Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Avengers #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

This first issue is...rough.

Before I get into the details, though, let me just say that I'm committed.  As I mentioned in my review of "Avengers" #0, I'm really thrilled to return to the Avengers' world, after Hickman drove me from it when he took over the line.  I also love Al Ewing, after his amazing work on "Loki:  Agent of Asgard."  As such, I'm confident that he has a vision for where he's going.

That said, this issue doesn't really do much to add to that confidence.  I get the general outline of the story, but the important details and larger arc are elusive.  We learn that Sunspot has taken over A.I.M., renamed it "Avengers Ideas Mechanics," and set up shop on Avengers Island (now off the coast of California).  We're not told how or why he's done so, though Ewing will presumably get there.  Roberto has assembled an incredibly random group of heroes into his strike force.  We've got Hulkling and Wiccan, Power Man and White Tiger, and Songbird and...Squirrel Girl.  The first four make sense:  it's like a merger of "Young Avengers" and "Mighty Avengers."  Plus, they're all more or less the same age.  But, then we've got Songbird, a villain that's been in the game for a long, long time, and...Squirrel Girl.  Later in the issue, S.H.I.E.L.D. openly places Hawkeye on the team as a plant, and I actually like his presence here, since he'll lend a little experience to the team.  In fact, it completes the idea of couples (not necessarily romantic ones) comprising the team, since he'd be a good match for Songbird.  Of course, Squirrel Girl also considers herself a couple, with her...squirrel (Tippy-Toe), so I guess it still works.  (You can see why I'm struggling here.  The only good part about her presence is that the rest of the team seems as confused by her as I am.  But, it gets close to pet peeve #3, where the author uses a character pointing out a plot flaw as an excuse for including said flaw in the first place.)

Anyway, someone has deployed an army of creatures in Paris:  they look human, except for the fact that they have a glowing diamond for a head.  (Seriously.)  While the strike force tries to deal with them, Roberto has his scientific staff try to get to the bottom of the story.  Meanwhile, he hosts a visit from Dum Dum Duggan (now openly known as a cyborg).  Dum Dum says that S.H.I.E.L.D. is willing to trust 'Berto, since they still consider him a good guy, but they're putting Clint on the team as their spy.  (Hilariously, 'Berto asks for the other Hawkeye, and, man, I'd love that.)  In Paris, the team engages the...creatures, and Power Man uses his chi power to realize that the "crystals" are really the souls of the dead.  'Berto's scientists realize that the creatures are creating a pentagram pattern, and Power Man puts two and two together (somehow) to realize that they're creating a "telephone to the dead."  Meanwhile, we're treated to more exposition, since we're shown W.H.I.S.P.E.R. headquarters, where the Maker is revealed to be the culprit.  He's working on something called "Life-Minus."  (He also refers to it as the "excavation," though the only way that make sense is if he's excavating souls.)  The issue ends with him deploying souped-up versions of the creatures, calling them his Neohedron.  (It took me a second read to realize that they're the members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team that Duggan tells 'Berto went missing in Paris ten minutes earlier.)

As I said, it's not a terribly inspiring start.  I'm happy to give Ewing time to develop the team dynamics and the addition of Hawkeye does offer promise.  But, my skepticism comes from the fact that I don't think that the answers to the big mysteries hovering over this issue will be all that interesting.  Once we find out why 'Berto took over A.I.M. and its connection to the Avengers, is it really going to be that interesting?  How will it distinguish itself from the modus operandi of all the other Avengers teams?  Will the Maker ever not sound like a Bond villain?  If he does, will W.H.I.S.P.E.R. ever feel like it's not inspired by M.A.D. from "Inspector Gadget?"  Will Squirrel Girl even not be annoying?  I'm not super hopeful about the answers to these questions, but we'll see.

** (two of five stars)

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