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.
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.
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.