Well, let’s just say it. I’m not taking to this series. As much as it pains this die-hard Avengers- fan, who actually can take a lot of things the various series have thrown him over the years, it just seems to ring a little hollow.
The overall plot features the villain Warbringer, who ends up being a step or two above a generic villain but not much more. Aside from some of the collateral property damage and vain posturing, the guy doesn’t really seem threatening on a real gut level, so it’s hard to take him seriously. Essentially, he wants to take some artifacts and bring an army to Earth, so the real threat is even another level removed— a kind of theoretical threat. I mean, yes, we probably should fear North Korea’s nuclear capabliity but that doesn’t really affect the guy holding up the line at Starbucks in the morning, so the “evil” doesn’t resonate the same way. Also, it’s kind of an art problem, since the threat appears in a giant glowing panel that’s meant to be a portal of some kind. For most of the issue I assumed these were all flashback kinds of panels and not an actual physical portal that was appearing, as the aliens on the other side are depicted with heads the same size as the skyscrapers around them.
The other feature of the story is, of course, the gathering of a new team of Avengers, with both old guard and new heroes. The interaction of the heroes similarly goes through some motions that are meant to resonate, but they don’t connect. Most of the time, the dialogue is in service to the story, with little nuance or emotional connection. Examples of what works? When Ms. Marvel keeps interrupting Iron Man’s sentence that offers recruitment. Or pretty much all of Spider-Man Jr.’s reaction lines. Otherwise, though, everyone ticks off the checklist. Iron Man can be smarmy, Vision can be dispassionate, Thor can be… well, she doesn’t really get anything signicant to say and could have been left out of the story without any real effect.
Actually, that’s the problem. Aside from Nova, who has a connection to the main villain, all of the characters could have been left out of the story without any real effect. Maybe Iron Man, who arbitrarily can form an Avengers team for no reason other than I guess he was involved the first time it happened fifty years ago.
I like most of these characters, though, and it would be interesting to see them really connect, or to have villains and situations that allow characters to be pushed in interesting ways. What I fear, however, is an inherent problem with the set-up— having a mixed generation group like this is difficult. Young people interact in one way with each other, and older people interact another, and both interact in another way when mixed together. Anyone watching the varied groups in a mall’s food court knows what I mean. Or watches a TV show set in a high school. Watch how the plots bounce from looking at the students and/or the teachers, but rarely both. The series is setting itself up to be tied to a specific kind of interaction that may or may not ring true.
Also, I’m just not feeling the artwork. There’s a solidness, roughness, as always, to Kubert’s work that feels mismatched. What’s great is that there is a variety of panel layouts and some deliberate choices to pace the size and flow of panels, but the figure work inside seems a bit staid. Instead, why not have an all-new all-different aesthetic for such a title? The current work is fine, but just… fine. Solid and competant, but the figures don’t express themselves in an exaggerated way that would help them emote to one another. To push Spider-Man Jr.’s poses in more inhuman ways, to have more variety in facial expression. And it’s at this point I notice that only Ms Marvel has visible eyes. Everyone else has something obscuring their eyes if not their whole face! With the exception of the Vision, who’s characterized as being unemotional anyway. No wonder why it feels like no one is connecting!
The Avengers have re-formed, after just three issues! There’s something about a villain and something about another villain, and since the kids have proved themselves, the adults will let them play. There’s some elements of classic Avenger-ing, such as assembling some fan-fave heroes and a foe no single hero can withstand (except one did, before), but there’s more to an Avengers book than that, and while some ground work might be laid for it, there would have to be a lot more that resonates on a gut level to make this book more than a checklist of superheroey tropes.