I admit to a bias towards DC. I’m not sure why but there’s something about Marvel which has not yet connected with me (the $4 price point hasn’t helped). That said, I’m always open to try new things. During one of our StashMyComics skype meetups Niko and Chance convinced me to try Avengers #18. It wasn’t very difficult to do as I was impressed by the preview art. Acuna has a distinct style which didn’t quite work for me when he drew Black Widow. But for some reason I like it now. So headlong I went into this title to hopefully re-discover the Marvel Universe.
The book starts with an overview of the the major events of the Marvel Universe starting at Civil War up to the recent destruction of Avengers tower. Common to all these events is an employee of SHIELD – an investigator. This woman is appalled at the fact that Superheroes are left quite entirely unchecked. And so at every turn she ferrets away some DNA evidence and other bits of pieces of data relating to superheroes. Overlapping this is a scene of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers discussing the need to rebuild the Avengers tower. The Captain favours a patriotic philosophy regarding this. He even references 9/11: “When the towers went down and they didn’t rebuild… that drove me insane.”
This is one of the things that cause me to disconnect from the Marvel U a little bit. When a “real world” aspect is woven into this fictional universe, so many unanswerable questions arise. For instance: ” Why is Steve Rogers not running for President?” and “how does the government retain any sort of power when there are unspeakably powerful heroes flitting about everywhere”. Of course, this applies to the DCU just as much but it seems that it’s more present in the Marvel U. Most notably because most of it takes place in real world locations and situations. New York is the true heart of the Marvel Universe while the DCU takes place in fictional settings such as Gotham and Metropolis. Admittedly this is a “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of scenario but it is what is.
That aside, the Marvel heavy hitters meet at Avengers mansion – much to Luke Cage’s annoyance. Captain America doesn’t beat around the proverbial bush and directly confronts the issue at hand. Who will be an Avenger and who won’t? The book ends with *spoiler* the SHIELD employee offering to give away her sensitive information to Norman Osborne (Question: Is Osborne still clean in the public eye? I thought he had been outed during Stark: Disassembled).
So what we have here is a dual plot. #1 Putting the team together. #2 Osborne no doubt wanting to tear it apart. It’s nothing complicated and I like that. The true appeal here, as with most of Bendis‘ work, is the characterization and interactions. A significant portion of this book is spent simply establishing what the characters think of each other via some very clever and usually funny dialogue. Acuna’s pencils and layout design skills play an important role here. In a book with very little action, it takes a smart artist to keep things interesting. A few key splash pages mark the story with some important plot beats while during the more crowded “talky” scenes, it’s the body language and facial expressions that add dynamism. It’s not the strongest layout work I’ve seen for this kind of script but it’s certainly enough to impress. Acuna’s trademark “watercolor” technique is probably the biggest draw here. He uses a smart and sophisticated colour palette which never misses a step.*
Parental Concern: Yellow
*A detail I like is that Acuna’s panels have no borders. There’s something about this that I really like.