Or – “What In The Heck Is Up With The Time Stream???”

So, Kang is in play, and The Maestro may be behind his antics.  But wait, aren’t the children of the Avengers evil?  And what about Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen?  And what about Spider-Girl?  And wasn’t there something about Ultron?  The new Avengers launch is determined to throw literally EVERYTHING at the wall in the hopes of making the book into the comic book equivalent of Must-See TV.  But if the future is already broken, what’s gonna keep it from happening again in a minute?

Avengers #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inkers: Klaus Janson with Tom Palmer
Colors: Dean White
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics

Previously, on The Avengers:  There came a day like none other, when Earth’s Mightiest Heroes came together to stop an unbeatable foe.  A few years later, everything went to heck, but now it’s all better.  The big three Avengers are back together (sort of, as this Captain America isn’t the original, and Thor and Iron Man kinda hate each other’s guts) with Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the rest, here on Gilligan’s Isle.  In the not-so-distant future, the sons and daughters of the Avengers attacked Kang, sending him back in time.  The Avengers co-opted Noh-Varr (the former Marvel Boy, now going by the simply awful nom de guerre, The Protector) to build a time machine and get them to the future.  Once there, they were blindsided by an older version of Iron Man who took out our young Iron Man in no time at all.  (No matter where in the time stream he originates, Tony Stark is still pretty much an elitist bastid.)  Now, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America and the Protector seem to be trapped in the future, with no hope of recovery…

…except that everything you know is wrong.  While the remainder of the team (plus Killraven, long story) fight against the end of reality (including the wonderful sight of Thor pasting Galactus right innaface with Mjolnir) in the present, their lost Iron Man wakes up covered in blood in the far future.  The team is at the mercy of The Maestro and future Iron Man, but it turns out that Kang may not have been completely accurate in his assessment of the situation.  Tony and Tony step up to compare notes, and find that it’s astounding and madness takes it’s toll, and the timestream discontinuity begins at the very point to which our Avengers have travelled.  What’s the cause of it all?  Turns out that Ultron is taking over the world here, and Kang has stupidly and repeatedly brought more and more superhumans to confront him at this precise point, leading to an immense conflict of big, stupid crossovery goodness.  (I wonder if that’s meant to be a meta-statement about the comics industry?  It’s either that, or Bendis just decided it looks cool…)  As we experience yet another chronofracture frammistat, elder Tony shows them on his handy-dandy map of time where they need to go to fix things.

Suddenly, the other shoe drops as Future-Iron Man realizes that he has no idea who the hell the Protector is.  (He shouldn’t feel bad, I suspect the majority of the readership is in the same boat.)  With a jump to the left and a step to the right, the team is transported back into issue #3, where they join their pals in the battle against Apocalypse again.  The future team quickly breaks away, and returns to the lab to rebuild the time machine.  Well, Tony and Noh-Varr rebuild the time machine, while Bucky-Cap and Logan make remarks about how unpleasant and unnerving the whole situation is.  Many times, dialogue like this can be a bit distracting, but it works really well given the nature of the characters and the strangeness of the time-travel.  Working-class guys like Mr. Barnes and Mr. Howlett are prime candidates for Bendis dialogue.  The foursome teleports somewhere, somewhen, arriving on a ruined battlefield (but ruined by what, we do not know.)  A voice asks if the heroes are there to challenge him, and the Avengers are faced with a futuristic and dangerous looking Ultron.  Iron Man tells him that they’ve come to ask a favor of him, and Ultron seems intrigued.  “That is interesting,” drones the robot as we fade to black…

Well, here’s the good news:  This is the issue that I was desperately hoping for in this arc, the issue that would turn the disparate elements into something interesting and different than we’ve seen before, and while it doesn’t bring all the pieces together, it at least manages to give us an answer as to what the big threat to reality is.  On the downside, lots of the cameos seem gratuitious (especially the Next Avengers, who have yet to do anything much on panel) and the reveal of what the Avengers have on their side is pretty dang neat.  I also like elder Tony chastising himself that “Ultron is smarter than us.”  JR Jr’s art has some spectacularly ugly bits here and there (the Spider-Man and Spider-Woman splash early in the issue puts the “UGH” in ugly) and I’m starting to believe our Forum theory that it’s Klaus Janson whose skills are causing the art to go downhill.  Given that it has a couple of “Oh, hell yeah!” moments, a Heel Turn for a guy who never really went face and Thor shoving a hammer up Galactus’ nose, I can’t in good conscience let those moments destroy the book for me.  Avengers #5 is good, certainly better than 1 through 4, and earns a slowly-coming-together 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Does a bad issue or two make the ones that come after look better than it should in retrospect?

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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9 Comments

  1. arcee
    September 24, 2010 at 11:16 pm — Reply

    “…Thor shoving a hammer up Galactus’ nose…”

    That’s an image I will pay to see. Gonna get the book.

  2. steviecool
    September 25, 2010 at 6:40 am — Reply

    It may have been there, but I didn’t see it:
    The Time Map was awesome, albeit a rip-off of DC/Rip Hunter’s chalkboard.
    It should at least have “52” or “Call Rip” written somewhere on it.

  3. Doctor Sleepless
    September 25, 2010 at 8:37 am — Reply

    Bendis has yet to win me over with this story and I’m saying this as one of the few who were genuinely intrigued by the 1st issue. I think the man should lay off a book.

  4. September 25, 2010 at 9:30 am — Reply

    I don’t like this team. I think Marvel had given Bendis too much control and too many Avengers books. Sorry, but “Thor hitting Galactus in the face” just isn’t enough to convince me to come back.

  5. Slappy
    September 25, 2010 at 10:20 am — Reply

    Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Does a bad issue or two make the ones that come after look better than it should in retrospect?

    Depends upon a few variables.
    1. Were the issues previous lementable due to the art, writing or a combination?
    2. Do you have your own personal rubric for what makes a good book? Having worked as a musical performance judge and hearing hours of crap followed by a ray of light, you still go by the rubric in critique.
    3. Were the issues not as good because they were building towards the money shot?

    Good is good and shit is shit. If your own barometer works well, then whether the previous issues were bad or not should not skew your own personal standards.

    • Damascus
      October 12, 2010 at 1:43 am — Reply

      I agree with your variables, for me, if I’m reading a title that I feel is almost there and is just lacking something or is taking way too long to get to the payoff and is really dragging and/or just flat out not very good and then you finally get that reveal/payoff that makes the whole thing worth while (possibly in the vein of a Hulk punch right in Uatu’s face from a while back) then yeah I think it could taint your perception of the book slightly. I don’t think you’re going to go over the moon for the title if it doesn’t deserve it, and another factor I would bring up for me at least is how much do you love that character and how easy is it to get your fix on them? If it’s Wolverine or Batman, you’ll probably be getting something out there that is really great, but if you’re the biggest Doom Patrol fan out there and there’s only one book and it’s off to a rough start or feels like it’s tanking and then it finally pulls around and starts making some damn sense and is really good, then I think in that way I know I probably give it a slightly higher rating than it might otherwise deserve. Also another personal issue, say the story is mediocre and the art’s pretty good, but in that issue you get someone like say The Sentry beat down to a bloody pulp and he dies never to return to comics again, then yeah, I’ll put that book on a pedestal in my Nerd Room of Doom. Those particular personal awesome moments will definitely elevate a book for you the individual higher than it might for someone else. I’d be happy as pie if even in the background of an Avengers title if I got to see the Great Lakes Avengers/Initiative/X/Champions running around. Love those guys.

  6. September 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm — Reply

    I normally really like JRJr, but I agree, Matthew… It is not working for me here. After this issue, I am finally digging the story. I can only imagine how cool it would be if it was drawn by someone else… like Jim Cheung.

  7. Brother129
    September 25, 2010 at 5:16 pm — Reply

    A good issue after a couple of bad ones makes me feel like the first chapters weren’t necessary at all. Two half-assed stories can usually be combined into one good issue…

  8. Petro
    September 26, 2010 at 4:14 am — Reply

    Why does JRjr make women look so terrible in this? Poor Maria Hill…

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