Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Daniel Acuña
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Jamil Scalese: In the modern realm of comic books, first issues stream forward unabashedly like an undammed river. Whether you’re for it, against it or indifferent you have to admit in the current climate it makes pretty darn good business sense to provide several jumping on points for new or estranged readers.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling of déjà vu. Back at the onset of Marvel NOW!, the now seemingly stone age rebranding of the House of Ideas, I joined a duo of writers in taking a look at the first volume premiere of Uncanny Avengers which we all thought pretty swell and stuff. Flash forward three years and I’m joining up with fellow Marvel maven Shawn Hill and longtime Comics Bulletin contributor Robert Tacopina to tell you if the current relaunch is worth your time.
I’m have to admit right now, and Shawn knows this, I’ve been uber-geeked for this premiere since the first solicit. I’m going to let you guys get your words in before I dive in but I want just to start by disclosing that everything about this title had me salivating. The writer, the artist, the setting, the heroes, the antagonist… Many pieces held promise so it would have taken an absolute botch jump by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuña for me to give this a low grade.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. I thought this whole issue was executed beautifully.
Rob Tacopina: As someone who felt that the first incarnation of Uncanny Avengers was an absolute masterpiece of comic book storytelling I, much like Jamil, was foaming at the mouth for this issue to finally hit the stands. Sure I was a bit wary that it would be a letdown after such a phenomenal run on the previous volume, but my worries vanished quickly as eager fingers flipped past the beautiful cover and eyes filled with child-like awe took in the sights of that first page. The end result was a truly fascinating debut issue that featured writer Rick Remender and artist Daniel Acuña bringing their A-game as each page was an imaginative collection of riveting narrative and mind-numbingly gorgeous art.
The casting decision for this book was truly exemplary. Rogue and Scarlet Witch remain on the team as do Captain America and Wolverine although these are two very different versions with Sam “Falcon” Wilson now bearing the stars-and-stripes and the morally inverted Sabretooth taking the place of the recently deceased Logan. The new inclusions of Doctor Voodoo, Quicksilver and the Vision have the potential to bring so much to the table story-wise while also presenting an opportunity to individually raise the stakes for each character. Including Quicksilver and Vision was an ingenious idea considering they are characters who have been longtime mainstay in Avengers lore and also have a tendency to cause the right amount of tension in the least opportune of times.
Shawn Hill: Well, you gents may not know this about me, but I am almost as crazy about Vision as I am about Scarlet Witch. So any writer that can call him a toaster, have him be Vulcan-style pissy (he’ll always be a variation on Spock to me, I’m from the 1960s) about his ex-wife for no reason, and give him a new love interest/stalker all in one issue is getting the full thumbs up from me! I don’t mind if characters think Vision is an automaton, I just get upset when the writers do. And while I like what Heinberg did with Baby Vision in the Young Avengers, I love the design and the look of this “adult” one, the one who has always had something in common with his ex-wife: they both look like super-villains, but they’re actually good guys to the core.
So many things to love about this story. Counter-Earth? New Men all over the place, and they’re annoying? The High Evolutionary, master of all the madness. Hey, maybe he’s Wanda and Pietro’s daddy! Can Bova be far behind? Remender could literally come up with almost any explanation he wants for these new twists in the mutant twins, and still I’d go there with him because he knows the continuity so thoroughly. Not just knows it, but is discerning enough to pick out the good parts to spin into his twisty, exciting new stories. I love his characterization of the twins after their Inversion Revelation: Pietro is speeding after the truth, while Wanda is more circumspect about the whole thing (knowing she is a Nexus Portal and basic primary universal force and can make her own reality if she wants at some level breeds confidence I’d imagine). To say I’m overjoyed at this issue would be an understatement.
There are some off-notes I’m not sure about yet. While I like that Simon’s discorporate form continues to play a part (and I’ve never been convinced that Wanda’s love for Vision is a mask for her love for Simon; Vision is a separate man, brainwave templates or not), I’m pretty creeped out by Rogue’s torturer, and finding her in bondage again. Also, my mind is kind of blown by Brother Voodoo feeling like it’s a given that he can beam everyone around the sun to Counter-Earth, as that’s Lila Cheney teleportation levels at work right there, hardly the same as journeying to Hell or other mystic realms. But at least his spell rent awry, so it might just be a sign of over-confidence.
Rob: The characterization on display here was truly something to behold and appreciate. Each addition to the roster was phenomenally fleshed out and brought an intriguing dynamic to the table by focusing on all aspects of their personalities as Shawn so eloquently pointed out above. This is where a writer who “loves” these characters is able to dig deep into that well of imagination and concoct the smaller details that can be easily overlooked but their inclusion makes for a much richer and satisfying story.
There are plenty of questions that are raised within the book like just where did the squad end up when Doctor Voodoo’s attempt at teleporting them to Counter-Earth went awry? Are they on Counter-Earth as Vision mentions? Is this the result of the machinations of the High Evolutionary? It seems like everyone was transported to a place somewhat befitting of their individual personalities, with the notable exception being Sabretooth as it is apparent that the location he winds up in would be his ideal killing ground were he not morally inverted.
Jamil: It’s amazing how the creative team successfully set up a half dozen or so mysteries within a twenty page allotment! At the core we have the overarching questions of the Maximoff twins lineage and also the identity of the dude that zaps them in the prologue. Then by splitting the rest of the team up we get little personalized enigmas for them to solve. Remender bestows each character his trademark internal dialogue narration (san-Wanda, but she gets talked about a lot by the others) and it’s satisfying that each one of them gets a beat or two.
I mean really though, how about this cast? A bunch of former villains turned lower tier heroes. Ten years ago you would have seen this lineup featured in some throwaway miniseries but now they’re the Pepsi to Hickman’s Coke, a similar though wholly different alternative. Rogue might be the headliner and she’s arguably not even a top three fan-favorite female X-affiliate!
The mix meshes well. I love seeing Quicksilver back in a Avengers book and the thick, uneasy tension brought on by Sabretooth’s presence is delicious. Vision’s new outlook of resentment, scorn and pettiness is an awesome new step in his emotional journey, and let’s be real, it’s been TEN YEARS since Avengers: Disassembled and the bot still hasn’t truly confronted his ex-wife. I’m very much looking to see that unfold under Remender’s pen at some point.
Of course you can’t praise this issue without giving enormous amount of credit to Acuña. He illustrates his collaborator’s ambitious scripts notoriously well, and I’m not being overzealous when I say they’re one of the best creative teams in comics.
Acuña has a certain aesthetic that complements Remender’s big, fantastical ideas. The writer loves to drop his protagonist and the reader into strange worlds and have them fight their way out. Acuña’s idiosyncratic style is perfect for that. The way he lays out his pages is extremely savvy and elegant, and of course it’d be a crime not to note the colors, flowing neon on top of dark and ashy settings. I even enjoy his approach to sound effects. “CROK?” goes down as one of my favorite things so far in 2015.
Shawn: Acuña is a big part of my pleasure, it’s true. He had a formidable job with Uncanny vol. 1, taking over from the signature style set up by Cassaday. And it took awhile, but out of the collaborators and other fill-ins he emerged as a fine choice to carry Remender’s vision forward, especially in “Avenge the Earth”. He’s got a convincing way with robots and high-tech, but his ani-men and very emotional people aren’t given short shrift, either. He falls somewhere between Cassaday’s invention and and drama and Mayhew’s painterly realism, which is a fine place to be. We’ve got recognizable long-term characters mixed with seamless new ones, and of course he nails the complex interactions of our heroes, too.
Rob: The artwork of Daniel Acuña is nothing short of eye-meltingly scintillating! His ability to breathe life into every panel is just uncanny. No matter what the situation calls for Acuña is up to the task and makes every panel scream with a combination of stunning sequential art and remarkable color schemes that set the mood with precision. The amazing thing is the consistency in which the art flows throughout the entirety of the book regardless of whether the scenes call for high-paced action or plot driven dialogue. Let us not forget the range of emotions that the artist is capable of relating to the reader either–specifically the two page scene pertaining to Rogue dealing with her captor. How can one not feel every emotion that Rogue is dealing with in that particular scene? That is simply an artist at the top of their game.
Jamil: I will say there were a couple areas he could still improve. Daniel Acuña is very much a master of wide shots and landscape, his depictions of the Wundagore Mountain greenery and of the various Count-Earth cityscapes are top-notch, but when he has to zoom in his style breaks down a little. I also think he needs a little more time with Jericho Drumm to nail the look, though the occult elements are already right on point.
I think it’s pretty clear we all really enjoyed this issue and are excited about the future of Remender’s Avengers story. Rob, you said above the previous volume is something you consider to be comic book gold but I’ll actually admit that while I really loved the series, and very few installments were below average, it never quite came together for me. I feel like the mission statement of the first Uncanny Avengers didn’t adapt to Remender’s expertise. The lofty goal of Human/Mutant unity never felt like it was truly at the forefront of the stories (and let’s be honest, it failed, right?) and the series only really took off toward the end of the “Ragnarok Now” plotline. The writer has shown he excels in the dark, seedy corners of grandiose fictional worlds and because of that this issue feels more like true the successor of Uncanny X-Force, a pair of deeply flawed characters operating in a lively and harsh environ. I’m very eager to see where this all goes as the pieces are in place for a successful run.
Rob: One thing is for certain and that is that this iteration of Uncanny Avengers is off to one heck of a start. Rick Remender excels at building worlds for his ideas as evident in his creator owned titles such as Fear Agent, Black Science and Low (seriously check them out if you have not done so already). He has a knack for creating vivid and imaginative settings that are easy to immerse yourself in. Another definite is that Remender always manages to attach himself with artists who are more than capable of translating his written thoughts into a visual triumph.
Personally, I thought this was about as flawless of a first issue as one could expect. Everything about this issue was just fantastically done and I have found myself poring over this book repeatedly like a man obsessed. This is without a doubt the title that will be at the top of my stack each and every week it hits the shelves.
Shawn: For me, it all hinges on what he does with Vision and Scarlet Witch. And Simon. And Rogue. But all the pieces are there for amazement.