Avengers of the Wastelands #1
Written by Ed Brisson
Art by Jonas Scharf and Neeraj Menon
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
Back in the good old days of 2008, "Old Man Logan" burst onto the scene with an intensity and bleakness that felt unlike anything in superhero comic books at the time. But over a decade later, even the apocalypse seems to have lost its luster in Avengers of the Wastelansd, a spinoff that only barely goes through the superheroic motions. While artist Jonas Scharf and colorist Neeraj Menon bring a few sparks to mark the occasion, former Dead Man Logan writer Ed Brisson isn't able to bring the sense of ruthlessness or menace that gave this war-torn world its signature bite.
If you haven't been keeping up with Brisson's work on Dead Man Logan, you're likely going to be caught flat-footed with this debut issue, as the writer throws you into the deep end of the pool with little exposition. On the run from the hordes of Doctor Doom, new Ant-Man Dwight Barrett finds refuge with new Thor Danielle Cage and new Hulk Bruce Banner, Jr. After Dwight and Dani discuss the pros and cons of taking the fight back to the dictators of the wastelands, we discover this new Ant-Man isn't exactly great at losing a tail, and a capes-and-tights battle royale ensues.
Unfortunately, Avengers of the Wastelands never seems to transcend that paper-thin of a concept - in a lot of ways, the post-apocalyptic setting just feels like some vague sepia undertones rather than something that truly permeates or influences the story. Dani and Bruce are living in a happy community. While Dwight is fleeing the scene of a slaughter, the flashback is so distant and sanitized we never really get a sense of bloodshed or trauma. When the trio meet, there's little in the way of chemistry, or even shared values - just wordy speeches to pass the time and eat up page real estate. Even Doctor Doom feels like his grandiose modern-day self, pontificating through Doombots rather than having stepped up his game in the way of the macabre old Mark Millar villains. It all just feels rather safe and defanged - the antithesis of this book's roots.
Some of that might fall on the shoulders of artist Jonas Scharf - he's a solid artist, but his style feels so clean-cut superheroic that he's not able to give this post-apocalyptic setting a sense of mood. Beyond a few headbands, military gear and the commune-style setting, there's little to establish any sense of time or place with this story - this could easily be the mainstream 616 universe. That said, to his credit, he and Menon also bring the emotional highlights of the book, as the look on Dwight's face as he relays the deaths of his friends is a strong moment.
Just by virtue of the post-apocalyptic setting - not to mention lingering affection for the "Old Man Logan" saga that Brisson himself recently concluded - there's bound to be fans of Avengers of the Wastelands just based on sheer high concept. But beyond those guaranteed fans, this book can't help but feel a bit watered-down from its source material. Brisson's clearly capable of strong storytelling - his work on New Mutants being a prime example - but his return to the wastelands proves that sometimes you really can't go home again.