With yet another reboot of one of their flagship titles, this week’s Avengers #1 by Mark Waid and Mike Del Mundo nonetheless represents a return to the fundamental series name and identity. This isn’t “All-New All-Different,” or even “New” for that matter. They aren’t “Mighty” or part of an “Initiative.” There’s nothing “Secret” about them, much less “Uncanny.” These are the freaking Avengers, a team that resonates with historical familiarity, despite a roster unlike one we’ve ever seen.
Of course things can’t be completely the same, not after the events of Civil War II (whose full aftermath has been pieced together from clues and NOW! references, since the perpetually late series still hasn’t actually concluded). But the world still needs Avenging, and an interesting cast of superheroes has assembled to pick up the mantle. With founding member Tony Stark out of the picture (assumed to have died at the end of CW II), funding responsibilities fall to another scientific genius – Peter Parker – whose Parker Industries, in the All-New All-Different era, has the clout and wherewithal to not only bankroll a super-team, but to headquarter in the FF’s old Baxter Building as well. And Spider-Man, of course, was once a protege of Iron Man’s, during the first Civil War event. In fact, even though none of the founding members are part of this new team, the legacy of each of them has been cleverly honored.
Instead of The Hulk (who we did see die in Civil War II #3), Hercules steps into the muscle role. This isn’t the first time that the Prince of Power has subbed in for Bruce’s angrier alter ego; Herc took over the Green Goliath’s comic as The Incredible Hercules after the events of World War Hulk. Replacing original member Janet Van Dyne, the Winsome Wasp, is the new Wasp, Nadia Pym, long-lost daughter of another founding member, Ant-Man. Then there are the three veteran carry-overs from the ANAD iteration: Jane Foster is the current Thor; Sam Wilson still has the shield and still goes by Captain America (Steve Rogers may not have been a founding member, but issue #4 is close enough); and The Vision connects back, once again, to Ant-Man, Hank Pym. So that’s all well and good and fun. But is the book going to be any good?
Mark Waid barely got a head of steam going before Marvel hit the reset button again, after a Kang dilemma, an Annihilus escapade, and a smattering of requisite CW II tie-ins. The kids have peeled off to become Champions and the shattering impact (just look at that NOW! logo) of Civil War II is (soon to be) in the rear-view mirror. Time to let the man get to work. In case you haven’t had enough Kang (who also dicked around with The Inhumans just last year), he’s back and he’s pissed. Makes sense, since The Vision recently abducted an infant Time Conqueror in a bizarre go-back-in-time-and-kill-Baby-Hitler maneuver (All-New All-Different Avengers #13). So Waid has some unfinished business to address.
But what really gets me excited for this newest volume of my favorite comic is the art. Mike Del Mundo wowed us on two volumes of Weirdworld before throwing in with Totally Awesome Hulk. His incredible painted style, luminescent and dynamic, is unlike anything on the stands right now. Not what you’d expect to see on a focal team book. Props to Marvel’s comic division for continuing to take the kind of chances that we’re not likely to see from Marvel Studios anytime soon, or ever from their counterparts at DC. The Avengers, despite being steeped in familiarity, is about as innovative and, really, weird as we’ve ever seen them.
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