Avengers #19

Avengers 19

Avengers #19 cover; Marvel

I have not read an Avengers comic in awhile.  There are several reasons for this, but the biggest is that I have been more excited about DC Comics than Marvel lately.  The second reason, by no means insignificant, is that Fear Itself really slogged a lot of the Marvel titles. It was a not a good event and because so many Marvel titles were tie-ins or caught up in that event, it messed up the energy and momentum of a number of titles.

Anyway, #19 is the second to come from the event without the Fear Itself banner. #18 was okay, but honestly, by the time I read this one, I had long forgotten the contents of #18.  The cover for #19 was done by Daniel Acuna; the writing continues to be done by Brian Michael Bendis.  When I first glanced at the cover, I thought the art had been done by Howard Chaykin (whose art I do not like.)  However, I learned that it was done by Acuna and I have given it some deeper examination. I like the white background. I realized that the white background really stands out among other issues because it looks so clean and bright.  However, the characters are actually outlined in a light blue color. I’m not sure what this is about – maybe to make the transition from white to the other colors better? I am no artist, but somehow these outlines look odd to me. Also, well, I don’t like the layout of the cover, although Captain America is in a rather traditional pose.

The issue starts off in Rikers Island Maximum Security Penitentiary – the Raft – where Norman Osborn has recently escaped. I confess that I do not remember this from previous issues, but it’s not exactly a surprising thing.  Anyway, we are introduced to Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy Johnson who has been specifically assigned (by Captain America) to root out the situation at The Raft.  Again, I know better, but I thought this was Maria Hill. Oops. Do all female S.H.I.E.L.D. agents look the same and have the same attitudes?

Meanwhile, the media has gathered outside of Avengers Mansion for an announcement by the Avengers regarding the roster of the team.  We see Captain America trying to recruit Black Panther, who turns him down but suggests that his wife (Storm) be included. Storm gets a full-page entrance, surrounded by the falling leaves of the back courtyard of the mansion. She should, I think, be given a nice entrance, but I find the odd “confetti” leaves a bit odd.  Tony Stark has a surprise, too.  He reintroduces The Vision – the robot of the old, old Avengers teams.  Everyone is surprised, but happy to see Vision.  But the best moment is when Vision sees Red Hulk; Red Hulk’s reaction to Vision is also funny.  It’s fun to see Red Hulk in these awkward moments. All of these frames, drawn out of doors in sunshine, make the comic have a lighter, brighter appeal to it. After all, Fear Itself (and plenty of other storylines) have been very dark and heavy. It’s nice to not be reading a comic taking place in a basement-bunker at night.

Victoria Hand is there to “liaison” and the team steps out in front of the media on a stage.  The frame with all of the Avengers there before the media is pretty standard – I feel like every so often we see some variant of this frame. It would actually be sort of interesting to collect and look at all the frames that have the Avengers on the stage before the media. Anyway, this one is done fine, nothing too remarkable about it.  However, guess who is in the crowd? None other than Norman Osborn!

Easter Egg:  Last frame – on the microphone the newsman holds out toward Norman Osborn are the letters CBR – presumably standing for Comic Book Resources (www.comicbookresources.com).

Overall, the issue is standard fare – nothing at all amazing to it. The art is clean and matches the story.  Acuna does draw a good Captain America. He also uses bold primary colors, which gives the issue a solid feel to it. The writing? Well, again, we’ll just have to see where Bendis is going to take this storyline.  However, on its own, there’s nothing remarkable that makes me know it’s Bendis as opposed to someone else.

3 stars

Avengers #10 – 12

Avengers 10

Avengers #10

Continuing onward in the storyline that started in issue #7, the Avengers seek to chase after the Infinity Gems – racing Parker Robbins to acquire them.  The Avengers (and X-Men) have divided into three teams.  One team has followed Professor X to the site of the old X-Men school. Another, larger, group has gone to Area 51. Finally, three very powerful heroes (Namor, Red Hulk, and Thor) are traveling deep underwater to obtain the gem that Namor had been in charge of.

Several interesting things occur in the issue that help to make it seem not just one big pile of heroes running around.  Underwater, once Namor retrieves the gem, the three heroes hover around. Red Hulk has his hand out to take it, but Namor gives it to Thor. I found this a neat subtle way of showing that the Avengers do not trust Red Hulk yet, and that Namor seems to have more faith in Thor than he does in himself – a rare moment of humility for Namor.

Another interesting tidbit involves the Avengers learning that Tony Stark owns Area 51.  They comment that they thought that he was impoverished.  Tony replies:  “My broke is not the same as your broke,” which I think is a classic line for Tony. It demonstrates his arrogance and the fact that he really is the richest character in the Marvel universe.  I got quite a chuckle out of this line, which stuck with me awhile after reading it.

Avengers 11

Avengers #11

Issue #11 starts off with a full page frame of Uatu.  If you know anything about Marvel comics, you know that when this dude is present, things are serious.  Parker Robbins appears as the three heroes emerge from the water. Robbins possesses the purple, red, and yellow gems already (space, power, and reality respectively).  After a tussle, the Red Hulk gains the red gem (power), but Robbins transports them all back to Area 51.  Unfortunately, Robbins escapes, even after the Avengers attack. It’s at this point that Spider-Man notices Uatu. “Anyone else happen to notice The Watcher is here… you know, watching!”

Robbins has zipped off to meet the Avengers & X-Men team at Xavier’s school. A battle ensues between Xavier and Robbins – which the former loses. I was surprised. The Avengers are not doing well in these issues. Robbins collects the mind gem and heads off to the astral plane to find the gem that was given to Dr. Strange. The art on in this issue is colorful as all get out.  The Astral plane is full of yellows and pinks and lights and spheres. It’s really quite a sensory bombardment. Dean White is the colorist and I have to give him a lot of credit because these seem to be some of the most colorful issues in comics in the last year or so. I think the writing is about what one should expect to find in an Avengers comic book.  The art is hit or miss, I feel. Some frames are great, others are not so pleasant to look at. It ends up being a bit discordant. Nevertheless, the colorist does a good job making the art look as bold and bright as possible.

Avengers 12

Avengers #12

I really like the cover of issue 12 because the artist dropped the title font to the center of the page and put a bold Iron Man in the center of the image.  Frankly, since issue #7, I fell hook-line-and-sinker for the setup that Tony Stark had fallen prey to his arrogance and greed. When I saw the cover, I did not think that the Avengers had saved the day, but rather that Stark had somehow managed to get his paws on all of the gems and was wielding them similarly to how Robbins would have.

The Avengers defeat Robbins. Iron Man does manage to get his hands on all of the infinity gems. And in front of the assembled heroes, he uses the gems to “wish them out of existence.”  He appears remorseful and solemn and the Avengers seem satisfied with his actions.  Steve Rogers welcomes Red Hulk to the Avengers officially because he says that Red Hulk acted both selflessly and smart.  I have to say that in this frame, Steve is pretty ugly.  This is certainly not some athletic and handsome movie star.  Steve’s face and hair is just drawn ugly. In the same frame, Red Hulk looks a bit like a Elvis. The pencils for these issues are done by John Romita, JR.  I still dislike his art and I feel that without the skills of the colorist and the inker, this art would be quite awful.  I admit the covers are bright and wild, but the interior art is sometimes downright ugly. It’s easy to see what’s happening in each frame and it matches the storyline, however, the art is not to my liking.

Yeah, I was sad to see the infinity gems/gauntlet be “wished out of existence” just like that – poof!  They have been such a driving force in the Marvel cosmic universe that I was disappointed that that was all the story we get.  I should have known better (and I bet most readers suspected more).  Apparently, Dr. Strange was surprised too, so I don’t feel so bad. The last pages of the issue show the Illuminati, once again dividing up the gems. This time, however, there is one more member among them who grasps the orange gem:  Steve Rogers. (Of course, it’s one of the ugliest Steve Rogers in comics yet…..)

Overall, I liked this arc. I like the infinity gems. I like Thor and Namor and Iron Man. However, I do feel this was an “all-ages” book, since there wasn’t the depth that I am used to reading in comics of late. But perhaps this is not a bad thing at all – the arc was fun, colorful, and let the writer play with the infinity gems. There is an awful lot for the writer/artist to juggle in this storyarc:  dozens of characters, a whole mess of gems, etc.  In some places, the story moves a little too fast, I think. In the end, the rift between Tony and Steve is somewhat better and the villain was defeated. This is well worth reading, but is probably not going to be one of the greatest Avengers arcs ever written.

4 stars

Avengers (2010) # 7 – 9

In 2010, Marvel started a new several new Avengers titles, including The Avengers and New Avengers. This is some of the aftermath of Marvel’s several years of universe-wide events like World War Hulk, Civil War, Dark Reign, etc. I was rather excited about a new Avengers title for a number of reasons. First, the Avengers are Marvel’s “team.”  The Avengers represent the main core team of superheroes in the Marvel Universe and regardless of anything else that is going on, the Avengers have the history, the clout, and the job of being the driving force in the Marvel universe.  Second, I felt that Dark Reign and Siege struggled as major events and its a good feeling to come out on the other side with a new title starting from issue #1.  Marvel was touting it as “The Heroic Age,” but whatever one calls it – it feels like a step forward with some good direction.

The Avengers title is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who has been one of Marvel’s main architects for the last several years.  He is joined on the title by John Romita, jr. who is the son of famous John Romita, the comic book artist of Captain America and Spider-Man fame.  JRJR (as John Romita, jr. is often designated) is an artist who has worked on a variety of titles to include Iron Man, Thor, Amazing Spider-Man, and Daredevil.

After issue #3, I was ready to drop The Avengers from my pull list. At $3.99 per issue, it was making my forehead hurt way too much. I have no idea what the heck issues #1 – 6 are about. I think there is some time travel / alternate reality stuff going on. Kang the Conquerer is involved – and you know what that’s like! Sheesh! Anyway, I really hated the cover for #1, I really did not like the storyarc for #1 – 6.  But I kept it on my pull list. Like I said above:  this is The Avengers. In other words, you don’t just drop Avengers because of a bad arc or because you didn’t like the cover. If you want to be “in the know” in the Marvel Universe, you’re pulling at least one Avengers title.  In my world, the first six issues don’t really exist – or, they do, but only in the alternate future of Kang the Conquerer.  So, let us never speak of them again.

Avengers 7

Avengers #7 cover

The Avengers title starts off with issue #7.  The whole story starts with some criminal activity like murder and theft in some dark snowy place.  Who’s doing all this?  Looks like the ex-The Hood. You may remember him from Dark Reign or by his name, Parker Robbins. (I really don’t like this character’s names. He wore a red hood – which makes me always want to call him Red Hood Cp. DC’s Jason Todd. Also, Parker Robbins is like some amalgam of Peter Parker + Red Robin in my head. I wish The Hood was just called Bad Guy and his real name was Bob Smith.)  Most of the first issue is follows Robbins as he gathers two of the Infinity Gems. This is great, because I liked some of the cosmic Marvel stuff dealing with the Infinity Gems, particularly in the Infinity War, Crusade, Gauntlet.

So this loser criminal gets a hold of two Infinity Gems – the yellow and the red. One of the first things he happens to do with these gems is beat the hell out of Red Hulk. (Or Rulk if you prefer)  Anyway, in this issue there is a very charming centerfold piece of artwork showing Robbins in his hoodie, sneakers, and shorts socking Red Hulk directly in the eye. I like the way Red Hulk is drawn in this “frame” and it definitely gives a title like The Avengers a superhero feel to it. (What would an Avengers book be without someone punching a Hulk?) Don’t ask me who Red Hulk is – its a long story and I’m not certain I’m the one to tell it.

The last pages of the issue take place at the Avengers Tower in NYC. The Avengers team is having a get-together, including Spider-Woman, Noh-Varr, Thor, and many others. Red Hulk crashes the party – literally. He smashes in the window and lands on the floor in a mess. I like here how Thor takes such a leadership role by being one of the first heroes to react to the situation.

Avengers 8

Avengers #8 cover

Issue #8 has the tag “Return of the Illuminati” written on the cover, which is very cool because the sneaky and conflict-driven “Illuminati” has been one of the cooler, more interesting threads in the last several years of Marvel history.

Upon seeing the cover, I had no idea who the chick front and center is.  (But, boy doesn’t she have a lot of hair?!)  This issue begins with the members of the Illuminati gathering at the request of Iron Man. Most of the members are vexed because the group did not part happily previously.  We also learn that this is Medusa, wife of the deceased Black Bolt (former Illuminati member). This is good stuff and the dynamic between each of the characters is done well.  By way of explaining things to the members of the Illuminati, Iron Man tells us the story that Red Hulk brought to Avengers Tower regarding Robbins.

The problem is with JRJR’s drawing of Steve Rogers. Really. In one frame, I spent a few solid minutes trying to determine if I was looking at Steve Rogers or Noh-Varr.  I still have my doubts. Red Hulk is drawn very well. Professor X (one of the assembled Illuminati) looks a lot like DC’s Martain Manhunter – just without the green skin. I know Xavier uses his brain but I don’t think that means his forehead and brow need to look cro magnon.

Avengers 9

Avengers #9 cover

Issue #9 moves the storyline along by taking us back to Robbins in prison. We get some glimpses of how Robbins escaped, how he might be able to be collecting the Infinity Gems, and who might be working with him. In the present, we witness a confrontation between most of the major superheroes and the Illuminati.  Steve Rogers is really annoyed with Tony Stark. I have some problem with this because Steve takes the matter up with Tony, but honestly, the other Illuminati are as much to blame for the secrecy. After all, it’s not like Doctor Strange is just some tool that Tony uses.

The storyline is excellent. I am loving the Infinity Gems and Red Hulk and the Illuminati. However, again, I am really annoyed by the depiction of Steve Rogers. There are some frames where he looks out and out rotten. This simply does not look at all like any incarnation or rendering of Rogers. At all. Frankly, when I look at some frames, I see the main character from the anime Bleach, Ichigo Kurosaki.  The extreme youthfulness and the hair and even posture of Steve Rogers is not reasonable. And I really need JRJR to do better with this character. Medusa could be interesting, we’ll have to see. The writing for Thor is subtly good – once again he comes across as a wise leader. And Thor looks like Thor.

Ichigo

Ichigo

I give all of these issues 4 stars. The storyline is interesting and fun. Most of the artwork is great. I cannot, however, accept Ichigo as an Avenger.

Avengers #235

Avengers @35

Avengers #235

So, I started going through  my Avengers issues.  The earliest issue I have that has surrounding issues and makes sense to start with is #235. Its kind of a random place to start, but its also what I have to work with.  I have #234, but I’ve already gone over that issue in a elsewhere – specifically focusing on the Scarlet Witch.

#235 was written by Roger Stern with art by Bud Budiansky for September 1983.

The issue begins with repairmen working at Avengers Mansion.  (Apparently, this is the result of something that occurred in Fantastic Four #257).  Wasp is flitting around nagging and bossing the workmen.  Captain America is there as well, and he seems to be in a sour mood.  We soon learn why he’s so sour:  he is worried about the Avengers.  Thor has left the team temporarily to attend to a personal mission in space (Cp. Thor #334).  Iron Man has recently given up the suit because he has fallen into his alcoholism.  The reservist Avengers, Scarlet Witch and Vision, are both in the medical lab – the Vision is in a medical bed in some sort of “coma” while the Witch hovers over him.  Vision had been injured in a battle with Annihilus, which occurred in Avengers #233.  Basically, Wasp is chairwoman of the Avengers, and the Avengers now consist of Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Captain Marvel, Starfox, and She-Hulk.

She-Hulk has been called in from the West Coast and she is jogging through NYC where she meets up and banters with Spider-Man.  She relates to him that as an Avenger, she gets paid $1,000 a week.  Of course Spider-Man is awed and regrets having passed up the chance to be an Avenger himself – back in issue #221.

The National Security Council contacts the Avengers and requests their help.  The Wizard has escaped from the Vermont Federal Penitentiary and the NSC asks the Avengers to help relocate the criminal mastermind.  Wasp gathers her team and divides them into two groups.  Captain America will lead the Witch and She-Hulk to check out The Wizard’s home.

Of course The Wizard is at his home and has been devising defensive measures.  And, actually, that’s the biggest reason I like this issue.  I really like traps and puzzles for heroes to contend with.  She-Hulk is “trapped” in a room with two doors, when she goes through one door, the room “spins” and so she just, basically, walks back across the room to the first door. And then she repeats. Finally, she gets wise and makes marks on the wall to help her ascertain what is happening.  Naturally, when she finds out, she just starts knocking walls down.

The trap for Captain America seems pretty intense, honestly.  He enters a room wherein zero-gravity has been established.  As soon as he enters, he floats into the air.  This isn’t so terrible, however there are also a lot of high-intensity lasers installed on the walls which shoot beams at Captain America. So he has to time his movements in zero-gravity to avoid these beams.  In order to escape, he uses his shield to knock out a few lasers, and then he finds a working laser and shoots the rest.  There is a frame depicting this where there are 15 lasers shooting at him. This is rich!  Good old 1980s comics!!!! Woot!!!

The Scarlet Witch enters a room which, I think, is the most creative and interesting.  Her trap is a room that a field effect that generates a pocket of non-causality.  We are told that all actions have an equal chance of occurrence inside the room – nullifying Witch’s powers. I won’t give any more away, but suffice it to say, the Avengers capture The Wizard.  They also realize that Wasp is quite a cunning Chairwoman for teaming them up as she did.  The mission made the Witch feel better about Vision, made Captain America focus on more than woes, and made She-Hulk feel participatory in the team.

Originally this comic issue cost .60¢.  I think that was a steal. Even though I didn’t have any of the background story (e.g. what happened with Annihilus? why is the Mansion a wreck?), I was able to read along and enjoy the story.  We saw Captain America worried and intent on training and missions.  We saw Wasp, as the oldest Avenger on the team, making wise decisions as their leader.  Finally, we had a cameo by Spider-Man.  The villain was stubborn, smart-until-dumb, and the challenges he presented were interesting.   My world as a kid was very DC and not very Marvel.  So its kind of fun to return to these older issues and read a good story that I didn’t have to get lost in backstory with.  And even though this team is not the original, traditional Avengers, there is plenty of character dynamism involved to make the team engaging.

4 stars

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