Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Avengers, Avengers Assemble, Bruce Banner, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, Christos Gage, clint barton, Daniel Freedman, hawkeye, Iron Man, Jessica Drew, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Luke ROss, Mark Bagley, Mike Deodato, Mike Mayhew, Natasha Romanov, Pete Woods, Science Bros!, Scott Hanna, Spider-Woman, Stefano Caselli, Steve Rogers, The Black Widow, The Incredible Hulk, The Widow's Ledger, Thor, Tomm Coker, Tony STark, Valentine De Landro
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Stefano Caselli (Issues 9-11)
Pencils by Pete Woods (Issues 12-13)
Inks and finishes by Scott Hanna (Issues 12-13)
Breakdowns by Mark Bagley (Issue 13)
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Tomm Coker with Mike Mayhew, Mike Deodato, Luke Ross & Valentine De Landro
Colour Art by Daniel Freedman
Yes this is a collection named after the ‘Science Bros’ meme that sprung up post-Avengers. And yes, that is a selling point. Also yes there are many glorious things behind that link, some of which may not be safe for work. Tread lightly, for you tread on your office’s IT policy. Or something.
You get three stories here, two by DeConnick and one by Gage. ‘Science Bros’, the first one, is an absolute joy. It opens with a gag so pitch perfect you can see Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo doing it, as Tony addresses ‘definitely not the TED conference’ and sings the praises of science along the top of the page.
Along the bottom, Banner talks to five bored students about how doomed we all are.
A bet is made which is of course never an idea that ends badly. A joint colleague of the Avengers’ biggest brains has gone off line and Stark and Banner agree to race there. Whoever’s team gets there first wins. The loser has to walk from the Baxter Building to Avengers Tower and back.
This is immense fun, and DeConnick writes inter-Avenger banter like no one else on the planet. The sequence where they’re picking teams and Thor good naturedly messes with Tony is especially great. However, the flip side of the story is a well-handled and very dark story about the sort of scientist that Stark and Banner could be but aren’t. This is a story about ambition and greed and what happens when they’re allowed to run loose. It’s nicely handled, the gears shifting between the two tones with tremendous ease. There’s some great action beats too, especially a fight that starts with Cap battling ninjas on a plane in mid-flight and finishes with him jumping out of that plane as Captain Marvel races to catch him. This is big scale, big screen action but with Caselli turning in fantastic art and DeConnick at the helm it’s also entirely character driven. These people are the best in the world, and they trust each other completely. That undertone of respect gives the book weight but, given that this is the writer who gave the world Princess Sparklefists, there’s always a well-timed joke. As a result it feels like the most human of the Avengers books and that carries across into the other stories.
And yes someone gets naked. And no I’m not telling.
‘The Widow’s Ledger’ sees a near total change in tone and cast. Focussing, again, on an element of Avengers (Widow’s ‘I got red on my ledger’ line), it opens with Natasha Romanov still working as a killer for the KGB. She takes a shot, downs a target and thinks no more of it. Until she gets a marker in the post and realizes there’s a debt to be paid. Widow, it turns out, sent markers to the families of the people whose deaths haunt her. They can call those markers in at any time and she’ll do whatever she needs to do to try and make it right.
What follows is again a two level affair, with Widow, Spider-Woman and Hawkeye heading to Russia to clear the debt. Again, DeConnick’s character work sparkles and I could honestly read entire issues of just those three talking. However, there’s emotional heft to the story too. Their investigation leads them to the sewers beneath Omsk and the discovery of just what’s down there. DeConnick combines real life, and horrific, drug krokodil with a fairly traditional monster story to great effect, especially in the closing pages. It’s not quite the equal of the first story but DeConnick writes Widow particularly well, and shows us just how damaged and guilt-ridden Natasha is without ever expressing it out loud. The story lives and dies in the final scenes though, where the true extent of Widow’s heroic need to atone is shown and we see another character in a very different light. All of this is carried effortlessly by Scott Hanna’s precision character work and breakdowns by the legendary Mark Bagley.
The first Avengers Assemble annual closes the book and sees another shift in rosters on and off the page. Christos Gage’s story is focused almost entirely on The Vision. Gage, like DeConnick, is a character writer first and foremost and that’s certainly true here. He combines the increasingly erratic, tragic Iron Man villain Sunturion with a corporate espionage story and the Vision’s own search for a greater connection with humanity to huge effect. Vision’s always been an iconic Avenger and he’s especially well served here; cold but not distant, concerned but not emotional. The contrast between him and a third-stringer like Sunturion is especially well handled and the ending is sweet, honest and ties the book into the wider Avengers-verse. All of which is presented in the deep reds and deeper shadows of Coker, Mayhew, Deodato, Ross, De Landro and Freedman’s art.
The Avengers books, as I say, are on a tear at the moment and this is a perfect place to start, especially for new readers. The characters and situations will feel familiar to fans of the movie but the creative teams expand them out into the comic Marvel universe with tremendous skill. It’s a hugely entertaining, fun, sweet trio of stories that’s as good an advert for what Marvel do best as anything on the market now.
And, also, Science Bros. How could you pass this up?
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