We’re 4 issues into the new volume of Mighty Avengers now and it’s been a surprisingly good book. And even though I’ve been reviewing it in the Spider-Satellites segment of the podcast, we realized we didn’t have anyone doing text reviews! And so here I am, starting the process of catching up. Sorry about that, folks. I hope my humble analysis of the book will suffice.
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciler: Greg Land
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: Cory Petit
Cover: Greg Land & Lee Duhig
Variant Covers: Bryan Hitch & Laura Martin; Carlo Barberi & Edgar Delgado; Leonel Castellani; Skottie Young
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
THE STORY: Set during the Infinity event, Thanos’ minion Proxima Midnight begs him to let her crush New York for him, and Thanos agrees. On the ground, Luke Cage is working with White Tiger and the new Power Man (NOTE: Any time “Power Man” is referred to in reviews for this series it will be referring to Victor Alvarez, not Luke Cage) as the new Heroes For Hire. They are protecting Horizon Labs shipping crates from a truly awful villain called The Plunderer. Since these crates contain parts for his spiderbots, The Superior Spider-Man swings in and makes quick work of Plunderer while insulting the heroes for being mercenaries for money. White Tiger takes his words to heart and quits on the spot. Meanwhile, an even more awful villain named Blue Streak is taken down by Monica Rambeau, currently going by the name Spectrum (previous aliases include Captain Marvel, Photon, and Pulsar). After this easy takedown, she goes to have a chat with her costumer, and someone is waiting there to see her. In a coffee shop, Luke Cage tries to calm down Power Man but Luke’s thinking he needs a change to do better for his daughter. Not happy with this, Power Man quits, too. As Proxima Midnight and her forces come down to Earth, another Thanos minion called The Ebony Maw is digging his way into Doctor Strange’s mind. This will become important later. Monica’s in-the-shadows friend in the costume shop says he needs her help, but when the more immediate threat of Thanos’ forces becomes apparent, he says he can’t go with her because he can’t be seen to be in the country – to which Monica points out that he’s in a costume shop. Luke Cage, Spectrum, and Spider-Man all assemble in the same area to fight the baddies, and Monica’s friend shows up wearing a terrible knock-off Spider-Man costume with the words “Spider Hero” emblazoned on the chest. These, for the moment, are the Avengers.
MY THOUGHTS: Well first off it must be said – this is a solid book. Since I’m writing this review having already read the next three issues I can say it definitely improves from here, but this is a good starting point to introduce some of the main characters and get the ball rolling on figuring out what this particular Avengers team is going to be about. Luke knows he wants to help people that need help, but isn’t feeling like the Heroes For Hire thing is working out this time around. That’s not an endpoint or a mission statement, but it’s a good start to the conversation of the role this team will end up playing.
As far as it being an event tie-in in its very first issue (and next couple as well), Ewing does a good job of using the event as a platform to get eyeballs on the book and create a threat to bring his team together, but not let it define or sidetrack the book when it needs to be defining itself. Proxima Midnight and her soldiers are a big, loud, powerful threat that draws multiple heroes to the same spot. That’s exactly what the story needed, and that’s exactly what they’re used for. We don’t waste time going in-depth into all the goings on of the Infinity event because we don’t need to. Proxima Midnight doesn’t get 7 pages of character development because she doesn’t need them – she was in about 3-4 other books that month at least. In this way, being an event tie-in is actually an advantage to this book, because Ewing doesn’t really have to spend much of any time building a threat and introducing a villain. Those things are done by Infinity and all we need here is the requisite “here’s who this is and why it matters” which doesn’t take up much page space at all (in fact, the villain’s motivations and trip to Earth take up only 3 pages in the entire issue). And so Ewing is able to give that page space to his heroes and develop where they are in their lives at a pace that most first issues might not be so lucky to get. We get introduced to Cage’s Heroes For Hire, the demise of that venture across two scenes, and even the very beginnings of his next team all in the space of 20 pages. Complain all you want about decompression in modern comics, but you won’t find it here.
The art in this book is simply going to be divisive and there’s nothing any reviewer can do to change that. Unless you’re new to comics (and if you are – Hey there! Welcome!) your opinions of Greg Land are already entrenched. I completely understand why many people dislike his work, and the referencing he does can be bothersome sometimes to me, too. But in general, I have to say, I really like the aesthetic of Land’s art. Sure, it’s very bright and shiny and people smile bigger and more often than is realistic, but to me it’s a clean, clear, oft-iconic superhero style and I dig it. And I’m finding some really great panel layouts in his work on this book, a wonderful example being the third preview image in this review (otherwise known as the third page of the issue). That, to me, is some great, kinetic, and inventive superhero work. But I do realize your mileage may vary.
The characterizations in this book are mostly very strong, too, even letting characters I’m not that familiar with make an impression. Luke Cage comes across as the strong, sometimes hot-headed but mostly together family man with real mental struggles about doing what’s right that I’ve come to know mostly through Bendis’ Avengers books in the last near-decade. White Tiger is the honorable, responsibility-burdened young girl I know from Avengers Academy. Power Man’s the heroic, hot-headed prick who means well (most of the time) seen in whatever guest appearances I’ve seen him in. And I must admit, even though she’s been around for decades, I’ve never really read anything that comes to mind with Monica Rambeau (and yes, I’m aware Nextwave is considered “teh awesome sauce!” by anyone who’s read it, I’ve just never gotten around to that one). But her characterization here is very strong as someone who’s incredibly powerful, in charge, and takes no bullcrap and I’m able to enjoy her even without previously knowing her. So Ewing does a great job with all of those characters in just this first issue.
Of course, this is a Spider-Man website, so how does the Superior Spider-Man come off here? Like a world class, no-holds-barred, in your face d-bag, that’s how. And since he’s Doctor Octopus, that’s certainly not wrong. I will say that Ewing REALLY plays up how much of a relentless dick Otto is, though. To my knowledge (and a google search doesn’t seem to call me wrong), Doctor Octopus and Luke Cage never met pre-body swap. But Otto certainly seems to completely despise Cage in a way that would almost seem like he’d been repeatedly punched in the face by him at some point in the past. If this HAS happened, I trust someone will fill me in in the comments. In reality, though, I know this is just because Ewing chose to play up his inability to play well with others because it causes friction and drama, but honestly this is the kind of extreme portrayal that makes it seem truly impossible that anyone is buying that Peter Parker is under that mask (or at least that the guy who always has been Spider-Man is under that mask – who can keep track of which heroes know his identity these days?). But the shortcomings of the Spider-mind-swap story are not the fault of Al Ewing, he’s just using the character, so it’s unfair to lay that completely at his feet. I just wish he would tone it down a LITTLE.
And the mysterious stranger? Well, the spoiler is out there for anyone that wants to know it, but I won’t spoil it here yet. Once I get to the issue 3 review it will probably be impossible not to talk about it so be warned – if you don’t want to know, pay careful attention to my spoiler warnings on upcoming reviews. But suffice it to say, there wasn’t much to go on in this initial issue, but man is that Spider Hero costume awful. It’s supposed to be – and it succeeds. It gets a pretty great indignant reaction out of Otto, though, which is probably my favorite Spider-Man moment in the issue.
GRADE: B This was a solid start with a lot going for it, but it definitely had some room to improve, and would do so over the next few issues. Long story short, if you’re on the fence: this one IS worth picking up.