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



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.

Review: Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps Issue 4 by Travelling Man

Carol corps 4Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson

Art by Laura Braga with Paolo Pantalena

Colours by Lee Loughridge

Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel



The Thors are inbound. The Banshees are outgunned and cornered. And there’s NOTHING they like better.


If you want an example of why colourists are unsung heroes and heroines, this issue is it. Loughridge’s colour palate, emphasizing natural light and outdoor shades ties this issue to everything that went before it. With those as the foundation, any issues that you might have with the shift to Braga and Pantalena’s art evaporates.

Not that you’ll have issues with them, because they’re work is great. I’m a sucker for artists who capture the subtlety of character and emotion and boy do they do that here. This is an issue that moves fast, gets faster and yet we never lose sight of the characters. This is the Banshees’ last flight and they know it and they run towards it all the faster as a result. There’s joy and fear and sadness and impatience mixed up in every line of every image of these women you see and that’s all down to the brilliance of the art team. Coming in to an established run is never easy. Coming in on the end of an established run is all but impossible. But, Braga and Pantalena are Banshees. They get the job done and they make it look simple doing it. They, Loughridge and Caramagna on letters turn in an issue that never slows down and more importantly, never needs to do. It, and the Banshees, have somewhere to be after all.

Deconnick and Thompson set the pace and do so with the same relaxed, professional ease as Carol and her pilots. This is fight AND flight, Carol’s need to go higher, further, faster, more running headlong into the doctrine of Doom and leading to some surprising, and beautifully handled, character beats. The Banshee/Thor fight is especially great, running the razor line between comedy and frantic, terrified action. It’s a brilliant script, in a series that’s never been less excellent. So many Secret Wars books have bucked expectations but this, I’d argue, is one of the very best.

Because, in the end, it’s simple. That’s why the book ends like it does, with that moment where the volume is turned down and we realize that what we want is not only what we’re allowed but also he easiest route to take. There are two moments in the closing pages that will get you. One is a character beat so perfect and so unexpected that it’s been hidden in plain sight from issue 1. The other is the final page. No spoilers, of course, but it’s a perfect summation not only of everything that’s made this book great but the idea that’s always been at the heart of this, definitive, version of Carol. Ideas, like the man once said, are bulletproof. And here, ideas let

Carol, her squadron, the creative team, and us punch one last, glorious hole in the sky.


Review:Secret Wars:Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders Issue 1 by Travelling Man

captain britain and the mighty defenders 1Written by Al Ewing

Penciled by Alan Davis

Inked by Mark Farmer

Colours by Wil Quintana

Lettered by Travis Lanham

Published by Marvel



Go buy this. Trust me, you want to, firstly because it’s great and secondly because the creative team pull off three things; one is impossible, two are very difficult and all three work brilliantly.

The impossible one first; the end punchline here is a pastiche, a homage of the sort that comics all too often drown in. It’s the sort of knowing, nod and wink stuff that gets in the way as the team struggle to drop in jokes about their mates in and the story just gets pushed further and further back like a chaperone at a mosh pit.

That does not happen here.

What happens instead is the pastiche becomes both vital and terrifying. This is a clash of ideals, far more than any of the other books and it’s one that’s grounded in a context UK comic fans will find very familiar and deeply disturbing. It’s a brilliant, subtle script and Ewing at his absolute best, not just here but in the character moments.

That’s the first of the two very difficult things the team do. Like the best Secret Wars books, this feels less like a first issue and more like the latest instalment of a years old series. The simple twist of Stark sacrificing himself for Yinsen creates an entirely different, compelling background for Iron Man and Yinsen City is, somehow, one of the things I’d love to see stick around. It’s such an interesting idea and Yinsen and his family are so likable it’d be a shame to lose them to the coming reset. Likewise, Davis and Farmer’s work does a wonderful job of showing us the city Yinsen and co have built, all rounded lines, futuristic architecture and peace. For now.

Which brings us to the third thing. Ewing brings back Doctor Faiza Hussain, the Captain Britain from Paul Cornell’s criminally under rated MI:13 run. Faiza is one of the best characters in modern Marvel history; a pacifist doctor, a devout Muslim and the bearer of Excalibur. She is the literal embodiment of the ideal every group of heroes in these books is stumbling towards; a polite, but determined realization that things should be better than they are and the Marvel universe has never been more ready for her than it is now. If you buy the book for no other reason, buy it because she’s a brilliant character and deserves to be better known. But buy the book because it’s exceptionally good.

Review: Loki, Agent of Asgard by Travelling Man


Written by AL Ewing

Art by Lee Garbett

Colours by Nolan Woodard

Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel



Loki. Trickster God. Embodiment of evil. Sociopath. Least favourite of Odin’s children. Self murderer.

It’s not easy wearing green.

Which may be why Loki agrees to sign on as an Agent of Asgard, doing the All-Mother’s bidding (Well, most of the time…well…some of the time…well…) in order to work off his past sins and have his story changed. If he can manage that, Loki can change. If Loki can change then Loki won’t burn. But there are people interested in keeping his story just as it is…

One of the best titles Marvel have put out in years, Agent of Asgard is filled with the same flair, long game planning and good humour that everyone’s favourite Asgardian God of Cheekbones uses. Ewing’s script builds on both Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers without requiring you to read either and makes Loki not only fun but actively very sympathetic. He’s an idiot who’s done awful thing for stupid reasons but he’s so far from the man he was that you can’t help but root for him. He’s still a bastard and still delights in messing with people but there’s a streak of sincerity and just a little desperation that makes you want to hug the little chap, tell him everything will be okay and then make sure you still have your wallet. That’s heightened by the fact that everything is very much not okay and one particular issue here rolls out some of the most intricate, clever, circular plotting you’ll see this year. Loki’s a player of games for sure but his opponents have been playing much, much longer.

On the art side of things Lee Garbett has a lightness of touch that keeps the action flowing but also allows for some great moments of physical comedy and timing. Woodard’s warm colours help immensely and Cowles’ lettering has rarely been better than it is here, with everything from structuralist jokes and Eisner nods to fast paced dialogue all handled perfectly.

This is a great book, and a break out hit of 2014. If you’re a fan of everyone’s favourite trickster god, then you absolutely need this. If you’re not, give it a shot anyway. He’s surprisingly charming.

Review: Thor Issue 25 by Travelling Man

Written by Jason Aaron

“The 13th Son of a 13th Son”

Art by RM Guera

Colour Art by Giulia Brusco

“Blood and Ice”

Art by Simon Bisley


Art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina

Lettering by VC’s Joe Sarino

Published by Marvel


As the world turns towards the new Thor, this issue sets the stage for what’s to come. In the future, King Thor’s granddaughters (The Girls of Thunder) read stories of past deeds. But as they dig deeper they find their reading may be curiously guided…

The structure of the issue pays off instantly, giving Aaron a chance to lay out the stall for what’s to come. ‘13th Son of a 13th’ Son is a particular standout, showing the origins of Malekith. Guera’s spider-y art style and Brusco’s deep colours combine to till a story of the awful things the Dark Elves did to one another and the events that forged Malekith. It’s earthy, bloody-fingernailed fantasy and the streak of tragedy running through it is as surprising as it is welcome

“Blood and Ice” is all Simon Bisley all the time and he fits the Norse myths like an angry glove of punching and heavy metal wrapped around a fist made of spikes and mead. The story, Young Thor (With Jarnbjorn, the axe that Thor may be wielding again very soon) leading a group of Vikings into battle with the Frost Giants is simple but executed with huge muscular vigour and boisterous enthusiasm. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a victory but we, and his granddaughters, have the benefit of history…Somethine is coming and Young Thor is too close, and arrogant, to see it.

‘Unworthy’ addresses the issue of Thor no longer being worthy to wield Mjolnir. It’s the least satisfying story of the three, largely due to it being both a framing device and an opening act for the new Thor but there’s still a lot to enjoy here, especially Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s wonderful art. As the book closes, there’s a sense of something genuinely significant coming to it and, given the way the new Thor was decried as a gimmick that’s a real achievement. This feels significant and weighty, both a big finale and an opening act. If you’re interested in the new incarnation of Thor, I’d start here. After all, what better place to do research than the libraries of Asgard?

Review: Ms Marvel Issues 1-6 by Travelling Man

Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt(Issue 6)
Color art by Ian Herring
Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel

Let’s talk about Kamala Khan. The last couple of weeks have seen some massive ructions in the more change averse (And yes I am being nice describing it that way) sections of fandom. Thor as a woman, Captain America as a black man and Tony Stark moving to San Francisco have all got some people worried about how comics are changing. There’s a growing terror of the old metaphors, old tropes falling away and the massive castles of continuity that are built on them crumbling into nothing more than dust in the wind.
What none of these people are looking in the eyes is this; change came to the Marvel universe a while ago, about four different ways. Marvel’s three best books right now are She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Ms.Marvel. Extend that to six and you’ve got Black Widow, Elektra and Bendis’ All-New X-Men, a book with a cast crammed full of kickass female characters.
Change isn’t coming. Change is HERE. And things are already better for it.
Don’t believe me? Issue 1 of Ms Marvel is on its 6th printing.6th. Here are three other books that have managed that:

Justice League 1
Detective Comics 1
Sex Criminals 1

Kamala Khan isn’t going anywhere and based on these first issues it’s really easy to see why.
First off, there’s the fact that G. Willow Wilson writes real people. This is a book crammed full of people you’ve already met, the sort of small town groups of family and friends that are a near universal constant in the West. Wilson has an instinctive understanding of how and why people cluster together and the fact that the highest stakes moment in here is at the Circle Q convenience store (Bill and Ted fans out there? YES the joke is made) drives that home. This is a book about normal people in normal sized lives dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
Then there’s the fact that Wilson doesn’t just write people, she writes people who are funny. Kamala is the best example; a cheerfully over articulate, whip smart teenager who’s dialogue crackles with pure joy from the moment you hear her first line; ‘Delicious, delicious infidel meat.’ She’s a wiseass in the same way Peter Parker is when he’s written well; charming, self-deprecating and clearly deeply in love with the shape of the words she’s saying and the effect they have on the people around her.

Kamala’s also us. All of us. She’s a total geek; a gamer, a fanfic writer, a superhero fan. Kamala has a black belt in geek fu, she thinks and contextualizes the world the same way we do and that instantly makes her one of the most relatable characters in comics right now. She reacts how we would and how we hope we would; panicking in her first fight, getting hurt and getting back up because that’s what heroes do. Then, entering the best training montage you’ll see in modern comics as she figures out how to game her new powers.
But this isn’t just about Kamala. This is about her family and her friends too. Wilson writes the best family scenes I’ve read in years. Kamala’s parents are clearly aware something is up with their daughter, she’s aware they’re aware and everyone dances around one another in that not-quite-looking-it-in-the-eyes two step that adolescence always becomes. There’s a scene in issue 5 with her father that was my favourite moment in the book until I read issue 6. It’s a beautiful piece of writing as her dad simultaneously diffuses the tensions between her and her mom, let’s Kamala know he loves her and is there for her and still grounds her. The lack of angst isn’t just refreshing, it’s revolutionary.

Issue 6 though, is the high point so far. The opening conversation between Kamala and Sheikh Abdullah is extraordinary; sweet, pragmatic and something I’ve almost never seen in fiction before. Kamala and her family are Muslim and when she steps out of line yet again, she’s sent to see Sheikh Abdullah to talk to him. Expecting a severe telling off, she instead gets compassion, understanding and humour. He’s a sleeves rolled up holy man, someone with no illusions as to how easy anyone’s life is. He treats Kamala with absolute respect and gets out of her way even as he advises her. I’ve had the singular privilege of knowing several Catholic priests like that and seeing that represented so well here was a chance to let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

Finally, there’s the art. Alphona’s loping, easy going style is a perfect fit for both Kamala’s new powers and the style of the script and Herring’s warm, rich colours are amazing throughout. Wyatt’s art, in issue 6, is a little tighter but the book actually benefits from that. It’s reminiscent of Bandette and has the same light-footed, graceful approach. Not bad going for a book with gigantic cyborg crocodiles in it. The whole thing is rounded out by Caramagna’s top class lettering and issue 6 in particular sees that play a vital role in dictating the pace of the action.

Ms Marvel is a revelation; a new character who works perfectly straight out of the gate. It doesn’t just add welcome diversity to the Marvel universe but a brand new, hugely likeable heroine who embodies everything that makes superheroes such an attractive trope. Oh and Wolverine’s in issue 6. And her reaction is PRICELESS. This is joyous, clever, sweet-natured comics. Buy them now.

Review: Loki, Agent of Asgard Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Al Ewing

Art by Lee Garbett

Colour art by Nolan Woodard

Lettering and production by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel


Good LORD this is fun. Hitting the ground at a dead run, Al Ewing’s take on everyone’s favourite Hiddlestonian Mischief God is shot through with energy, verve, great jokes and pure, abject joy. Ewing’s been on an absolute tear for a while now, working on the best Dredd story in at least a decade, doing great things with the Mighty Avengers and just announced as the writer on one of the new Doctor Who titles. He’s an immensely gifted, hardworking writer who I had the honour of seeing start out. Seeing what he’s doing now, is, if anything, even better.


The premise here is lovely; Loki is now an agent of the All-Mother, tasked with deniable work for Asgard. He, it being Loki, has restrictions placed on him and, it being Loki, works around them with style and aplomb. Most importantly, he finds absolute joy in his work. This is the happiest Loki’s been in a long time and it comes across as a sort of just-barely-straight-faced exuberance. He’s on the right side, doing the right things he’s just…having a little fun along the way. It’s completely charming and Ewing, being as good as he is, uses it as a contrast to the very dark things going on under the plot. The two elements of Loki; exuberant sort of adventurer and black hearted sorcerer look set to be the core of the book and based on this issue, it’s going to be essential reading.

The art is absolutely top notch too, and Garbett’s Thor is especially good, a surly, hulking mass of Hemsworthian grump and presence. In fact, he and Ewing get to play with the entire Avengers roster here and it’s difficult to say what’s funnier; the effortless way Loki subdues them or the little touches like Hulk’s awful haircut.

Rounded out by great, atmospheric colour work by Woodard and the always reliable Cowles, this is a delight. It’s fast paced, clever, does about four things at once and is crammed with character, humour and sheer flat out fun. One of the best books Marvel have put out in ages and worth it for the single best Hawkeye joke since ‘Okay…I know this looks bad.’ Unmissably good.


Review: Avengers: Endless Wartime by Travelling Man

Written by Warren Ellis

Illustrated by Mike McKone

Cover by Jason Keith and Rain Beredo

Letters by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos

Book Design by Rian Hughes

Published by Marvel


The first in a new series of original graphic novels, Endless Wartime is one of those books that shows off everything that works best about both the creators and the characters.

On the creative side of things, this is Warren Ellis on top form. A lot of Ellis’ favorite tics and subjects turn up (mortality, world war 2, the no longer quite human, good natured and massively articulate bickering) but they’re always in harness to the story. There’s no grandstanding here, and considering this is a book where half an island explodes in the opening pages, that’s quite an achievement. On the art side of things, Mike McKone is given a chance to show off not only his wonderfully burly design work but how good he is with characters. Make no mistake, this is a full cast Avengers story and McKone brings something distinctive to each one. His Banner and Hawkeye are especially great as is the sheer scale of some of the later action sequences. Finally, Eliopoulos’ lettering is as precise and expressive as anything he’s done and Hughes’ design work is elegant and somehow minimalist whilst still being information heavy. Make no mistake, this book could not read or look better than it does.

Over on the fictional side of the street, things are just as impressive. Fundamentally this is a story about the two oldest Avengers; Captain America and Thor, and an event that ties their pasts together. It’s cleverly handled as we see the two approach a problem from very different directions at similar times, only for it to resurface in the present day. This leads to a feel that’s very close to that of the Avengers movie, but still takes some serious left turns that mark it out as a piece with its own voice.

For a start, this version of Cap is still deeply unsettled by his presence in the modern day. Ellis portrays him as a good man but an uncomfortable one, and he clings to the good-natured inter-service rivalry he has with Captain Marvel like a drowning man clinging to driftwood. This Cap is principled, upright, honest and just a little hypocritical. Logan is under used here, and the book is frankly better for it, but his appearances are almost all confrontations with Cap. The two world war 2 veterans have very different views on how to get things done, and the script cleverly folds that conflict into the central plot. It also does it in a way that means neither man is right, or wrong, enough for a definitive answer. Logan has no problem killing. Cap has every problem killing when he perceives it as unnecessary. Both men are tested by the events of the story.

Elsewhere, Black Widow and Hawkeye get plenty of fun stuff to do as well, with Hawkeye pretty clearly the luckless slugger of Fraction’s extraordinary title rather than the Renner-ized, dead eyed killer. Hawkeye is the engine that drives most of the jokes but his best scene is his last, whilst Widow is a fiercely competent woman with no compunctions about reminding the living legend and the God just how mortal she and the others are.

Tony Stark, in the meantime, is…Tony Stark. This is, again, clearly influenced by the movie version and again works very well. It’s also a nice circular moment to see the movie version, itself influenced by the classic Ellis story Extremis, in turn influencing another comic. Ellis’ trademark dialogue sounds great coming from Tony Stark in particular and he also gives the former weapons designer moments of real dramatic weight. Stark still has a slight hint of the debutante to him at times and this story knocks those edges off with casual violence. This Tony Stark is still learning and, it turns out, he too has a moment from the past that he’s working through. Many of the books’ best scenes are just the Avengers talking to one another and Stark has one of the absolute best. The line ‘I react to his ghost badly’ is one that’s still in my head over a week after reading the book.

Weirdly though, the breakout characters here are Thor and Captain Marvel. Ellis has a unique handle on the God of Thunder that makes him an absolute pleasure to read. This Thor has moved past the boisterous warrior thug of his youth and finds himself haunted not just by the past but by that younger self. He wants to be better, wants to be the king his people deserve but doesn’t quite believe he can be. It’s a subtle take on the character and one that really lets him shine. Likewise, Captain Marvel is given some major moments here and positioned solidly in the Avengers’ big leagues. She’s endlessly calm, endlessly resourceful and has precisely no idea how to back down, getting some particularly impressive moments in the closing sequence. I’ve long been a fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s take on the character and that’s just who we get here; a fiercely competent, professional pilot and soldier who grounds the team even as she helps them fly.

This is a tremendously good book. It places the Avengers in a position that’s both unique and stylistically in keeping with where the movies are going and gives every single one of its creators and characters a moment to shine. Marvel couldn’t have picked a better launch for their OGN line and if you’re an Avengers fan, you couldn’t pick a one-shot book better than this.

Review: Infinity Issue 4 by Travelling Man


Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver

Colour art by Justin Ponsor

Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Cover by Adam Kubert and Laura Martin

Published by Marvel

£2.85 or £1.99 with SuperCard Go!

Welcome to the most important individual issue of any Marvel title published this year.

Thought that might get your attention.

Here’s why; the Earth plot this issue is the aftermath of Attilan being destroyed. It turns out that Maximus had a plan, one that involved releasing the Terrigen Mists.


In an instant, the Inhumans are simultaneously rendered homeless and omnipresent. Anyone with latent Inhuman genes has their abilities triggered and for Thane, a young Inhuman who also happens to be Thanos’ son that’s very far from good news.

In the real world, this is being viewed as a very canny way of being able to set up a Mutant sub group of characters that can be exploited in future movies and TV shows without having to pay the license holding studio for the X-Men movies money. That’s certain a factor and it should, looked at that way, feel like the same sort of egregious world-shoving that I last saw in Age of Ultron.

In universe,  it feels like a last, defiant roll of the dice. It’s life through death, the exact sort of thing that will drive Thanos wild. And it does too, the fight between him and Black Bolt is brutal in three different ways. Firstly, surely the middle of New York is now a crater? Secondly, Black Bolt doesn’t even pretend to hold back and thirdly, it does nothing. Whether he’s as dead as Thanos thinks is a different matter, but the fight certainly seems final.

That idea; that when your back is against the wall you have nothing left to lose, is carried through to the space plot too. Here, the Avengers and their armada have fought the Builders to a temporary standstill. It’s not even close to a victory but it is enough to get the Builders’ attention. A peace negotiation is requested and as both sides prepare, we get a good idea of their world views. The Builders are cold, arrogant and cruel. As far as they’re concerned they’ve won. The other races are desperate, cowed and inconceivably dangerous. They know exactly what a threat the Builders are, the Builders have no idea how much of a threat the other races are and in that cognitive gap the entire creative team craft a moment of total visual power. The final scene of the issue is genuinely thrilling, crammed with emotion and action and character and is, as this entire series has been to date, a great example of how to ‘event’ stories right. If the final page in particular isn’t all over Tumblr by now I genuinely don’t know what that site is for. Epic scale science fiction with character, heart, action and real weight and meat to it, this is another chapter in an increasingly impressive story.

Review: Avengers Assemble Volume 1-Science Bros by Travelling Man

‘Science Bros’

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)


Annual 1

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?

%d bloggers like this: