Thursday, January 31, 2008

Avengers Assemble! Assemble! Assemble!

In a freak occurance rivaling an obscure astronomical alignment, we received not one, not two, but three Avengers books in a single week! But which Avengers book should I really be reading, and which one is just another excuse to kill a tree? Good question. Let's take a look at them and find out.

In this year's New Avengers Annual, we're treated to a super-villain gang-up which almost rivals the invasion of Avengers Mansion by the Masters of Evil in the excellent Under Siege story. The only thing that holds this one back is that despite having even more and bigger bruisers than Baron Zemo, The Hood's gang is trounced in a single issue by Dr. Strange. Ouch. Still, it's nice to see this particular team fight something instead of bicker over who's acting 'Skrully'. But it's still a bit unclear when this story falls. Spider-Man's still wearing his black suit, so I guess it's pre-One-More-Day. Too bad Mephisto's spell couldn't fix Marvel's shipping schedule.

And who can make fun of an Avengers book's shipping schedule without a good belly-laugh at The Mighty Avengers. While it's certainly not as late as the legendary All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, it's still worth noting that this issue ties in with an issue of the New Avengers that I bought over three months ago. If it were my call, I might have dropped this issue, and just tried to pull a bit closer to getting this book on track. But I guess the fun of seeing a massive Wasp-symbiote beating on the Avengers is fun... and it's nowhere near as decompressed as so many of Bendis' other Avengers titles. It's still probably the weakest of the week in my book though, since the New Avengers Annual's carnage is a bit more satisfying.

Which leaves the big A for Avengers: The Initiative - a book that has yet to disappoint me. I've read other folks commenting on the fact that new characters are such a difficult proposition for the big two comic publishers in a market where people want Spider-Man three times a month, and where Batman appears in no fewer than three books of his own. Matt Fraction's The Order is an example of an extraordinary book comprised almost entirely of new characters that's just been flushed. The Initiative is another title that's chock full of characters, many of whom haven't existed for a year and if you'll allow me the pun... it's a Marvel. Start with a bunch of fresh faces, looking to be the next Avengers, add in a bunch of super-powered trainers (with an excellent nod to Taskmaster as the current drill seargent) and top it all off with Henry Peter Gyrich's paranoid layers of conspiracy and you've got enough content for years. What's better, it's written by Dan Slott, who is one of the writers who seems to have the firmest grasp on the concept that people read comic books for fun. Hands down, it's your best Avengers book despite the fact that most of the front-line Avengers fail to put in any kind of appearance. It's always one of the first books I reach for when I've got it.

So that's a Triple-A Wednesday. Now I'm off to get some sleep.

What did you expect me to talk about, the New Captain America?

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