“Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, united against a common threat! On that day the Avengers were born, to fight foes that no single hero could withstand!” That’s how the story goes, right? Well, in reality, it is quite different. As told by Tom Breevort, delays in Daredevil #1 forced Stan Lee and crew to come up with a replacement comic for that month. That plan was to create an analogue to the JLA, using their existing heroes and villains. And thus we got Avengers #1.
Avengers #12.1 is meant to be a “jumping-on point” for readers who want to get back into the Avengers title. You know what else is a “jumping-on point”? This review, of course! If you skipped my Spider-Girl reviews for reasons I can’t possibly imagine, then I invite you to read on, true believers, for my take on the premier Avengers title!
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Paul Neary
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary, and Paul Mounts
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
The Plot: After Spider-Woman disappears while on a S.W.O.R.D. mission, Abigail Brand seeks Steve Rogers and the Avengers for help. Having been knocked unconscious, Jessica Drew wakes up and finds herself tied up and naked as a hostage of the Intelligencia, who have also recovered a Spaceknight. The Avengers track down Jessica through the energy signature of the Spaceknight and promptly defeat the Intelligencia. Unfortunately, the Spaceknight activates and reveals itself as Ultron, who blows up the compound and escapes, leaving the Avengers to await his next move.
The Good: You’d think that, with a numbering such as “12.1”, the Avengers would be dealing with the fallout of issue #12. Instead, this is a done-in-one tale that sets up a future storyline taking place after Fear Itself (the “Age of Ultron”). The way I understand it, these .1 issues are meant to be accessible and reader-friendly, introducing to the reader not just the characters, but the creative team as well.
And in that regard, this issue succeeds pretty well. The main players in the story are introduced via the narrative and dialogue. For instance, in the exchange between Brand and Steve Rogers, we learn the current status quo of Spider-Woman, Steve Rogers, S.W.O.R.D., and Beast. Even the more unfamiliar characters such as the members of the Intelligencia are identified as they communicate with each other. As someone who didn’t follow Fall of the Hulks, I liked this quite a bit.
Not only that, but readers are also introduced to Brian Michael Bendis’ “tropes” in Avengers storytelling. The issue revolves around Jessica Drew, while Luke Cage gets a good moment and takes leadership. Spider-man is once again written as a jokester. Bucky does nothing. You say, “Two-Bit, how on earth is this a good thing?” Because, what you see is what you get, and if you don’t like what you see here, you are better off leaving this book in the rack. This is straight-up a Bendis book, with all its pros and cons, except that this isn’t “part 1 of 6.” What’s been happening with some of these .1 issues like Secret Avengers or Venom–I’m sorry, “Amazing Spider-man”–is that they’ll get written by someone who is NOT the regular writer of that book. What’s the point? Why have Dan Slott write Venom when Rick Remender is going to write him, or Nick Spencer write Secret Avengers when Ed Brubaker is (or was) writing them? That makes no sense to me.
One thing that I thought worked great is Luke Cage (at least, that’s how I interpreted it) hand-picking the Avengers with the skillset most appropriate for a rescue mission. This team comprises Iron Man, Beast, Wolverine, Moon Knight, Noh-Varr, Ms. Marvel, and Thor. The latter three are the heavy-hitters while the others specialized in tracking. This was a very effective use of the roster, and I quite dug it.
The Bad: Bryan Hitch does the art chores this time around, taking over from John Romita, Jr. His art is good for the most part, but his faces are a little weird, like with Thor, for instance. He always looks like he’s squinting. His Steve Rogers also looks kinda weird. Again, this is just a minor gripe on my part. The last pages of the issue are actually very good-looking.
This being a .1 issue, like I said, it’s supposed to introduce readers to the concept of the Avengers. Now, if the concept was having a rotating cast of characters, each used because a particular mission calls for certain heroes’ special skills (kinda like the current Heroes for Hire), then it’d be fantastic.
But it’s not.
And I would really love to see that too. I guess I still can’t get over the fact that there’s really no reason for having both Avengers and New Avengers, especially when they already share two members (yes, I know, cashcows. Whatever). It doesn’t help that all three teams are conveniently meeting at the Tower when Brand pays them a visit.
1. Jessica Drew spends the majority of this issue naked and tied up. There are some full frontal shots, with parts conveniently covered up by shadows. This issue is Rated A, meaning it’s appropriate for kids ages 9 and up.
Now, I could create a stir about how Marvel is not being honest with their ratings, but I’m not going to do that. Why? Because it’s not Marvel’s job to determine what’s appropriate for a child or not. That’s the parents’ job. Ultimately, it’s their responsibility to know what their children are being exposed. “But Two-Bit, sometimes parents don’t have time to control and supervise what their children are reading.” Then they don’t have time to be parents.
2. Jessica Drew is captured and subsequently psychologically abused by the Intelligencia (she is belittled by Wizard and Mad Thinker, all of this while she’s naked). This one I’ll probably give you, though I think she couldn’t have helped being blindsided and couldn’t have taken on all members on her own. Still, considering she’s still recovering from Secret Invasion, this can’t possibly be good for her sense of worth (she needs a win in her “win” column).
3. Marvel has a tendency to write female characters as helpless and victims (e.g. Jessica Jones, Ms. Marvel). Some readers confuse this as misogyny from the writers. However, writing villains as misogynists doesn’t make the writers misogynists any more than writing characters as murderers makes the writers murderers. Besides, in this issue it is Ms. Marvel that punches out Wizard as comeuppance, so this is not a valid complaint here.
~My Two Cents