New Avengers #1 (2015): Comics Review

You would think Parisian crystal would be more coveted…

Apparently, “more” is more for this issue. We have a new status quo, a new base of operations, two mysterious villains, an away team plus a home team plus a S.H.I.E.L.D. inspection team. Not to mention that the team in the field has a special jet, an array of powers among them, and several gadgets for even *more* powers for each. They face a threat that takes over 90% of the population of France and is both scientific and spiritual in nature, and one of their foes on the last page cliffhanger is made up of a crystal, a gorilla, a giant spider and a scorpion.

You could dial this thing down several notches and still be overwhelmed. It’s so In-Your-Face that your eyeballs and mouth will blow back with the force of wind tunnel. But do I say that as a bad thing or a good thing?

The energy to the book also comes from the expressive art from Gerardo Sandoval, which could definitely be described as capital-b Bold. The design has a block, wedgey aesthetic that relies on solid masses of shape rendered by heavy black areas, so characters appear bulky but lithe. The colorist picks up on this, shading characters and scenes with similarly blocky areas of solid colors. Often, this reduces a character’s expression, unless it’s Squirrel Girl, who appears as big-eyed as any cliché anime girl. Also, the art really over-emphasizes hands, making them exaggerated and out of proportion.      Such complexity and energy makes some panels hard to register at a glance, but nevertheless the flow is clear overall and there’s no problem with continuity of storytelling.

Instead, it’s the sheer amount of set-up that’s overwhelming. That gives a nice energy, and certainly amps up the high “weirdness factor.” It’s at the sacrifice of some smaller moments and there’s no chance to catch a breath— all flow and no ebb. I’m not sure I can criticize that too much as it’s clearly full of necessary exposition and all used to set up our tone/flavor to the series. In the past, I have criticized Ewing’s Mighty Avengers title for having a huge cast and yet only giving a few players any focus. Here we have the opposite, for sure. I’m hoping for a balance between such extremes as the series continues.

I’m intrigued by allowing characters like Songbird coming into focus. I’ve always enjoyed the new Power Man and White Tiger. I want to see the new A.I.M. status quo and how a cocky Sunspot can manage things that frankly should be over his head. I’m concerned that Squirrel Girl will be nothing more than device for some kind of humor, and that Hawkeye won’t return to the competent but flawed hero he was as leader of the West Coast Avengers or Thunderbolts.

I’m also wondering if things aren’t been pushed into “strangeness” a little bit too quickly. So far I’m associating Al Ewing, and even these choice of characters (with the exception of Squirrel Girl), as pretty serious, maybe even “street-level,” types of stories that, at best, have dealt with a pretty typical superheroic milieu. Here, I’m picking up associations of Keith Giffen’s run on Doom Patrol, whose base was Oolong Island, a haven of former mad scientists. For such a quirky team, that seemed to work more naturally. Time will tell if such an extreme will work for New Avengers, or if it will get stuck in between classic tropes and quirky ones and fall flat somewhere in between.   

Kind of makes you appreciate the new Captain America series where the central framing device is simply surviving a flight in coach.       

So it’s a comic that wants to come out of the gate running, and it does so… at 100 miles per hour. There’s no denying the energy and momentum of the storytelling, made more dynamic by bold artwork and crowded panels. To make it happen, the comic relies more on the set-up with few opportunities for reflective moments or deep characterization, but even at least with the surface-level stuff, the comic gives a bit of time for everyone, even the supporting characters. And, hey, if you can’t take a bold approach when taking a team into a bold new direction, then you would have missed the opportunity. I’m certainly on board to see how this goes.

New Avengers #1: 
Writer: Al Ewing; Artist: Gerardo Sandoval; Color Artist: Dono Sanchez Almara; Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna 

This review was originally published for weeklycomicbookreview.com 

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