The original Captain America, Iron Man and Thor are back, and looking to get the band back together in Avengers #1 by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness.
Avengers #1 (2018)
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: May 2, 2018
Collected in: Avengers by Jason Aaron v1
|A NEW ERA DAWNS FOR EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES – courtesy of JASON AARON and ED McGUINNESS!
Thor Odinson. Steve Rogers. Tony Stark. The Big Three of the Avengers are reunited at last! And just in time to save the world from total annihilation at the hands of their most powerful enemies yet: the 2000-foot-tall space gods known as Celestials.
Behold the coming of the Final Host.
Who will answer the call to assemble for a wild new era of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Hint: one of them has a flaming skull for a head. And what strange, world-shaking connection exists between the Final Host and Odin’s ancient band of Prehistoric Avengers?
Ever since the original X-Men movie way back in 2000 Marvel has had a push/pull relationship between their comics and their movies. The movies were created to be stand-alone, and often deviated rather sharply from their comic book counterparts in terms of continuity and character details. Rather than just write it off as an alternate reality like the Distinguished Competition often does, Marvel started morphing the X-Men to match the movie versions. This only intensified in 2008 with Iron Man, and then again in 2012 with The Avengers. The Guardians of the Galaxy were hit particularly hard by this with absolutely massive characterization changes to Drax, Yondu and Star-Lord, among others.
The objective behind this, I assume, has been to make the transition from movies to comics easier for those who wish to seek out the source material. While I’m sure some people have wandered into comic shops after seeing the movies, the expected wave of new readers has never really materialized. This makes the entire effort seem rather awkward. And now we are at it again.
Avengers: Infinity War has just hit theaters after a decade’s worth of buildup, and alongside it comes a new number one issue for the comic. This particular comic, Avengers #1 by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness, is almost the best example of the clashing of worlds between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel Comic Universe. It creates such a weird dissonance to me that it can overwhelm what is otherwise a solid first issue.
The opening issue to our new Avengers series follows several different story threads. The first is a direct continuation of the preview from last year’s Marvel Legacy #1, which stars the original Avengers from about a million years ago. The second is set in the modern time with Thor, Captain America and Iron Man discussing their recent hardships and their plans to rebuild the Avengers. The third follows Doctor Strange and Black Panther as they explore the center of the Earth. The three threads eventually tie together towards the end of the story which will kick off the main plot of the story arc.
The one here that interests me most is the second story starring Thor, Captain America and Iron Man. They’re talking about forming a new team and getting the Avengers up and running again. The way they are talking it sounds like the Avengers have been decommissioned for a while now, which would make sense if you are coming from the movies where the Avengers functionally ceased to exist after Captain America: Civil War. However, in the comics the Avengers have been going strong. Not only that, but they just finished the No Surrender event, which ended with the Avengers reaffirming their commitment to being Avengers and protecting the world. That really does not sound like the Avengers have been defunct and nor that Tony, Steve and Thor need to rally everyone together. If anything those three are the ones who need to reconnect with the others and ask for their spots back. But, no, that will all be ignored because the Avengers could not possibly exist without “the original Avengers” Thor, Captain America and Iron Man (nitpick: Captain America is not actually an original Avenger, he missed the cut by a few issues).
Now, to be fair, this is not a particularly big problem in the scheme of things, but it does cause a weird disconnect. This is clearly meant to be a jump-on point for people coming in from the movies, but at the same time it has to acknowledge the absolutely bonkers stuff that has been happening lately with these three Avengers. Thor was deemed unworthy by Mjolnir and his powers and title were passed to Jane Foster (in the absolutely amazing series, “The Mighty Thor“, also by Jason Aaron). He is still unworthy, but he has a hammer (not Mjolnir) and is mostly in line with his normal characterization (though he seems to have forgotten how modern money works…). Captain America had his history messed with by a time traveling cube personified as a little girl and went on to be a Hydra mole who tried to conquer the world. He has returned to his patriotic self, but faith in him is shaken. And Iron Man has been dead. Dr. Doom wandered around in the Iron Man gear for a while, and a teenage girl named Riri reversed engineered another set of armor to become Ironheart. These are all things the book cannot ignore, but has to gloss over to prevent it from being too obtuse for hypothetical new readers.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the actual plot of the book, but is instead setup for getting the Avengers together (not that they needed to be…). The main story is that a million years ago the original Avengers somehow fought off the Celestials, and now they are back. Or, rather, their corpses are as they show up over the Earth and then plummet through the atmosphere and crash into the surface. We will ignore for the moment that two hundred foot long objects crashing to the Earth from space would do massive amounts of ecological damage (the book mentions this, but then forgets about it within a few pages), and get to the real question: what killed the Celestials and why did they come to Earth? The answer to the first question appears to be the titular Final Host, who shows up at the end of the issue, and the second question is still up in the air (unlike the Celestials themselves).
As setups go it is not a bad place to start. The Celestials are a suitably scary threat that you want Avengers in place to deal with them, and having them mysteriously die sets up a certain sense of impending doom. They also have been referenced in the movies, so they are not entirely out of left field for new readers. This also allows the other Avengers members to briefly show up and show off. Black Panther and Doctor Strange get the most page-time here, but She-Hulk, Ghost Rider and Captain Marvel also get introductions. As Avengers lineups go, it is not bad, and suitably powerful. It is missing the “normal power human” element — a character like Hawkeye or Black Widow — but I expect that will get added in eventually.
At this point I am not entirely sure what the point of the Avengers from a million years ago is supposed to be, and their story just feels awkward at the moment. Presumably it will become more important as the arc continues, but it mostly just feels like unnecessary padding right now. I will admit it is nice to see Odin playing the role of Thor, though, as we rarely get to see Odin in his pre-All-Father days. But the apparent need to include all the major Avengers archtypes just seems odd and convenient. I suppose Aaron could be playing the Avengers as a trope of themselves, but we will have to wait and see.
Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales and David Curiel provide the art, and it is as solid as you would expect from such a veteran team. Ed McGuinness knows how to use panels for both action scenes and talking heads sequences. His facial expressions have also improved drastically over the years, and he is able to convey a lot with a little in his work. Mark Morales is an old hand at inking and it shows in his ability to add shadows and depth to the page. The real star in this case is David Curiel on coloring duty, and he brings a wide palette to the table. The pages pop up thanks to his work, and he adds a dynamism to McGuinness’ already excellent linework. Frankly, this is a team that knows how to work together and it shows in the final project. A visual treat, as an Avengers book should be.
For myself there is definitely a tonal problem with Avengers #1 trying to straddle the line between movies and comics. This is clearly written with the movie viewer in mind to the point where recent events like No Surrender feel cheapened since we are supposed to pretend they did not happen. But the book cannot completely avoid the quagmire of continuity and has to drag us through the recent history of its three stars, which does not help at all. Getting past that is a solid enough story that will hopefully springboard us into the crazy, over-the-top antics that Aaron’s writing so often is. The Celestials should prove to be an interesting plot point to get things going, and it is also possible that we are seeing groundwork laid out for a post-Thanos Marvel Cinematic Universe. Time will tell, but I will definitely continue to follow this title as it moves forward. If you can get past the weird continuity issues of Avengers #1 then I would give a solid recommendation.