Jamil Scalese: There is only Secret Wars. Or at least that’s what they tell us.
Despite some impressive juggling of scheduling and logistics not all series neatly wrapped up in wake of Secret Wars #1, and in fact, some of the more self-contained, idiosyncratic comics, like Moon Knight and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, will continue uninterrupted. Shunted to its own corner of the Marvel line for most of its existence Uncanny Avengers, once the headliner of Marvel NOW!, just wrapped up its second volume with #5. I’ve generally enjoyed this Rick Remender/Daniel Acuña joint but the middle portions of the arc sagged somewhat and it seemed the story’s focus waned. Lots of my qualms were rectified in this finale, a fantastically framed action-fest that succeeds in showcasing each member of this awesome cast in the glory they deserve. This is definitely one of my favorite issues in either volume.
What say you, comic compatriots? Did you dig this ish as much as I did?
Jason Sacks: Jamil and Shawn, as you know I’ve never been a big reader of mainstream comics. I’m an indie guy, through and through, more comfortable talking about creative metaphors than smart continuity.
But I’ve also been a consistent and happy reader of Rick Remender’s comics for many years. Somewhere lurking on this site are decade-old reviews of the first comic he did that I read, Strange Girl, and since then I’ve been hooked on his unique, human-centric viewpoint that seems often focused on questions of grace and transcendence, and humanity amidst chaos.
Uncanny Avengers #5 is a classic Remender comic. Full of defining character moments and a conclusion that shows true grace, this comic is a reminder of the humanity that lives inside all of us, of the way that all the horrible events that crush us when they occur simply open the door for future redemption and happiness.
For me the real hero of this issue is Quicksilver, long the asshole of the Marvel Universe. Always a broken man, Pietro fucked up a marriage to a delightful woman because of his self-centered angst. He’s a lot like many of us in that way, a guy who’s so stuck inside his own skin that he has trouble transcending his skin — until, as we read in the main action scenes in this issue, he’s grown just a bit. He’s acquired some wisdom and grace.
Or maybe the real hero is the Vision who, despite the fact that he’s not directly involved in the action, still shows both his strength and his weakness. This strangely attired non-human creature is constantly in search of his own inner humanity and we also see that search on display in this issue, first in his argument with his condescending equally inhuman lover Eve and later in the way he shows his unwavering love for Wanda despite her need to be with her love Simon.
Remender’s themes are fractal. They are the same up and down this issue. We see them in every relationship and in every action, and in that fractal nature they gain tremendous power.
Daniel Acuña delivers his customary gorgeous art, all smartly delivered faces and intense body gestures, free and yet tight and thoroughly beautiful. This team supreme needs to come back for more and I need to read more by them.
Shawn Hill: This volume of Uncanny Avengers had me twisting between several poles. I loved revisiting Counter-Earth, but I hated seeing it as a testing ground for a murderous High Evolutionary. I love the Wundagore Mountain and gypsy and scientific experiment nature of Wanda and Pietro’s history, but I hated seeing them belittled and beaten by their newest “sister,” Luminous. I was caught up in the fates of Captain America (turned to wood), Brother Voodoo (seeking help from ghosts, and to help them), Sabretooth (treated as a wild monster, but tamer and more thoughtful than he’s ever been) and Rogue (tortured, experimented on, her history dismissed, her choices taken).
It was great to see the Vision being so much himself again, but upsetting that he’s immediately tempted with the prize that never worked before (with Alkema or Jocasta), the perfect robotic union with a distaff mirror image. Pain after pain, each team member haunted by their own worst demons (is Wanda crazy? Is Pietro as selfish as Crystal thought? Will Vision forsake humanity again?). Their dilemmas were almost too convenient, overwrought and aimed at their weaknesses. But they were also entertaining, never less than dramatic, and beautiful illustrated by a clearly inspired Acuña. Given a new world to design according to his own vision, he took us on a wondrous trip of odd characters and gleaming, alien settings.
Somehow this ending felt rushed, but I can’t fault the conclusions of the plots. Pietro’s growth (lessons he’s learned time and time again, but now he has to deal with Magneto not being such a psychic drain on his self-identity: who’s your daddy now, speedster?), Wanda’s determination (it falters at the end of the issue, but only after the battle, only after her Avenging is done), even the Evolutionary’s vexing arrogance, all combined to make a memorable chapter for this team that was once a dream of mutant collaboration, but ends where it really began; amongst the Avengers, back at home with all their scars and baggage.
Jamil: This certainly is a typical Remender comic, Jason, in quality and substance. His ability to weave subplots pairs harmoniously with the consistent focus on character and humanity. That is an absolute staple of his work, his bread-and-butter formula, and he applies it to the Avengers very well. There is keen attention to the shepherding of characters: new-old heroes like Sabretooth get sweet lines, old haunts like Voodoo provide ghastly climax, and of course the twins (and their still-vague origin) were the centerpiece of the five issue jaunt. Per that tried and true formula, Remender’s villain design produced plenty of horror and mystery, as well as a bombed-out cityload of haughty putdowns and quips. High Evo is remarkably well-suited for Remender’s forte — wacky science, curmudgeon-y outlook and a playful attitude toward continuity.
I’m a big fan of the writer and buy most of his stuff, but I would put this comic book my subs list on the power of Acuña’s name alone. He’s very quickly ascended to one of the best in the game. I feel like I say that every other week about some other talent but I’ve been consistently awestruck by this guy for two or three years straight. The wholeness and synergy of his work flies off the page. I love his demure approach to inking, the way he uses contrast and shadow to create visual barriers. Uncanny Avengers #5 isn’t the pinnacle of his work, frankly, quality has dipped a bit since the volume’s first issue, but he’s so talented that the good/bad pizza analogy applies. His color work firmly rectifies any below par pencil effort. The way Acuña manipulates the affect of light, from glow of Doctor Voodoo’s frightful army to the dull gleam of High Evolutionary’s helmet, is one of the pillars of his appeal.
Shawn: Some of his details may have been rushed this time, but he literally had scores of characters to illustrate, and all of them had to be on point and fierce (and many of them zoological!) in the high-stakes battle they were waging against the Evolutionary. Losing Magneto as your dad is pretty much good news; but gaining a mad scientist who thinks you’re one of his ancient failures? Not much better at all, and they way Wanda and Pietro stayed focused on their own goals (as did Cap, Vision and Rogue) was a thrilling part of the story. Acuna earned his wings on this title in the first volume, with very memorable looks for revenant fallen heroes and of course those other apocalyptic twins. Everything you point out about light and color, Jamil, is wedded to his solid anatomy and well-paced layouts. His page design isn’t very flashy, but that’s because what’s in the panels is so solid already.
Jamil: I hope they can keep this creative team together, or at the very least keep them each in the Marvel family. They compliment each other very well, with the personal, soul-searching scripts and the layered art that shows no fear of scale or scope. You said it, Shawn, this is a pretty legit chapter of the ongoing Avengers saga and I’m eagerly awaiting the follow-up.