"Chapter 2: Avengers"
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuinness
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The second issue of this series, which
Part of the problem is Loeb's decision to integrate the two stories into a single narrative which flits between the New and Mighty avengers to tell their stories in parallel. It's choppy and distracting, serving no apparent purpose other than to allow Loeb to devise a couple of superficial connections between the events of both stories and to pepper the static talkiness of the New team's tale with a little action from the Mighty squad. Bar a couple of allusions to last issue's storyline involving Wolverine's covert infiltration of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, there isn't much common ground between the two stories, and the dual thread involving the "anger" of both teams due to the death of Captain America is tenuous, with the more emotional moments (such as Spidey's outburst and attack on Wolverine, with his brooding moodiness again conflicting with his more buoyant appearances in books such as New Avengers) coming off as contrived and ill-fitting rather than organic and in-character.
I can't help but feel that Loeb might have been able to construct a more satisfying story if he wasn't obliged to manufacture story points that tie into the gimmicky theme of the series, and I hope that future issues don't rely on these elements too much, as the concept of this book's exploration of the five stages of grief already seems to be getting tenuous. The Mighty Avengers' tale is generic and simple, with the final scene of Ms. Marvel's anger feeling tacked-on and unconnected to the rest of the story, and the New Avengers' segment, although providing some interesting details as to how the newly outlawed team operates, is ultimately fairly inconsequential. The character interaction and poker-game setting allows for some humourous banter, but it makes the mood feel uneven, especially once the book reaches its supposedly serious and resonant conclusion.
Ed McGuinness' artwork is fairly strong throughout. All of the characters look good, but his clean, chunky style plays particularly well for the Mighty team, who continue to battle giant monsters and old-school Marvel villains in colourful costumes, in the same vein as their own title. The visual integration of the two stories is strong, using a mirroring device that allows the two segments equal page and panel time, but varies the pacing via the page layouts just enough to keep things from getting too repetitive (for which credit must presumably also go to Loeb), even if the two stories never really sit easily with one another.
Crucially, for a book which is all about the feelings that are connected with death and the grieving process, there's barely any exploration of the effect of Captain America's sudden death, and very little depth to the various characters' reactions to his passing, all of which are painted in fairly broad strokes. Considering the supposed importance of the event in the Marvel Universe, readers might be forgiven for expecting this limited series to provide something a little more profound and more closely tied to Cap and his legacy, whereas these two stories read like a couple of back-up features that have been shunted together to fill space. Whilst the issue might have worked slightly better as two completely separate short stories (à la The Confession), even then it would probably struggle to stand as worthwhile.
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