By: Al Ewing (Writer), Greg Land (Penciller), Jay Leisten (Inker), Frank D’Armata (Color Artist), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Francesco Francavilla (Cover Artist)
Who’s the black New York cop
On the “freak beat” with a hero squad?
DAD! Ya damn right.
Who is the man that would throw down
With a were-beast man?
DAD! Can you dig it?
Who is the cat that will team up
With Afro Blade and his goggles?
DAD! Right on.
They say that Cage’s dad
Is a bad mother – (Shut your mouth)
But I’m talkin’ ’bout his DAD – (We can dig it)
He’s a complicated man
Who’s been hidin’ all this stuff from his son
I’m not sure how much it was planned to have this issue coincide with Father’s Day weekend in the U.S., but it sure was appropriate. This issue is all about Luke Cage’s dad, James Geary, and an untold tale of what we can dub the “70s’ Mighty Avengers.”
I’d like to get the familiar criticisms out of the way and take the opportunity to add one more. First, yes, Greg Land displays his usual strengths and weaknesses. In particular, I’d point out the double-page spread of the Kaluu-Blade fight as a strength, and the utter lack of any visual context with the page-turn appearance of “the Bear” that does nothing more than serve as an opportunity to show a very Land-y fashion pose. The colorist is also to blame on that one. Really, the only thing connecting that “panel” to the ongoing story is the dialogue.
My new criticism is about the premise of Original Sin itself, which is central to the story of this issue. The conceit of the crossover is easily summarized as the “Truth Bomb” unleashed in the core series, but if you start to think about it, it kind of falls apart. Why do some particular “sins” stick with some and not others? There’s no logic to it, really, except for the metatextual reason that it will set up the story that is “supposed” to be told. And in this case, it’s not really a sin per se, although I suppose Sins of Omission are counted in some circles.
To his credit, Ewing allows the characters to genuinely hash out this set-up over the course of a couple of pages, including some footnoted nods to previous continuity. It’s not that Cage knows everything, just what images he latched onto during his brush with cosmic awareness. The fact that it allows for a flashback that will tie into the ongoing subplot is also a bonus. Ewing takes something that seems arbitrary and has the story/characters convince us it’s not.
Another strength is Ewing’s ability to capture voice in his characters. Not only is Geary’s voice distinct from his son in the present, but more impressively, when the story goes into flashback, the narrative captions capture a “noir” voice perfectly. This is helped by the colors immediately shifting to blue-toned washes, and suddenly the book becomes a crime comic. Brashear, Kaluu, Blade– they all have their individual cadence and character. Notice, too, the deliberate way Geary chides his son about swearing in the beginning, then can do nothing but swear himself when acknowledging “there’s $#!% [he needs] to hear.”
Returning to oft-repeated “criticisms,” however, once again the comic fails to deliver a true team book as promised in the beginning of the series, especially when the majority of the comic is concerned with the extended flashback. Really, if the book is turning into a “non-team,” then I would suggest titling it The Mighty Defenders instead, but that would pretty much guarantee a tanking of sales in today’s market.
The Bottom Line: Mighty Avengers is a great comic deserving of any superhero fan– full of fun ideas, solid character voicing, firmly built upon Marvel Universe lore, and deftly interweaving long-term and current crossover continuity. The artistic storytelling is what you’d expect, for good or ill, but it doesn’t detract from what really should be a core title in Marvel’s line.
The Grade: A-
Three Other Tidbits:
— Left-Handed Alert! Most of the times I just dismiss them, but it always kind of bugs me when I see artists drawing characters left-handed by default, usually because it means they are unconscious of doing so. Geary points a gun at a moment too key for me NOT to comment, and since Molina is RIGHT THERE BEHIND him using her right hand, I wonder if it’s supposed to be an error or not.
— I’m sure there’s a valid reason for so many names to be thrown around: Geary, Lucas, Cage. But even a continuity geek like me is hard-pressed to remember how that is all supposed to streamline together
— On the other hand, I absolutely love the little Easter Eggs to other bits of obscure continuity, like Cap’n Hip (reference to Marvel’s “Lost Generation”) and X the Thing that Lived (a classic Kirby monster.)