Written by: Mark Waid
Pencils by: Mike del Mundo
Colours by: Mike del Mundo, Marco D’alfonso
Here it is, the comic people have been waiting for. While Mark Waid’s All-New, All-Different Avengers (ANAD Avengers) started off strong, it always felt weighed down by, among other things, its younger characters (Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, Sam Alexander). The idea was admirable, making the Avengers act more like mentors and bringing a youthful perspective to the team, but it never really gelled and they felt like a hindrance. But now those characters have been shipped off to Mark Waid’s Champions, and that’s actually a very good read that focuses on youthful waywardness and hormones. So with the kids out of the way in a well-written series, Mark Waid can finally write a great classic-style Avengers comic too, right? Well, if so, it’s not this issue.
A big strength of Mark Waid’s is that he’s able to write epic stories that are still emotionally grounded and strong in characterisation. This is not the case with Avengers #1. All the characters come off as flat, with characters maybe having one personality trait, if that. If you just jumped onto this comic, you’d walk away knowing basically nothing about anyone. Spider-Man is jokey and the Wasp (Nadia Pym) doesn’t like Spider-Man, because we needed bad comedy, and that’s it. It’s even more noticeable for me, as I read Champions #2 before this and am re-reading Waid’s Flash run, both of which are very strong on characterisation. But here, the characters serve as tools to move the story along, and nothing more.
But lack of character work can be forgiven if the actual story is good enough, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case here. The story is a sort-of follow-up to the first arc of ANAD Avengers, so if you haven’t read that, be prepared to not know what characters are referencing. It features the return of Kang, a longtime Avengers villain based around time-travel, but you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s a newer creation, as both Kang and the Avengers seem to have forgotten all the trappings of time-travel stories along with Kang’s capabilities. The result is a boring story where everyone is an idiot, so you’re not exactly compelled to read any further. And, as mentioned, there isn’t any strong character work to justify the boring story. There is also a subplot about Peter Parker trying to fill the role of Tony Stark and fund the Avengers, and it goes about how you would expect it to. So you’ve got a boring story and a mediocre at best story, and a comic that fails to evoke any kind of emotional response from you besides frustration.
But maybe Avengers is at least pretty to look at, right? Well, yes. Mike del Mundo draws some lovely pages and has some fun with layouts, taking advantage of the time-travel narrative to draw some trippy images. And it’s all coloured beautifully, with a painted look. However, it’s got its flaws. Backgrounds are very faint, if they even exist, and action flows particularly badly past the first scene, with one panel in particular where I’m still not sure what happened. So the art, while mostly nice to look at, doesn’t read particularly well.
When I finished with Avengers #1, I had a question: who is this comic aimed towards? Classic Avengers fans are probably not pleased that the team features mostly legacy characters and no big traditional Avengers character. Mark Waid fans probably expected better character work from him. Fans of the individual characters don’t get anything, as the characters are flat and no mention is made of their solo adventures. In the end, Avengers #1 feels like a comic made out of obligation; Marvel heard that people wanted a more epic, classic Avengers take. And that comic was made, but in a manner that lacks love, effort and imagination, but without being so terrible as to warrant any kind of backlash. Avengers #1 is almost passive-aggressive in how boring it is, and I sincerely hope it gets better.
2/5 – Below average