Avengers #1 Review

by Charles Martin on May 02, 2018

Avengers #1 Review
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Mark Morales
Colourist: David Curiel
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Well, we've got a new Avengers. It's big, it's bold, it's a #1, and it's releasing the week after Infinity War. It's gonna sell a bazillion copies regardless of its objective or subjective level of quality.

I just wish Jason Aaron was a little less aware of that fact. He's got 40 pages to play with and he really stuffs them full. But this is not "so much thrilling action that 40 pages are barely enough!" It's more "We might as well ladle in a few more plotlines so the first serving is big enough to sell for $5."

There are some good things lurking in Avengers #1. Black Panther and Doctor Strange have weird, wonderful, instantly compelling chemistry. They're this issue's left-field MVPs. Mr. Aaron writes them so well that we should really be talking spin-off.

The introduction with Odin's prehistoric Avengers is gloriously epic. Agamotto's a big ole downer and there are way too many name-drops to make sure we can ID the whole roster, but the Cave-Venger flashback sets the stakes for the modern-day story in a terrific way. The rest of this issue doesn't cash that check, but the story is a long way from over.

This book does succeed at threading a specific, important continuity needle: It builds constructively on the groundwork Mr. Aaron laid in Marvel Legacy #1, but it doesn't require you to have read that one-shot.

Captain Marvel has a pitch-perfect role. It's worth noting: For all of the heroic firepower Assembled in this book, Carol's the only one doing a damn thing to save folks so far. And her story thread ties neatly onto the Big Three in the final act in a way that's both organic and satisfying.

But oh, those Big Three! Cap, Iron Man, and Thor first show up throwing themselves a whiny pity party at a bar. It's drenched in way too much meta-textual irony, particularly from Tony, and the unending three-way snarkfest between these guys who are supposed to be the heart and soul of the team sours every page they appear on - barring the last one. 

Go on, guess what the last two words of the issue are. Cap shouts 'em and your first two guesses don't count.

If the chemistry between the three leads is flawed, at least their role in the book is clear. They are the heart of the Avengers and there's no question that they belong here. The same can't be said of Jennifer Walters and Robbie Reyes, who show up in this issue mainly, I think, because the Mighty Marvel Marketing Team already told us they're on the roster. 

Jen chases off a would-be sexual harasser with a single panel of Hulk-face. Other than that, her whole role is to watch in shock as the Crisis Du Jour rolls over the Earth. And that's what everybody else (barring Captain Marvel) is doing too, and that's the fatal flaw in this issue's script. 

The heroes have minimal agency, dragging this issue down to the level of a referendum on the antagonists revealed in the final pages. Between the disappointment of watching the Avengers watch things and the violent way my lungs emptied in the mother of all "meh"s once I grasped the premise of these baddies, I'm afraid I'll have to check the "N" box on this issue's "Is deez villains awesum Y/N?" note.

Besides the silver linings mentioned above, Ed McGuinness's art is another major redeeming factor in Avengers #1. He clearly feels proud to be drawing a flagship comic, and his painstaking efforts show in nearly every panel. His grasp of a few characters is slightly iffy - Carol, Jen, and Robbie could use some more work - but he's bringing a heap of talent to the table. Scrupulous finishes (thanks, Mark Morales!), imaginative but flowing panel layouts, flawless anatomy: This looks like a $5 comic book even if it doesn't always read like one. David Curiel's colours are vibrantly on point as well.

Mr. McGuinness fully sells the cinematic splashes that are made absolutely necessary by Mr. Aaron's Spielbergian "let's just watch our heroes gasping at our awesome effects" script. The Cave-Vengers' death or glory charge, the twisted orbital bombardment the Earth suffers, Thor zooming into battle behind a hammer (at-frigging-last!) - these scenes all look magnificent. Even the antagonists revealed in the final scene look mighty impressive. They're connected to established Marvel characters, and though they haven't even been named yet, you can look them up in the solicits after seeing how Mr. McGuinness draws them and you'll say, "yep, that's exactly what those are." 

Some pervasive flaws in plot, pacing, and characterization are saved from causing too much disappointment by Ed McGuinness drawing his dang hands off in Avengers #1. This initial issue casts its net too wide and doesn't let the heroes do enough heroing, but pretty visuals and gobs of potential mean that this cause is a long way from lost.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Seriously I'm not feeling these Avengers yet, but I'm ready for like 30 issues of The StrangePanther Files.