*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
Written by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Art by Stefano Casselli
Coloured by Frank Martin
Cover by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho
Dated September 2013
Wow! Look at that cover! It’s the Hulk’s face! Oh…boy. Dustin Weaver, I really, really, really miss your work on the Avengers covers. This Leinil Francis Yu stuff isn’t cutting it. It’s not a bad picture, per se, but it’s so forgettable that…well, I forgot about it.
Infinity, here we come! Remember last issue how some dumb looking robot hatched from an origin bomb that A.I.M. stole, trashed their place and set off to fight the Avengers? Don’t worry, if there’s one thing that’s consistently satisfying about this volume of Avengers it’s the recap pages. They do a damn fine job filling you in on the necessities of the immediate story. Don’t remember the origin of the Builders or the specifics of Starbrand’s creation? Well, you’re out of luck there, but for the issue you’re about to read the recaps pages suffice.
Speaking of Starband, we’re lucky enough to get a much needed update on what he and Nightmask have been up to. I didn’t much care for the way writer Jonathan Hickman handled their inception, but I do like the characters and the concepts behind them so revisiting their status quo every now and then is a real treat. Here we find out that Starbrand is super-powerful and that “dyson sphere” that Iron Man was building doesn’t make for the most secure prison. Star and Night could bust out of there anytime they like, but decide to do a little training instead—smart move, guys.
Somewhere far away in space we catch up with Captain Universe and Manifold as well. Cap U decided to take Mani to where all the trouble is starting and we see a huge ship descend upon a technology-based alien planet. Surprise! This planet is home to the Space Knights (where my Rom fans at?)! Unfortunately, as our good Captain implies, their world is pooched. Who’s attacking exactly? Cap U says it’s her “lost little children”, so one would assume it’s the Builders, but we don’t get any confirmation here. How should the Earth prepare for this inevitable threat? Cap U’s advice, “to protect a world you must possess the power to destroy a world”. Hey, they’re working on that in the pages of New Avengers! What a coincidence…
Back on Earth that stupidly designed origin bomb robot sets down in Perth and whips Avengers butt. The action is stupid and the Avenger’s fall with barely a fight. This robot thing is supposed to be so extremely powerful that it can level the whole team just like that? It sure doesn’t look threatening. Did I mention how stupid I think its design is? It’s tired, uninspired and bland. Seeing the Avengers take a beating, Bruce Banner up on the S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft hulks out. In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot of every Marvel comic in the 1970s: Hulk smash! That bad! Maybe they should have opted for someone a tad more stable for tech support. This plot point is tired, uninspired and bland…
We end with the recently whooped A.I.M. agents back at their headquarters. They got their butts kicked by that stupid robot, but that doesn’t mean they’re finished with it. In fact, they plan on capturing it again using the same methods they used to grab Hyperion way back in the second story arc. They’re an evil league of brilliant scientists, but nobody said they were smart.
Final page: the Avengers lie in a pile of rubble, all battered and bruised, with stupid-robot standing above them all victorious-like. Sorry guys, I’m not buying it—this is the laziest set-up for a super-threat that I’ve ever seen.
Hickman and co-writer Nick Spencer continue to slow the pace of the plot, but I’m happy that they’ve taken the time to touch on some of the subplots they’ve been building as well. I love what they continue to do with Captain Universe, Starbrand and Nightmask are finally getting some decent treatment, and they even manage to make A.I.M. agents interesting. The main plot, however, is a total flunk here. Hulk goes crazy; stupid-robot unconvincingly beats up Avengers. Sure, Infinity is on its way, but who cares what kind of looming threat is on the horizon when one dumb looking blob of gray can take out Earth’s Mightiest. And all those captions readings stuff like “System query: user? System status: user: online”. Give me a break!
Stefano Casselli continues his excellent run on art duties, but I’m not crazy about how he draws the Hulk. Also, Frank Martin continues to colour Bruce Banner purple—which I’m sure is supposed to be an effect showing how the monitors reflect off his skin, but it doesn’t work. My praise stops, however, when I consider the action sequences. They involve missiles flying out of the robot’s whatever, then large splotches of orange and our heroes flat on their back. This book has some of the laziest fights I’ve ever seen. There’s a nice sequence where the robot grabs Captain America’s head and chucks it at a building, but it still feels like filler.
The pieces are moving into place for Infinity, but my patience is also waning. Throwing us cool stuff like the Space Knights only works if we get decent content to chew on—content we’re sorely lacking. Let’s hope this all pays off…
Written by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Art by Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy and Marco Checchetto
Coloured by Frank Martin
Cover by Leinel Francis Yu and Sunny Gho
Dated October 2013
Ok, I kind of like this cover—but only as a standalone drawing. The problem is: it makes no sense given the contents inside this comic. Those three characters right there? They never appear. Par for the course I suppose, nobody is picking this one up based on the cover anyways…
So you know how that stupid gray blob of a robot set down and wiped out Earth’s greatest heroes in the span of a few pages last issue? A.I.M. seems to have a chip on their shoulder, because they walk right up to the robot and capture it with a few guns and snares. They then drag it back to their headquarters, strap it into their little dimension hopping machine and teleport the thing to “the space between dead worlds” until they need it. Oh, and not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, A.I.M. also takes advantage of the knocked out Avengers—rummaging through their pockets and grabbing a few blood samples it looks like. Why don’t they kill our heroes right then and there? They’d rather do experiments with tissue samples or some non-sense. Sure, sure…
It’s at this point that Manifold jumps back to Earth, notices his defeated teammates and zaps the A.I.M. agents away. The Avengers then gather themselves and listen to his little story. Captain Universe said the only way for them to defeat this mysterious (and at this point completely unexplained) incoming threat would be to “get bigger”. Though that sounds pretty inconspicuous and less than helpful, she actually had some very specific people in mind…
So the Avengers head to Mars and ask Ex Nihilo and Abyss to join. Why? Because so far Captain Universe has been right about everything else, might as well get these ultra-powerful alien nut-jobs to play for the A-team. And while they’re at it, they figure “hey, remember those kids we beat the crap out of and imprisoned? Bet they’d love to be Avengers too!” They head to Iron Man’s dyson sphere and recruit Starbrand and Nightmask. This seems to only make sense to my inner 8 year old—get the bad guys to join the good guys, awesome! I’m doing my best to ignore my cynic current trends and just roll with that lovely ignorance.
And whatever happened to that whole “Hulk smash!” subplot from the previous issue? Nothing really, Bruce Banner wakes up somewhere and says “just a regular Wednesday”. It was filler, I called it!
Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer do great things with the dialogue in this book, but that’s the only positive thing I can say about their writing. Superia and her A.I.M. agents sound like classically evil scientists, Cannonball and Smasher are clearly Avengers newbies and Ex Nihilo is still as fun-loving and irresponsible as ever. The characters all sound right and therefore the book feels right.
But that plot… geez. We’re told that stupid gray robot was a threat, and then A.I.M. stops by and takes it down with a snap of their fingers. Starbrand and Nightmask should be right pissed at the Avengers, but they just can’t wait to join up. And Ex Nihilo and Abyss? They were major villains a short while ago—the sudden trust they get from the Avengers doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But alas, this is a comic book and I’ll admit, being a huge fan of all these new Hickman creations, the first time I read this issue I was stoked. There’s a lot of potential for this new, larger cast, even if we need to suspend our disbelief.
The art is a mixed bag. Caselli’s work is still great (though lacking in the action department) but here he’s got two fill-ins to complete the issue. I love Marco Rudy to death, but the sudden transition to his unique layouts and bolder lines is a tad jarring. And his Ex Nihilo is much leaner than usual—I wasn’t even sure it was the same character until the text confirmed it. There’s also an awkward, ugly panel of Captain America’s face but ultimately the work is good. Marco Checchetto’s turn at bat is much more in line with Caselli’s work, and had the issue only been the two of them at work I’d say the art was a seamless mix. Unfortunately, Rudy’s great-but-different style interrupts the flow—a solid package all around, but one that draws attention to itself.
Just three more issues of New Avengers, then we’re on our way to Infinity! Oh boy! Maybe the plot will start to move again!