Sharp-eyed Newsarama readers may recall that we had a column for a while called “Right to Assemble”. It followed the Avengers titles in the post-Civil War landscape. We talked about the possible realignments of titles in the wake of the end of Siege (and guessed right on most of the approach). Now, at nearly one year in and with the first major writing change about to take place, we thought that we’d check in and see how things went in the inaugural year of the new configuration. How did the assembled Avengers teams turn out?
First, let’s take a quick look at the primary minis.
Avengers Prime: An entertaining tale that put a spotlight on Steve Rogers, Thor, and Iron Man, Prime threw the characters into the Nine Worlds and put them through some paces that we hadn’t seen in a while. It was probably a necessary step to re-setting the relationship between the Big Three for the revamp. Yeah, you probably could have done that in the main books, but this was old-school fun, so we didn’t mind. Bonus points for Alan Davis, who can still draw anything.
Children’s Crusade: This one’s still in progress, and in fact just had a Young Avengers one-shot to give deep background on the future twists that are present in the storyline. Whereas I’m glad to see the Young Avengers and glad to see some of these story issues addressed, I have to wonder what it would be like if we just had, y’know, a Young Avengers book. The Young Avengers seem to fulfill different story functions that the “at-risk” kids of Academy, and the existence of both this and prime indicate that readers are willing to buy other Avengers books if they’re well done. We’ll see.
For the regulars . . .
Secret Avengers: Brubaker did strong work, launching this with Steve Rogers, some classic Avengers (Black Widow, Beast), some B-listers (Moon Knight), and welcome additions (Nova, *sniff*). It’ll be interesting to see how this fares under Nick Spencer, a writer with a team book track record that only extends to his current work on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (which he apparently gets to continue at DC). The concept of Secret Avengers is the star in some ways, and the conceit might be shaken when Rogers makes his inevitable return to the Cap suit. I also wonder if Beast will have to go back to the X-Men, given the pending split for that team and the likelihood that Beast will fall into Wolverine’s camp due to his personal break with Cyclops. Regardless, this has been a solid entry, and it will bear watching.
Avengers Academy: This has been my favorite of the books overall. I like the concept of flawed Avengers trying to keep young supers from making the same mistakes that they did. McKone was particularly well-suited to this type of book, but Raney’s no novice himself; I’m sure he’ll do a great job. As for the writing, Christos Gage has been getting gold out of minor and background characters since The Initiative days, so I’m not surprised at how strong his performance has been on this series. There have been a number of memorable of moments, my favorite of which being the end of the Finesse and Taskmaster confrontation. That packed some real resonance, and threw into sharp relief certain ideas about family in a super-powered context.
New Avengers: I’ve quite liked this one as well, though I was admittedly put out by the death of Doctor Voodoo. I thought that the Doc’s solo book was interesting, with Rick Remender bringing a lot of great ideas to the table. I was disappointed to see Voodoo go out. Past that, though, this has felt like the Avengers “family” book, with some great comedic moments happening between Luke Cage and Spider-Man, Luke Cage and his wife Jess, The Thing and Spider-Man . . . hell, everybody, really. This team actually seems to enjoy hanging around together, and that makes an enormous difference in the readability and enjoyment of the title. Sure, being on the Avengers is a thing of duty, but the majority of this team suffered together through the Civil War and Dark Reign, so it’s good to see them (mostly) having a decent time and enjoying one another’s company.
Avengers: Frankly, it’s the one that I’ve had the hardest time warming up to. That’s not for the art; JRJR is a pure classic in terms of super-hero art. I thought that the first arc simply took a while to get into, as a reader. However, the Red Hulk/Hood/Gems arc has picked up quite a bit for me. I think that it’s vital that Bendis addresses the ongoing issues of trust surrounding Steve and Iron Man; they still have a long way to walk back from everything that went down in the recent past. Another solid bit in this latest story is the inclusion of so many related characters; the events here would indeed impact all of them.
So, at this point, almost a year in, it seems as if the franchise is moving along well. What remains to be seen is what direction Fear Itself will move the teams, and how things may possibly be aligned with the Avengers film bearing down just after the post-Siege two-year mark.