December 23, 2011

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Quick Hits: Bendis' Avengers Volume 1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, and Tom Palmer
Marvel

The Avengers are back, even though they never really left.  Steve Rogers picks a team to be the face people look for in the Avengers family, and goes for a mixture of the classic (Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye) and the new (Spider-Man, Wolverine, Spider-Woman, Bucky Cap).  They don't have long to wait before an epic, time-spanning battle pits them against everyone from Kang to Apocalypse to Ulton to...their future?

I wasn't going to review this one, as I was reading it just out of curiosity.  I'm generally inclined to like Bendis, despite his ability to tell a 5 issue story in 15 issues instead, but Secret Invasion was so bad, I gave up, and I lost touch with what he was doing.

This fresh start in the Heroic Age is much better.  He still takes the story out longer than it needs to, but instead of filler page after filler page of talking, the characters are all on the move.  There are battles all over the place, drawn extremely well by Romita and his constant companion, Janson.  After years of butchering the work of others, it seems like Janson finally has learned how to do a better job of bringing life to the pencils he's working on. It only took what, thirty years?  The dialog is sharp, with characters sounding like they are actually friends having deadly adventures together, rather than posing, posturing expositors of English.  Bendis does a particularly good job with Spider-Man, of course, who has a longstanding history with so many of these characters.  But I also like how his Tony is both a jerk and a good person at the same time (something we haven't seen in a long time), making mistakes while trying to do the right thing.  Thor is noble, if single-minded.  Wolverine's a bit harder to nail down, and is the only character who doesn't really feel like he fits in with this group.  Overall, I liked how this team is set up, for however long it lasts.

As far as the story goes, well, I'm not big on time travel as much as I am alternative realities, because of the problems inherent in them.  I like how Bendis taps into everything from Future Imperfect to Age of Apocalypse to the Marvel2 Universe, but I think everyone kinda forgets Marvel Universe 101 here, where each trip into the future creates a new reality.  Maybe that's no longer true, but if it is, then the importance of this story is definitely dampened a bit.

Bendis' Avengers isn't deep.  It's not the old, take-themselves-too-seriously Avengers, either, but I consider that to be a good thing.  This is adventure comics by a man having fun using characters he likes.  Fortunately for me, I like them, too, so I'm having fun reading this comic.  It's not rocket science, even if there's pseudo-science involved in the story, but it's enjoyable comics.  Sometimes, that's all I ask for.  I'd definitely read a second volume, if I find it cheaply enough.  If you aren't on Bendis burnout and like team books, it's probably worth seeing if this might be something you'd like.  It was for me.