Sure, Avengers: The Initiative has been a superb read, packed with intricate storylines and spot-on character work, but it wasn’t an Avengers book. Not really, despite the appearance of such stalwarts as (Skrull) Hank Pym and Jocasta.
But this is the real deal, a team book featuring not only the genuine Pym, and Jocasta, but the Scarlet Witch, Hercules, the Hulk, USAgent and Young Avengers Vision and Stature. Maybe they’re not all A-listers, but the Avengers aren’t Earth’s Mightiest Heroes because of their power, but because of their heart. If ‘Cap’s Kooky Quartet’ including Wanda, Quicksilver and Hawkeye, were worthy of the label, this bunch easily are, especially as drawn by the expressive art team of Khoi Pham, Allen Martinez and Danny Miki. The New Avengers did indeed comprise Marvel’s A-listers, but they’ve never felt like a team of Avengers so much as a marketing stunt. This new group, though, are linked by historical and emotional ties and look to be an Avengers team for today.
Disassembled was where everything went wrong for the Avengers and this issue evokes that storyline, via its opening at the garden of statues that was Avengers Mansion, the sheer size of the magical threat facing the world and the presence of the Scarlet Witch. At first it seems she’s behind the chaos, as she was Disassembled, but as the book goes on it becomes clear that’s not the case; she’s gathering a new team of Avengers to face the crisis.
On a similar quest are Hercules and Amadeus Cho, self-proclaimed ‘seventh smartest person on the planet’ and probably the most irritating. His smugness links into the title of this issue, ‘the Smartest Man in the Room’. Is it Cho, is it Hank Pym, is it Tony Stark? The question allows Slott to give us another peek at his approach to Pym (after the recent Requiem special, see http://dangermart.blogspot.com/2008/12/secret-invasion-requiem.html). He’s still a tad tortured but ready to step up when prompted, and actually demonstrates a sense of humour. The best lines, though, go to Hercules, for example, after Pym announces his new code name, a tribute to recently departed ex-wife Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp. While I love the odd character-appropriate gag, the Avengers needs big dramatic moments, and this comic offers plenty of these, from scenes of the New Avengers and newer Dark Avengers tackling end of days scenarios to dark doings on Mount Wundagore (who says there’s no such thing as Chaos Magic?). This is an extra-length, ambitious story which is subtly repairing some of the horrors visited upon the Avengers since the onset of Disassembled. More importantly, it’s mighty good fun.