This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on March 7, 2016.
A couple of weeks ago we tooks a look at Marvel Comics’ current lineup of X-Men comics reviewing each of the five significant titles (Extraordinary X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, All-New X-Men, Old Man Logan, and All-New Wolverine). This was written under the nominal excuse of discovering whether Marvel really planned to cancel the line. That’s all a bunch of rumor mongering nonsense from comics clickbaits sites though. In actuality it was a way to review a series of titles and perform a “checkup” on the health of a brand.
This week we will be setting Chase Magnett on another assessment of Marvel mainstream titles. However, this time he’ll be taking a look at those with the greatest connection to Marvel Studios: The Avengers. So how are the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes performing? Are they involved in quality comics or putting out the same saddening mediocrity we observed in the X-line? Stay tuned to find out.
All-New, All-Different Avengers #6
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mahmud Asrar
Colors by Dave McCaig
Letters by Cory Petit
If you’re looking for a standard on which to establish the meaning of phrases like “above average” or “below average” for Marvel Comics today, then look no further. All-New, All-Different Avengers may have been launched as the flagship titles for Marvel’s post-Secret Wars branding, but it fails to function as an aspirational series. Instead it’s the all-bland, all-mediocre middle of the road comic around which superhero books orbit. There are superb comics featuring these characters, like The Vision and Ms. Marvel, and catastrophic ones as well, like Invincible Iron Man, but this series and issue present something neither enjoyable nor offensive; it simply is.
All-New, All-Different Avengers #6 is the finale to the new team’s first big adventure, providing an excellent point to examine both how exciting the series can be (at its climax) and how well it holds together (after 6 months of publication). Neither point of view is encouraging. Writer Mark Waid has structured the story around classic Avengers villain Kang the Conqueror providing plenty of opportunities for surprises and explosive showdowns. Kang is nearly unlimited in potential due to his time traveling powers, but the conclusion of #6 reads as being even more generic and forced than the Avengers movies. There’s a cadre of unmemorable, cloned bad guys to act as fodder, a forced reversal for one team member, and a villain who strikes every possible cliche.
The plot-convenient nature of The Vision’s betrayal and redemption along with the utterly bland appearance and use of thermal villain Equinox are bad enough, but it’s Kang that highlights the weaknesses of this issue best. Kang stands in the middle of the battle as a handsome man dressed in the suit. His design as a time-traveling villain with access to infinite eras is deeply dissatisfying without a single unique element provided by artist Mahmud Asrar. He explains exactly what he plans to do including how he has utilized his secret weapon of The Vision. It’s a cliche the comic acknowledges, but fails to dismiss. His powers are vaguely defined leading to a fight with colorful shields popping up to ensure his continued existence until the point where he must disappear. His defeat is every bit as lackluster as his appearance, based entirely in a deus ex machina.
All of the plot beats are strewn through an ongoing skirmish against time-strewn versions of Equinox. Rather than take advantage of this unending stream of villains to tell secondary action beats, Asrar opts to just pour them into each panel like a distracting series of unwanted action figures. Occasionally a pair of panels will be dropped into a sequence in order to remind readers that other heroes are still fighting, but they fail to amplify the action or provide additional depth. The level of detail and page layouts never manage to make the unending action of the issue itself rise above being serviceable. Character faces often reveal only the most basic levels of detail, relying more on costume design and coloring to identify personality even in close up panels. There are instances where it is almost impossible to distinguish who a hero is even when they are the only figure of importance.
All-New, All-Different Avengers #6 reflects the goals of the classic Kurt Busiek and George Perez run. It strives to capture a diverse segment of Marvel’s superheroes, including both classics and new faces, then pit them against surprising threats. This issue lacks the imagination and refined storytelling of that run though. The problems are generic in presentation and the solutions are driven by plotting rather than any sense of cleverness. Characters are differentiated by costumes and broad strokes of personality, but never provide anything uniquely attractive. The greatest strengths of this comic come from the development of characters like Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man in their own titles. Excluding the potent combination of favorite characters, All-New, All-Different Avengers is a superhero comic that looks and tastes like the paste you were told not to eat in preschool. Consuming it won’t hurt you, but it certainly isn’t going to do you any good either.