The future is now! Fast-forwarding eight months, this oversized special is a great introductory window into the many-splendored landscape of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But how does it hold up as a cover-to-cover release?
“Cohesion” is certainly an underlying theme. It’s symbolic in the fractured structuring of the super-team organization but also comes across on the back-end credits page. While there’s creative and editorial overlap throughout the six features, nobody’s taking ownership of the issue itself. Dialogue may carry over from one page to the next, facilitating the segues but this flourish goes unrecognized. As it stands, it reads more as five “Coming Soon” shorts loosely glued together by the conversational threads of the sixth.
James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s “Supremacy” isn’t exactly so much a “lead” as it is the de facto narrative focus. Gathering a very Justice League-y quintet from extinct alt-Earths, they basically pump former Avenger and Superman analog, Hyperion, for info on his ex-teammates as they decimate a secret Skrull base and appropriate anything of value. True to characterization put forth in Jonathan Hickman’s work, the hero draws a high moral line regarding the potential of killing any super-powered opposition. However, he seems to have no qualms whatsoever at terminating the Skrull operation with extreme prejudice. An alien himself, this should give Hyperion at least momentary pause.
This sort of under-developed motivation is sadly consistent throughout the nine pages. This particular Squadron Supreme is an intriguing concept but doesn’t move far beyond the superficial (and obvious) excuse to have winking versions of DC’s big guns running around the Marvel Universe. Robinson’s recent pairing with Kirk on Fantastic Four as well as his endeavors on All-New Invaders and the acclaimed Starman demonstrate a clear mastery of the genre’s mythos, it’s just too bad that doesn’t readily surface here.
Also somewhat missing the mark (pun partially intended) is “Eidetic”. In case you missed this past May’s Free Comic Book Day special, All-New, All-Different Avengers sort of already had their teaser. Instead, veteran writer Mark Waid opts for spotlighting what could be billed as a (possible last) Vision and the Scarlet Witch story. It’s not a bad ten pages, per se but curiously functions more as an indirect plug for their respective solo series than the team book he’s writing.
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What saves the segment, though, is the visuals. Coming off a strong run on All-New X-Men, artist Mahmud Asrar pulls out all the stops and succinctly demonstrates that he can walk in the key of “A” as well. Among the dynamic layouts and keen attention to facial expressions, Asrar peppers enough flashback nods to warm up even the most jaded and entrenched old-schooler, particularly Wanda’s non-stop ghost image parade of “remember when?” costumes.
Also starring in a “curious solo spotlight” is Deadpool. Fans of writer Gerry Duggan’s Death of Wolverine: Deadpool & Captain America probably saw this coming a year ago and dammit if it doesn’t make the most entertaining sense in the world! Duggan and upcoming Uncanny Avengers co-conspirator, artist Ryan Stegman, dial in for eight pages that is every bit the get-in-get-out mission Old Man Rogers sends Wade Wilson on. Filled with action, gut-wrenches and twists, it also answers the question as to which branch is the card-carrying, government-sanctioned one. Indeed, attempting to bridge gaps in human/mutant/Inhuman relations while simultaneously introducing a Steve-handled Deadpool into the mix, this will be one to watch.
If Duggan’s Unity Squad has the most straight-forward operational resemblance to “classic” incarnations, few are taking translations as laterally as writer Al Ewing. Although picking up direct concepts from Hickman’s run, Ewing adds spin that is both smart and fun. His New Avengers with artist Gerardo Sandoval chronicles the further adventures of Sunspot turning around his recently-purchased super-science organization. A mutant billionaire running a private think tank with historically bad p.r. and their own island nation just off the coast of the US is hate and fear that practically writes itself. Sandoval’s manga-inflected artwork cranks the sci-fi horror knob to hyper-trippy levels. The big bad reveal and appearances by Squirrel Girl will not hurt this title.
Ewing’s other book, Ultimates, is with artist Kenneth Rocafort. In many respects, the Ultimates are the heirs apparent of not only the Illuminati but the Multiversal Avengers- venturing into the bold unknown to stand in the gap on the macro-est of levels. There’s also fantastic holdover from Ewing’s previous work on [Captain America and the] Mighty Avengers as the Blue Marvel and Monica Rambeau feature into this all-leaders conclave. The team also wonderfully borrows from Kieron Gillen by not only interjecting America Chavez as a player but having her deal with the momentary crisis in a most Phonogram-esque manner.
Aside from the clockwork check-ins with Squadron, there is a separate bit of refreshing inter-story connectivity. Ultimate Carol Danvers also features in her own eight page story before she kicks her outer space anomaly up the line. Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Victor Ibanez are slated to open a new volume of A-Force but much like Waid’s Vision spotlight, it’s not exactly what we get.
It’s a great little Captain Marvel story but again, it’s unintentional lip service for a solo series being told by entirely different creators and maybe not wholly selling why people should check out the new all-female supergroup. Regrettably, the other Forcers (ugh- name help!) only appear for a panel each as the support cast drives the piece. However, the biggest misstep is Wilson’s too-soon retread of Singularity’s origin, playing out as recently as the ensemble’s Secret Wars mini. Points, though, for re-purposing the name Alpha Flight into something a little more synonymous with aviation.
Clocking in at fifty-one big story pages and a six dollar price tag, Avengers #0 is an undertaking akin to crossing a double album with “TV Guide Fall Previews”. As a publication, its individual merits may be many but there’s a distinct lack of centrality. For a team that all used to sit at one table, this might be saying something else altogether.
I don’t know. Secret wars isn’t over yet, and I read the dr strange, and “meh”. It was ok. I tried to read this issue and it couldn’t keep my interest. It all just seems so stupid. If this were an hbo fall preview, I would cancel hbo.
Thanks for pointing out the Skrull-killing thing, Matt. It had bothered me, too, especially because in “my” Squadron Supreme, there was a benevolent Skrull, Skymax, as a card-carrying member. Honestly, I think the best Squadron Supreme story is not the Gruenwald maxi-series, but rather Len Kaminski’s one-shot from the late 90s, “Squadron Supreme: New World Order”. To be fair, Gruenwald’s sequel to the maxi-series, “Death of a Universe”, is as underrated as the former is overrated.
Ironically enough, after saying all that, I have to admit that Robinson & Kirk’s Squadron is the Avengers book I’m most looking forward to. Kirk’s art looks lovely thanks to Paul Neary’s inks. Shameless plug: Peter David’s Supergirl run, of which Kirk drew everything but the first and last arcs, is finally going to be collected in trades. I highly recommend it, it’s as close to PAD has come in mainstream superhero comics to the moody, serious “Fallen Angel” facet of his writing.
I’m going with A-Listers over Forcers, but to each his own 🙂