Wait, there *wasn’t* an Avengers team for a while? That’s… hard to believe, especially with the Avengers property remaining the cornerstone of Marvel Comics publishing, but that’s the status quo our story seems to be starting with, so let’s see where it goes.
Or, actually, the real start was one of their heroes shouting “You’re a JERK!” at another one. Wow. Such an auspicious beginning. But that was just the teaser, as it were. The remainder of the main is about how the team will be forming from “nothing.” Not even an Avengers Tower, which is being dismantled after some supposed money problems from don’t-worry-he’s-still-rich Tony Stark. He’s just not RICH-rich, you see. Nevertheless, it’s the scene of a casual encounter between him, Captain America, and Spider-Man Jr. versus the giant alien Warbringer.
Before that can be resolved, the issue is broken into a second half that features a completely separate casual encoutner between Ms. Marvel and Nova. The resultant shift between the two parts is a bit disappointing, with two different reading experiences instead of one. I can understand an artist shift may necessitate a distinct split betweent the A story and the B story; maybe it was impossible to allow one part to be a subplot for a main story that spreads across all 21 pages. But when it’s an already-fragmented narrative that features characters who are not even on a team at this point, it’s hard to read this as an “Avengers” story, let alone one that’s meant to be a replacement for the Avengers to the lay Marvel universe citizen. Instead, it’s got the feel of an anthology. A done-in-one set-up, or even something a bit more en media res than a single page of name-calling, may have felt more substantial.
Still, a key selling point is the scripting and the clear voices for each character. The world-weariness of Captain America, the awkwardness of Teen Spidey and the stumbling Nova are all quite distinct, and in the latter cases even endearing and charming. The sequential panelling is well-paced, too, creating a nice timing between elements of dialouge and thought-bubbles (remember those!?) or other interchange of dialogue. The appearance of Warbringer is similarly neatly timed, in an example of a step-by-step sequence works nicely. (In others’ hands it might end up looking more like cinematic storyboarding and not comicbookery. And yes, I do believe those should be distinct artforms.)
Of course, Waid and Kubert are master storytellers, although there are a couple of things that are of mixed success. Some are minor, like the dialogue of a crowd messing with the flow when reading the main characters’ interactions. Others are a bit more serious, like not understanding the full import of the man who apparently owns the former Avengers Tower now. There’s some strange display of power and some shifting camera angles that leave a lot to interpretation rather than being clear. It’s one thing to be mysterious and another to be too obtuse to realize you’re trying to be mysterious.
The art of Mahmud Asrar in the second half has some staging problems as well, but this time due to the size-changing nature of Ms. Marvel’s powers. It creates some awkward sequences where Ms. Marvel is the focal point, making everyone else appear like they’ve shrunk, and the lack of backgrounds remove all context, leaving the reader nothing to reference. The strength, though, is certainly in the expressive emoting from our characters, a clear weakness in Kubert’s offering in the first half.
What’s interesting is how branding really does affect the the impression of the contents. Calling it All-New All-Different Avengers means you are entering the comic with a set of expectations, an anticipation of a certain kind of flavour. Imagine, for example, if this comicbook was titled Young Avengers instead. Wouldn’t the expectation change, and actually enhance the reading? What we got now makes me wonder why Spider-Man Jr., Ms. Marvel and Nova are getting in the way of reading about Captain America and Iron Man. I have no problems with Cap and I-Man getting in the way of reading about the three youth, but that’s just me. I’m sure Waid is aware of this, but we’re talking about significant age gaps that will necessitate a particular kind of interaction. There’s a reason why people tend to read teams of all teens OR of all grown-ups. Perhaps having a blend of the two is the real All-Different experiment that’s going to play out here.
It’s got a very serviceable story somewhere in there, but it’s shooting itself in the foot with certain choices, most notable of which is to divide the book in half as if it’s an anthology of stories before the team is even fully formed. The art has some hits or misses, and the main villain Warbringer is less significant than a mystery man, but there’s not enough time to develop either beyond vagueness and/or cliché. We have yet to see the team truly interact beyond just Captain America and Iron Man, so it’s difficult to see who the breakout star or the point-of-view character is meant to be. Because the voices are so strong and the interactions are poised to be intriguing, I’ll continue to give it a shot, but things will have to feel more cohesive and more meaningful to be worthy of the “Avengers” title.