Marvel is finally ready to kick-off their ‘A Fresh Start’ initiative with the debut Avengers #1 from fan-favorite writer Jason Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness. This week we are taking a look at the huge title from the House of Ideas and analyzing one high-profile writer Brian Michael Bendis’ final issues for the publisher, Spider-Man #240–don’t miss this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Ed McGuinness
Inked by Mark Morales
Colored by David Curiel
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: Marvel’s ‘A Fresh Start’ initiative is finally here! AJ and Joe what did you think about Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness’ big debut?
AJ Frost: Hello again my brothers in Marvel! This is going to sound totally unfair, but after the exhilaration of Avengers Infinity War, I was so ready to sink my teeth into some new yet retro Avengers action. However, nothing here really clicked with me. I know Marvel is resetting the clock as it were, but even though they were going for something “fresh,” it honestly feels a little stale. A little plodding. I think it must have been a more editorially mandated story because Jason Aaron is usually superb.
Joe Grunenwald: I agree this wasn’t exactly the fresh start I was expecting. I appreciate the characters acknowledged where they’ve been and what they’ve been through recently, but it got a little repetitive pretty quickly, and the issue ended up feeling bogged down in reckoning with the past–I really wanted to like this more than I did.
Jones: Everyone reading this column is likely aware I am a huge Aaron fan but I definitely have to take a page from both of you here as I identified lots of wasted space in this huge issue. There are aspects about the Avengers B.C. that I find particularly interesting, but aside from those elements (which I also find to be overwritten), it is difficult for me to find an emotional anchor trying me to the plot of the comic. Aaron is capable of more than what this script brought to the table and I think there is definitely a chance for him to grow beyond this. Reading this story is particularly disappointing after the conclusion of Avengers: No Surrender which was a joy from start to finish.
Grunenwald: Can we talk about the Avengers of one million years ago for a minute? That is not how I would have chosen to kick off ‘A Fresh Start’ title.
Frost: Nothing says super fresh like the Ancient Avengers. That did part didn’t bother so much. It was nice to have a little stinger. We could have gone directly into the story without meandering around with the proto-version of each character. If the point was to provide some kind of juxtaposition between the “Old Avengers” and the “New Avengers,” it was more of an ‘eh’ than a ‘loud roar.’
Jones: I am biased and trust there is something genuinely new in the story still to come with the Avengers B.C. but after having some exposure to these characters, I’m ready to see something happen with them. I also couldn’t help but notice each member of the cast announced exactly what they were doing and what there “thing” was. We get that Odin likes to drink and is dating Phoenix, what other kinds of traits does he have? Also, why is Starbrand here? Does this have something to do with the Ghost Rider fight from Marvel Legacy? Will the series even be published long enough for us to see some of those plans come to fruition?
Grunenwald: The naming and announcing of each character was my biggest issue with those seven pages (seven pages! Right off the bat!). The dialogue was stiff and nothing really happened in those pages save for a lot of monologuing and talking about what was about to happen. There was a lot of telling and not much showing there.
Jones: I definitely side with Joe, aside from a few moments with the Celestials, this was business-as-usual for the Avengers. With a writer like Aaron attached to the story, there should be a higher seal of quality which shouldn’t allow for a script like this to see publication. I appreciate the scale the Celestials bring to the story but the characterization and big moments are sorely lacking here. There’s a huge amount of story just left on the table. Aaron didn’t take the time to explore any one character past the surface-level characterization we are familiar with via the Marvel Cinematic Universe already.
Frost: Something tells me this was rushed to coincide with Avengers Infinity War–do you get the same impression?
Grunenwald: I didn’t get the impression personally but I could see it being true. The line-up of characters is definitely media tie-in friendly, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If I saw Avengers Infinity War and decided I wanted to read an Avengers comic afterward, I don’t know if this issue would make me want to read anymore.
Jones: When I first saw the roster of the title, I was immediately disappointed as the team definitely reflects the media-friendly characters from the publisher. Overall, I don’t even think it is fair to lobby a huge amount of criticism towards this title. It was fine but I’m hoping other stories still left to be told will build on it. Now that we know who each character is, I’m expecting subsequent issues to not fall into some of the same writing pitfalls as we saw with the Avengers B.C. characters. I would like to have an Avengers comic more substantial rather than the past couple years of the series and this certainly does not suggest anything substantial is really on the way. Most of Aaron’s work at the House of Ideas has been nothing short of invigorating and it is possible this could become something over time.
Frost: So you’re thinking it’s more growing pains than anything systemic?
Jones: I don’t think we should discount Aaron too much based on this one script but we certainly shouldn’t praise the boring issue.
Grunenwald: I’m being pretty critical of this issue because I expected it to be on par with what I know Aaron is capable of. The main set piece of the issue – dead Celestials falling out of the sky – is an amazing visual–I wish the inciting incident had come sooner, though.
Frost: Right. I’m with you, there.
Jones: I liked what Ed McGuiness was doing.
Frost: I…. did not. To put it mildly, the art did not particularly thrill me.
Grunenwald: For the most part, I enjoyed McGuinness’s work here. This issue had a lot of talking heads, which is not particularly McGuinness’s strongest point, but he made the best of it, and once the action started I was into it. But I can definitely see how he wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Frost: It was all quite cheesecake and bland. Big muscles, large figures, but nothing truly dynamic.
Jones: The first couple Avengers B.C. pages I want to tack on my wall. The pages were so detailed and filled with so much fluid energy, I stopped paying attention to the shallow script for just a few moments. The composition of the debut page is just so striking to me! Plus seeing those different characters and styles were just so much fun to watch. I kind of enjoy seeing McGuiness stretch his style to the low-key scene at the bar, but it is so far out of his wheelhouse is just comical. I think Joe is right and in an issue full of talking heads you probably do not want McGuiness on pencils.
Frost: Looks like we’re going to disagree here, Alexander. I was just not a fan in the least here. Everything was… so square.
Grunenwald: His characters do have square jaws.
Jones: Please take the floor AJ!
Frost: There’s so much potential to make these characters so dynamic, and so thrilling, and to break them out of the mold. It was really the same brawny stuff which has filled millions of comics pages before and will probably fill another million in the future. It’s just flavorless work, done to hit a deadline. There’s no vivaciousness to it; it’s static, like the animatic to a future television adaptation of this new run. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Grunenwald: I appreciated the work of colorist David Curiel in adding depth and texture to the more stagnant dialogue-heavy scenes. The backgrounds throughout the issue, and in the bar scene, in particular, are pretty minimal, and Curiel had a lot of work to do to make things look moderately interesting.
Frost: I’m with you. The coloring was solid and giving each main Avenger his own color code was a good use of the space.
Jones: I’m definitely going to offer a dissenting opinion as I felt there are plenty of pages here which are extremely creative and endearing to look at while there are also a few which seemed really cluttered and forgettable. When the story ramps up towards a big fight, I think McGuiness could really shine. With everything now in perspective regarding the issue, are there any final thoughts any of you have to share before diving right into a verdict?
Frost: I’m actually wavering based on your analysis here, Alex. I’m curious about this as you are suggesting this might just be a little hiccup before Jason Aaron has some time to shine.
Grunenwald: I have faith Aaron recovering once the story gets going.
Jones: I think we should all come back for issue #2.
Final Verdict: Alexander, AJ, and Joe are WITHOLDING their Avengers verdict until next issue!
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Oscar Bazaldua and Sara Pichelli
Colored by Laura Martin, Matt Milla, and Peter Pantazis
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Longtime writer Brian Michael Bendis is contractually obligated to leave Marvel after signing a deal with DC, thus bringing his multi-decade long Spider-Man magnum opus to an end. Bendis has chosen to spend the final moments with Miles Morales reflecting on his recent visit to the hospital. The story is obviously heavily influenced by some moments of his own life and you can’t help but read the final issue of his Spider-Man as a reflection of recent time spent in Bendis’ shoes. However, the story behind the issue doesn’t allow for the creator to neatly close out each thread he has been spinning since Morales’ debut in 2011. The story reflects on the supporting characters Bendis has built around Morales overtime but doesn’t follow-up on some of the more complex plotting established in the early years of Miles’ time in the Spidey-suit. Because of Bendis’ more large-scale approach to story and plot within the comic spanning so many characters, readers aren’t offered the in-depth state of Miles’ friendships with the different cast members I would have hoped for.
Perhaps the best moments surrounding the comic itself is the post-modern, non-linear fashion in which certain scenes end and others begin abruptly without a proper conclusion. Artist Oscar Bazaldua does a great job switching between these moments and conveying the fear in each member of the cast. When the final moments of the story begin to simmer down and readers get a better idea of where the issue is going, it is also nice to see Bazaldua touch on some of the lighter scripting towards the end as it feels like he hits his stride with Bendis’ material. Bazaldua is given a couple action-packed moments towards the beginning and an interesting conflict to establish further when an unexpected character returns to the story. The entire issue is worth reading for the final page bringing back Morales’ co-creator Sara Pichelli in a beautiful splash page playing up her art to the greatest strengths imaginable. Pichelli’s expressive work is a wonderful addition to the issue and a surprisingly emotional final beat for the issue to conclude with.
Seeing the script of Spider-Man #240 come to a premature ending and quickly resolve the threat introduced in the story is an unsatisfying resolution to the story as a whole. Bendis’ plotting has been imperfect for the past couple years and with the lighter conflict and low-stakes of the story which are quickly resolved before the end of the script, it is hard to analyze the structure and recommend this finale to anyone who is not heavily invested in the character up to this point. Miles is an excellent character and the issue’s ambitions and authenticity are certainly worth celebrating even if the execution of the story left something to be desired.
Final Verdict: The ambition and final page of Spider-Man #240 were enough for me to offer a light BROWSE verdict!
Hunt for Wolverine: Weapon Lost #1
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Matteo Buffagni
Colored by Jim Charalampidis
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
During our discussion of Hunt for Wolverine #1 last week, I off-handedly asked what Daredevil is doing as part of this storyline. When I think of big mutant crossovers, I would never in a million years expect the man without fear to be a part of one. Expectations are meant to be challenged, though, and as such here we are with the first issue of the Daredevil-centric Hunt for Wolverine: Weapon Lost.
As the current writer of the Daredevil ongoing series, Charles Soule is a natural to script this series. Using DD as the reader’s primary POV character, Soule weaves in Inhumans, mutants, and other street-level characters in ways that feel natural. He does a solid job of introducing the main players for the uninitiated, making the issue accessible for casual readers (or for those mutant fans who rarely reads comics without an X in the title), and he ties the team together with a twist on a fan-favorite mutant who hasn’t been seen in a few years.
This comic’s secret weapon by far is the art of Matteo Buffagni and Jim Charalampidis. There’s a lot of talking and exposition on the issue, and Buffagni does an impressive job of keeping things visually interesting during those scenes. In the moments where there’s action, whether it’s Daredevil soaring through New York or a melee between a group of characters in a tight space, Buffagni’s storytelling is clear and his characters are energetic. The colors by Charalampidis add a lot to the dark and musty mood of the issue. In particular, there are a few moments where characters’ powers are represented visually that shine thanks in large part to the colorist’s work.
For as good as the creative team’s work is, though, it’s hard to get past the fact that ultimately not much happens in this issue. The cast of characters for the series is introduced, and then one of them…does an internet search for Wolverine and gets back a lot of hits? Yes, that’s a simplification, but not by much. The long and short of it is, there’s not a lot of meat to this comic, and it doesn’t do much to answer my initial question of what Daredevil and co. are doing as part of this crossover. After all, the first ‘lead’ in the investigation comes from a mutant who any of the X-Men could have called for help; it’s not as if this is a person who is unknown to them or who only Daredevil would think to ask for help. Perhaps the rest of this four-issue series will do more to justify its own existence, but so far that justification hasn’t happened yet.
Final Verdict: SKIP. A decent showing by the creative team can’t overcome the mystery of why this book exists in the first place.
Next week Marvel’s Fresh Start continues with Venom and we take a look at Gerry Duggan, Jordan White, Scott Koblish, Mike Hawthorne and Matteo Lolli’s final work on the character (for now)!