Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: Avengers World Vol. 1: A.I.M.pire

Marvel’s Avengers line is now so big and full of so many books—five as of the last round of solicitations—that I’m not sure where each book falls in the hierarchy of official Avengers title. Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and his New Avengers seem to be the A-books at this very moment, with one featuring the real, official Avengers, the other the behind-the-scenes, not-really-Avengers The Illuminati, although the books share at least one character (Iron Man), and have kinda sorta intersected (in Infinity).

So I think that would make Avengers World , which was co-written by Hickman and featuring his cast from the pages of Avengers, the B-title…but just the B-title to the A-title of Avengers, as there seem to be other B-titles, like Uncanny Avengers (Although Uncanny Avengers seems to be the book that’s generating the next big Marvel crossover/event series Axis, which will replace it on the schedule this fall, so maybe Uncanny Avengers is the new A-title…? Hickman should make a chart of the importance of various Avengers titles, given that he’s so in to making charts).

Anyway, this ongoing monthly series takes its name from the first story arc of Hickman's Avengers—and the sub-title of the first Avengers collection—for maximum confusification. This collection, A.I.M.pire (Or, Advanced Idea Mechanics-pire, which loses some of its kick when de-acronymized) opens with a weird short story from the incredibly ridiculously-entitled promotional book, All-New Marvel Now Point One #1. In that, which is written by Nick Spencer, Hickman's co-writer for the rest of the issues appearing in this collection, Captain America Steve Rogers, who ran SHIELD after Norman Osborn’s HAMMER was disbanded, has a meeting with Maria Hill, who is maybe back to being the head of SHIELD again, although I could have sworn one of the two Nick Furys was doing that now (I could use a chart of this too, actually).

They decide that they should maybe work together more, which is kind of a weird conversation, given how many Avengers work regularly with SHIELD and/or have run the organization in the past few years, and, no sooner do they shake on it, then threats start pouring in from all over the world, just as they did in the first few issues of Hickman’s Avengers title.

There’s something incredibly, awesomely insane doing on in Madripoor! Wolverine, Black Widow, Falcon, Shang-Chi—check it out! There’s an abandoned city and weird mystical box thing in Italy, leading to a city of the dead! Get on that, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, Nightmask and Starbrand! A.I.M.’s island fortress is hyper-evolving, growing in size and architectural and biodiversity sophistication at an impossible rate! You’re up, Smasher, Sunspot and Cannonball!

It eventually starts to coalesce, at least a bit, as some of the threats seem somewhat related, but the book nevertheless carries Hickman’s Morrison’s JLA-style of hyperbolic, apocalyptic world threatening—Madripoor, for example, is revealed to be a city built atop the head of a gigantic dragon, which has just been awoken and is now ready to run amok—and the idea of The Avengers as an army of superheroes under Captain America’s command, splitting up to stamp out fires (forest fires, really) all over the world whenever and wherever they flare up.

Because Hickman’s Avengers book was and is so plot-heavy, and its cast so large, he hasn’t had a whole lot of time to explore the characters, who often appear as remote plot elements or background filler more than characters. For the most part, that isn’t a bad thing in the context of the book. Many of those characters have their own books and appear in so many others—Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain Marvel, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Black Widow—that Hickman doesn’t really need to waste the space on them in the book.

But here there’s a bit more room, and so Spencer and Hickman give us not only more of the sorts of scenes found in Avengers, but longer, character-focused scenes, like Shang-Chi narrating his life-and-death battle with Gorgon, or Smasher remembering more of her childhood during her confrontation with the A.I.M. leadership, or Starbrand re-living the nightmarish aspects of his own origin.

In a very palpable way, this book reads like more of the same of Avengers, which is either a good thing—if you like what you’re reading in Avengers—or a bad thing, if you don’t. Where it differs is that the plot seems slightly less urgent, and there’s a little more room for the characters to breathe, and the dialogue, likely owing to Spencer, is a bit snappier and a bit funnier.

The art was unremarkable, but unremarkable in a good way. Rags Moreales, one of my favorite super-comics artists, draws the prologue from that goofy one-shot, while Stefano Caselli—whose past Avengers experience includes chunks of Avengers Assemble and Avengers: The Initiative draws the five issue of Avengers World proper.

I liked it well enough, but neither artist did anything particularly remarkable with what amounted to work-for-hire jobs. As with a lot of the publisher’s team books of late, particularly since they started accelerating the schedules of their monthlies, this book seemed more like a writer’s book than an artist’s book, or book where the two contributing components develop style, personality and tone in equal measures.


Shriner said...

That's my biggest problem with Avengers World (and Secret Avengers) -- if I pull specific words from your review out of context: "less urgent" and "unremarkable".

It's a bit "out there", but it mostly feels like one of those trademark-renewal books, unfortunately. said...

I'm a particularly big fan of the book, if only because it allows lesser known Avengers [and personal favourites of mine] like Shang-Chi and Eden Fesi/Manifold a little more screentime than they get in "Avengers" proper.