We kick off our week long look at the best Marvel NOW! can offer with what are, arguably, their two biggest titles. Featuring the most popular fictional characters of 2012 (Apologies to Katniss Everdeen and the Tiger from ‘Life of Pi’), The Avengers.
To catch new readers up to speed, yesterday was our first day back and I’ve decided to take a week long look at Marvel NOW! This is Marvel Comics new publishing initiative that gives many of their series a brand, new issue #1 as well as a new creative team of writer and artist.
So, why start off the week with The two big Avengers books that are being published right now? Respectively, they are “Uncanny Avengers” and “The Avengers”, to teams that have very different modus operandi. We’ll get to that in just a moment, but why are The Avengers now more than just a comic?
Besides being the biggest movie of all time behind anything created by James Cameron, The Avengers proved that superhero stories are more than just good guys versus bad guys. That, beneath all of the commercialism and the merchandising and little boy underoos, there is a way to tell some of the biggest stories ever.
That’s what we all love, right? Stories that shake us, rattle us in our seats and make us root for the good guys to win against all odds? Telling about characters that come from all walks of life and different backgrounds? Just like we all are.
Even when it’s men and women in costumes. But not just any men or women, it’s The Avengers.
First up, The Avengers.
Title: The Avengers
Author: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: (Will be rotating on a bi-weekly basis, but, for starters) Jerome Opena
Issues Released so Far: 2
This series comes out twice a month. To anyone that has been reading comics for longer than a year, they know that comics are released on a monthly basis. So the fact that the popularity of The Avengers has sky-rocketed to the point of putting out a team book like this twice is a big deal.
A very big deal.
This is your core Avengers book. Written by science-fiction master Jonathan Hickman, this tells the exploits of the core team, the one that everyone knows. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow.
And in the first issue alone, all but one are defeated and captured on Mars.
See, author Jonathan Hickman does not merely plan the short term. His most recent comic run on Fantastic Four was a four near four year long endeavor. From the very first issue, all the way to the end of the series, he planned out a massive story with huge payoffs.
It seems he’s doing the same with The Avengers.
The first two pages tease when the world ended. When it all fell. Hickman presents to us multiple events, of alien races dying on a moon, dimensions crumbling, Mars being terraformed by a demi-god, and the fall of the Iron Men.
No, this starts with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Believing that the Avengers need to be bigger, they create a more expansive lineup. One that will expand and change should the core team fall. Included is a Jonathan Hickman designed chart that explains the team lineup.
What? A chart? How exciting! Take all my money.
No, not when it’s used like this. In the first issue, on Mars, the demi-god Ex Nihilo defeats all but Captain America. Sending him back to Earth as a message, Cap is forced to assemble the extended team. In issue #2, you meet them all. Some are familiar, like Spider-Man and Wolverine. Some are new, like Cannonball and Captain Marvel.
Accompanying Hickman in his first run is artist Jerome Opena. His dirty, detailed art completely contrasts with a high end, science fiction story such as this. However, it works. Whether it’s the character interactions or the fact that a terraformed Mars is not as beautiful as we imagined, Opena’s pencil work shines through.
In time Hickman will turn over the bricks of his master plan. If you know anyone that loved the movie, this is the series that will best replicate the movie experience all over again.
Title: The Uncanny Avengers
Author: Rick Remender
Artists: John Cassaday
Issues Released so Far: 2
Mutants have been the outcasts.
They always have been.
Back in the 1960s, they were created to be an analogy to the civil rights movement. Stan Lee, the writer, decided that using comic book characters to reflect the times was an effective way to examine different themes and values.
So, The X-Men have remained that way. That’s what attracts them to so many younger/teenaged readers. They’re the outcasts. At their core, they remain outside the mainstream.
Not in this series.
After the Avengers and X-Men got done beating the tar out of each other, with the leaders of the X-Men in the wrong, what is the world to do?
Steve Rogers knows. They need to be represented in a better light. The world is afraid, so the masses need to see that mutants are not the enemy. Captain America decides he needs a team of Avengers and mutants that serve both the masses and the mutants.
So, he creates the Avengers. Not a normal Avengers group, mind you, but the title of the book is Uncanny Avengers. This is a call back to the series Uncanny X-Men, the long running X-Men book.
Their first challenge? Facing off against the greatest, evil, racist mastermind of all time. The Red Skull. Hating mutants is only the beginning, as his sinister plotting only touches on fighting a super team. In the first issue, the Red Skull kidnaps the deceased body of Professor X and steals his brain.
That’s right. His brain.
With it, he plans on wiping out the entire mutant population.
It’s genocide. It racism. It’s terrifying.
It’s everything that The Avengers need to stop.
Rick Remender, author, has a knack for writing some of the most out there characters and plots. He definitely writes off the beaten path. His works on Venom, X-Force, and Space Punisher (That’s right. The Punished. In space.) have all proven that he writes comics outside the norm. The fact that he’s writing this as the flagship book is Marvel’s trust in his out there, non-typical story threads will pay off.
So, two Avengers books. Two very different styles.
The best that can be taken from them is that they offer big stories, larger than life characters, and some of the best artwork in comics today.
If you are interested in either of these, check them out. Buy them for a friend.
Tomorrow: We continue our look at Marvel NOW! launches by examining two of the core Avengers, The Indestructible Hulk and Thor, God of Thunder.
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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