Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: Mighty Avengers #1

Mighty Avengers #1
Al Ewing, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Frank D'Armata, Cory Petit

Alright I really liked this one!  I actually don't have much of a clue about what's going on with this Infinity crossover that it ties into, but we get the gist of it pretty quickly.  The Avengers are all in space doing something important and probably really meaningful and awesome, so Thanos and his crew are gonna swoop in and fuck it all up.  So while the Avengers are out of town, we've got Luke Cage, The White Tiger, the new Powerman, Spectrum (Monica Rambeau, formerly Captain Marvel), a new Ronin, and Doctor Octopus (in Spider-Man's body) to step up and defend the Earth somehow.  Not exactly the A-list, but you could do a whole heckuva lot worse.

The team's not entirely together by the end of this issue, but I'm guessing it's going to go the route of the classic Avengers set up, having the big supervillain conflict unite the team in a stroke of ~*d e s t i n y*~.  Al Ewing does a nice job of previewing some of the team dynamics by way of taking down some C-list chump supervillains and their henchmen, and we also get a nice sense of some their personalities in the process.  Luke Cage is a new dad with new responsibilities, the new Powerman acts as his counterpoint, a hot-head teen with everything to prove, Spectrum is smart and capable, eager to reinvent herself as a premier superhero, and Spider-Man is arrogant and self-righteous, but it's mostly because he's actually Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man's body.  Each team member is different in his or her approach to why they're in the superhero game, and Ewing is great at having these conflicting personalities inform the characters' motivations and decisions.

(Sidenote about Spider-Man: How does no one know that something's up with Spider-Man yet?  Spider-Man has been involved in the crime-fighting game since he was sixteen, and he's worked with almost every hero on the scene.  Luke Cage must think that something is up with Spider-Man, right?  Spider-Man is acting like such an asshole, and everybody's just like, "Oh, I guess he must be having a bad day.  Better not ask him about it," which I guess would be a fairly realistic reaction?  I don't know, I guess it's just weird that no one's said anything to him yet?  Maybe this is being dealt with over in The Superior Spider-Man?  Whatever, it's not a big deal, and I'm pretty into this new jerk Doctor Octopus/Spider-Man.)

Greg Land's art is the typical Greg Land art we've come to know and have opinions about.  I'm not a big fan of his, but I guess his saving grace is that his comics mostly come out on time?  All of his characters look like shiny plastic figures in poses.  The heavy photo reference doesn't bother me all that much, but those static poses get to me because I'm of the opinion that superhero comics should have art that has some energy to it.  Big action has to look like it's moving, and Land doesn't convey that sense of motion that I want from a superhero comic.  This is a comic with car chases and explosions, so let's see some movement, right?  We can't just draw in a couple of speed lines around our perfectly photo referenced cop cars and call it a day.

On top of being the latest Avengers comic, Mighty Avengers has also been getting some buzz lately on account of how it's one of the few major superhero team lineups largely featuring people of color, and also it marks a change of heart from Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, who in the past had called the idea of a mostly black cast "contrived." Mighty Avengers is being held up as a signifier of change in the air, which is great, but I'm still not convinced that this is going to be the one thing that will change the face of superhero comics.  I think having a cast of mostly non-white males is definitely a positive step in the right direction, but the set-up of this team's place among Avengers titles kind of bugs me.  The other two main Avengers titles by Jonathan Hickman, Avengers and New Avengers features a cast of mostly white men and women, and they are supposed to be the ones that will be affecting the direction of the Marvel Universe's plotlines.  The way that Mighty Avengers looks to be setting up, it seems like it's going to be the more "street-level" team of Avengers.  I understand that they are dealing with a cosmic-level threat in Thanos and his crew right now in the first arc, but the main thrust of this conflict and why it's supposed to be interesting to us is that this team is the underdog.  They're not supposed to be dealing with a cosmic-level threat, but they're going to have to find a way.  It bugs me, though, because what it looks like we're getting here is the white team of Avengers shapes the direction of the universe, and the black team of Avengers has to deal with all the "street-level" runoff.  And maybe this is an interesting idea and commentary in and of itself, but I was hoping that maybe we'd see a team of non-white superheroes deciding the fate of the planet rather than just reacting to whatever table-scrap conflict the white Avengers were too busy to deal with this month.

Or maybe I'm wrong.  It's only been one issue, and the message of an underdog team is usually a pretty empowering one, but I guess my problem with it is that the underdog story is something that people of color have been living for their entire lives.  The shine of novelty has worn off.  And it's true that Mighty Avengers isn't fixing to be a portrait of gritty realism, but we can't really call it escapism if the overall tone or message of it is something that people of color are living with everyday.  Mighty Avengers may not have to choose a side, but straddling that line between a message of realism and escapism will be a difficult task, especially given that it seems to have the added pressures of supposedly being the superhero book that's going to change the face of superhero team dynamics or something.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it'll be something else entirely.

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