söndag 7 augusti 2011

Brian Michael Bendis & Romita Jr.: The Avengers Vol 1 (2011)

OK, so this is what I chose to start with from yesterday's haul; it collects Avengers vol 4, #1-6. The story in brief (sans spoilers): Steve Rogers is reforming the Avengers. Immortus/Kang the Conqueror suddenly appears before them, and after the short but obligatory fight tells them that time itself is broken. Ultron has taken over the future, and can't be defeated – except by the Avengers' children, and once in power, they're going to destroy Time. Kang can't have that, so if the Avengers don't fix things, he's going to destroy everything – because what's the point of being the ruler of time if time doesn't exist, anyway?

Kang then returns to the future, a future where he has some rather surprising allies as well as an unexpected boss. The Avengers remain, debating what to do and to what extent they can trust Kang. Eventually, they decide that they have to construct a time machine to check his claims out, and since Reed Richards isn't in, and Iron Man doesn't trust Vincent van Doom, they approach the Kree Marvel Boy Noh-Varr instead. While the time machine is under construction, they are attacked, first somewhat inexplicably by Wonder Man, then by creatures from another future led by Apocalypse. A massive fight with the latter ensues before Iron Man manages to solve the situation in a rather clever way.

Then, Wolverine, Iron Man, Noh-Varr and Captain America go to the future to try and settle the situation there – arriving right into the battle royal between Ultron and one of several armies Kang has assembled to defeat him (failing every time) – whereas the rest of the team go to contain the outbreak of chaos that has hit New York City due to the disturbances in the timestream, including a Martian invasion (complete with Killraven) and Galactus.

So the part of the team remaining in our time has its work cut out for it, but it doesn't really work as much more than a placeholder for them while the real story is resolved in the future. That story is, on the other hand rather good, so I won't spoil it for you with details.

Anyway, it's a decent read; Bendis tendency towards the glib in his dialogue veers into "annoyingly glib" territory in the first chapter or so, but once the action starts, he stays clear of that trap. Some of the action sequences aren't really necessary but seem thrown in just to have some action sequences, but that is pretty much par for the course. The second half, when you get the explanations for much of what has gone before and various plot twists are thrown at the reader and elegantly resolved, is a rollicking good read, and lifts the book into "recommended" territory. The Wonder Man bit is almost completely irrelevant to the story, but I expect that it is part of a subplot that is to be resolved later.

John Romita Jr. is his old competent self with massive heroes and villains, good storytelling and excellent posing of the characters, well worth your while. Klaus Janson does the inking, so it's of course great – except a couple of pages in the last chapter that seem rather rushed; but they may be by Tom Palmer who also contributed (deadline crunch?).

Finally, big kudos to colorist Dean White who does one of the best coloring jobs I've seen on a mainstream Marvel title. He doesn't overwhelm the line art with colors, but is capable of some rather nice painting and spectacular effects when it suits the story. The end result is very good; helping the storytelling along, not intruding on it, and looking darn nice in the bargain. Again, kudos for that.

So, how good is this Avengers collection, then? Well, it's not a masterpiece but it's certainly recommended; a classical Marvel tale about time travel and threats to the Multiverse with plenty of plot twists. Good, solid and nice-looking superhero entertainment – and that's nothing to sneeze at.

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