits all the correct points about what it means to be a hero and, for new readers who have come into a comic store for the first time on Free Comic Book Day, they might even get a little surprise and squeal of delight as everything plays out.
Asrar is a good choice for this title; his art is very clean and easy to follow, and his character expressions sell Waid’s story. Look at the pure glee on Ms. Marvel’s face on page one, and the crestfallen, defeated look we get from her on page two. They’re clearly the same person, but it’s a night and day transformation between them; he’s nailing every single emotional beat. The action sequences also flow well; this ten page story has a lot of moments with Avengers zooming through the air and Asrar takes care to have them all converging on just the right spot, so that the reader’s eye never gets lost. Add in some pleasing and never-overstated colors from Frank Martin and it’s a good look for anyone, whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned reader.
A backup feature by Charles Soule and Brandon Peterson is also included, pushing the upcoming “Uncanny Inhumans.” Marvel’s pushing the Inhumans hard right now — not only in comics but also in their live-action properties — and this comic is another attempt to do so. Here more than ever, it’s hard to not think of them as a replacement for mutants, as Soule gives us two people in Mumbai, India whose Inhuman genes suddenly activate and they transform into something different.
There’s very little plot here; it’s essentially another primer on what it means to be an Inhuman, both in terms of a sudden transformation and also in being a valuable asset to those who would misuse the powers. In that regard, it’s not bad, but the story still feels a little half-baked. One of the two new Inhuman characters doesn’t reappear after the halfway mark (and feels almost like an afterthought), and there’s nothing really to make either one of them interesting. It’s a problem with the existing “Inhumans” right now, and I’m still not entirely sure that this is going to be an easy sell to a mass audience. At the end of the Avengers story in this comic, even if you haven’t encountered the characters before, there’s a little bit of a hook to want to find out more about them. Here, while the concept itself is interesting, there’s nothing to hang your attention on any of the actual characters running around, and that’s a shame.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen art from Peterson, and his style has continued to evolve. It reminds me a lot of Greg Land’s photo-based art, but with a bit more looseness and energy so that it never feels stiff or posed. The transformed Ajay looks otherworldly yet slightly relatable, which is a tough combination to pull off but executed perfectly here. Dinesh also comes across well here, looking tough at first, but then panic moves across his face as the odds begin to turn against him. Peterson was a smart choice for this feature and, hopefully, this is the start of having more art from him on a regular basis.
“Free Comic Book Day 2015: Avengers” hits the mark with its Avengers story; there’s a little something for old and new readers alike, and I’m looking forward to seeing Waid and Asrar’s new series when it kicks off later this year. While the backup Inhumans feature isn’t quite as attention-grabbing, it does serve as a reasonable introduction to the idea of the Inhumans; if Marvel’s going to make their upcoming film a success, they could use boosts like this to make them more center stage. As a free comic book given away to a wide audience, this offering is most definitely a success.