They’re both scientific geniuses, but Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are poles apart. Tony is a futurist, believing that technological breakthroughs can only make things better, while Bruce is wary of unfettered change. Tony’s also a gamesplayer, and he suggests that he and Banner race to Antarctica to check on some scientists cut off by a scheming colleague – Iron Man vs the Hulk, hi-tech vs old-school science.
Spider-Woman takes Bruce’s side, while Thor flies alongside Tony. They get to the cold region around the same time, and there things quickly take a turn for the serious.
If there’s the Mighty Avengers and the New Avengers – which there are – this would be the Inessential Avengers, begging to be ignored by the continuity-mad hordes because it doesn’t reference a dozen current storylines. Even the original USP of the book – a team mirroring the movie Avengers – is no more, with the Black Widow relegated to a one-panel cameo and Hawkeye nowhere to be seen. Instead, Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel are front and centre, alongside the aforementioned Iron Man and Thor, and Captain America.
This is fun, though, as writer Kelly Sue DeConnick fires zingers by the dozen in an easy-to-digest story (click on image to enlarge). I like that the heroes can add a fun element to a mission – it’s been years since the Marvel Universe felt like a place where people would take the time to enjoy themselves, maybe actually pause and marvel at things. There are perhaps too many pages devoted to Brian Bendis-like banter, making the issue feel just that little bit too light, but this is her debut – a writer as smart as DeConnick will soon work out any pacing issues. As for the tone, the general flightiness underlines the seriousness of the final page.
Stefano Caselli’s illustrations are a delight – strong and characterful, with facial ‘acting’ better than you’ll find in 94 per cent of superhero comics (I checked). His Hulk and Iron Man leap off the page, full of power and charisma. Making things look even better is Rain Beredo, whose colours pick out bone structure and skin texture without ever falling into blotchiness. The overall feel is brighter than in most of the line, making Avengers Assemble seem more like a Marvel Adventures all-ages book than your average comic from the company. Not a bad thing.
I can’t see Avengers fans rushing to buy this comic, but likewise, I can’t see any Avengers fan who buys this comic not enjoying it – it’s old school superhero fun with a modern twist.