Spotlight: Mighty Avengers #1

(w) Al Ewingdetail

(a) Greg Land

** MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD **

In the ‘Marvel NOW!’ era, Mighty Avengers is the weakest Avengers title on the roster, and that’s including Avengers Arena — a series I was incredibly critical of because of it’s apparent reliance on the same general premise as Battle Royale and The Hunger Games  — and Avengers Assemble, which started it’s ‘Marvel NOW!’ run with issue nine and had a few good, small arcs before getting roped into the perpetual crossover game. For a while, it seemed like Mighty Avengers wouldn’t receive a reboot treatment. But to be quite honest, there probably wasn’t a need for one. Marvel already has eight ongoing Avengers titles, and this is the first one to feel completely superfluous. I have a few theories as to why.

First, Mighty Avengers has launched in the middle of Infinity, Jonathan Hickman’s sprawling epic about the Avengers heading off into space to battle the Universal Builders, while Thanos takes the opportunity to attack an Earth without it’s heroes. I don’t tend to like series that begin during an event as much as those that launch more organically. It could be argued that certain events offer a lead-in to new series’, but more often than not, the act of launching a new title during a big crossover event feels manipulative. Beyond a few panels at the beginning of the issue and quick appearances by Proxima Midnight and Ebony Maw at the end, the events of Infinity are barely touched upon. Yet Mighty Avengers #1 has INFINITY scrawled across the top of the cover as if it’s integral to what’s going on. It’s not. In actuality, the attack on New York City could have been from anyone or anything. This title could have launched without the Infinity branding and would have been stronger for it.

Second, Al Ewing doesn’t seem to know how to write this book. I’ve not read any of Ewing’s work in the past — that I know of — but I’m already averse to his clunky, unnatural dialogue and weird pacing. The first red flag for me was when Spider-Man says, “I got a very bright young lady to reconsider a life of paid thuggery.” Otto Octavius inhabits the mind of Spider-Man now, and would never say something like “I got someone to do something.” Octavius is a scientific genius and never hesitates to talk down to anyone he’s speaking with by using overly dramatic language and a condescending tone. But beyond the Spidey faux-pas, Ewing insists on writing overly obtuse dialogue that never quite feels organic. Luc, the French superhero costumier, is just corny and reminds readers that they’re reading a comic book, taking them out of the proverbial zone by highlighting how silly these characters are. Then there’s the Ebony Maw, the most ridiculous sounding henchman I’ve ever read…but only in this book. He reads just fine in Infinity, but Ewing manages to overly complicate the Maw’s monologue that made me want to just stop reading. And a Katy Perry reference? Come on, Al — you can do better than that.

mightyavengers-1-4

Third, Marvel still seems to think people like Greg Land’s artwork. I honestly believe that one of the reasons the ‘Marvel NOW!’ relaunch of Iron Man wasn’t as critically successful as it could have been was because Land handled the artwork and no matter how good the writing is, those airbrushed supermodel faces are just disappointing to see. Jay Leisten does Land a favor by inking in a richness and depth not normally seen in Land’s work. Mighty Avengers #1 features some of Land’s best work I’ve seen to date, but again, that’s mostly due to Leisten’s incredible inking. Of course, characters like Monica Rambeau still look different from panel to panel (the inking can only do so much).

There are a number of reasons to read Mighty Avengers #1: it’s technically a tie-in to Infinity, it features a mostly African-American cast of characters — if you’re invested in diversity in comics — and it hearkens the return of Luke Cage to the ongoing happenings of the Marvel universe. But it’s faults are big, and they might just be too big to ignore going forward. I’ll give most any series three issues, but I’m not holding my breath.

GRADE

5/10

REVIEW: IRON MAN #1

(w) Kieron Gillen
(p) Greg Land


“If your ideas have at least one military purpose, you can get them paid for. You can realize your dream, as long as it’s got enough nightmare to it.”

Tony Stark’s words ring true throughout Iron Man #1, as new writer Kieron Gillen brings about the return of the Extremis virus in the epic first issue of this new ‘Marvel NOW!’ series. Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca have been handling the Iron Avenger for a few years now, so skepticism toward a new creative team is to be expected. Fortunately, Kieron Gillen and artist Greg Land seem to have a promising if not perfect formula for the title going forward.

Kieron Gillen is a prolific talent. He’s the kind of writer that can put his own spin on almost any character he takes on, while still keeping said character’s core qualities and personality. If you’ve never read Phonogram, read every issue you can before it fries your brain, then read Gillen’s run on Journey Into Mystery to see what I mean. This same principle applies here to Iron Man as Gillen uses his unique style to give Tony Stark a fresh voice for the first time in ages. I don’t want to sound like I disliked Fraction’s take on Stark, but it was something that took a lot of getting used to, while Gillen’s style has more instant appeal and witty swarth. The man is English, after all.

Everyone’s favorite nano-virus, Extremis, is back for a second go-round with Tony Stark and bringing about a dangerous age of man-made metahumans. Gillen does an amazing job of blending character development, supporting cast introductions, and plot advancement that it’s almost astonishing. I found myself noticing so much more about the issue on my second read-through — the way Land illustrates emotion (at least for women; Tony looks donkey-toothed most of the time), how Tony’s inner monologue is more actually about processing thoughts instead of giving readers narration, and the way Gillen effortlessly brings back one of the most popular threats in all of Iron Man history without it feeling forced.

Both Iron Man and Deadpool debuted this week as part of ‘Marvel NOW!’, and many buyers are considering purchasing just one of these issues. Do yourself a favor and get Iron Man #1. Kieron Gillen has, in one issue, built a fascinating situation for Tony Stark, as well as a clear direction for the character himself. This was not a title I thought I would be buying each month. In fact, I had no plans on even reviewing this initial issue outside the ‘Extra! Extra!’ section. But as always (and I should have guessed), Kieron Gillen blew me away with his masterful grasp of comic book writing.

GRADE
9/10