Travelling Man's Blog


Review: Avengers Issue 1 by Travelling Man

avengers issue 12Written by Mark Waid

Art by Adam Kubert

Colour art by Sonia Oback

Letters by VC’s Cory Petit

Cover by Alex Ross

Published by Marvel

‘You’re a Jerk!’

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Mahmud Asrar

Colour art by David Mccaig

Letters by VC’s Cory Petit

£3.60

 

With a team like that on the book, not to mention a team like this IN the book, most of you will be inclined to pick this up without any words from me.

Go do it, it’s GREAT.

Need convincing anyway? Okay. Waid gets these characters on a level few other authors do. The absolutely killer cold open confirms that, but it’s the interplay between Sam and Tony that will sell you. One is a man wearing the shoes of a mentor he’s estranged from, the other is…well…kind of broke right now. Both of them are starting from zero and Waid cleverly sets up a playful friendship between the two that’s very different to that between Steve and Tony. It’s closer in tone to the Ollie/Hal ‘Hard travelling heroes’ era from DC. Two guys, both with lots to prove, both with little to rely on but each other.

That need for these characters to do something bigger than them looks to be the foundation stone of this new team. Along with that other classic Avengers motivation; crisis management. Waid cleverly folds the aftermath of Secret Wars into the story, giving the characters a motivation, foe and serious problems all in the space of a few pages. He also hands us the single best Iron Man suitup sequence you’ll see in comics this year. All of which is presented with precision, subtle colouring by Oback and almost casually impressive detail by Kubert. This really is a ludicrously good looking book with plenty of narrative muscle under the hood.

But the story that stays with you is the backup. On paper it’s deceptively simple; Nova tracks a monster to Jersey City, Ms Marvel helps out, they bicker. What makes it brilliant is the way Waid refuses to back down from the hormonal apocalypse that is adolescence. These are arguably the two sweetest natured characters in the Marvel universe right now and they do almost nothing but piss each other off even as they’re frantically trying to do ANYTHING ELSE. It’s an incredibly accurate account of teenage horror, and the chemistry between the two is all the sweeter for how vastly bad they both are at it. Plus Asrar’s art is just flat out stunning. It’s got an open, friendly quality to it but with clever character work that Mccaig’s colour work really helps bring out and Petit’s letters land with crushing accuracy. You will cringe at how badly these kids mess up around each other. I certainly did.

Another strong entry in the relaunched Avengers titles, this has buckets of heart, a ton of humour and gets a lot done in its first issue. Highly recommended.



Supergirl Volume 1: Last Daughter of Krypton by Travelling Man

Supergirl

Volume 1: Last Daughter of Krypton

Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson

Art by Mahmud Asrar

Inker (Issues 1 and 2) Dan Green

Additional art (Issue 3) Bill Rheinhold

Colors by Dave Mccaig and Paul Mounts (Issue 3)

Letters by Rob Leigh and John J. Hill

Series and collection covers by Mahmud Asrar and Dave McCaig

£10.99

Let’s face it, a good chunk of DC’s female characters have had a lousy time of it post-New 52. The Birds of Prey are on the run, Starfire’s been transformed into the world’s most anatomically impossible pin up and Catwoman’s making the costumed vigilante with two backs with Batman. That last’s maybe not such a bad thing, they’ve always seemed like a lovely couple, but the execution of it was pretty lousy. Either way, given DC Editorial’s charming ongoing attempts to Stalin two more of their female characters, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown either out of existence altogether or at least into the cornfield, you’d be forgiven for approaching any heroine-fronted series with one eye closed and at arm’s reach. Oh sure, some have been great, Azzarello and Chiang’s Wonder Woman is frankly astounding but the ones that are bad? Are bad.

Supergirl, I’m delighted, and frankly a little surprised to report, is absolutely not one of the bad ones. This is, in fact, one of the unacknowledged gems of the New 52 and almost all of that success comes from Green and Johnson’s smart, ideas heavy script. It starts traditionally enough; with Kara Zor-El crashing to Earth and from there goes absolutely wild. She’s jumped by troops in powered armour and takes them down almost without trying, terrified to find herself suddenly incredible fast and strong and durable. She’s a very smart, very gifted young woman but she’s never had these abilities before and Johnson and Green play it like having a child ride a high performance motorbike. She’s got the skills but her abilities are so incredible she causes huge amounts of damage before stopping. The thing that stops her from continuing to fight is the first in a line of nice characters beats that the two writers seed through all these issues. Kara is grief-stricken, terrified, mad as hell and utterly exhilarated, hurtling through the stages of grief and shock like a child on a sugar rush. She’s incredibly dangerous as a result and the first three issues are largely about getting her focussed enough to realize what’s going on. She’s never without agency, never without her will but she’s rocked by events, reacting instead of thinking and that’s almost the only thing that makes her weak. It’s a really nice set up, and they continue it into what amounts to two complete plot lines.

In the first, Kara is contacted by Mr Tycho, the billionaire collector of space junk who snagged her capsule and wants her as well. Tycho is an utterly arrogant massively confident, ruthless man who has no compunctions killing his own people to get the job done. He’s a completely intellectual threat and, interestingly, a perfect fit as the nemesis of the daughter of a scientist. Tycho is very much Kara’s Lex Luthor and by the time the first plot is finished we’ve seen not only what he’s prepared to do but exactly why he and Kara will go to war. It’s a brave, extremely unpleasant piece of plotting which builds on Kara’s lack of control of her abilities and Tycho’s massive hubris to create a classic, even tragic heroine/villain relationship. This one will get ugly and it will stay ugly for a while.

The second plot builds on this as Kara tries to go home. What she finds there isn’t just the truth about her past but a neatly ambiguous set of villains, the Planet Killers. Created by Kryptonian science centuries previously, the Planet Killers are dropped on a world to render it lifeless, living weapons who want nothing more than answers as to why they were created but have no problem fitting a bit of planet killing in to pass the time whilst they wait. The confrontations with the Planet Killers, especially the brutal fight in the shattered remnants of Argo City neatly show off the book’s other big strengths; Mahmud Asrar and Bill Rheinhold. Rheinhold’s delicate, painterly lines are used to incredible effect in issue 3 and mesh beautifully with Asrar’s muscular, detail heavy style. You have no doubt that Kara is incredibly strong from the moment you first see her, through sheer muscle definition if nothing else, and Asrar balances the need to show the physicality and femininity of the character without becoming exploitative. There’s arguably one scene where he crosses the line but the rest of the time Kara is as credible, as hard charging and dynamic a figure as any male hero in the New 52. Which given her costume is knee length boots, a cloak and a long-sleeve unitard is quite an achievement for the creative team.

What really makes the book work is simple; you like her. Kara Zor-El is a terrified young woman who wants nothing more than to go home and knows she can’t. She’s outmatched, she trusts no one and has no idea how her abilities work, at least some of the time. But she’s stubborn, standing her ground and keeping her fists up and she’s impossible not to root for as a result. We all love an underdog and to make a Kryptonian seem vulnerable, sympathetic and relatable is a massive achievement for the entire creative team.  Add in the interesting plotting, great art and neat foreshadowing of what’s to come and you have a real winner. One of the best New 52 titles I’ve read.

Alasdair Stuart




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