It’s always a fun time when Joe Casey pops in to visit the Marvel universe for a mini-series. Cool ideas, fun new characters, and an odd amount of callbacks to old comics. Casey has that rare ability to mix the old and the new and, for “Vengeance,” he even throws in his own previous work for Marvel as part of the ‘old’ with callbacks to “The Last Defenders,” “Avengers: The Origin,” and his “Uncanny X-Men” run. It’s quite a bit of fun for longtime Casey readers and skirts along the surface enough that those unfamiliar won’t feel left out. Though, they may have trouble keeping up with everything that Casey and Nick Dragotta pack into this first issue.
Exactly what’s going on in “Vengeance” #1 isn’t always clear. There are two main plots that run through the issue with various subplots popping up here and there, culminating in a five-panel page that seems like an overture for the entire series, dropping hints about the larger structure. The two plots that dominate this comic both converge in the same place: a new Teen Brigade, following in the tradition of Rick Jones and other groups dating back to the first World War. It’s an interesting idea to hang a series on, especially when the group features characters like Angel and Beak as support staff and new characters the Ultimate Nullifier and Miss America Chavez.
The new Miss America takes a trip into a secret base of some sort to rescue what appears to be a teenage hipster version of the In-Betweener while the Ultimate Nullifier protects Stacy X from the likes of Magneto while partying it up with pop sensation Sugar Kane. In between these adventures, there’s also the Red Skull meeting with Hitler during World War 2, Kyle Richmond scaring up a mission for the Last Defenders, and all of this having something to do with “Fear Itself.” Maybe.
The pacing is frenetic and helped a great deal by Dragotta’s detailed, dynamic art. He gives pages a strong flow to help usher the reader along on their quick trip through the back pages of the Marvel Universe. He changes up his line work throughout the issue to suit each character; Nullifier is done in thin lines and less detail, looking like he jumped out of a Mike Allred comic almost, while Magneto gets thicker lines and more crosshatching, looking like he came out of a different comic. When they fight, Dragotta just burns the pages up with cool moves and one giant variation on the Pele that Magneto never knew what hit him.
That parts of the comic aren’t clear isn’t much of a worry. This is the requisite set up issue and Casey has decided to throw as much at the reader as possible, leaving explanations for later. Instead, it’s about whetting the appetite and letting Dragotta strut his stuff. As always, Casey’s annual return to Marvel starts well and promises even better to come.