Uncanny Avengers #1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by John Cassaday
Color Art by Laura Martin
Review by Joey Braccino
So this is Marvel NOW! This is the next phase of storytelling, the next phase of big name creator-architects, the next new status quo for the Marvel Universe. Uncanny Avengers #1 dropped today, kicking off what will be a months-long rollout of new, new, and more new. And it’s… okay.
Let me start by saying Rick Remender’s work on Uncanny X-Force is a contemporary paradigm for long-form sequential storytelling. Let me also say that all of the praise and admiration that John Cassaday’s artwork receives is well deserved; comics series like Planetary (Warren Ellis) and Astonishing X-Men (Joss Whedon) are visual masterpieces. Laura Martin also deserves credit for being Marvel’s go to colorist for high stakes, big-name series like Secret Invasion, Astonishing X-Men (w/ Cassaday), J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor (w/ Olivier Coipel), and the second volume of New Avengers.
So, yes, the creative roster on Uncanny Avengers is absolutely stacked. So why does this eagerly awaited debut seem so… lackluster?
Perhaps it’s because the Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover that spawned this series was such a divisive, tedious, elongated trudge through haphazard characterization and continuity issues. And perhaps it’s because, by extension, I’m so wary of anything that pushes the militantly Pro-Avengers agenda of AvX back into the fore. Or perhaps it’s that the entire conception of the series—that Captain America has decided now that he has to do more for the mutants, so he’s going to recruit Alex “Havok” Summers to a new Avengers team—so forced and contrived. I can’t place my finger on it, but overall the debut issue of Uncanny Avengers lacks the punch-in-the-face epic mission statement that a banner Marvel NOW! book ought to have.
::Minor, cursory spoilers follow::
Technically, the book is sound. We open with a meditation on interspecies hatred and fear from our off-panel supervillain. And then we launch into Wolverine’s eulogy for Professor Xavier. There’s a brief conversation between Havok and Cyclops at the latter’s prison cell reminiscent of the Magneto/Xavier conversations from the X-Men film series (which furthers the Cyclops-Is-A-Bad-Guy-Now image that Marvel seems to be pushing). And then we get introduced to our main Avengers—Captain America and Thor (who cracks pop culture jokes). Havok joins them in saving the day from what seems like a rampaging mutant, but something appears to be amiss, as suggested by Captain America’s rather on-the-nose narration (“Stopping the madman responsible is on me!”). And finally, we have a very powerful scene between Wanda Maximoff and Rogue. Blame is thrown around, and we almost get a candid reflection on who is actually at fault for the whole Avengers vs. X-Men debacle, but we’re interrupted by the intercession of a new band of villainous, super-powered beings.
::Minor, cursory spoilers end::
And that’s about it. Pretty sub-standard superhero fare. The hidden mastermind from the first page is revealed on the last, but anyone who has been alive for the last 4 months has already had the “surprise” spoiled. Still, not a very impactful first outing from the absolutely stacked creative team. Of course, Remender is known for his slow-burn storytelling, so I’m sure Uncanny Avengers is building to some mind-shattering, earth-bending climax, but I can’t help but feel a little let down by Marvel NOW!’s flagship title.
And I still can’t shake the feeling that whole bit is forced and contrived. Wolverine—the mutant who is knee-deep in the blood of anti-mutant villains, who has gone out of his way to put together wetworks teams designed specifically for wiping anti-mutant villains off the face of the earth—gives a eulogy on Xavier’s dream of cohabitation and peace between man and mutant. Keep in mind, of course, all of the work that has been done over the last few years on the X-side of the Marvel U that has deconstructed Professor Xavier into a narrow-minded, elitist, “delusional egotist” (to use Alex Summer’s pointed language regarding his now vilified brother, Scott).
John Cassaday and Laura Martin’s work here is simply stunning. Fans of Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men will instantly recognize the hyper-realistic character designs, the vibrant red washes, and the roundness of the artwork. Cassaday’s Captain America is particularly firm and weighted, and his Thor has traded regality for a certain brutish solidity. All very impressive, but, again, nothing that we weren’t expecting.
So where do we stand? I’m sure Rick Remender has a 12-issue saga planned that will absolutely astonish all of us. And with Cassaday and Martin pulling art duty, it should be a thrilling ride. But what about issue #1? Frankly, it’s just an average comic book. And, for a number one—a big number one—Uncanny Avengers #1 is a bit of a letdown. It’s an incredibly slow start (and short–only 24 pages for a $3.99 debut!), which is disappointing considering the pomp and circumstance surrounding it as Marvel NOW!’s flagship title.
I’ll probably follow along for a few issues with the hope (and expectation) that the gears will start clicking down the line, but I can’t call Uncanny Avengers #1an absolute must-read. Maybe a must-look-at, but not necessarily a must-read. Yet.