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Avengers #16 – Review

Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer (Writers), Stefano Caselli (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: A big robot comes crashing down on the Avengers as we see some development on Starbrand and Nightmask.

The Review: It must be really hard to write a proper team book. Having to juggle with different characters, different personalities that can clash together as they face bigger threats that the members might not be able to overcome all on their own. We can all name some team books that are or were more successful than others, yet what made them so memorable for us? Was it the fact that each characters were important and distinct enough so that we got to see enough of them in order to grow to like them? Was it the numerous large or innovative problems they had to solve? Was it simply the action, seeing the characters display their fighting abilities and powers in ways that were impressive?

Many could argue that it takes a bit of all three elements named earlier in order to make a really good superhero team book. When all these things align, we know that we have something that we’ll look forward to each month. However, does Avengers, by the standard of this issue, possess these elements?

Plot wise, I’d have to say that this issue does deliver in a lot of ways, as both Hickman and Spencer advance several elements that can catch the interest of the readers while advancing the main plotline. Here, not only we catch up with what happened in all those early and confusing issues dealing with what happened to the planet, but we also see Nightmask and Starbrand again, two characters that had been teased as being quite important to the future of this title. While both plotline are significant for their own reason, the writers balance them quite well, giving us the burgeoning awareness of Starbrand and his discovery of what he can do and what he has become with the more action-oriented Avengers part. Of course, the issue also delves into other parts as well, as this arc does use what has been built before in order to prepare for Infinity.*

Speaking in more details about the Avengers part, it would also be wise to say that due to this part, we are also given plenty to enjoy when it comes to action. All of what us superhero fans could possibly want is there, like the catchphrase shouting, pose taking and big punches that this genre is famous for. However, it does not go into excess when it comes to that, which is a smart choice as the pacing is divided between scenes with Bruce Banner, Starbrand and Nightmask, A.I.M and Captain Universe. The action is there and does what it can in order to be satisfactory, yet does not overstay its welcome.

What’s divided in a less effective way and could be summarized as one of the weakness of this issue would be the characters themselves. Simply put, a lot of them are pretty much window-dressing and that’s it. It’s a criticism that has been said a good number of times and it is unfortunate to see it continues here. Not a lot of the Avengers have lines and there are some of them that appears only in close to two panels (Black Widow and Hawkeye), which begs the simple question why they had been included in the story to begin with if they had close to no role for them to fulfill beside saying one or two lines of exposition during the arc. If the writers made an effort to include them in the script, the least that could be done is to make their appearance count in a way that fans of these characters could be pleased.

Still, as much as I discuss the plot and how all these different elements can create a good team book, a lot of these things cannot hold a candle to the actual artwork. If a book looks good and has a nice pacing, it can really create something memorable for the readers and thankfully, Stefano Caselli rise up to the task admirably. It’s a treat to see him play with these characters in effective way as he juggle with big cosmic moments, action scenes and the more nuanced scientific details with ease. He makes an effort to make the big moments bigger, the panelling as different as can be on each pages and the action as kinetic as possible. To see him unleashed with this level of quality on a book as important as this shows he has the art chops needed to be a star artist.

One reason why the art is pretty good, though, as the sole credit cannot be attributed to Caselli, is Frank Martin and his work on the colorization. The moments between Nightmask and Starbrand are full of cold colors, valorizing introspection and emotion through dialogue between these characters as the other, tenser moments are filled with warm colors. While I go on and on with the contrast effect when it comes to colors, it does make a huge difference in how the comic is perceived and Martin seems to know and master this technique.

The Conclusion: Even though there are still some trouble with the use of certain characters, there is no doubt that Avengers is very close to its potential as we see many plot threads coming together as the book become more expansive and the action even more intense. With Caselli and Martin on the art, the art match the plot in term of ambition, which is all to the benefit of us readers.

Grade: B+

-Hugo Robberts Larivière

*This buildup containing Captain Universe meeting the Space Knights as she says that the Avengers will need to get bigger. A more cosmic approach to this run? Please make it so, Marvel!

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4 Responses

  1. Gerry O. The entity is clearly not a robot. It’s a suit. The purpose of the “inner narrative” is so the reader realizes there are two minds at work. The “System” that is the automated AI of the suit and the “User” the user is whoever is inside the suit.

    • I must have not been paying attention but I don’t see where the concept of a suit or A.I. was described in the book. Even if you are correct, the inner dialogue still is distracting and I think there are more creative ways to demonstrate the “two minds communicating” convention.

      • It’s not distracting, It is supposed to be the focal point of the readers attention.

        The “User” starts out offine (unconscious)
        The “User” comes online (regains consciousness)
        The “User” becomes confused
        The “User” becomes Afraid
        The “User” Panics
        The “System” sedates the “User”

        All the while this goes on the “System” is battling the Avengers taking care not to kill anyone of them. You will notice it didn’t use the same intensity on Thor as it did Hawkeye.

        The writer is being subtle. He is letting the reader slowly discover on their own that the entity is more than just a robot. He does this rather than just spell it out by letting us see inside the suit.

  2. Although I was a big fan of the New Universal way back when Hickman is reinterpreting these characters so that I’m not overly familiar with them and so I enjoyed the quiet, introspective, teacher and student moments more than the battle scenes. I agree that team books can be frustrating in that if some robot destroyer type monster were to show up in Thor’s solo book or Cap’s or even Haweye’s, I’m pretty sure the hero would find some way to defeat the villain. I’m also not crazy about the “inner narrative” exposition of the robot. It is unnecessary and distracting. We get that the robot is analyzing each attack and adjusting its response. There are better ways to graphically demonstrate this pretty basic comic convention. Regardless, I enjoy where Hickman is taking the team.

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