Putting the “WHY?!” back in “Unity”
Have you ever made a homebrew line-up of a superhero team? Everybody does. My personal history of fandom includes everything from scrawling various team-ups in my school notebook to playground debates, fan websites and fan art, role-playing game sessions, message boards posts, and, well, countless others ways. It’s a hallmark of being a fan. So something like Uncanny Avengers is both so obvious and so ingenious. Take a little bit from the Avengers and a little bit from the X-Men and mash ‘em up to see what happens? Brilliant! Fun!
So why isn’t this comicbook either of those things?
Remender’s run on this title’s first volume took advantage of the set up for some intriguing premises and interactions, not to mention great choices for villains. It even all led up to a company crossover event, AXIS. I have to admit, though, that there was still a big disconnect between the *theory* of the title and the actual practice. Now Gerry Duggan has a chance, together with Ryan Stegman. And it still can’t quite seem to get off the ground.
This issue serves well as an introductory story. The team has a minor fight for a kind of “cold open” then splits up and has some exposition with each other to help round out our status quo, until a new villain appears and the team assembles so the villain can pose dramatically on the last page.
All of that is well and good, except there’s a new complication to the whole set-up of the Uncanny Avengers. It now has to deal with a third factor of the Marvel universe reality— the way the Inhumans are rising into prominence (and that’s both on a narrative level and as a publishing strategy.) On one hand, there’s my personal reaction to this, so for purposes of full disclosure I have to say that I never have nor do I foresee a time when I will enjoy Inhuman stories. Ever since reading in the late 80s, no Inhuman has ever made it into any of my homebrew fan-made line-ups.
But personal reaction aside, it’s an element of confict seems to be forcing its way into something that already had inherent conflict. Instead of Avengers Vs. X-Men as the struggle implicitly behind the stories, character choices, and villains of Uncanny Avengers, now there’s … what? A complete left turn into a different territory. The previous tension is jettisoned, left unresolved. Not to mention the fact that it fractures the focus of the simple premise in the first place. None of the Avengers nor X-Men have any longstanding conflict with Inhumans, so there’s something artificial and tacked-on about the conflict that’s being presented here.
The team should be Avengers and X-Men, but Rogue seems to be the only represtentative of the latter. No, I’m not counting Deadpool as an X-Men; he’s not even a mutant. Steve Rogers (does he have a codename anymore?) is the only kind-of Avenger. I’m not sure Spider-Man or Doctor Voodoo have really been entrenched enough to be considered in that league. Which leaves Psynapse— the Inhuman that now has to shoulder all of the narrative tension that’s been forced on the book. Both the character and the aformentioned tension are simply presented as givens. There’s no real introduction to either, nor are we allowed a point-of-view character to ease the readers into it all. The exposition that’s so necessary for a beginning issue is given by dialogue between Steve Rogers and Rogue, two characters who should know all of it already?
More about Deadpool, whose justification is that not only is he “better” now— you know, morally— but that he can finance the team because of his lucrative business born of his popularity. I have no problem with Deadpool being popular with fans of comicbooks, but to have him so wholly embraced by the public at large within the comicbook just doesn’t seem right. Even if Deadpool were popular, I would hope it would be in the same sense that Donald Trump is popular… a loud and vocal fringe minority that all good and decent people tolerate, at best, as a joke. Maybe I’m just too optimistic and have too much faith in humanity, even ficitional ones.
And thus, I appreciate the whole exchange with Spider-Man, who leaves the team rather than work with someone like Deadpool. And why I think Steve Rogers seems entirely out of character and in the wrong voice to defend him, at least in such a public way/extent. Which is a shame, since I think Rogue seems way more competant and strong (in terms of character) than before. I would love to see this Rogue continue to grow in this surprisingly new way, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to stick around that long.
Whew! All of this and I haven’t even been able to comment on the art! While I appreciate the energy and boldness of the art, it’s just way too distorted to handle the tone and flavor of this series. In a Deadpool-only book, or heck, even in a Spider-Man solo, this might be fine. The exaggeration and kinetic frenzy would fit well. In a comicbook that’s already off balance, however, it only adds to the tension, making it off-putting.
As much as I loved the opportunity afforded by the premise of an Uncanny Avengers in ideal, this comic falls far short of that. It doesn’t feel either Uncanny nor Avengery, from the choice of characters, their voice and interaction, and even in the artistic aesthetic. For an introductory issue, there’s a pretty basic set-up here, but even still it misses opportunities to present new characters and the status quo in an engaging way to really draw me in as a reader.
Uncanny Avengers #1:
Writer: Gerry Duggan; Artist: Ryan Stegman; Color Artist: Richard Isanove; Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
This review was originally published for weeklycomicbookreview.com
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