Or – “Behind The Curve Is Where I’ll Be…”


Okay, so I admit it. I’ve been dragging my feet on recapping this title. I was of the opinion that I wasn’t going to cover it at all, until I managed to stay on my daily schedule long enough to actually exhaust what was in the review bag (though not buying last week’s comics due to budgeting catastrophe may have been in large part responsible, as well.) The honest truth is: I’m a big Frank Cho fan. I’m a conditional Brian Bendis fan (though I enjoy him better on his self-created characters than on Marvel’s core titles). And I’m an Avengers fan, Old-School, through and through. I remember The Vision taking over the world, I remember “Emperor Doom”, I remember the debut of Monica Rambeau as Captain Marvel II. So, what would make me into such a weenie about simply reviewing a new comic book if I go in knowing I like the characters, the artist and the writer?


Simply put: I can’t decide how I feel about it. I’m in a total Clash moment, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” time. There’s so much here that’s trying to be new, and fresh, and different, but there’s also such a push at Marvel towards the brave new world of the Initiative that it’s already started to feel a bit… off. I can’t say that the ideas are stale, precisely, but most of the punch in this issue has been so telegraphed that the first time through the book, it felt like I’d read it before. In any case, this issue takes place right after Civil War, with the victorious Iron Man regrouping, rebuilding both SHIELD and the Avengers, and in general, thinking that he knows what’s best for everyone. Since most of the really experienced leaders in the Avengers roster are either dead, not speaking to him, or on the run from the law, he’s left with the option of restructuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes or giving it up entirely.

Of course, we know what option he chooses, as his new Avengers team (consisting of field leader Ms. Marvel, The Wasp, Ares, Wonder Man, The Sentry, The Black Widow, and himself as Iron Man) is together a whopping 14 minutes before they’re called into action to fight giant monsters in the middle of Manhattan. While we see the chaos caused by an unstructured and untested team (Sentry in particular busts up a ton of property), we also flashback to a bit earlier, just after the murder of Captain America, as he and Carol (Ms. Marvel) Danvers discuss a business opportunity… the opportunity to do what she’s been saying she wants to do, step up to the big leagues and LEAD the Avengers.


Notice the thing that has everyone talking: the return of the thought balloon to Marvel’s comics. But rather than being used to convey exposition, as they used to, they’re now being used to show that even superheroes don’t always say what they REALLY think. It’s interesting to hear Carol’s response (“AAAGH!”) to this shot at the big time, but what’s most interesting is the way Tony, never comfortable with emotions, has compartmentalized “Rogers” the terrorist from his old friend and mentor “Cap.” It’s a nice piece of psychological characterization from Bendis, and it’s something that I’ve missed over in New Avengers the last couple of months. Tony is knee-deep in SHIELD (requisitioning a new helicarrier in his signature red and gold, for one) but really wants to believe that Carol can run the team. But when she tries to float a trial balloon (“Why don’t we try an all powerhouse team?”), he quickly and autocratically overrides her…


There’s another nice piece of character business, with Stark’s silence saying volumes more than any dialogue could. Frank’s art is nicely done, with just a tiny bit of “cartooniness” that I enjoy, a touch of the Eisneresque that very few people have anymore (save Darwyn Cooke.) Carol finally asks the 97 and a half million dollar question, the one that *I’VE* been asking for a couple of months now… “At this point, how is us finding Luke Cage protecting the world?” And we get an answer that I both like and hate, but one that at least makes sense in the greater context of the Marvel firmament.


And that, finally, makes sense. Maybe he’s a schmuck, maybe he’s not, but at least there’s part of him that’s TRYING to look out for his old comrades. And remember, he now controls computers with his mind, so that readout is almost certainly NOT a coinkydink. In the present, the team is having trouble with the monsters, and suspecting that the Mole Man is somehow behind it all, this being a particularly “Moley” attack. And the presence of Iron Man, herself, Sentry, Wonder Man and Ares comes darn close to the ‘all-powerhouse’ concept, I might add. Sadly, it just means that they’re durable enough to bounce when the monsters throw them at a building. And whatever happened to Wonder Man’s jet belts? Surely SHIELD’s budget can swing a couple of jet engines, they can build a whole new helicarrier because the old one wasn’t Tony’s favorite color. Speaking of Wondy, his addition to the team is a telling one…


Carol’s in because Tony likes her. Simon’s in because Carol likes him. It’s like junior high dodgeball, only the fat kid that didn’t get picked is razing the city with his army of dinosaurs (of which he knows every latin name and genus). I can see the value of having people you know and trust on a team, but Wonder Man (while a fave-rave and a great character) is NOT the second greatest Avenger of all time. He’s not even in the top #@#&ing ten. (In my mind, the top ten are: Captain America, The Wasp, Hawkeye, The Vision, Iron Man, The Beast, The Black Panther, Thor, Captain Marvel II & Luke Cage in roughly that order.) And Tony seems to have an uncharacteristically awkward flirting thing going on with Carol, and it’s frankly painful to watch. I hope that was the intent. Tony overrides Carol and tells her The Sentry is in, and she argues no, he’s a basket case, but Tony makes a good argument (while forcing his new “leader” to acquiese to his wishes.) Bob Reynolds is treated like a big gun, when he’s really as green as Patriot or Hulkling in his own way. He’s incredibly powerful, he needs support, and he’s a great big tool… I mean, he’s a tool for good! The next member’s inclusion makes almost no sense whatsoever, but they try and justify it…


I think I would have enjoyed seeing Shang-Chi onboard, but this all sounds too much like his much-abhorred “games of deceit and death” to bring him in, not to mention his previous engagement with the Heroes for Hire. Again with the painful flirting (Aren’t they old friends? What’s with the tentativeness? Just ask her out and be done with it, you’re both grownups), and a tiny smidge of jealousy/competitiveness from Ms. Marvel about the Widow. Interesting dynamic between these two, with both of their guards being so far down that it makes them even more uncomfortable. It’s interesting, but feels very college romance, not the sort of thing I expect from a captain of industry and a former publisher/Air Force colonel. And the give and take sounds like two little Brian Bendises talking to one another, it’s weaker than I expect from Bendis. The two of them get a report of a volcanic eruption, and we find out that it’s about 45 minutes BEFORE the battle that this discussion is happening. Carol suddenly remembers that she knows someone who is both a “Thor” and a “Wolverine,” combining power with ruthlessness, and they fly to a Jersey construction site to meet one of their former adversaries… Ares, God of War. The testosterone actually downs at least one Russian satellite, as Iron Man faces down the Olympian, with their soon-to-be boss in the middle.


“Is there ANYTHING about me that suggests I’m the kind of guy who wants to share his feelings with a woman?” Nice. Not quite a “hell, yeah” moment, but a nice piece of dialogue in any case. Iron Man offers to match his pay, AND let him bust a few heads besides, and Ares is in. “You do know I made 44 dollars an hour here?” I’ve never made 44 dollars in an hour in MY LIFE, so I am utterly jealous of the big man, here. Ares also mocks their little “Civil War” as nothing more than a sorority girl slapfight in lingerie, saying that the battle between Trojans and Achaeans (seen in the movie ‘Troy’) was a REAL war, though he hated the movie. (Iron Man and Ms. Marvel don’t seem to argue.) In the present, as the lizardmen continue to advance, Tony gets information on no less than SIXTEEN simultaneous natural disasters, from tornadoes to avalanches to volcanoes and back as Wonder Man finally engages Mole Man. Moley rails against the surface dwellers, saying that his people are DEAD, his underground kingdom destroyed, and they’re all going to pay. As he speaks, Iron Man stops dead…


I’m not sure what just happened here, but it looks like Tony just… melted. I admit I’m not up to speed on Extremis, but isn’t he still physically in the suit? And if so, that had to hurt. This sequence jarred me completely out of the book, graphic and a little disturbing, while not making any sense to me. I hadn’t ever seen Iron Man’s powers work this way, and it felt wrong… Sure, a sufficiently powerful technomorph could reshape the armor, but TONY with it? That’s messed up. In any case, whatever the heck it is happens, there’s a sudden explosion. From the crater steps someone we know, with a whole new look (and, to be frank, a balcony you could do Shakespeare off).


Ultron, you say? That’s a serious “oh, $#!+” moment, right there. Obviously he/she/it’s gone through some changes, but there’s a problem for me. The cheesecake to menace factor seems to be skewed in the direction of dessert, and this change doesn’t really feel all that organic (no pun intended.) Ultron hasn’t ever had a really human-looking body in its history, and to suddenly go from the vaguely humanoid form it had previously to something that walked out of the latest Playboy just gives the story the strange feeling that we missed a step somewhere.

That feeling is pervasive without this issue (though first issues are seldom without it, one of the pitfalls of launching a new title), from the new helicarrier to Tony and Carol’s proto-romance, to the team lineup. These eight people feel wrong together, and their disjointed interactions during the fight scene don’t help matters any. Frank’s art is slick as always, but occasionally goes overboard on the female anatomy (note the Wasp’s derrierre above) and Iron Man suffers from a “bloopiness” in some panels that doesn’t convey his metal nature (what Salieri so succinctly called “sausage fingers”, for one). It’s undoubtedly a pretty book, and it labors hard to make the group seem like a natural progression, but for me, the jury is still out. I don’t know what’s missing, but all the pieces aren’t here yet. Still, it’s a competent book, and worth the slightly below average 2.0 stars out of 5. With luck, this book will gear up and starting hitting all cylinders soon. If not, I won’t be sticking around, and the “conflicting teams of Avengers” concept should pretty quickly join the West Coast Avengers in the scrapyard.


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. TomGrice
    April 1, 2007 at 11:26 am — Reply

    Hmmm…given your excellent explanation of your grading scale (which I think only underscores that JSA #4 was better than you scored it but that belongs on the other post and I am literally beating a dead horse with that so I should just drop it because I am not going to convince you otherwise) I also think Mighty Avengers #1 should get a slightly higher rating. Still, I did enjoy your review of a book I have been struggling with a bit myself. My biggest problem now is my intense hatred of Tony Stark in every book but his own. In the actual Iron Man title his motivations make sense and you feel the conflict in his heart and realize this is killing him. Here and in other titles he just seems self-righteuous and smug. And I want to slap him. But Ares was cool and worth the price of the book, along with Cho’s art.

    Your top 10 Avengers is… interesting. Captain Marvel II? Luke Cage? What about Scarlett Witch, She-Hulk, Giant Man/Yellowjacket/Ant-Man/Goliath/Dr. Pym, Hercules, Black Widow, the Black Knight, or Namor? For that matter Wonder Man is clearly higher than Captain Marvel II! I love Luke Cage so I won’t really argue him, but CMII? Buddy…

  2. April 1, 2007 at 8:55 pm — Reply

    Monica Rambeau is power incarnate, has leadership potential, and is smart as a whip. Wonder Man’s claim to fame is being completely invulnerable to harm, yet still managing to DIE every 7 years. What sort of pedigree is that? She-Hulk & The Black Knight would make the top twenty, easily.

    Ditto on the wanting to slap Tony Stark. I sincerely hope that the incipient return of Doctor Banner will engender the smackdown that he so richly deserves…

  3. April 2, 2007 at 7:32 am — Reply

    TomGrice sez: “Hmmm…given your excellent explanation of your grading scale (which I think only underscores that JSA #4 was better than you scored it but that belongs on the other post and I am literally beating a dead horse with that so I should just drop it because I am not going to convince you otherwise) I also think Mighty Avengers #1 should get a slightly higher rating.”

    This is an interesting point, and bears addressing. A 3.5 star book is an awesome, “Hell, yeah!” comic. Putting things into perspective, comparitive 3.5 star books would include Crisis On Infinite Earths #1, Big Numbers #1, Marvel Zombies Vs. Army of Darkness #1, and Sandman #54 (The Prez issue). It’s not like I’m poking JSA in the eye while pouring sugar in it’s gas tank. As for Mighty Avengers, when I mentioned a two star book in my rating rant, I said the following:

    “2 stars: This is the point where the flaws overwhelm the good bits. Art that’s bad, not just inappropriate or strange in places. The characters may act completely stupid, or the plot my labor under it’s own pretensions, or worse, may be cliche and stupid. A 2 star book is the level at which you CANNOT have a “Hell, YEAH!” moment, because that would push it back up to 2.5. A book like this tries, but doesn’t succeed.”

    The art isn’t bad at all here, it’s actually quite good. However, the characters are acting stupid (Sentry and Wonder Man, notably) and the plot is (intentionally, I think) incomprehensible. Tony and Carol’s interaction is nice, if weird, and there’s been no indication in the past of Ultron being able to control the weather or earthquakes, etc. With the sole exception of Ares and Iron Man trying to out-testosterone each other, nothing comes close to a “Hell, yeah” markout moment for me, and that sequence mostly stands out because of Ares distaste and contempt for the mortals in general, and ‘Tin Man’ in particular. There’s a Cyclops/Wolverine dynamic going on there which may bear watching.

    I was disappointed by the synthesis of art and story, and was confused and distracted by the last three pages of the issue. I really wanted more out of the book (especially a book that kept being hyped as “the beginnings of the new Marvel Universe!”) than I got, prompting me to deem it a “tries, but doesn’t QUITE succeed” issue. Sometimes a comic just leaves you with an unquantifiable feeling that is hard to express, and that’s what I had here. Certainly my feelings will change as the story does, and I may regret this rating down the road, but for now, I think it’s appropriate. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

  4. Mark I.
    April 2, 2007 at 10:11 am — Reply

    Ms. Marvel’s “second best” Avenger comment regarding WONDER MAN of all heroes was just weird. If anything, he’s their fourth or fifth-best “pure no-frills powerhouse” ever. Still, if purposely discounting Captain America and himself, Hombre de Hierro calling Thor the best Avenger is pretty close to the mark if you consider the man saying it is thinking in pure terms of ability. Thor could fly, was super-strong, nigh-indestructible, could summon the lightning, and had connections in Asgard. That’s one heck of an asset. Sure, Hawkeye and Wasp were intelligent, gutsy, and ultra-reliable, but a CEO doesn’t want guts, he wants the hammer.

  5. April 2, 2007 at 2:34 pm — Reply

    Ms. Marvel is talking from her heart, so I can accept it. It’s actually interesting characterization that she’s so willing to call her friend and confidante the “second best” Avenger regardless of evidence to the contrary. He’s fair to middling, at best, though admittedly I love him.

    As for Thor as the greatest Avenger, that’s a misnomer. Thor is the all-around workhorse, the impact player, last line of defense, yes, but in my eyes, he’s a terrible Avenger because he’s a terrible team player. The job of any chairman working with a team including the big guy is to just let Thor be Thor, and sort out the details later. Keep your team out of the way when the lightning starts flying. Would I want him on MY Avengers team? Possibly, for his power, connections, and sheer muscle, but as a team player? He’s a wash.

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