Avengers A.I. #1 review

Here’s a spin-off from the Age of Ultron series which sees Hank Pym gather a team of heroes to take on the evil machine intelligences of the Marvel Universe. Mostly cybernetic and robotic creations, the Avengers A.I. members are well placed to prevent a war between man and machine, with their first assignment being to bring down Dimitrios, whose drones are attacking Atlanta.

This first issue sees Hank Pym under fire from SHIELD Head of A.I. Monica Chang. She blames Pym for the rise of the machines, a consequence of his writing a virus to stop his creation, Ultron, from taking over the world. And yes, he bears some responsibility, but rather than ask him to explain, and help, she goes Guantanamo on him – she has him manacled, bag on head – abusing him physically and mentally. That’s Hank Pym, founder member of the Avengers, a team allied to SHIELD.

It’s only the appearance, and counsel, of Captain America that sees Hank freed to put a team together. Said team includes longtime Avenger the Vision; Vision’s ‘brother’ Victor Mancha, another creation of Ultron; and a Doombot Hank’s been tinkering with. With the just-upgraded Vision as field leader, they’re an effective unit, with Victor’s magnetic powers, Vision’s new ‘nanite infestation array’ and Doombot’s all-round awesomeness (click on image to enlarge) to the fore. Chang and Pym are nowhere to be seen after the initial pages, but hopefully we’ll see how they fit in soon, along with someone named Alexis, who appears on the cover and splash, and in the final panel, but doesn’t take part in the story.

The fight sequence features highly entertaining dialogue and interaction courtesy of writer Sam Humphries, with the haughty, reluctant hero Doombot the standout. I’m less thrilled with Chang – apparently Black Widow in Marvel’s Ultimate Comics – who comes across as a really rubbish human being and not one I’d let on any Avengers team. And Pym is far too cocky, even given his epiphany in last week’s Age of Ultron Book 10.1 AI; I cannot believe he would use a made-for-evil Doombot in any circumstances, and initial response apart, he doesn’t seem to be taking the AI threat especially seriously.

(I wonder if a Nextwave-style Machine Man was originally meant for the Doombot role – with just a few tweaks, the attitudes would match.)

The threat itself, Dimitrios, is a decent peg on which to hang the latest addition to the Avengers franchise, and I’m delighted to see the Vision given a featured role after around a decade of non-use and misuse. The upgraded powers – as well as the nanites, we have a supernova burst – are unnecessary given the Vision’s existing cool abilities, but we’ll see how they play out.

What I really don’t like is the Vision’s new look. Artist Andre Lima Araujo does a decent enough traditional Vision when he first appears (below left), but with the upgrade comes a redesign, and it’s not a good one (right).

Plus, Araujo draws him as a tubby synthezoid, for some reason. Could we have the classic look back, please, Marvel?

The fight scenes look OK, they’re nicely laid out and clear. What would benefit Araujo’s work, though, is a finisher, a quality inker who could improve the overall appearance, show him how faces might look with extra effort. As with the aforementioned Age of Ultron Book 10.1 A.I., colourist Frank D’armata has to pick up the slack, and there’s only so much he can do. It would help if Humphries gave Araujo interesting things to draw – the first three pages of the Chang/Pym conversation don’t play to the artist’s strengths, meaning we get lots of titchy, samey facial expressions. This is comics, there are more interesting ways of dealing with expository dialogue … never mind post-Age of Ultron, we’re meant to be post-Age of Bendis. Super-chatty table talk suits few artists, so why not toss out the info in an elegantly contrived action sequence?

There are explosions and impacts in this comic, but the sound effects are scratchy, tiny, apologetic – they look amateurish. I assume this is Araujo’s doing, in which case he should relax, not be afraid to go large – or ask the excellent letterer Clayton Cowles to step into the breach.

The Vision’s costume looks better on Dustin Weaver’s cover, but still not wonderful. And I’m not keen on the sickly green tones chosen by Marte Gracia, what’s that all about?

I liked this debut issue, in the main. Hank and Vision are longtime favourites, the Doombot an instant like and the other characters have potential – even Monica, if Humphries is taking her character on a journey and not actually positing her as admirable. The storyline is an SF staple, and could go some fascinating places when applied to the world of the Avengers. And the artwork, while not brilliant, is at least clear, and will hopefully improve. So not a classic first issue, but entertaining.

One more thing. The Assembly lettercol at the back features a letter from one Chase Bowman, who notes that the language in Marvel’s titles tries too hard these days to be edgy and hardcore, making the books unsuitable for little kids. And in this very issue we have Monica Chang saying:

It’s a thoughtful, fair letter, well worth a read, The reply is basically, ‘we’re being relevant, it’s up to you to police your kids’ comics’. And I agree with that latter point, and it’s something Chase is obviously doing. But wouldn’t it be nice if parents could assume a comic book was ‘safe’ for their offspring, something that could appeal to smart children and adults alike without trying embarrassingly hard to be cool? As Chase says, for decades all Marvel books were all-ages, and many are classics that stand up today. The implied F-word above is just childish, making DIVISION Chief Chang seem far from the brainiac she professes to be, far from worthy of respect. And it messes up the look of the balloons to boot. There really is no need.

16 thoughts on “Avengers A.I. #1 review

  1. Ironically, most editors do not like to be edited. It does present an odd PR angle from a Disney employee, all the same: saying that parents need to police Disney products that are clearly childish in nature and aimed at younger audiences.

    As for the book, is Victor Mancha still super-boring? I probably fell asleep reading the story he was in where this was explained away, but wasn't his whole deal when he was introduced in Runaways that he was a robot whose nanites were building him into a flesh and blood human being from the inside so that he could eventually infiltrate the Avengers? Shouldn't he be human by now of Magneto 2.0?

    Weird to see Ultimate-originated characters in the 616, too. I feel it kind of defeats the point of two separate universes, but then Ultimate Spider-Man is in the middle of a 6-part story called Spider-Man No More, so what do I know?

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  2. I don't know Victor Mancha, I never read Runaways post-Brian K Vaughan, but I think I came across him in Avengers Academy and he left no impression at all. So he was likely very boring indeed. He seems OK here, though it may be weird if the Vision decides he wants to be called Victor again, like in the old days.

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  3. One of the two nice surprises this week (the other being the hilarious Superior Foes of Spiderman).

    I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. I agree that Hank is written a bit too cocky, and I hope that Monica Chang mellows a bit.

    I find Vision's new powers interesting and i'm not sure about the new look either.

    What made my day was the “assault of the Victors” (Victor Mancha, Victor Shade and Victor von Doombot)… Can't believe that was decided randomly.

    Doombot is an immediate like as well, and yes, I wondered if originally, it should have been Machine Man (who would be a perfect fit in this book).

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  4. I won't be back for issue two of this. Didn't like the artist being unable to draw anyone other than being the same age, Pym's snottiness, or Monica being as useless and irritating in this universe as she is is in the other. Oh, and Vaughn created Victor Mancha so he really must be a boring character for you to forget that!

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  5. i hope the original human torch appears also the sentient iron man armor will appear in issue 2 as a possible body for dimitrios

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  6. mart if you want simplfie it you can do 2 things 1) blame immortus or 2) read avengers forever which is a great read it even fixes the crossing storyline

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  7. just read your super soldier review and can tell you the difference between genosha and madripoor Genosha is off the coast of west africa little near wakanda also it's completely dead madripoor is asian near the golden triangle in asia

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  8. Didn't read any Age Of Ultron, didn't know just about anything about any of these characters, bought the issue on a whim. And I liked it a lot. Damn. Another new series I'll be sticking with.

    Also: I think I like this Humphries guy. I enjoy his Uncanny X-Force more than most seem to. And now this. Damn again, my budget.

    As far as the letter, I see the point of the mother writing in. Then again, this is rated T+, if I'm correct. Which means it's appropriate for 16 years or older, right? I mean, personnally I'd see now problem giving this to a 12-year old but the classification IS there. And comics have not been safe to give to your kids for, what, 20 years now? I appreciate the intention and I think there should be more along the lines of Johnny DC books from both major publishers to, you know, grow a future audience. But that the current output is not for kids is pretty well established, so I'm kinda siding with the editor here.

    All that being said, yeah, the implied curse here accomplished absolutely nothing.

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  9. about his confusing history option 1) blame immortus and any other avenger continuity error or option 2) read avengers forever ps my favorite parts where when the space phantom explained immortus' long game and when kang remembers his entire history

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