For me, in its first three issues, this new Avengers series got real confusing, real fast. Can this latest issue put things into focus?
The Avengers #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Klaus Janson
Colours: Dean White
Letters: Cory Petit
Cover: Romita Jr., Janson & White
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Previously in The Avengers: following the events of Siege, Steve Rogers has put together the new team and they are soon confronted by time-traveller Kang, who warns The Avengers that, in the future, their children will endanger the universe;however, it is revealed to the audience that an elder Hulk is behind Kang’s actions. The Avengers build a time machine with the help of Kree warrior Noh-Varr, The Protector, and during the process a time rift opens up and the team battles Apocalypse and his four horsemen – indicating that the time stream is breaking down. Half of The Avengers travel forward in time to attempt to prevent the damage to the timestream while the rest of the team stay behind to deal with its effects.
You Can, No Doubt, Buy Time Machines in Pound Shops in the Marvel U
This issue, then, contains two plot-lines at two different points in time. In the present Spider-man, Spider-woman, Thor and Hawkeye meet with Jonathan Raven (a character from Spider-man’s past) and take cover as Thor battles War-of-the-Worlds-inspired tripods. Conversation ensues, basically establishing who Raven is, and the team gets ready to face a group of rioters. Meanwhile, in the future, Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine and The Protector are disabled by the aforementioned Avenger-children, and taken before the elder Hulk (Bruce Banner), who appears to be friendly. Tony Stark is then confronted by his future self, who proceeds to restrain our Stark and perform some sort of medical procedure on him.
The plot of this issue has some problems, and the events therein raise, in my mind, one big question: what were all those things Kang said about The Avengers’ children about? Surely, if future-Tony needed the team, he could have just told them that the timestream was damaged and he needed them to repair it (and I’ve taken away from this book that that is why he needs them). It is also stated that future-Tony used Kang to deliver the message because he ‘he’s the one with the time machine’ but, as we have seen in previous issues, a time machine is apparently really easy to build in the Marvel universe. My point here is that there are quite a few holes in this plot, and what these questions indicate to me is that the plot was not too well thought out ahead of time.
This book really has a lot of continuity behind it – with various characters (such as Jonathan Raven) making appearances courtesy of the damage to the timestream. There is a battle scene, in particular, that The Avengers witness in the future that I’m sure experienced Marvel fans could look at and experience plenty of, “Oh, it’s that guy!” moments. Whilst, to the book’s credit, I was able to follow the plot without any problems, I no doubt failed to recognise a variety of continuity references. I cannot help but feel, however, that this continuity-heavy approach rather grates when one considers that Marvel have started the book from a #1. This first story should be a jumping-on point for new readers (like myself), and although not detrimental to understanding the story, the knowledge that one is missing out on a portion of the book is really off-putting to the new reader. Overall, the story’s main problem is that it’s too complicated for its own good; I really get the feeling that they were going for an epic story to start off the series, but it ends up continually tripping over itself.
The dialogue is mostly fine and conveys emotion very well at points: Jonathan Raven really sounds like he’s happy to see Spider-man again. It becomes a bit stilted at times, though, especially during the scene where the Avengers are hiding out in a building in the present. In fact, that whole scene feels like it could stand to be a couple of pages shorter, and comes across as padded. We also get the history of The Avengers text at the back of the book which, for the unfamiliar, is a telling of The Avengers’ history in the style of interviews with the various characters involved. To be honest, I rather gave up on reading these as Marvel have split them between the various Avengers titles, and I only read this Avengers series. They’re more an extra than anything else, but tend to be fairly entertaining.
An Impressive Cover
John Romita Jr. provides the art and the book is drawn in his distinctive style – the enjoyment (or lack thereof) of which very much depends on one’s personal tastes, and I imagine that many readers will already know if they will like the art or not. I do like his style, though, but I must say that the future battle scene at the beginning is a bit ‘busy’ i.e. it is hard to pick out exactly what is going on. However another large scene, later in the book, is handled well with lots of impressive details to the fight. Romita’s depiction of a present-day New York beset by various beings from across time also makes for some impressive stuff.
I like the cover (also by Romita), as well. It features the Tony Stark of the future, wearing his Iron Man suit but lifting up the mask to reveal his face. I feel that it’s a cover that’s had some thought put into it: at first glance, it is simply a picture of Iron Man taking off his mask, but on closer inspection we see that the Tony Stark behind the mask is old – he is not quite right. It gets the reader wondering what’s happening inside the book, and foreshadows the future-Tony reveal without spoiling it wholesale.
It Doesn’t Keep Me Coming Back
In conclusion, this isn’t a bad book – it’s definitely not something that I actively dislike – but it does have its flaws, as does this series as a whole. The story suffers from trying to be too complex, and as a result ties itself up in knots. For me, the art improved the whole experience, but this is very much a case when I will say your mileage may vary in that area. Quite simply, this series has failed to keep me interested, to keep me coming back month after month, and this issue is no improvement on that front – it earns two stars out of five.