Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

 by Bill Miller

 

Avengers Assemble
by Brian Michael
Bendis and Mark Bagley

collects Avengers
Assemble #1-8

Why I Bought This: Created
in the wake of the film, this features the team from the film taking on Thanos.
Despite my distrust of Bendis, I couldn’t wait to read this and as soon as it
was collected in trade earlier this year, I ordered it from Amazon. That it
also features Mark Bagley’s art and the Guardians of the Galaxy is just gravy.
The Plot: Thanos hires
the Zodiac to steal items of cosmic power found on Earth and it’s up to the
Avengers to stop him.

Chapter 1 – We see a new version of the Zodiac exists. Tony
has built a new Stark
Tower and the Avengers
celebrate. In the desert Hulk is watching an Army convoy that suddenly comes
under attack by a water elemental. Hulk tries to help, although the Army
assumes he is attacking them too. They fight for a few pages with the Elemental
winning by drowning Hulk enough to pass him out and then stealing a mysterious
item from the convoy and escaping. Meanwhile Hawkeye and Black Widow are
tracking terrorists in Latveria. When they see what the terrorists are stealing
they call in the Avengers for back-up. Hawkeye and Widow manage to hijack the
terrorists’ jeep they loaded the item on when Taurus attacks. Thor and Iron Man
arrive to assist but Taurus defeats them both in physical combat.

Chapter 2 – In flashback we see a mysterious benefactor task
the Zodiac with recovering items of power off the Earth in return for power
upgrades. In the present Hulk arrives at Avengers Tower
and asks Jarvis to get Cap. In Latveria, Taurus gloats over defeating Thor
giving Iron Man and Hawkeye a chance to go on offense. They manage to force him
to retreat and then when Thor recovers he sees the mystery object and even he
is shocked by it. The four heroes meet up with Cap and Hulk on the Hellicarrier
and compare notes, deciding the water elemental was Aquarius. We also learn
that Hawkeye and Widow recovered the Ultimate Nullifier prompting Cap to decide
the stakes are so high that the mission should be classified to the six in this
room. And then the entire 12 members of the Zodiac attack the Hellicarrier.

Chapter 3 – The Avengers try to hold the Zodiac off so Widow
can escape with the Nullifier. She is pursued by Aquarius. Tony tries to bribe
the Zodiac into leaving in a funny moment. The fight gets more intense with
some of the villains throwing jets on the Hellicarrier at Thor, until Hulk gets
his mad on and finally manages to defeat one of them. This causes his power to
flow off into space and Tony is able to analyze it. He then builds a jamming
device which reverts the Zodiac to human. The Avengers attempt to question them
when Thanos arrives promising to destroy the Earth.

Chapter 4 – In one of the cooler moments Tony immediately
broadcasts an emergency signal to the White House as the Avengers have
instituted a planet-wide We’re f*ck*d contingency in case Thanos ever comes to
Earth. Thanos possesses the Hulk and sics him on Thor. Hawkeye manages to take
Hulk down with an exploding arrow to the mouth but then Thanos repowers up the
Zodiac at which point the President blows up the Hellicarrier in mid-air.
Apparently Tony has a force field now that can surround the entire team to save
them. The explosion also distances them from Thanos so Hulk is freed of his
control. Cap interrogates the one of the now-Human powerless Zodiac members as
we learn none of them were anything special before Thanos found them; their
mission was to gather objects of power for Thanos and in return he would give
them power to rule the Earth. The Avengers wonder why Thanos would need lackeys
(although he’s used lackeys plenty of times in the past including in his
earliest appearances), at which point the Guardians of the Galaxy show up
offering to help.

Chapter 5 – We see a flashback to a few days ago where the
Guardians were fighting the Badoon on some alien world, and after winning and
interrogating prisoners learned the Badoon were in league with Thanos and that
Thanos had designs on the Earth. The Guardians think Thanos may be after the
Infinity Gems but Cap and Iron Man dismiss that, and Gamora confirms it is not
the Gems in a cool bit of logic. Meanwhile Hawkeye and Widow make out in the
med lab. The Guardians inform the Avengers that the galactic council has deemed
Earth off-limits which is allegedly why Thanos was using lackeys instead of
attacking outright as the lackeys are a loop-hole to that ruling; as if Thanos
would ever care about galactic law (although Gamora suggests that’s exactly why
Thanos is interested in Earth again). Cap and Hulk then question the military
to learn what the Zodiac took for Thanos in chapter 1 and it is a new Cosmic
Cube designed by the U.S.
military. Realizing Thanos has the Cube the Avengers and Guardians head off
into space to find him.

Chapter 6 – Maria Hill briefs the New Avengers, Secret
Avengers and FF on the events of the last few issues and Reed is tasked with
coming up with a line of defense in case the Avengers and Guardians fail. In space
we see Thanos promise the Badoon an empire larger than the Kree and Skrull if
they eliminate the Avengers for him. Shortly thereafter the Badoon fleet
intercepts the Avengers and Guardians. Thor and Iron Man breech the mother ship
followed by the Guardians and just as the Badoon seem like they are about to
defeat Thor, Iron Man’s armor explodes to reveal Hulk inside as Banner was
piloting it as a “Trojan Hulk” ruse. The other Avengers except Widow follow
inside, when the Badoon blow the airlocks sweeping all the heroes sans
astronaut gear into Outer Space. Meanwhile Thanos successfully activates the
Cosmic Cube.

Chapter 7 – Thanos summons the Elders of the Universe,
Stranger and Inbetweener to him and then obliterates them with the Cube,
however the Cube energy then begins to spike out of Thanos’ control. Back in
space Widow gets a space suit and retrieves the other heroes though Tony and
Clint are not doing particularly well from space exposure. Thor is unaffected
by space and continues to attack Badoon ships, while Star Lord has his old
element gun and uses it take on a raiding party of Badoon foot soldiers. Hulk
joins Thor in the fight while Rocket uses undefined space technology to bring
Clint and Tony back from the brink of death. Thor manages to rupture the warp core
of the Badoon Mother Ship and then the Guardians leap to hyperspace to make
good the heroes’ escape; only for the heroes to be confronted by Thanos, who
has once again shed his physical form though this time the Cosmic Cube seems to
be the heart of his universal energy form.

Chapter 8 – Thor tries to fight Cube Thanos, while Tony
analyzes him and learns the Army was not able to build a true Cosmic Cube but
rather a “dark matter energy conduit” in a cube shape. Cube Thanos disintegrates
the Avengers. On Earth Reed and the President prepare for the worst. The
Avengers and Guardians discover they are not dead but have instead been
transported to the Cancerverse from Realm
of Kings.
They also find the Elders of the Universe are here as well and
form an alliance with them. Cube Thanos arrives on Earth and Reed plans to use
the Ultimate Nullifier to stop him when the Avengers arrive on the scene. Thor
uses some weapon Collector gave him to shatter the Cube, which returns Thanos
to normal at which point the heroes of Earth lay the smack down on him and turn
him over to the Elders for imprisonment. In the epilogue the Guardians invite
Iron Man to join their team, while the Badoon declare war on Earth for what the
Avengers did to their mother ship a few chapters back.

 
 Critical Thoughts: I liked the story’s momentum but it is flawed,
as most Bendis stories are. If you look at this as a story designed to appeal
to casual fans that saw the movie and want to see this cast in another
adventure with aliens it succeeds admirably. However, if you know anything
about Marvel continuity this story makes little to no sense.

We’ll start with the Elders power levels being way off.
Other than Grandmaster none of them have ever been shown able to manipulate cosmic
energy on their own; and even he wouldn’t be part of the cosmic pantheon with
the Stranger or Inbetweener. As we saw in Thanos
Quest
Thanos is more than capable enough of handling these characters at
his base power level. Let me also add Thanos should clearly know the difference
between a real Cosmic Cube and an imitation at this point. Groot’s power level
also seems off as he seems to be a peer to Hulk and Thor in the final battle,
and while he is a powerhouse he is still made of wood and nowhere near the
league of upper cosmic level threats like Thanos or Magus as the last Guardians series made clear.

Speaking of which there are several characters who died in
the last Guardian series who are back
alive with absolutely no explanation. Most notably Star Lord, who is human and
if you are going to resurrect him you need to explain how. Thanos, Drax and the
Cancerverse were all dead as well when last we saw them. At one point Star Lord
is asked point blank how he escaped the Cancerverse (a key plot point since it
was permanently sealed and then collapsed in upon itself when last we saw it)
and Bendis just has him stare at the Avengers blankly instead of providing an
explanation. It also seems to imply that the Guardians work for the Galactic
Council now, which isn’t a bad idea, but is a change in the status quo of their
last series (and this begs the question of what happened to the Annihilators).
I can live with a revolving door to death in comics but at least give the
reader the courtesy of an explanation when you use that door.

Reed’s plan to use the Nullifier also seems ill-advised
since we’ve seen in the past the Cosmic Cube trumps the Nullifier (Infinity War) and that using the
Nullifier can cause planet-sized collateral damage (late 90s issues of Silver Surfer involving Morg and
Tyrant); although I guess we can assume Reed’s intellect is such he could
contain the collateral damage.

We also have the whole Avengers blown into space scene which
makes little sense. Cap is shown to be barely harmed by the vacuum of space,
which Bendis attributes to super soldier serum—showing yet again that Bendis
fundamentally misunderstands what the Super Soldier Serum actually does. This
even more bizarre in that a fully armored Iron Man is nearly killed by the
vacuum of space, when I’ve seen Tony in space in numerous other stories. Tony
also claims at one point the Avengers are not prepared to deal with cosmic
threats; but I think Korvac, Nebula, the Elders of the Universe, the Kree and
the Skrull would all beg to differ. Plus this team of Avengers dwarfs the
Guardians in raw power.

I’d also add the Hawkeye & Widow makeout scene is
completely arbitrary. I guess it is supposed to be a nod to the pseudo romantic
tension between the two in the movie, but it has no story value at all here.

On the positive front I really liked the idea that the
Avengers and the President have a cosmic level protocol specifically for
Thanos. I also liked the presentation of Gamroa’s character a lot, particularly
the use of her history as Thanos’ foster daughter. For the future the use of
the Badoon could be interesting, as DnA were clearly building to a major event
with them during the entire run.

Also Mark Bagley’s art is fabulous with lots of beautiful splash pages. And he draws a heck of Thanos,

 

Grade: B-. A
pretty fun story if you don’t mind the cosmic continuity gaps.

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Doomsday, Avengers movie & FCBD

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Superman: Return of Doomsday
by James Robinson, Jeff Lemire, Dan Didio and Steve Lyons.
Collects Steel #1, Outsiders #37, JLA #55, Superman/Batman Annual #5 & Superboy #6.
Special Bonus Content: Avengers the movie – So before getting to the review I wanted to weigh in on the Avengers movie. The short review: it’s awesome in all the right ways paying off the anticipation of the five-year wait since Iron Man and Hulk came out in the same summer and we were promised a future Avengers film.
As a lifelong fan of the Avengers comics there was so much to love here. Yea there’s the obvious notes like Cap taking command of the battlefield or Black Widow’s scene with Loki (or really Loki’s entire performance) or the various Hulk jokes at the end—and those things are indeed all fabulous highlights. But I just love that this film exists. After years of super hero movies that had to explain every departure from the ordinary (and rightfully so when you are trying to appeal to a broader audience) you have this film that fully accepts the world these characters live in because it’s already had a five film build-up for audiences to get used to anything goes here. And so we have things I’d never thought I’d see in a movie like Project Pegasus and the Helicarrier and that wonderful post credit scene. And that makes me truly happy. The only thing that could have made me happier was if in Project Pegasus we had a five-second cameo by SHIELD Agent Wendell Vaughn.
If I had to make any type of criticism it’s that I don’t think the new Banner is as nearly as good as Edward Norton, but that’s a minor thing since Hulk isn’t the character I care about in an Avengers film anyway; as a comic fan when I hear Avengers I think Cap-Thor-Iron Man-Hawkeye in that order and those four characters are perfectly cast in this film and given plenty of moments to shine. I particularly loved Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who is my second favorite Avenger after Cap in the comics. He brings the awesome six ways from Sunday in this film, so much so that I’d love to see him get a spin-off movie.
Is it the best comic book movie ever made? Probably not. Spider-man 2 set that bar impossibly high to where I’d arguably consider it the best of movie of the last decade period. But Avengers is still amazing and worthy of being in the conversation. It works as both a big summer action film (particularly those alien invasion scenes at the end) and as a comic fanboy dream come true and I will be seeing it in theaters again.
Bonus Content 2 – Free Comic Book Day: So I’m lucky enough to live in an area where I have easy access to three different comic shops. I visited all of them Saturday, grabbing about five free books from each shop while also shopping local at each (grabbing trades on cosmic Marvel, Dr. Doom, Psylocke, the Avengers, Heroes for Hire and a Batman/Tarzan team-up so expect reviews on all of that in the next few months.) I’ve read about half the free stuff. Here’s quick one sentence reviews: The New 52 isn’t a comic book so much as a bunch of preview pages and nothing previewed here looks like something I’d want to buy. Finding Gossamyr I grabbed on a whim because of the gorgeous cover and I found I liked what was inside both visually and as set-up for a larger story—this has a good chance of being a future trade in my collection. The Image 20 sampler has the same problem as the DC one, you’re seeing too little of these stories to be grabbed or to feel like you read a story; there’s some more intriguing ideas here than in DC but it’s doubtful I’d follow-up with any of these titles. Hypernaturals was one of the first three books I grabbed because of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s names above the cover. The story was okay, it’s hard to get invested in a new universe off the bat but it’s a decent set-up issue. DnA are my favorite writers currently working in comics so there’s a decent chance I will buy a trade of anything they write eventually. Witchblade was one of my last pick-ups as I’ve never read the character at all before, but as I know she’s a cornerstone of the Image universe I figured why not give her a try. The story was well written and I can see why people would like her, but it’s just not by cup of tea. Voltron was a nice blast from the past. I really liked the art a lot. The story was a little on the simple-side but then again it is an adaptation of children’s cartoon. Still a decent enough set-up that I’ll probably pick-up a trade of this if it hits the discount bin. Avengers: Day of Ultron was also a good set-up story. Perhaps because I’m still high on the Avengers movie I found I didn’t hate Bendis’s writing as much as I usually do in this. If you’re going to insist on basically every active hero in the Marvel Universe being an Avenger, I liked that Cap picked out a specialized team for this mission. I thought the villains were treated shabbily but that happens in every Bendis story unless the villain is Osborn or the Hood. Ultron is a long-standing favorite of mine so there’s a decent chance I’ll grab this story in trade one day.
I still have to read Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, Spider-man Season One, Superman Family, Buffy, Serenity, Mega-Man and some random book with a robot and velociraptor on the cover.
And now without further ado, the Doomsday review
Why I bought this: I read the whole Reign of Superman arc in the 90s and found it to be quite enjoyable. This is a follow-up to that with a fun high-concept premise: Doomsday decides to track down the four imposter supermen from that arc and kill them.
The Plot: Like most Doomsday stories it’s basically just a series of fight scenes as Doomsday tracks down the four imposter supermen and Supergirl with little motivation given beyond his destructive tendencies and hatred of all things Kryptonian. Spoilers ahoy:
Chapter 1 – Doomsday returns to Metropolis and the site where he killed Superman years ago. Steel–the least of the four supermen as he has no powers, he’s just a construction worker with a suit of armor with construction-themed weapons like a sledgehammer and rivet gun—arrives and tries to occupy Doomsday while civilians in the area evacuate. In a twist Doomsday evolves and begins to fly in order to go after Steel, who was trying to keep his distance in the fight. Steel infects Doomsday with paralyzing nanobytes designed specifically to stop him but Doomsday evolves free of them in seconds and then pummels Steel nearly to death and flies off with his body leaving a tattered cape in the wind just like when Superman died at his hands.
Chapter 2 – The Eradicator—an artificial Kryptonian being that shoots have flame from his hands and has no qualms about killing in the fashion of many a grim & gritty 90s hero—has taken over some fictional country. His allies in the Outsiders, who I never seen in a comic before and know nothing about other than they once had a book with Batman, are talking to him about whatever he is doing in said fictional country when Doomsday attacks. Several Outsiders having energy project powers but they all bounce off Doomsday and he tears through them as well as some chick with a magic sword on their team. Then Achilles of Greek myth goes toe to toe with Doomsday and hurts him but ultimately Doomsday beats him down too. Finally Eradicator and some dude who can pull power from the Earth itself try to fight him but Doomsday evolves again so that he too has energy projection powers and he zaps earth dude and then impales Eradicator with his bone spikes and teleports away with the body, which is another new power for him.
Chapter 3 – Some members of the JLA who include Jade and a bunch of characters I don’t know are dealing with an invasion of some alien city by magical creatures, this part of the story doesn’t involve Doomsday so we’ll skip it. Meanwhile out in space Supergirl, who is apparently Superman’s Kryptonian cousin that died back in Crisis and not the alien that had the combined powers of Mystique and the Invisible Woman back in Reign of the Supermen, is out in space with a female Green Lantern and Nightwing in the role of Batman piloting the Bat-Wing when Doomsday attacks. He wounds the Lantern and destroys the Batwing in two panels. The JLA send Star-Man and a Blue Lantern as reinforcements but again energy projection powers have little effect on Doomsday so Grayson teleports the Lantern and Supergirl to the JLA Satellite and in a really cool scene Doomsday flies so fast he breaks through the wall just as they arrive in the teleporter, at which point Cyborg Superman emerges from the Lantern’s back-pack.
Chapter 4 – Cyborg—the most powerful of the imposters and a villain himself who can mentally control technology, evolve his own cyborg parts into weapons, and regenerate from surrounding metal plus has some Kryptonian DNA for strength, flight and invulnerability—takes control the JLA satellite locking Star-Man and the Blue Lantern out and turning its weapons against Doomsday, Supergirl and Grayson while also attacking Doomsday head-on. Suddenly Supergirl gets sick and Grayson takes her to the med-lab where she is dying from guilt based on some prior Superman New Krypton crossover. While she’s being treated, Grayson tries to lead the fight away from her and the two villains are causing a lot of destruction in their wake. Cyborg loses an arm but eventually uses tech-enhanced heat vision to kill Doomsday by disintegrating a third of his body. Then in the book’s best scene both in visuals and writing (this story is partially narrated by Cyborg) Doomsday evolves unexpectedly into a cyborg himself and returns from the dead. Things start going badly for Cyborg and Grayson, while Supergirl cures herself through forgiveness in a bit of heavy-handed melodrama. She arrives to save the day and is on the verge of defeating Doomsday when Cyborg attacks her from behind and then Doomsday uses the distraction to KO her. He finishes Cyborg and teleports away with both of them.   
Chapter 5 – Superboy is flying over Detroit when Doomsday attacks from above. It’s a pretty one-sided fight since Superboy’s strength levels are closer to Spider-man than Superman. Superboy tries to keep some distance using his limited telekinesis but Doomsday evolves that power too and drops a building on him. Out on his feet Superboy uses a full-power heat vision blast and it doesn’t even phase Doomsday who then pummels him, possibly to death, and takes the body leaving Superboy’s black S-Shield behind, which was the cover of the Death of Superman polybag 20-years ago.
And that’s the end, we’re told to read more in the Reign of Doomsday trade for the conclusion.
Critical Thoughts: Well it’s always weird to see a trade paperback with a to-be-continued ending. That aside I enjoyed this story for what it is. It is exactly what you’d expect from a story that’s plot is Doomsday tracks down the four imposter Supermen one at a time. These are not the characters you read about for emotional nuance; so in terms of 90s nostalgia with big fight scenes this book delivered.
The Superboy fight is probably the weakest chapter just because of the four fake supermen only Steel is weaker so he probably should have been chapter two and let the book end on Doomsday defeating Cyborg and Supergirl since that’s the real main event with the only characters that could be a threat to him (and plus the JLA are involved so really once they all lose what can Superboy possibly do). Both the Eradicator and Steel fights have cool moments, with the writing in Steel being strong as well in-terms of showing the protagonist’s bravery in a hopeless fight as he tries to protect civilians. I would say the Outsiders chapter is a little weak in that I still don’t know who half those people are or what their powers are even after reading them in a fight scene (conversely I’ve never seen Starman or Blue Lantern but after their chapter I know what their power are so it isn’t really that hard to make that clear to a new reader). It’s funny the best and worst writing is in the same chapter: as the stuff narrated by Cyborg in chapter four is fabulous and the fight is also really fantastic but Supergirl’s death angst is just ridiculously overwrought nonsense.
Grade B. I knew what kind of story I wanted this to be when I bought and for the most part it was exactly that. I fully intend to pick-up the sequel to see the conclusion one day.