Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Uncanny Avengers #1 review

With the Avengers/X-Men war over, Captain America begins putting a new team together. His first potential recruit, Havok, proves useful when Avalanche attacks New York City, declaring that the mutants are back. Lives are saved but Avalanche, whose brain is operated on by an unseen figure at the start of the issue, escapes.

At the Jean Grey school, Wanda the Scarlet Witch lays flowers at the memorial to Professor Charles Xavier - killed by a Phoenix-possessed Cyclops. Her mental pledge to continue Xavier's dream of humans and mutants peacefully co-existng is interrupted by the X-Man Rogue. Rogue whacks Wanda one, declaring that the witch set in motion the events that led to Xavier's death.

Rogue tries to absorb some of Wanda's hex power, but apparently fails. Something happens though - an attack by a bunch of goofy villains glorying in such names as The Goat-Faced Girl and the Living Wind (fnar). One heroine gets gutted.

The story ends with the mystery villain revealed. It's the Red Skull, and he's eschewing his usual MO of going after such super-maguffins as the Cosmic Cube and Bloodstones, instead extracting 'the most powerful weapon on Earth' - Xavier's brain.

Yuk. that's almost as nasty as the new outfits worn by our heroes. Cap has swapped his regular costume for a bathmat tunic and coal scuttle helmet. Wanda has given up the swimsuit and cape for tight trousers and red raincoat. Havok is wearing a dulled-down version of his Neal Adams look. It's all rather alarming. I realise that the classics will be back eventually, it's just a shame we have to look at these new-for-Marvel-NOW efforts in the meantime.

Other than the outfits, and the awkward-looking cover shot of grumpy heroes, artist John Cassaday does a commendable job, especially in the opening pages; the shots of  Avalanche's surgery are fascinatingly grisly, while the scene of Wolverine preparing to give Xavier's eulogy has a quiet power. His work is complemented by the splendid colouring of Laura Martin.

Rick Remender's script is pretty good as he balances backstory and set-up with hints of excitement to come. The team membership could yield interesting dynamics, though the overexposed Wolverine and Cap should be swapped out for, well, anybody - Wonder Man and Beast would be smashing.

Remender doesn't bother having Cap repeat his Avengers Vs X-Men #12 claim that he should have done more to teach the world to sing mutants' praises, likely remembering that Cap led an Avengers that was 50 per cent mutants - one of whom was Wanda - as far back as Avengers #16 (1965). Instead, it's a matter of him just presenting Havok with the idea that he wants 'Avengers and X-Men working together. Setting an example of cooperation.'

We see how this could work as Cap has Havok blast him with a plasma bolt, sending him spinning across the city to the scene of Avalanche's attack. We aren't privy to how Cap survives the landing - perhaps it's those stylish new kneepads.

The one moment I really didn't like was yet another superhero being disembowelled (but not really). It's gotten very boring.

My favourite scene sees Havok visit imprisoned brother Cyclops and tell him how thoroughly he's bungled Xavier's dream of humans and mutants united. Which is fair, though I do feel Cyclops should be cut a little slack for his actions while corrupted by the Phoenix Force.

And best line? Wanda telling Rogue: 'I'm so bored with this martyrdom routine.' Me too, so let's hope this book is indeed more about mutant outreach and less about mutants hiding away from the world and arming themselves. I'm just delighted to be reading an Avengers book by a writer whose characters don't all aspire to Mamethood, one with a track record of ending stories as well as he starts them.

There's a news/advertising page in here, The Assembly, but I didn't manage to read it as IT'S ALL IN SHOUTY UPPER CASE!

As debut issues go, this first Marvel NOW entry is quite entertaining. With just 22 story pages, though, it's not worth $3.99, so if you can hold out for a better-value trade or digital sale, that may be the way to go.

14 comments:

  1. I agree that the costumes are all pretty terrible (Cap's looks too Ultimate, and not 616 enough. Wanda's is pretty bland looking) and that Cassaday's art is otherwise really, really cool.

    Your favourite moment in the book was my least favourite; it felt less natural to me and more shoe-horned by Marvel's editorial, as if to say "yeah, the X-Men lost," as if we need further spoon-feeding from AvX. And everyone who won still comes across as being particularly smug.

    I did enjoy the rest of the issue though; the opening sequence was a stand out, and the general idea of bringing more mutants in is a good idea. I'm concerned that the series may turn out to be highly decompressed though. And, as you said, 22 pages for $4 is not a good deal, though it could be worse: on Amazon, the HC will have it at roughly $6 an issue.

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    1. Good Lord, that Amazon price is amazing; I wonder if its a mistake.

      On the subject of Cyclops' culpability, Sean, did you see Snell's post over at Slay Monstrobot this week? I thought it was rather well-argued:

      http://slaymonstrobot.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/no-cyclops-wasnt-right.html

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  2. So Havoc is an Avenger now too. Why don't they just declare that any member of an X-group is an Avenger too to save time.

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    1. Havoc's neve stuck with an X-Men version for him to 'stick' in my head as a proper member, despite the link with Cyclops, so I'm good with him being an Avenger. Just bring back the head-fireguard!

      Your point is pretty inarguable, though!

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  3. I don't mind the costumes, but I don't get why they removed Wanda's cape. It looked good on her... then again I'm only looking at the cover right now, so maybe she is wearing it in the comic?

    Anyways, I'm not picking this up, but I will give it a read if it pops up in the comic shop. I'm saving my money for the other Marvel titles I got planned on getting: Red She-Hulk, Indestrucible Hulk, FF, and Fantastic Four.

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    1. I agree about the cape - if a witch can't flaunt a cape, who can? The new look is just crying out for horn-rimmed sun specs and a Rainmate. The cape isn't in the comic.

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  4. Should I get this one or not? I'm really ambivalent. It has so many concepts that I've wanted to see for years: Cap actively working to promote mutant tolarence, more muants on the Avengers, the Red Skull as a major Big Bad. But my budget for comic books nowadays is pretty slim. And this is clocking in at four bucks an issue? Why oh why? It's obviously going to be a big seller for Marvel. Maybe I should just wait for the inevitable trade paperback.

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    1. I say, if you have the cash, give it a try, Ben - then you'll know whether or not to stick it on a wish list.

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  5. For those unsure about picking this up, I think it's worth highlighting how well this works as a single issue.

    Rick Remender has written a very strong opening chapter here with a clear start, middle and shock end. He's also structured it so that the page turns work in favour of the shocks - the reader turns the page to the reveal each time, and there are plenty of shock reveals here.

    While I'm sure it will work great in trade paperback, I do appreciate a comic that can still be read issue by issue and feel satisfying.

    Cassady's artwork is excellent and the tweaked costumes didn't bother me - I actually rather liked Scarlet Witch's scarlet britches... though her look reminded me of Jean Grey's in X-Men 3 (- the film that is)!

    With regards to price, I can't honestly say I feel that $2.99 is reasonable for a 20-something page comic, let alone $3.99. Comics are crazy money just now, and it is irksome that Marvel's "FREE digital copy" actually adds a dollar to the price - that's not the kind of "free" I like. But, like everything else, they're worth what you'll pay for them.

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    1. Excellent review there! I'm off to check out the Film Jean look, it's skipped my mind.

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  6. My problems with this whole thing: the concept makes no sense really. The Avenges have had mutant members since shortly after their inception and the idea that people didn't know Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, former members of the Brotherhood of evil MUTANTS were mutants.. is absurd. Rogue, a former villain, who tried to kill the X-Men on numerous occasions and an Avenger (Ms. Marvel now Captain Marvel), who dated a reformed thief (Gambit) and forgave him after she discovered he was a part of a massive slaughter of mutants (the Mutant Massacre), and is currently dating Magneto, known killer and man who has slaughtered countless people has a massive issue with Scarlet Witch looking for redemption? REALLY? Why do I find that so hard to believe?
    Not to mention.. Thor's desire to join the team is basically, "Yeah verily, I doth not understandith the hatred between human and mutant, so I, a god, shall joinith! Showith the humans a newith way!" Of course w/o the bad elizabethan english, but still.. it's as utterly absurd and stupid.

    By far the most painful thing for me though was Wolverine's eulogy for Xavier. Why is Wolverine, creator of the X-Men, giving a eulogy for Xavier, not-the-creator-of-the-X-men? And why did he sound so, odd? It was insanely annoying and difficult for me to read. I honestly have no clue why the leader of a black-ops killing group, the head of a school, and a member of 150 other teams, needs to be on this team (and look at the team, there is only one actual human on the team! Captain America.. everyone else is a mutant or god. How does this show that mutants and humans can get along?). This is the straw that broke the camels back for me tbh. I will never read any Marvel comic that has Wolverine in it or any of his clones/copies. Marvel's absolute absurd abuse of this character and over-use of this character is down right disgusting. I'm over him, I'm over Marvel's ploys to geet you to want to read comics b/c he's there and I don't care how "good" a comic is, I don't care who the creative team is, I'm not buying it. I'm over it and I hope OTHERS follow suit.

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    1. Hi Jan, your REALLY pretty mush encapsulates the puzzlement surrounding this set-up. Why not just have a new Avengers team with this mixed line-up? Are they planning do outreach workshops and appear on The View? It's baffling.

      That said, it's more enjoyable than Jonathan Hickman's two Avengers titles.

      And you're so right on Wolverine and he hypocrisy surrounding him.

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    2. I read both of Hickman's Avengers titles and didn't find them that bad. New Avengers, however, made me think it was a Black Panther title and Avengers looks like he's got too big of a cast for him to even begin to cope with. I just don't think he is one of the very, very, very few writers that can handle a massive clan of heroes and make them all shine (seriously.. look at Legion of Superheroes.. VERY few writers can get it right, but the ones that do make it so amazing).

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    3. I tend to agree, but I really hope we're proven wrong. Reminder seems to have done himself a favour by starting with six members ... I believe a few more are due around #6.

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