New Avengers #1

Surprisingly slow to get started, "New Avengers" #1 is a disappointingly average first issue -- but with some redeeming glimmers of life. As the new members of Avengers Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) investigate a disturbance in Paris, Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval can't quite give this large cast and lackluster plot the necessary spark, and some front-loaded exposition drags the momentum out of the story. It isn't an exciting first adventure. However, Ewing already has a great handle on some of his characters' voices and, given more time, the team dynamic in this book could be a winner. For now, though, "New Avengers" #1 doesn't come out swinging.

There's something to be said for a "new" title that really does shake up its team membership, and "New Avengers" deserves that credit. I was personally excited to see a lot of these characters back in action, and the creative team has assembled a solid mix of personalities. Unfortunately, as a result of the changes, much of the issue is devoted to exposition. Ewing not only needs to introduce the members of the New Avengers who are heading to Paris -- Wiccan, White Tiger, Power Man, Songbird, Squirrel Girl, Hulkling, Tippy-Toe -- but also the A.I.M team on Avengers Island -- Sunspot, POD, Dr. Max Brashear and Dr. Toni Ho -- as well as Hawkeye and Dum Dum Dugan from S.H.I.E.L.D. Even without the villains, that's nearly as many characters as there are pages. It's the sort of front-loading that would slow almost any issue down and, as a result, "New Avengers" #1 takes a while to get moving.

Even once it gets going, the juxtaposition between the Paris scenario and Sunspot's chummy audit with S.H.I.E.L.D keeps the danger from feeling pressing. At the beginning of the issue, the two are presented as almost equivalent threats, but -- once it's clear Dum Dum is feeling friendly toward A.I.M. -- Sunspot doesn't switch his energy over to the Paris situation. He's still playing pool as he discusses logistics with the team. As a result, the plot feels low-stakes even in the world of the book.

The artwork doesn't help matters, as there's a real tonal dissonance between the script and the artwork. Ewing's dialogue is at its best when it gets downright cozy, but Sandoval's jacked-up, hyper-muscled heroes look forever on the defensive. Wiccan frequently looks like he has the same physique as Hulkling, and characters' eyes are occasionally so hooded that they don't even have irises. Sandoval draws a harder, darker world than the humor and informality in the dialogue might suggest.

This is especially noticeable because that humor and Ewing's sense of these characters are "New Avengers" #1's saving grace. While the team roles are still rather stock -- the clown, the straight man, the leader -- the dialogue already feels natural and full of character for quite a few of them. Squirrel Girl's can-do attitude and the Maker's smugness both made me want to read on far more than the plot did.

All told, "New Avengers" #1 doesn't put its best foot forward, but there's reason to believe it will pick up in issues to come.

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