Mild spoilers below for the issue, which will be released tomorrow.
Uncanny Avengers carries the weight of the Marvel Universe upon it. Not just the future for the Avengers side of the company, but now also the future for the X-Men side. Teaming X-Men Rogue and Havok with Wolverine, Thor, Captain America and Scarlet Witch, this first issue gives us an idea of how writer Rick Remender will be handling the tone of the book, and how the series will relate to both the franchises which inspired it.
It’s a fairly standard opening issue, really. It’s not as revelatory as Marvel have made it out to be, with a story which doesn’t kick into gear until the end. In fact, this issue feels more like an epilogue to AvX than the start of a new direction, with the characters spending most of their time talking about the event, and how it’s changed them. Remender struggles a little here to garner sympathy for the cast, because in order to follow Marvel’s new direction for their universe he has to hamstring the X-Men via Avengers dialogue. As a result, several sequences here seem massively dismissive to X-Men history, with one particular scene between Havok and Cyclops having the opposite effect intended by the creative team. Rather than paint Cyclops as a villain or even antihero, he instead comes off as rational and calm, while the Avengers are patronising and vicious. By making the Avengers dismiss the X-Men, both sides are diminished.
I don’t know that fans will warm to the cast of the book, if this is the basis for how they’ll be portrayed over the rest of the series. The characters seem to be acting not as themselves, but as Marvel NOW versions of themselves, if that makes sense. The story doesn’t feel particularly organic, and the sense of mechanism forcing them together seems far more noticeable here than it has in the past. The team don’t seem to have a particular dynamic with each other – their only connection is that they’re being written in the same book. Perhaps once we see them all in the same room we’ll see more of a gel between the disparate elements, but issue #1 essentially boils down to a series of vignettes with no direction. Rogue and The Scarlet Witch come out of this issue best, followed by Captain America, with Thor having a non-presence so far.
In terms of tone, Uncanny Avengers #1 is a strangely morose tale, perhaps because of the heavy shadowing and colour used on John Cassaday’s art – which is intermittently brilliant, but often underperforms. Cassaday is superb at framing scenes, in a way which gives them a cinematic sheen, but less successful at expression. For the most part, the characters seem vacant, rather than as though they are dealing with grief, anger, or compassion. He particularly struggles with a fight sequence halfway through, in which some of the characters lose their sense of anatomy, and the panels are far too large to convey a fast-paced sequence of events. The conversational scenes are well told, but the fight seems slow and dull because it’s given to the reader as a series of blown-up panels which give us the gist of the fight – without giving us the detail.
The final page will get most of the attention, which is fair. It’s a bold move from Remender.
I’m not keen on it myself, but it’s an attention-grabbing sequence and should get people talking about the second issue. I should note that the final page confirms that this is not an appropriate book to buy your children. The opening sequence is graphic and upsetting, and the closing sequence is worse. This is a book for adults, not for kids. It’s a disappointing decision from Marvel, confirming that they’re looking at a very specific demographic nowadays, rather than trying to appeal to everybody.
I think many people will enjoy Uncanny Avengers far more than I did! Don’t let me get you down if you’re excited for it. For me, this didn’t feel like either an Avengers book or an X-Men title. It feels lesser to both, so far – neither showing the fortitude and heroism of the Avengers, nor the allegory and personality of the X-Men. I think X-Men fans in particular are going to be rather unhappy with the direction Remender is taking things. Again, this is only one issue into the book, and Remender is known for his long-term storytelling. Perhaps in the long-term the story kinks will be ironed out and the characters take direction, but for now? I don’t particularly want to follow the path this story is headed down.