Mighty Avengers #1
Al Ewing – Writer
Greg Land – Penciler
Jay Leisten – Inker
Frank D’Armata – Colorist
Cory Petit – Letterer
Review by Joey Braccino
Mighty Avengers is one tricky book to review. Marvel’s latest “Earth’s Mightiest” comic series features, well, essentially, Luke Cage’s Heroes For Hire stepping it up to take on the extraterrestrial threats bleeding over from the Infinity event. On the one hand, we have some incredible, character-driven storytelling centered on the street-level goings on in the Marvel U; on the other hand, we have some confusing tie-in material that really does not fit the mood or tone of what the series seems to hope for.
Oh, and the art is atrocious. More on that later.
Al Ewing (of Judge Dredd and 2000AD fame) clearly wants to tell a grounded story about working people working as superheroes. His welcome letter at the back of the book captures the wonder and appreciation he had for Monica Rambeau during her Proving-Herself-As-The-Leader-Of-The-Avengers phase and Luke Cage during his Holding-Onto-His-Integrity phase during New Avengers and Civil War. Ewing brings an old-school flair to the street scenes in Mighty Avengers #1, from the initial battle between Luke Cage’s Heroes for Hire—Avengers Academy graduates Power Man and White Tiger—and the villainous Plunderer to a hide speed chase between Monica “Spectrum” Rambeau and Blue Streak through the streets of NYC. With the “big guns” out in space battling Builders and what not, Luke Cage and his team really are the unlikely heroes brought together to fight foes none of the remaining heroes could fight on their own.
That unstoppable foe, however, is a hyper-powered alien death-bringer named Proxima Midnight. A minion of Thanos, Proxima reigns down fire and explosions on New York after an incredibly confusing sequence featuring Doctor Strange. Sure, the final spread in which Luke Cage defiantly proclaims “We’re the Avengers” is thrilling on a visceral level, but all this crazy sci-fi and supernatural stuff doesn’t seem to jive with the more proletarian conflict between the characters. Mighty Avengers #1 really shines when Luke Cage grapples with his dual identities as natural superhero/leader and husband/father. The central debate of the book is between the Superior Spider-Man and Luke Cage—is it really acceptable for a group to be heroes for hire? Is heroism a calling or a job? And the book’s purpose plays out with all the nuance and race theory that only a book focused on several characters of color possibly could. I just could do without the world crushers and purple monsters. Of course, if that’s what it takes to bring this team together; I’m all for it.
But while I might be able to forgive the tie-in nature of Mighty Avengers #1, I simply cannot get past the poor quality of the artwork. Now, normally, I don’t mind Greg Land’s artwork. He was a longtime artist on Uncanny X-Men during my team reading that series, so I’ve grown used to his repetitive facial designs (Why is everyone smiling!?) and awkward female characterwork. And yet, for a book as buzzworthy as Mighty Avengers #1, Marvel really missed the mark on this one. While there are moments of greatness–one spread features Luke Cage and Power Man taking out Plunderer in a series of diagonal panels a la a 1970s action flick—for the most part Greg Land delivers more of the same: clean, dynamic photo-realism that reads flat more often that it pops off the page. Fortunately, Frank D’Armata and Jay Leisten provide some respite with vibrant colors and solid inking respectively. I could only imagine what those bare pencils look like…
Worth a look. Mighty Avengers is exactly the kind of book comicdom needs more of: good old-fashioned character-driven superheroics. For the first time in a long time, we have a team that isn’t defined by the malevolence of its enemy, but rather by the personalities that connect and separate them. I want to see the Superior Spider-Man butt heads with Luke Cage. I want to see Monica Rambeau reassert herself as a superhero to be reckoned with. I want to see more of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’ text messages. Less wrinkly-chinned superaliens; more street-level emotion and growth.
And switch Land off asap.