Or – “Shipping Dates Aren’t Really That Hard To Figure Out, Are They?”
I’m of two minds about the vast deluge of Avengers that struck the comic stores last Wednesday…Â On the one hand, I could see it as a marketing ploy, a way to remind us that we can’t ignore the Avengers marketing juggernaut, to give us too much of a good thing and try to make it even better.Â Of course, on the other hand, I can look at it and be certain that it’s a bad idea to ship FIVE Avengers titles (two of which have almost the same cover) in the same week, in terms of both identifiability and sell-through.Â Both sides have their strong points, I suppose, but in this case, the real loser is probably the comic buyer who can’t afford to spring for fifteen bucks worth of Avengers comics…
Previously on New Young Mighty Avengers Initiative:Â Five heroes came together to save the day from Loki, the Prince of Lies.Â Thor!Â Iron Man!Â The Hulk!Â Ant-Man!Â The Wasp!Â With little more than courage and some scientific gewgaws, this quintet of heroic types forged a legacy that, even years later, stands as a testament to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.Â Members have come, and members have gone (remember Doctor Druid?Â Oy…) but one thing remains the same: The Avengers fight on when others give up.Â Now, their world is overrun by alien shapeshifting monsters, who are bound and determined to destroy the Avengers way of life.Â Will they lay down and give up, or will they all fight until the crossovers no longer have a financial impact on Marvel’s bottom line and publishing revenews?Â Don’t we already know the answer to that one?
Starting in order of preference for me, we first look at Avengers – The Initiative #14: Since the beginning of the Initiative project, we’ve seen former Avenger Triathlon as a background character at Camp Hammond.Â Last month, he graduated from his training, and took on the name and mantle of the man from whom he takes his powers: The 3-D Man.Â This issue begins with an extended play version of the game that America always begs for:Â Crap!Â ON!Â YELLOWJACKET!Â It has been revealed (or will be, later in the reviews) that YJ is a Skrull, and that his ability to “shrink out of danger” is, in fact, the utilization of Super-Skrull powers to survive.Â Hank has, in his guise as architect of the Initiative program, set in motion a plan to put a Skrull in every team in all 50 states.Â What he DIDN’T count on was another Skrull in his midst.Â The Crusader (also secretly a Skrull, but this one a separatist) catches Pym because of their mutual love for pickles mixed with strawberries (a taste that mimicks a Skrull delicacy.)Â Hank also didn’t count on Chuck and Hal Chandler, the brothers who together comprised the original 3-D Man, giving Triathlon their old goggles, glasses designed to identify Skrulls no matter what shape they’re in.Â Â The newly-christenedÂ 3-D Man IIÂ is stationed in Hawaii, but finds the place overrun by Skrulls, and is forced to fight.Â Teleporting back to Camp Hammond, he arrives just in time for the cowardly Crusader to use his “wishing powers” to keep the 3-D Man from identifying HIM as a Skrull.Â As we fade out, 3-D Man is confused to find EVERYONE at camp seeming to be a Skrull…Â This issue was frustrating, in a way, in that it seems to sideline a character whose very HISTORY is about fighting Skrulls, but it was a taut story with nice art from Stefano Caselli.Â 3.5 stars.
Our epic game of “Crap! ON! YELLOWJACKET!” continues in MIghty Avengers #15, as we flashback to “Several Months Ago,” after Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne moved to Great Britain (a fact I’m not sure I knew before) in the wake of the Avengers disbanding.Â Hank lectures at a local college, while Jan apparently gets drunk and #&$@s around on him, proving once again that today’s Marvel hates married couples.Â Jan leaves Hank, and he ends up sleeping with one of his students (a total No-No) who oddly seems attracted to him.Â She spends weeks adoringly making him tell her stories, until she finally reveals the truth:Â She’s a Skrull.Â Â And he’s just told her everything.Â And now, she’s going to replace him.Â We add insult to injury by revealing that all the heroics Hank performed in the first arc of this title (helping to take down Ultron with Tony Stark’s technology, and giving Janet the growth formula, allowing her to become Giant-Woman) were the work of the Skrull-Hank and not the real one.Â Still, it’s a well-done issue, with beautiful art by John Romita, Jr., and a lot of quiet moments that allow Bendis to work his “real people talking to each other” magic.Â 4 stars.
Ironically, the issue that gives us the most information, and the title that’s supposed to be the center of the Avengers “brand,” New Avengers #42, is my least favorite, flashing back through the recent history of “Spider-Woman,” also known as Queen Whatserface of the Skrull Empire.Â We see, step by step, the process through which she came to take over Jessica Drew’s life, revealing that the entire plot to get Spider-Woman back her powers was engineered by the aliens.Â There’s a lot of standing around in dark rooms, with the maddening sensation that the artist wants us to recognize some of these people, and the central mystery of “Who Set Off The Escape At The Raft?” from issue one of this series is revealed:Â “Jessica” did.Â We follow her history through what we already know, until we reach the moment where the Scarlet Witch triggers the House of M fiasco…Â and we fade to black.Â Next month, ostensibly, we’ll learn the truth about what happened to the Skrulls during that continuity nightmare crossover.Â Though well-drawn by Jim Cheung, this issue doesn’t do it for me, feeling talky and reminding me of a D&D player regaling me with tales of a session that I was actually PLAYING in, regurgitating what I already saw…Â 2 stars.
Still, as annoying as that might have been, it didn’t qualify for “worst Avengers book of the week.”Â That title goes to the very deserving “Runaways/Young Avengers: Secret Invasion #1,” a book thatÂ whose very manga-esque feel to the art (not necessarily a bad thing) that totally undermines what I suspect they meant to be hard drama in the plot.Â Fresh from 1907, the Runaways (including former Super Skrull In Training Xavin) check out New York for a few moments before heading home to the Left Coast.Â They’re attacked (of course) by Skrulls, and the Young Avengers show up out of nowhere.Â There’s a chunk of fighty-fighty that duplicates pages of Secret Invasion #2 (or possibly #3) during which we see that the Super-Skrulls want to kill Young Avenger Hulkling (aka Dorrek VII, heir to the Skrull empire.)Â Hulkling escapes death thanks to another Skrull (who I want to say is Xavin, but honestly can’t tell for sure) and the issue ends with both of them about to be executed.Â It’s pretty incoherent all around, with lots of rhetoric, and sound and fury that signify precisely diddly divided by squat.Â The art is good, even as it’s inappropriate, but it makes the characters look awfully young, and has a sad tendency to make the heroes of the piece indistinguishable from one another.Â 1.5 stars.
Marvel has made a big deal about not needing to read all the regular titles and crossovers to understand what’s going on in Secret Invasion (a claim they also made about Civil War, which I highly disagreed with.)Â Unfortunately, they’ve managed to make it necessary to read Secret Invasion to understand what’s going on with your regular titles, which is, to me, unacceptable.Â The day where every single book tied into the summer blockbuster has come and gone, and I’m quite frankly tired of this crossover already.Â Having many of these punches highly telegraphed hasn’t done Marvel any favors, and as someone who wants to read about CHARACTERS, I’m annoyed that moments that I like with Spider-Woman and Yellowjacket are now going to be undermined by them being Skrulls.Â At this point, a big enough payoff can still save this crossover, but halfway in, I’m just annoyed that Marvel editorial has enjoyed swerving me like M. NIght Shamalamadingdong on a Twinkie and Gin bender.Â Still, at least they’ve brought back the greatest character in Marvel’s history:Â The 3-D Man.Â That makes up for a multitude of sins, to me…