Some weeks it’s tough to find something to look at here. Very occasionally, though, the shelves are packed. I’ve done three reviews already this week, but have a few stray thoughts on other new issues, so here we go.
We’ve not had an Avengers #1 for a few years, and after the latest rambling series, I’m ready for a fresh start. Writer Jed Mackay gives us that with the formation of a new team led by Captain Marvel Carol Danvers. Mackay’s structure is pleasingly classic, with flashbacks across a week of previous members being asked to sign up, alternating with a battle against Terminus happening today. The fact that I read this comic two days ago and had to look back to see who this issue’s antagonist was shows he’s not especially important to the comic, despite some powerful images from artist C F Vila, a new name to me whose storytelling impresses.
This is all about the character dynamics, and we get promising interactions between Carol and her crew of Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, Captain America Sam Wilson and the Vision. That’s a solid, classic line-up; I wish there were a PoV team newbie, but Mackay seems to be going for a Nineties JLA iconic feel – which explains the cringingly contrived titles The Star, The Witch, The Engineer, The King, The God, The Icon and The Construct they’re given. The final page brings the real big villain, eliciting a ‘not again’ from me. Still, I enjoyed this issue loads, with Carol’s team mission statement being typical of the good times in this debut.
Titan Victor Stone gets another shot at solo success just as his team gets a new start. Boom Tube tech means that even though he has quarters in the new Titans Tower in Blüdhaven, Cyborg can return instantly to his home town of Detroit. The book opens with old Titans foes Gizmo and Mammoth, of Fearsome Five infamy, trying to blow up a building ‘to prove we can do things on our own’. I don’t get that but it does motivate an opening fight scene that shows what Vic can do.
There’s a cracking cliffhanger as a mysterious robot hits our hero close to home, but in between there’s an awful lot of angst around his dad Silas. Pop’s big ‘crime’ was saving Vic’s life via experimental implants after the college football star suffered alien-inflicted injuries. Some of said angst involves Vic’s insufferable ex-girlfriend Sarah Charles, and Vic diarising his feelings for his therapist. Plus, we get two pages of Exposition TV chatter alongside the cliche that succeeded it, internet commentary. It’s a tad tedious but, having got this all out of the way, writer Morgan Hampton has a chance to take Vic new places.
DC veteran Tom Raney is a good storyteller – his panels showing the approach of the mystery robot are creepily composed – but I much prefer him working with an inker such as Scott Hanna. I do hope that Raney is having a laugh with his superhero funeral-wear line.
BATMAN/SUPERMAN: WORLD’S FINEST #15
Not a debut issue, but World’s Finest #15 is another brilliantly fun instalment of Mark Waid and Dan Mora’s love letter to classic DC. What began as a murder mystery – who killed Simon Stagg? – had unfurled to reveal a plot to take over the world by JLA bad guy Professor Ivo. Among those dragged into the plan are the Metal Men, with their creator and friend Dr Will Magnus one of the DCU boffins enslaved by Ivo. If you like obscure bad guys, this is the issue for you, with appearances by the likes of All-Star Squadron foe Mechanique, Aquaman obscurities the Awesome Threesome, and Challengers of the Unknown opponent Ultivac. We see the Challs in a terrific splash by Mora. Rocky, Ace, Prof and Red are making their WF debut, joining fellow DC Silver Age stars Metamorpho, the Doom Patrol, the Teen Titans and the aforementioned Metal Men. Given how many old favourites are being dusted off, Cave Carson, Rip Hunter and their pals can’t be far behind. Heck, I’d not bet against Waid having the day saved by the Inferior Five…
Meanwhile, this is another wonderful story, with action and characterisation nicely balanced. Scene of the issue?
So there you have it, three short – well, for me – takes. I’ve still to read the new Wonder Woman and Spirit World #1. Pray they leave me speechless!
10 thoughts on “Lightning round reviews – Avengers #1, Cyborg #1 and Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #15”
World’s Finest is just great fun. Unabashedly Silver Age goodness and better than 90% of the “modern” nonsense out there.
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Agreed! Now, do you read the Batman and Scooby-Doo! Mysteries? That would also scratch the old comics itch.
I don’t, but I’m always up for a good recommendation. Any issues in particular?
As a loooooooooooooong time Avengers fan (since the mid-1980s) I’ve got to say I really enjoyed Jason Aaron’s run. It seemed like a great culmination/finale of the series (I mean THE WHOLE series dating back to the early 1960s) and also a celebration of Marvel Comics in general. In fact, I decided to end my Avengers collecting with Aaron’s final issue. Have read good things about Mackay, and I wish him well. But I’m just not sure after Aaron’s epic tenure and even Hickman’s some years back what stories there are left to tell. As you point out, here we are with yet ANOTHER Kang storyline. Safe to say Busiek did the best job with that character during his time on the title. This is what happens when you follow a book for so long. After a while the “fresh” starts just don’t seem fresh anymore. lLike with Batman. What original stories are there left to tell about The Joker, for example? The Avengers in a way has gotten to the point where each new writer has to go BIGGER. The days of fighting the Wrecking Crew in Central Park, then heading back to the mansion for tea with Jarvis the butler, seem long gone and quaint. The summaries of Mackay’s run indicate that’s not gonna change and readers are in for yet another world-shattering/multiverse shattering/time-shattering storyline. Like I said, I wish him well. But I think at this point if I want an Avengers fix I”ll just go back and re-read the last 60 years worth of stories.
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I can appreciate your final sentiment, I just can’t seem to find an Avengers run post Busiek that seems to chime with me. Dan Slott’s Mighty Avengers probably came closest. Maybe I should go back and give Hickman another chance. Or maybe I should reread all the Stern issues – good times!
Martin, I could talk Avengers with you forever! (pun intended).
I think Busiek was the last “classic” Avengers writer. Much of his run was spent cleaning-up/following up on dangling plot threads from when the original series ended and was briefly replaced by the Heroes Reborn/Image-style/alternate world reboot of the late 1990s. So in many ways it felt like a direct continuation of the book that launched all the way back in the early 1960s. Plus he had Perez, a former Avengers artist, back on the book for several issues.
But Busiek also wrote Avengers Forever and JLA/Avengers, some of the biggest Avengers stories – maybe even THE biggest Avengers stories – ever at that point in the team’s/title’s history. So if you wanted to “end” your Avengers collection with Busiek’s departure, I can see why.
(Geoff Johns had a decent post Busiek run but it was brief so really more of a footnote.)
Then Bendis arrived. I hated the idea of destroying/disassembling the team and hated how it was done, but over time I came to appreciate a lot of Bendis’ work. I just think Bendis being the writer he is, even when he tried to go “classic” in the back-half of his tenure post-Civil War and Secret Invasion and Heroic Age, it never felt classic in the way Busiek was able to balance modern/classic, if that makes sense. Bendis always felt like a guy “trying” to write a traditional, epic Avengers. And when he tried character work – Spiderwoman/Hawkeye’s relationship – it never felt as focused/developed as when Stan Lee or Roy Thomas or Steve Englehart or Roger Stern or Busiek wove in their character subplots.
I too have a big soft spot for Dan Slott. I loved his use of Hercules and U.S. Agent and Jarvis and his character development of Hank Pym. I’d love to see Slott take on the main book in the future.
For me, Hickman’s run really was the most “adult” and ambitious Avengers ever. This was’t “street level Avengers fighting goverment sanctioned Avengers” anymore. And this wasn’t Stan Lee soap opera. And it was BIGGER than Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart and Jim Shooter late 60s/70s cosmic. Maybe Bendis brought the Avengers into the 2000s with more modern, less comic-booky dialogue, but I’d argue Hickman did for Avengers what Morrison did for JLA. The book felt mature.
And Hickman’s team was BIG!!! It was an Avengers to be reckoned with. Shang Chi! Hyperion! Bruce Banner/The Hulk!
But it got depressing at the end.
Mark Waid’s take was fun but I think mostly pretty light. I mean, after HIckman, where do you go? We got a smaller team, smaller stories. I credit Waid with adding more youth/ diversity – Miles Morales, Kamala Khan, the new Wasp. And he brought back Hercules!!! I will say that the big storyline that Waid was involved with – No Surrender – along with Al Ewing and Jim Zub felt old school classic to me. It helped that Wonder Man and Beast and Jarvis were back and we got to see the old Avengers mansion again and there was a race around the globe to locate some old school Marvel artifacts. So Waid went out on a high note IMHO. I probably could have been done with the Avengers then and been satisfied.
Which brings me to Jason Aaron. I think he got so much right. Having Black Panther lead, making Blade a member, and bringing in all sorts of other wonderful bits and pieces from the Marvel Universe. It really felt like a celebration of some of the best of Marvel. His character work was touch and go, though. I liked what he did with Ghost Rider and to a lesser extent She Hulk and also how he tore down and redeemed Namor. But he tried to launch a Thor/She Hulk relationship that never went anywhere. I do credit Aaron with doing one of my favorite things and going for a quirky lineup. When his book ended, it was Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Captain Marvel, Namor, Jane Foster (Valkerie), Echo (Phoenix), a new Nighthawk, Ghost Rider and Starbrand. I actually would have LOVED to have spent more time with that lineup. All he needed was maybe Dr. Druid :)!!!
I’ll end with this. I think the Avengers for so long – from the early 1960s up until Bendis’ relaunch – was reliable in terms of what the readers got month in and month out, year after year. They, mostly, worked out of a mansion in NYC, had a butler, a training room, flew around in Quinjets, had some sort of relationship with the U.S. government and/or the United Nations, and only once branched out to open a West Coast team. They had a mix of big epic adventures and small ones. There were subplots, but stories mostly lasted a few months, rather than years. And you had a mix of connected stories and one-off adventures.
Beginning with Bendis, a ton of that is gone, and it has never really returned. They worked underground, then out of a skyscraper, then out of a warehouse (under Waid), the out of a dead Celestial at the North Pole. And often under Bendis, then pretty much always under HIckman and Aaron, the stories were ALL part of some bigger event. Gone were three issues fighting Ultron, then on to battle Count Nefaria, then the Mole Man.
Also gone are some of the subplots that old school fans loved. Again, similar to Morrison with JLA, the focus is on the stories and not necessarily on the personal relationships. When was the last time any Avengers books/writers spent months/years developing a relationship like the Vision and Scarlett Witch’s, for example, or breaking one up like Hawkeye/Mockingbird? Or even delving into a love triangle like what Bob Harras did with the Black Knight/Sersei/Crystal? (Another run I have a love for, by the way…)
I guess you could argue Bendis did put a lot of effort into the Luke Cage/Jessica Jones romance. But that’s the only example I can think of over the last 20 years.
Some of this might just be changing reader tastes, too.
There is a part of me that would LOVE for the Avengers to be back in the mansion, to have a “day in the life” issue here and there, to have Jarvis serving tea. I’m just not sure that we’ll ever get that again.
Anyway, like I said, I could talk Avengers forever!
World’s Finest is always a ton of fun. Looking forward to Cyborg on DCUI (I’m always rooting for his book to be good).
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Me too, he’s such a good character, there has to be a way to tap his potential.
There’s so much to love in this issue of World’s Finest — but let me just highlight the structure. We’ve got about 15 pages of the main story, with Batman, Superman, Robin, Metamorpho and the Metal Men contending with Ivo, Ultramorpho, and NewMazo. But then the rest of it just highlights the scope of the threat, with fun vignettes involving Red Tornado, The Challengers, the Teen Titans, Supergirl, and the Doom Patrol… each (aside from Reddy) facing off against robotic villains as part of the uprising. It’s really masterful: give us a page or so, make it entertaining, and then cut back to the main story. The key is, while none of these vignettes conclude, they also don’t feel like cliffhangers. They’ll be followed up on in the broad scope of the story, not in their own microcontext.
This feels almost like Waid and Mora looked at the structure of an “event” book and thought, “we can refine that.” I hope future event planners looks at what they’ve done here, and how they’ve made it so entertaining, and follow their lead.
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That would be great. The Red Tornado but felt a little different to the other cameos, maybe because he wasn’t front and centre in the Bronze Age. Didn’t he just appear once in the Sixties? I wonder if if he’ll prove more significant as the story progresses.