Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales and David Curiel
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
As the Avengers assemble once more in theaters across the world to the delight of just about everyone, their comic book counterparts are hard to get as excited about. In the aftermath of “No Surrender,” Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinnessare tasked with bringing back a more recognizable cast of characters in Avengers #1, and while they certainly have the pedigree to pull it off, something’s amiss. It’s not that the concept of the Avengers is outdated - it’s not, just check the box office receipts - but comic book creators are at something of an impasse with what to do with these characters. Can you really make something old new again?
On an execution level, this one goes about as expected. We check in with the each of the members of the team as a threat comes to Earth, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to expect that the book ends with a Marvel battle cry to begin all battle cries. But Aaron feels lost here, particularly when opening the book with his 1,000,000 B.C. Avengers - while the team was loudly promoted during the outset of "Marvel Legacy" here the cast feels bloated beyond Odin, Phoenix, and Agamotto, not mention wholly unnecessary at this stage of the narrative.
Meanwhile, with the present-day Avengers, Aaron tries to negotiate the current status quo of the Marvel publishing line to readers, trying his level best to sidestep why plenty of other characters aren’t spearheading this new line-up. “I could give you twenty names off the top of my head, Steve. People who could take what we built and make something completely new and exciting out of it.” But Marvel themselves surely recognizes that they have tried this - and now they’re going back to basics. The characters themselves have a sort of tepid response to the idea of the Avengers - so why should readers be excited?
With Marvel losing Jim Cheung to DC, Ed McGuinness has a lofty, lofty task in front of him. This is Marvel’s flagship title. This sets the tone. Unfortunately, despite McGuinness’ reputation and past good work, this issue crumbles under scrutiny. McGuinness’ art has always been hyper-stylized, and he gets a few really good shots in here of the threat both sets of Avengers face, Carol Danvers in space and Cap pulling on his mask. But throughout the book, Aaron’s script suffers from McGuinness’ static visual decision-making. McGuinness characters look like overgrown action figures, separated from their backgrounds with thick black lines and occasionally color highlights. Couple this with the poor expression work McGuinness puts onto the page, and you find yourself with the comic book equivalent of Bitmojis rather than interactions that have dramatic tension.
It’s been almost eight months since Marvel Legacy #1, and the publisher has yet to deliver on the promise that was present in that issue. It was far from perfect, but it represented some hope that the publisher recognized how to tend to its line and put it back on track to give us the essential versions of these characters. However, Avengers #1 stumbles out of the gate because it tries to be everything all a once - an epic story, a course correction and an apology. In trying to be everything for every kind of reader, Marvel has delivered that, honestly, doesn’t feel like much of one despite the implications of its final pages. This is by no means a death knell, but “boring and mishandled” is a bad place to start.