Saturday, May 26, 2007

Stripping Down #18

The Avengers United #78 (Panini UK)
“Breakout!” by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch & Danny Miki (New Avengers (v1) #1-2)
“On The Matter Of Heroes!” by David Michelinie, John Byrne & Gene Day
(Avengers (v1) #181)

“The Sword In The Scabbard!” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta
(Journey Into Mystery (v1) #117)

Six months have passed in the Marvel Universe but only four short weeks for The Avengers United readers since Earth’s Mightiest Heroes disbanded. Time, then, for a brand new team. In keeping with previous line-up changes, there are veteran Avengers (Captain America and Iron Man), familiar but unexpected additions (Spider-Man and Wolverine), a couple of revamped and reinvigorated B-listers (Luke Cage and Spider-Woman Mk I), plus a retconned Golden Age hero (The Sentry). Well… on the cover at least and even then, shrouded in shadow. As this is written by Brian Michael Bendis, the opening two episodes come across like an episode of TV show 24, with lots of talking interspersed with nosebleed inducing action as old Spidey foe Electro stages the eponymous prison break at supervillian penitentiary The Raft. David Finch’s art screams Hollywood blockbuster, though there is an over reliance on splash pages and static panels. More irritating is Finch’s inability to draw distinctive faces. If I reading this in retro Marvel UK style black and white format I suspect that, on visuals alone, I would struggle to differentiate between Luke Cage and The Purple Man, Jessica Drew and Mary Jane Watson. That said, it’s refreshing to see a genuinely new and interesting team of Avengers and this is a big, big improvement on the creative team’s debut with the disappointing Disassembled. In the classic strip, John Byrne takes over art duties, complemented here by some great inking from Gene Day. The story features another historic (albeit short-lived) line-up change, imposed by government liaison Henry Peter Gyrich, a great opening sequence with Wonder Man and The Beast, plus Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in an intriguing cliffhanger. They sure don’t make comics like this anymore. I probably bang on in every review of this title about how little I enjoy Tales Of Asgard. It’s back this issue after a short break and – dare I say it? – isn’t all bad. The promise lies in the fact that, rather than the usual five page stand alone heavy handed moral, this is the first of a multi-part ‘quest’ storyline. Let’s hope it delivers the goods.

The Avengers United #79 (Panini UK)
“Breakout!” by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch & Danny Miki (New Avengers (v1) #3-4)
“Honour Thy Father!” by David Michelinie, John Byrne & Klaus Janson (Avengers (v1) #182)
“The Crimson Hand!” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta (Journey Into Mystery (v1) #118)

This issue’s cover boasts a gratuitous T’n’A shot of Spider-Woman, who has clearly has had several tucks and implants since she first hit the scene in the 1970s. Inside, the improvised team of heroes deal with last issue’s prison break and Captain America is inspired to make this assemblage a more permanent arrangement. Naturally, one of the team is working for an as yet unknown third party (shades of Emma Frost in the current X-Men storyline here); I’d imagine it’ll be a long while before this sub-plot comes to the fore. Despite a cover appearance last issue, the final new member – a certain hirsute Canadian mutant – doesn’t debut until the final panel. However, Breakout continues to be a promising start for the fledgling New Avengers. Travelling back to the late 1970s for the archive Avengers tale, the team attempt to save the lives of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, leading to a surreal battle with their adoptive father. Klaus Janson’s inking is characteristically heavy, particularly compared to Gene Day’s in the previous issue, but it still works well, allowing John Byrne’s clear storytelling to shine through. In the closing Tales Of Asgard, Loki is trying to off his half-sibling Thor before their quest has even got underway. No surprise that the God Of Thunder foils the God Of Mischief’s plot, but it’s a fun read that greatly improves on the laboured morals of previous tales.

Panini UK website

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