Thoughts on U.S.Avengers #1 – “$kullocracy Part 1”

U.S.Avengers #1

A flying volcano fortress is on its way to destroy California with molten fury in the ridiculously absurd U.S.Avengers #1.  Da Costa’s new team of Avengers must save the West Coast from the Secret Empire, and they’re probably the only ones crazy enough to be able to do so.

U.S.Avengers #1

U.S.Avengers #1 Cover$kullocracy Part 1
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciler: Paco Medina
Inker: Juan Vlasco
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov

Cover Price: $3.99
Story Pages: 20

Release Date: January 4th, 2017

Amazon/Comixology Link

Collected in: U.S.Avengers v1 – $kullocracy

In a world beset by danger, the United States of America needs a team of heroes they can rely on. Welcome to… American Intelligence Mechanics! A.I.M. will dare any danger – no matter how awesome that danger might be – to save their nation from the wildest, weirdest threats of all! The most patriotic super-group ever is here to save the day. And they’ll do it all looking tried and true in the red, white & blue! Can you live without… the U.S.Avengers?


Background

U.S.Avengers #1 is a continuation/reboot of the most recent New Avengers series, also written by Al Ewing.  Like New Avengers before it, U.S.Avengers is one of the most absurd and insane comics you will read from either Marvel or DC, and is magnificently entertaining as a result.  Prior to the New Avengers series Roberto Da Costa (formerly Sunspot, now the new Citizen V) took over the terrorist organization A.I.M. and rebuilt them as a force for good.  Not everyone believed that A.I.M. could be converted so they were watched closely, and even came under assault from an American-built godzilla wannabe during Avengers Standoff.  Now the team is working directly with America to preserve their good name, and to make the country safe from all manner of insane threat.

This #1 issue was heavily pushed and even launched with more than fifty variant covers, with each state getting a unique cover featuring a single hero.  Sorry Missouri, you got the Whizzer.

The Story

This book opens with the Secret Empire deciding to go public as loudly and violently as possible, so they built a floating platform and placed an active volcano on top of it.  Don’t ask how an active volcano can be mounted on anything, just roll with it.  A better question would be “why is an organization that can make a flying volcano still using A-4 Skyhawks for its fleet defense?”  Regardless, all that stands in the way of California and Volcano 2: The Revenge is Da Costa and his U.S.Avengers.  And then things really get insane.

Although U.S.Avengers #1 is a direct continuation of the New Avengers title it does go out of its way to make itself as new-reader friendly as possible, which is sadly more rare these days than it should be.  Each of the core team members gets a verbal introduction explaining essential backstory bits, and then a quick power demonstration as they go up against the Secret Empire goons.  That is particularly important since there are a few characters here whom even veteran comic readers may not recognize.

Flying Volcano Islands in U.S.Avengers #1Squirrel Girl has seen her star rise in recent years, and Cannonball will be familiar to X-Men fans, but Pod and Dr. Toni Ho are a bit more obscure.  There is also Robert Maverick, who has taken over the role of Red Hulk from General Thunderbolt Ross.  Some of these characters played roles in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers runs, but outside of that haven’t seen much use.  So don’t worry if you don’t know who these guys are, this book has you covered.

Each character introduced seems to be an attempt to one up the last.  We go from a fairly straight-forward pacifist Iron Man, to a robot ninja, to flying squirrels wearing jet packs, to “Hulk Smash!”.  This is not a book that is big on subtlety, and it wants you to know that up front.  If the idea of that appeals to you then just go and pick this up, you won’t be disappointed.  If that doesn’t appeal to you then this will not be a book for you.  I doubt there is going to be too much middle-ground here.

The actual plot of the book, as noted above, is this new team coming together to defeat a flying volcano.  If you are wondering how this connects to the issue’s title, “$kullocracy”, well… it doesn’t.  This is an introductory issue through-and-through, and the parts that actually involve what the title mentions don’t come until the final pages.  If you treat this as a one-off you’ll be a bit more satisfied with the story as presented, although it does have a few hints of what is to come loaded into it (and a final page which lays out several things to expect).  Based on those teases I am quite excited to see where this series is going from here.

The Art

Artist Paco Medina provides the pencilwork for U.S.Avengers #1, and as I have come to expect from him it is a treat.  He is perfectly at home with talking heads reciting to the camera, and then shifts into over-the-top action without missing a beat.  There is a tendency with many artists to have characters lose defining features in long shots, but that is never an issue here.  It is clear that a lot of effort is put into each panel, and the end result is all the stronger for it.  Of course penciling is only the first step in comics, and his linework is well complimented by Juan Vlasco’s inking and Jesus Aburtov’s coloring.  This is an extremely good looking book that remains easy to read despite the nature of the action.

The Secret Empire in U.S.Avengers #1It is true there is no such thing as “perfect”, and there is always room for improvement and growth.  Additionally, I am sure that people with more discriminating artistic tastes than I will find things to hammer away at, but for me this is about as good looking an issue as I expect I’ll see this year.  If I had to get super nitpicky I might point out that Captain America’s pose at the end of the issue looks rather uncomfortable.  Additionally the proportions of Dr. Ho’s Iron Patriot outfit seem a bit wonky, but only if you stare at her introduction panel too long.  I mean that’s really about it.  This is a good looking issue and I hope that the level of quality can be maintained throughout Paco Medina’s run.

The Verdict

It is always worth mentioning that not everything is for everybody.  There will be people who will look at this and roll their eyes at the craziness and be unwilling to suspend their disbelief.  That’s fine, that is their right.  But there are also those of us who like our superheroes to be larger-than-life and existing in a world where flying volcanoes are a perfectly reasonable thing to expect off the coast of California.  This book is crack to people like us.  It is insane, and funny, and probably the result of an LSD trip.

If you have not had the pleasure of reading Al Ewing’s New Avengers then give this book a try and see if you like it.  Even if you don’t like it for some reason I doubt you will be able to say that it bored you.  And if you do enjoy it (and I hope you do) you should then go and grab the trades for New Avengers as well.  I’m personally holding out hope for an omnibus collecting the whole run in one go, but the paperbacks are great, too.  You don’t find books like this often anymore, and that is a shame.

Between this and The Unstoppable Wasp #1 I would say Marvel is off to a great start in 2017 with their new books.  It’s time to put Civil War 2 behind us and get down to what’s really important: flying squirrels with jet packs.

U.S.Avengers #1

$3.99
96

Final Score

10/10

    Pros

    • Over-the-top absurdity at its finest
    • Gorgeous art
    • Flying volcano supervillain lairs
    • Flying squirrels with jetpacks

    Cons

    • Not everyone will appreciate the title's insanity
    • Not enough flying squirrels with jet packs