Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Avengers #3 review

In which the expanded Avengers team reaches Mars, fights world transformers Ex Nihilo, Abyss and Aleph, and a Damascene conversion occurs.

Said change of heart comes courtesy of new Avenger Captain Universe. I have no idea who she is - writer Jonathan Hickman doesn't deign to tell us here - but she has a thing for pies. Ooh, quirky. Anyway, because she channels the spirit of the universe or something, when she tells the troublesome trio to stick to converting uninhabited worlds, two of them jump.

Frankly, it doesn't make for the most convincing ending to this first arc. I do appreciate that Hickman got the ball rolling quickly, but it's awfully convenient - how come no previous Captain Universe intervened? Would aliens so arrogant as to mutilate living beings as they reshape worlds really be so subservient to a cosmic mom? All but Aleph go from horrific force to no threat in the blink of an eye, with Ex Nihilo even starting to act like some dumb kid.

The only reason I can see is the sheer power of Captain Universe, which dwarfs that of the robotic Aleph. But I'm still not convinced. The story looks good, as drawn by Jerome Opena, and there are amusing moments - such as Spidey's search for a tool - but there are just too many characters. The Legion of Super-Heroes makes a virtue of its massive cast, constantly introducing the members by name, homeworld and ability. The only help first-timers get here is one of Hickman's elegant graphics and a roll call on the space-gobbling, getting bored now, title and credits spread. Quick introductions of characters as they arrive on panel would be useful, and smart - I've read all three issues of this new book, but aren't sure of who everyone is, and what they do. Hopefully, future issues will give us enough quiet moments to get to know the characters and it won't seem like there are simply too many Avengers for a 20-page instalment.

Another problem is that a 'New Adam' created by the aliens suddenly starts spouting something in an alien language, and it's apparently scary. There's one of those annoying Marvel AR boxes, hinting at a translation, but it won't activate for my app. Bleeding Cool kindly reveals all, but such obfuscation isn't cool, it's annoying.
And while the artwork of Opena is pleasingly sleek and powerful, it can't serve the story when he avoids a face shot that may have picked up the slack where words apparently failed Hickman (click on image to enlarge). I think that's Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, but who knows? And presumably Hyperion doesn't punch Bruce Banner to death - the moment isn't followed up.

Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor's cover is, as you can see, lovely - bot all to do with this issue, but lovely nonetheless.

This is your textbook comic that's written to be read in the trades. Even the Marvel recap page doesn't help, being a TV-style collection of moments rather than a straightforward story-so-far precis. If you've been reading from the debut issue, you've a decent chance of getting something out of Avengers #3, but I suspect you're equally likely to be as frustrated as I was with this issue.

17 comments:

  1. I had a feeling from 1& 2 that this was going to be a show-offy comic with 80s-style literary pretensions. I am not won over by its clinical tone or bizarre pick'n'mix cast of obscurities (allegedly in the cause of diversity.)

    Why is this not a comic about the characters from the movie? A weird marketing decision.

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    1. Maybe Hickman never wanted to write such a collection of characters. Doesn't Avengers Assemble pretty much fit that brief?

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  2. It did when it started; but now? I saw that film twice and I don't remember Spider-Woman ;-)
    Hickman obviously wants to write about a number of characters, including his own creation, Manifold, the modern Gateway (twice over, apparently). As we know, he is in a tradition, therefore, of Avengers writers bringing in "one-trick pony characters": Mantis, Rage, Deathcry and Silverclaw, for example. As you said yourself, however, this over-populated approach is not reader -friendly and personally, I find the portentous tv-sci-fi "voice" off-putting.

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    1. I'm now remembering Triathlon. Brrrrr.

      I dunno though, pet characters can work, such as the Vision under Roy Thomas and Mantis under Steve Englehart, as it were.

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    2. Mantis is one of my all time favorite Avengers. That said, I will agree that no one ever quite got a handle on her the way Steve Englehart did.

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  3. I really wanted to like this comic as an Avengers fan since about, oh, 1967, when my mother read Power Comics to me. But it's a big, sci-fi thing so far with echoes of G-S X-Men 1 ( I haven't got #3 yet- I live in a remote area, according to Michael Portillo in BBC2 tonight)

    The best description I ever read of Avengers was "Workplace Drama with lifers and temps". Add " with occasional cosmic jaunts and torrid interpersonal conflict" and that is the comic I want to read. I think Hickman would be better suited to the JLA.

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  4. What a great summation, Dougie. Who wrote that? My perfect Avengers is pre-200, a decent-sized mix of heroes living and visiting the mansion, and occasionally bashing Kang before Jarvis serves tea.

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  5. I've no idea where I saw it now; I'm sure it was on the internet.
    My favourite periods of the Avengers are probably the Michelinie/Byrne issues or the Harras/Epting era. So: two or three of the Lee/Kirby team on hand plus three or four characters who are fairly exclusive to the Avengers comic. If Hickman had gone with Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Shang-Chi, Manifold and Captain Universe I would have been totally behind it.

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    1. Blimey, another fan of the Harras/Epting era - let's have matching jackets made!

      Stern/Byrne really was a magical time.

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  6. Captain Universe should be given a new name: Captain Deus Ex Machina!

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  7. Mart, if you go back and re-read #2, you see'll from the orogin of our baddies that they came from a race that "worshipped the Goddess, the Mother-maker herself, THE UNIVERSE." So there was some set-up for their being so subservient to her.

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    1. Great stuff, thanks Snell. It's still a tad weak - what if it had been a male Captain Universe this time?

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  8. "Captain Deus Ex Machina!" - Heh :)

    Cracking review, Mart. I wish I had something significant to add beyond clapping from the gallery. But there is a terrible complacency at work here, and I thought that was something which Marvel had been working to correct. As you say, newcomers - or even folks who may have forgotten single panels in previous issues - will inevitably suffer here.

    There's also a terribly portentous air about proceedings. Rather than managing to build up the sense that Great Big Events are underway, it ended up alienating me with the self-proclaimed importance of it all. It's an odd choice of tone on JH's part, given that he's shown in Manhattan Projects that he can be as grounded - and funny! - as any great 2000AD writer when it comes to cosmic matters. I ended these issues feeling that somebody was shouting outside in the street that IMPORTANT THINGS ARE HAPPENING. But it was hard to care, for the reasons you mention, and so I didn't believe it.

    Oh, and Captain America's declaration that Earth is special because it's "an Avengers world"? What does that mean, and why should we feel that this cadre of super-people are so very special that the rest of the Cosmos comes second to them? Dear me, but that's an unpleasant cocktail of ideas threatening to burst out ...

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    1. That 'Avengers World' line was cringeworthy, yes, Colin. And upcoming solicitations indicate that the idea, whatever it is, is A Thing

      In happier news, I loved FF#3 this week!

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  9. Oh dear god, this comic is just so draining! I cannot believe between this issue and New Avengers #2 that I was starting to fall asleep reading them. These comics are just so frickin' boring! Despite everything going on in them, they are putting me to sleep with it tedious dialogue and lackluster action (Boring artwork between both of them isn't helping either). I cannot muster energy read these things! This is a first for me while reading a comic where they actually exhaust me. I can't continue with this both Avengers titles, I'm just giving up. I still got good old fun and energic Avengers Assemble to feed my Avengers fix at least (read the latest issue and that was a ton of a fun).

    Anyhow, I did recently read the first issue of Morbius: The Living Vampire and was shockingly enjoyable. Did you give it a shot?

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    1. I can see the boredom reaction, I had that with Hickman's Avengers and FF. I can see myself dropping the Illuminati book if things don't get more exciting soon - lectures and graphs get tedious quickly.

      I never liked Morbius, maybe I'll download it.

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