This week on the WCB I'm firmly planting the flag in the superhero camp, and specifically the Marvel camp, because over the last week or so I've been on a bit of a Marvel tear as I'm giving my best shot to paring down my stack (a doomed endeavor, but I have to try). So read on true believer, as I reveal my Marvel-icious reading pile…
This week, I caught up on various Marvel titles including Thunderbolts and X-Factor. Thunderbolts is still good, and although it doesn't quite have the freshness that the original team that Jeff Parker started with had, its still a solid choice. X-Factor is very good lately, and speaking of the only X-book I still support in singles, if there was never any action in X-Factor I don't think I'd care, because Peter David is so good at the group dynamic with this team, and I could literally be transfixed in every issue if all the members were just standing in a room talking. David has made me care about formerly vapor-thin characters like Shatterstar and Longshot, while keeping core characters we've known and loved from the beginning nice and interesting in their conflicts and struggles. Jamie Madrox should so not be leading a team, but he is, and it still isn't old yet. So, should you be reading Thunderbolts and X-Factor? A hearty yes (especially to X-Factor). But how about another team book like New Avengers? Well, thats another issue...
I've been buying New and plain 'ol Avengers since Bendis relaunched both books after Siege and the "Heroic Age" started (where the heroes are going to be heroic, yay!). I guess at the end of the day I'm basically just a sucker for Bendis-written Avengers titles, because back when I was getting into the weekly buying habit in college, New Avengers had recently launched, and was one of the two books I can remember collecting month in and out (the other was Ultimate Spidey, Bendis kinda sucked me in from the get-go I suppose). Anyways, both books in my mind have never drastically dipped in quality in my estimation except in a few rare instances, and so I've pretty much stuck with him on Avengers throughout. I say "pretty much" because after Siege I wanted to cut down the amount of books I was getting, and so after reading the first arc of both New and regular Avengers, I dropped them. Unfortunately though, because of the Meltcast and occasionally reading the solicitations for what was coming up, I got pulled back in because of some of the plotlines, such as the Avengers dealing with the infinity gems (a dangling plot thread that had'nt been addressed since Bendis and Brian Reed's "Illuminati mini, which was quite good). Also, I think it was BOOM! Editor Chris Rosa on the Meltcast that highly recommended an issue of New Avengers (which I think was literally the next issue of the series after I dropped it) so after holding out a few months, I jumped back in and had to find some back issues to fill in the gaps.
I read the Avengers second arc about the Hood and the Infinity Gems some months back now, but it took me till this week to dig out all the issues of "New" that I've let pile up and read the second arc of the book, which roughly covers issues 8-13 (up to the "Fear Itself" stuff). Since Bendis took over writing Avengers, he's attracted probably more than his fair share of critics while taking the book(s) to the top of the charts sales-wise, but one thing that cannot be argued is the artistic talent that he has pulled on to the books since he's been writing them. The list is more than I want to write here, but it includes Jimmy Chueng, David Finch, John Romita Jr., Steve McNiven, Yenil Yu, Chris Bachelo, and many others.
The relaunch of "New Avengers" was no different, with Stuart Immonen providing gorgeous pencils that he had carried over from earlier Ultimate Spidey work, which was followed by a fill-in issue by Daniel Acuna (#8, which actually is pretty good considering he renders more details and shows that he is a good artist, something that was in question after the "Wolverine vs. the X-Men" arc in which characters were hardly more than misshapen blobs on the page). Acuna was followed by Bendis' "Dark Avengers" collaborator, Mike Deodato Jr. who I think is one of the better superhero artists in the biz. His characters are muscular, god-like specimens that don't have an extra ounce of body fat, but for the subject matter it works and I like how he uses heavy shadows for contrast. He's also is a fast artist who can hit deadlines, and sometimes he resorts to little background detail or silhouetting characters, probably to save time as one reason, but in his case it doesn't come off as lazy because its used only occasionally and usually to good effect.
Now, the story? I was pulled in because I knew the story would have Nick Fury in the 1950s, forming an early roster of the Avengers, before any of the superheroes such as the Fantastic Four or modern Avengers existed. Howard Chaykin illustrates the sequences set in the past, and he does a good job with the period, while Deodato handles the present day scenes of the New Avengers attempting to foil a group of H.A.M.M.E.R upstarts. During the chaos, one member is shot, and on the point of death (why Doc Strange wasn't able to heal her, I'll never know), and the ultimate cure for her ties into the mission that Fury's Avengers were undertaking in 1959. Since the story spans roughly
6 issues, the amount of what's happening compared to the page count feels a little bit stretched, a common complaint for Bendis books (the ol" "decompression" argument). However, after finishing, the story feels complete and its cool to have 2 simultaneous stories going, with one being set in the past with characters such as Victor Creed aka Sabertooth, Kraven the Hunter, Namora, monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone, and Nazi hunter Ernst Sablinova (AKA the original Silver Sable). Its an interesting cast, and after finishing the story (which is entitled "Infinity" btw) I want to read the follow-up mini Chaykin did called "Avengers 1959."
Sometimes at the end of the day after reading one issue of New Avengers, it doesn't feel like you got your money's worth (especially with the 3.99 price point). However, over the course of the story, I think Bendis usually pulls through and delivers an entertaining read, and the artists are almost always A-list, and thus worth the price of admission alone. I'm definitely excited about the future of the book, much of which has already been released, concerning the return of H.A.M.M.E.R and the addition of everybody's favorite Hornhead. (Considering DD was on the fence about membership wayyyyy back in the "Breakout" arc of the previous volume, its about time he joined up).
Aaron Brewer is an aspiring filmmaker, musician and writer living in Los Angeles. There are many irons in the fire, and hopefully one day he'll be able to complete all the ideas he has floating around in his brain stew.