I was smart when I was in diapers. Now I’m more in the unparalleled genius range. — Quentin Quire – Wolverine and the X-Men #5
I was smart when I was in diapers. Now I’m more in the unparalleled genius range.
Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho’s Mighty Avengers chronicles the Tony Stark and Miss Marvel picked post-Civil War team. Their goal was to gather together the greatest team of Avengers ever created. Volume one collects the first six issues of the series, and features the logic behind the team’s creation as well as the return of a high-profile and historically dangerous pain-in-the-ass villain (one that isn’t hard to guess given the title of the volume).
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Frank Cho
Most Avengers teams come together at a moment of crisis, almost accidentally, but the Mighty Avengers are actually designed for success. The first issue of the book is probably my favourite, and that isn’t a bad thing. It features the team dealing with their first big battle, something that is transpiring roughly 24 minutes after they come together, a fact that echoes the crisis-fuelled origin of other Avengers teams. Scenes of battle are interspersed with Ms. Marvel and Iron Man’s conversation about how they would pick the perfect team of Avengers. Their discussion ranges from topics such as “why not just make a team of heavy hitters?” and “can you find someone that its equal parts Thor and Wolverine?” (short answer: sort of). The reason for the creation of the team is that after the Civil War there was a gap where there were no Avengers after the monumental events of that summer blockbuster. Eventually Marvel decided to have two main Avengers teams, the New Avengers, who were non-sanctioned by the government and led by Luke Cage (check out what I thought of New Avengers here). While the New Avengers were off doing their thing, these Mighty Avengers have to deal with the fact that they are perhaps not as suited for teamwork. While they definitely have the tools, this volume is more about learning how to use them. Tony Stark is very quickly removed from the equation, as this new version of Ultron finds an interesting way to incapacitate him for the duration of the conflict. As a narrative approach, this works well to display the team’s a new roster. Tony Stark, as much as we all love the only Avenger whose nervous system includes Norton Anti-Virus, has a way of solving everything (Reed Richards syndrome). Taking him out early means that we get to watch different solutions come up and either fail or work. We get scenes of the Black Widow commanding the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, and Ares trying to talk science with Hank Pym. Other than the fact that this means we get to hear Ares throw around the words “magic potion” a lot, this also means that readers get a fresh start with the team.
Brian Michael Bendis does a good job with Mighty Avengers, but honestly, it’s a tough book to critique because it’s essentially one big battle royale. This means that dialogue is mostly limited to averting one crisis or another by someone shouting orders, and then something being thrown into a building. Dialogue doesn’t exactly flourish in an environment like this, which isn’t by itself a bad thing, it’s just really difficult to do well or analyze as a critical reader. Since plot advancement is mostly made through physical conflict, Bendis struggles to display character emotion, growth or interaction. A major gripe, one that many reviewers have echoed, is the fact that he peppers the dialogue with these snarky thought bubbles that reveal how the characters really feel about each other. Thought bubbles feel kind of retro, and it is neat to get an inside look, but it becomes over-used and Bendis relies on it too much for the practice to continue being effective. The thought bubbles work as parentheses (something I’m a huge fan of) but it can get distracting (something I should try and pay attention to).
I can say that the book remains funny pretty much throughout, and while this does nothing to make the big bad seem threatening, it does drive the book to a certain degree. And it is funny that Ultron keeps coming back, even if they replace his hilarious big metal face with a different shiny and sleek version, Bendis and Cho still litter the scenes with Ultron’s gaping mechanical maw. The characters seem real due to this sense of humour, maybe some people don’t like a less-serious treatment of heroes, but these are comics and they get to be fun!
Frank Cho puts on a clinic of how-to-draw-Marvel in a widescreen format. This is something that became increasingly standard in the mid-2000s and in many ways is the predecessor of the style of action that the Avengers movie adopted. His action scenes are crisp, clean and packed with dynamic detail. He does a great job of not redefining the characters, but giving us excellent marquee versions of them. His Ares is recognizable because of his quick-to-anger veiny forehead and over-the-top bulging muscles. We can see Ms. Marvel’s frustration clearly on her face when things don’t work out the way that she plans for them to, and Sentry’s Golden Age innocence is readable in his facial expressions. Cho grasps the character’s motivations and roles and manages to transmit that information quickly, through his art. It’s something that isn’t easy, but is often overlooked as the first six issues of Mighty Avengers is basically one prolonged fight scene.
At the end of the book its clear what kind of title Mighty Avengers intends to be: loud, funny, widescreen and epic. Bendis tries to instill a sense of character even limited with the sparse dialogue that he has at his disposal. Ultron is surprisingly fresh and the team dynamic doesn’t yet seem tired. Couple these details with Frank Cho’s artwork and you have an easy read, filled with action and Earth threatening crises. I would recommend this book to fans of Marvel and any fans of this past summer’s Avengers film. It keeps a similar style but with different characters.