*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Salvador Larroca
Coloured by Frank Martin
Cover by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin
Dated May 2014
Now this is a nice thick book! Surely it’s well worth the $4 price tag! Surely we get a nice chunk of story, thanks to this heavy page count and—oh wait, they included the entire first issue of Invaders. It’s still well worth your money, getting two books for the price of one, but don’t expect any major development in these pages of the Avengers.
We pick up on a subplot that was touched on last issue: evil Bruce Banner from backwards evil Avengers-world flees his team and runs into the Bruce Banner we all know and love. Bypassing the ridiculously lax security system of Avengers tower (he’s a genetic copy of Banner, so it’s only a minor surprise), evil Bruce enters good Bruce’s “safe space”. This is where the Hulk goes before his rage gets the better of him. Here we learn that evil Bruce had been lobotomized and can no longer access the emotional parts of his brain. This allows his team of evil Avengers to control his transformation into the Hulk, but it’s also caused him to become a sociopath. Though the conversation seems rather cordial, good Banner decides he isn’t buying it and smacks evil Banner on the head with a wrench claiming “you can still get angry”. That may be, but why on earth would you want to test that out?
Flip over to AIM Island where the Scientist Supreme is dishing out some discipline. He fries an agent who screwed up and listens to the other lackeys as they try to excuse themselves out of the experiment gone wrong. It’s not clear exactly what went so wrong, but we understand that it was probably bad letting the evil Avengers get away (see last issue, or don’t, because it wasn’t very good).
Lo and behold, we finally enter that predictable arena where the good Avengers duke it out with the evil ones. Iron Man discovers that evil Iron Man is actually an evil Jarvis, Captain America discovers that his counterpart is pretty much the same—but an evil General, and Thor and Hyperion lay the bromance smack-down on the intruding Thor (or Thorr, with two “r”s for some reason). Before the battle ends, Hulk jumps into the mix, just to keep things moving.
AIM approaches by launching a time-freezing bubble around the fight. They head in, grab the evil Avengers and ask themselves why they don’t just murder the helpless, time-frozen good Avengers right then and there. The answer is a disappointing “because we must follow only the exact orders we’ve been given”. Lame! This is the second time Jonathan Hickman was written AIM as powerful enough to catch the Avengers at their weakest, but stupid enough to not just eliminate them right then and there. It’s the classic “why kill them now when I can watch them die slowly” trope that never works for the bad guys. I think we’re all pretty tired of that one.
The last page picks up with the AIM Adaptoids entering the multiversal gate ready to explore the nether-reaches of interdimensional space. Hints dropped here point to these guys actually being the Mapmakers, but they don’t look anything like the change-bots we’ve seen in other issues. Still, it seems like that’s the direction Hickman is pointing us in.
And there you have it! The issue we all saw coming—a predictable battle with lots of details we don’t really expect to go anywhere (what are the odds that evil Iron Man being evil Jarvis will actually matter down the road?).
Now do me a favor and take a look at these pictures. These are the covers to the last three issues of Avengers, all drawn by Mike Deodato and coloured by Frank Martin. I’ll put aside the fact that I don’t like any of the actual drawings, and just focus on the content:
The first one is harmless enough—it’s a scene that happened in the issue. Evil Captain America is missing and Ant-Man’s costume is all wrong, but otherwise it’s an accurate (if not ugly, sorry) depiction of the events inside the book. The second cover looks almost exactly the same, except those evil Avengers are now busting into AIM territory. This never happened in the book, so it’s strange that this would appear on the cover. Also, Ant-Man (who was an established corpse at the start of this arc) is in his Giant-Man garb and twenty feet tall. Given the story inside, that part doesn’t make a lick of sense. Now take a look at that third cover. It’s a huge Super-Adaptoid taking on the Avengers. That’s not even close to what happens in this book! The Adaptoids have been given a new bland, uniform look and taken to exploring the vastness of the multiverse. Nowhere in this entire arc do we get a giant Super-Adaptoid—in fact, the good team of Avengers never even come in contact with the new Adaptoids! It’s like Marvel’s editorial told Mike Deodato a vague idea of the story arc and used whatever he gave them. Shoddy work, I say! New Avengers#13 is guilty of the same crime, plastering Blackbolt on the cover and proclaiming it an Inhumanity tie-in, which it certainly was not—but I ignored that, figuring it was a simple editorial mistake.
Look, if you want readers to stay engaged, at least show that your editors are still interested.
On the plus side, none of that cover-mess is on display inside. Salvador Larroca keeps drawing this book like he actually cares and it’s all very pretty.
Unfortunately, all the nice art in the world couldn’t make this an interesting issue. All the nice in the world couldn’t make this a stimulating story arc, or even save this title from sliding further and further away from our interest.
You’re hanging by a thread, Hickman!
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Salvador Larroca
Coloured by Frank Martin and Andres Mossa
Cover by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin
June May 2014
Again with the cover? First, that’s one of the most nonspecific images you can put on the cover of Avengers. Second, I hate how often Hulk fights his allies—it’s a stupid ploy that has been overused since the 1970s. Third, nowhere in this issue does that scene occur—in fact, the Hulk doesn’t really appear at all except for flashbacks, and none of those flashbacks have him fighting those Avengers. Fourth, that’s Wolverine on the cover with the Avengers, but we all know he’s long since been off the team. C’mon editorial, you have to care just a little about these generic, misleading, downright incorrect covers!
Now the issue: Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have a chat. ‘Kay. Done.
Seems when the Hulk busted through Avengers tower and joined the little melee between the good and bad Avengers, people got mad. Why the public got particularly mad at this Hulk outburst is beyond me. Either way, SHIELD decides to lock up Banner to protect us from the Hulk—‘cause, “Hulk Smash”, y’know.
So Banner, alone with Stark at Avengers tower, wants to have a talk. He’s carrying a mysterious briefcase too, so…mystery! The rest of the comic all they do is talk in circles around each other. We learn that Banner has figured out that the Illuminati is back together, that the multiverse is collapsing and pretty much everything else covered in New Avengers. We also find out that the Hulk that got taken by SHIELD was the evil Banner (the sociopath, remember, so it’s all cool to frame him) and that the evil Avengers were sent to another dimension by AIM. Oh, and that briefcase? It contains a bunch of tranquilizers, to prevent Bruce from Hulking out. He’s pretty ticked about all the secrets Stark’s been hiding, though, so he goes through the whole case.
Now I have a bunch of problems with what happens here. Sure, sure, this issue is basically just talking heads and a waste of time and money that could have filled two pages in any normal issue, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not even talking about the fact that page 1 and page 20 are the exact same with different world bubbles. No, I’m talking about the specifics or the conversation:
First, Bruce asks Tony incessantly about “why he built the Avengers the way he did”. He’s talking about the schematic we see at the start of all these issues (except this one, for some reason), with the characters arrayed around a neat diagram. It’s “The Avengers Machine”. Well, the closest thing to an answer we get is Stark “created a team so powerful they could handle any overt threat while [Stark] worked on the real problem”. That’s right, Iron Man rounded up a bunch of powerful heroes just so he could hide the secret of the Illuminati. Really? This could be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Somehow the specific combination of Captain Marvel, Captain America, Hyperion, Black Widow, Hulk, Shang Chi, Iron Man, Cannonball, Sunspot, Smasher and Captain Universe (and possibly Starbrand, Nightmask and Wolverine if we’re including them) equates to a sinister diversion and a carefully selected roster that is able to hide Stark’s true intentions? Let’s move on—if we ignore this idea, it might go away.
Second, it turns out that the Hulk that attacked the two teams wasn’t evil Banner, enraged by a blow to the head. It was good Banner, in an attempt to infiltrate the team of bad guys. Well, Stark wonders why Banner thought it necessary to pommel Thor so much. Banner replies “my monster has a thing with deities…see a god, punch a god”. What? Are we being told that whenever Banner Hulks out, he just goes and attacks Thor? I’m sure they’ve fought plenty in the past, but as far as this series concerned, it’s not like whenever the Hulk makes an appearance he just goes wailing on the thunder god. What stupid reasoning…
Third, Banner’s tranquilizers—he tells Tony that each dose, though large, will only stave off his rage for a minute or so. What!? As far as I understand the concept, Banner gets mad and turns into the Hulk. I didn’t know he had super-rage—an anger so powerful it resisted drugs. Is this a result of being sedated so much in the past that he’s become immune? That would make sense, but the tone of this entire issue is “Banner is so angry that even huge vats of tranquilizers can’t keep him normal”. I don’t know, I’m not a big enough Hulk fan to call this completely out of character, but it seems ridiculous in these pages.
So, by Bruce’s estimations, the Illuminati have Sol’s Hammer (that thing Iron Man was building around the sun), the Builder’s world-destroyer ship (which is parked on the other side of Jupiter, apparently), the newly acquired Rogue Planet (which Stark claims has turns the Earth into a weapon) and unbeknownst to him, an array of anti-matter injection bombs. Yup, the Illuminati is locked and loaded. How does Stark convince Banner to keep quiet? He lets him join the team—the uncontrollable rage machine that is the Hulk is now part of the Illuminati! How is that a good idea?
In other news, the Adaptoids launch into nothing-space and find some other beings living out there. Hey! They’re just a bunch of other Adaptoids! Now they can all armour up and call themselves Mapmakers. Yes, despite pages upon pages of time-wasting blather, Hickman gives us a shred of satisfaction and we finally learn exactly who the Mapmakers are. A small victory, a small victory…
Yes, somehow despite being given next to nothing to work with, Salvador Larroca still puts in the effort and makes this a gorgeous looking book. I have to give the guy credit, in an issue with little more than a bunch of talking heads he keeps my eyes engaged with the page. Besides using the exact same uninspired cityscape splash-page twice in one book, there is little fault with the art.
So Banner joins the Illuminati, the evil Avengers leave, and the Mapmakers are revealed as advanced Adaptoids. All in all, some very small steps in terms of plot development, but with the exit of the evil Avengers there’s hope for the next story arc. It could actually be good, right?
Bad news: it’s not. In fact, the next stage in Avengers tops the run for slowest pace, biggest waste of money and some of the worst art in the series. It’s an Original Sin tie-in, about five issues too long (six altogether), and at the time of release caused me to curse both the names of Jonathan Hickman and the Avengers, almost dropping the title for good.
This should be fun…