Thursday, August 24, 2006
Comics Corner: New Avengers #1-6 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch
Along with Captain America and Iron Man, the Avengers was another past Marvel hit that was targeted for a reinvigoration by Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada.
Since Captain America and Iron Man are key members of the Avengers and since both of *them* had gotten a makeover (discussed in previous reviews) I guess you might see a trend, both in lines Marvel thought needed a touch-up and in my personal tastes.
In the case of the Avengers though, the story actually starts before New Avengers #1. See, Marvel scribe extraordinare Brian Michael Bendis didn't just want to relaunch the book. Before he created the New Avengers, he wanted to kill to old Avengers.
The last arc of the venerable Avengers comic was known as "Avengers Disassembled", a play on the old Avengers war cry "Avengers Assemble". In this highly controversial story arc, Scarlet Witch goes crazy and several long-time Avengers stalwarts, including Hawkeye and Vision. Avengers Mansion also goes up in flames.
With three of their core members dead or in an asylum (Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye joined in Avengers #16, Vision made his first appearance in the Marvel Universe in Avengers #57) and the mansion destroyed, the last issue of the Avengers sees the team disbanding and going their seperate ways.
This is where New Avengers picks up. The first arc, "Breakout" sees an Electro-caused power failure that allows the entire population of "The Raft", the supervillain prison of the Marvel Universeto escape. During the ensuing chaos, SHIELD boss Nick Fury taps many of the heroes that helped him fight the recent "Secret War" arc to help him round up some of the prisoners.
These heroes form the core of the New Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man, Spider Man, Wolverine, Spider Woman and Luke Cage.
I have to say, although many have criticized this line-up, I like it on a lot of levels. First you have Captain America and Iron Man, probably the two heroes most closely identified with the long and storied history of the Avengers.
Second you have Spider Man and Wolverine. I know many people feel they are over-exposed, but let's face it, the Avengers began as an all-star team of Marvel heroes. Hulk and Thor were two of Marvel's biggest stars at the time the Avengers were founded.
Since Spider Man and Wolverine are the rock stars of the current Marvel Universe, I like having them here.
Then you have Spider Woman and Luke Cage. Team comics have always been a place for interesting heroes who were still not popular enough to carry their own book. Vision in the Avengers and Martian Manhunter in the JLA leap to mind here.
In Spider Woman and Luke Cage you have interesting, sexy characters who add a lot of humor to the team dynamic. A couple of heroes who deserve to be featured more often.
Now onto the actual reason for the formation of the team (the supervillain prison break): I really like this. It gives the team a reason to be that is ongoing, something many of the most popular team books like the X-men have.
While a team banding together to fight a common threat and then just staying together to battle monthly menaces might have worked in the 70's (this is exactly what happens in Avengers #1) I think these days readers need a hook, a reason for heroes as different as Captain America, Wolverine and Spidey to be together on a regular basis.
The fact that this team has a strong SHIELD hook and a commitment to slowly rounding up all the escaped supervillains, gives them reason to come together on a wide variety of missions.
Before I conclude I'd also like to take a second to mention the art. This book is freaking gorgeous. David Finch is a fantastic artist and this book is just stunning.
In short, I think Marvel has scored yet again in their ongoing attempts to revitalize some of their lines that went neglected for awhile. In each case the formula they used has been simple but very effective: relaunch the book at #1 (which always attracts attention from collectors), update the concept of the hero and/or his mission when necessary and put top notch creators, the best comic writers and artists in the industry together on the book.