The Comic Book Club: Avengers and Legion of Super-Heroes

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: Graeme McMillan, Douglas Wolk, Mike Williams, Peter Ha and Lev Grossman end up talking about what we picked up. This week, we discuss the first issues of the new Avengers and Legion of Super-Heroes series.

GRAEME: Avengers #1: It’s Back To The Future II! “It’s your KIDS, Marty! Something’s got to be done about your kids!” It’s very pretty, though.

DOUGLAS: I suppose everyone who writes Avengers is entitled to do a Kang/Immortus story at some point–Bendis hasn’t done one yet, has he? I liked that last-page twist, too. I agree with Graeme that it’s pretty-looking, and I’m always happy to see Romita and Klaus Janson working together. But it also kind of looks like John Romita Jr. in rush-job mode (the same mode he was in when he drew Mighty Avengers #15, his previous collaboration with Bendis!)–half-assing the backgrounds, drawing very broad faces, etc. That is one awful cover, too. Thor’s face!

It’s too bad this issue doesn’t have a lot of the super-brute-force material that’s Romita and Janson’s strong point these days (that Thor/Kang scene aside). World War Hulk was my favorite thing they’ve done in the last few years, and a lot of that was because it was designed to be five straight issues of smashing.

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GRAEME: Re: Romita’s art looking rushed – Yeah, I think so too. I thought the same thing about his art (again with Janson) from the Free Comic Book Day book, as well. Maybe he just gets very loose with Janson?

LEV: Peter walked into my office and looked at Romita’s Hawkeye and snorted in disgust and said “what the hell is that?”

PETER: It’s true!

MIKE: Romita’s Hawkeye looks like every other character he draws. Now, his Spider-Woman…

GRAEME: This makes me sound a little like a crazy person, but I don’t think Romita draws attractive people at all. They all look a little stunned, scarred and blocky.

MIKE: Crazy person! Actually I think he draws a great Spidey.

DOUGLAS: I’m also surprised to see the “vox pops” gimmick on pp. 4-5: I figured that was a strategy Bendis reserved for Powers. Maybe not. (And doesn’t Tigra get to say anything, after all he put her through…?)

Can anybody who’s more up on Marvel lore than I am identify whose kids exactly the people on pg. 2 are supposed to be?

MIKE: The kids are “The Next Avengers”:

LEV: Some random impressions from the least comics-fluent club member: I fricking love a good Avengers yarn. They’re such a weird jumble of heroes, they bring out what’s best about the Marvel universe: that syncretic quality that smooshes together Norse myths, science fiction, teen romance, and nuclear-era allegory into one single lumpy continuity. It’s fun watching them try to keep the seams straight.

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And this is an… OK Avengers yarn so far. Love the cameo by Wonder Man — I think of him like the Vision and Martian Manhunter: a dude who fricking WON THE LOTTERY powers-wise. Strength, speed, invulnerability, immortality, freaky eyes – will someone please tell me what it is that dude can’t do?

Otherwise the whole ish was just exposition, right? But at least there was some poppy Whedonic dialogue. It’s funny the way the team is divided up into the unironic heroes (like Thor) and the heroes endowed with pop-culture selfawareness, who can do color commentary (Hawkeye: “THAT would be what it’s like to be on the Avengers with Thor”). I’ll admit it, I laughed out loud when Spidey followed up Kang’s huge expository monologue about the fate of the Earth with (beat): “What was the middle part again?”

And Iron Man and Steve “Top Cop” Rogers: JUST MAKE OUT ALREADY PLEASE.

GRAEME: Here’s my complete comic continuity nerdiness about Steve and Iron Man: Hasn’t Tony Stark just been rebooted to pre-Civil War consciousness in his own book? If so, then why does he keep talking about how he and Steve can’t get along and want to punch each other? Pre-Civil War, they were the best of friends, weren’t they? Did they fall out again between comics, in order to create some more tension?

DOUGLAS: Well, he does know what happened, and Steve remembers it all. Tony’s also been going on about how he really thinks he was in the right and would do it all again. (There’s a great scene in this week’s Iron Man where he explains that to Maria Hill, who just walks out on him.)

MIKE: I do not like time travel. It ranks just behind characters that can perfectly mimic others to cause confusion as my least favorite plot device. I couldn’t agree with Bucky more when he said that this isn’t our problem. We have this fresh new Marvel landscape that is post H.A.M.M.E.R. and we’re not even going to get into it? Sorry, America, going to the future. Bye.

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I never really got down with the Young Avengers, and apparently they have all been tapped to be Avengers now by Steve. Now I have to read about younger Young Avengers. From the future, ugh.

I am enjoying watching these characters interact. Spidey, especially, is giving great color commentary so far. Steve Rogers looks like an Austin Powers villain’s henchmen in that turtleneck get-up. Can’t we just put him in a slightly altered S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform?

GRAEME: As far as Legion #1, I have to ask: am I the only one underwhelmed? Maybe it’s because I have such love of the 1980s Levitz run that I had unrealistic expectations of this, but this really struck me as scattered in terms of writing and with art that was serviceable at best. Am I judging it too harshly?

MIKE: I was excited about this book because I have just about no Legion experience to speak of. I know a handful of the characters in this book (Brainy, Saturn), but that’s about it. Having said that, I really had no idea what was going on for most of these pages. I realized that I had perhaps bit off a bit more DC canon than I could chew. Still, the pacing seemed nice and quick, especially with all the Bendis I’ve been reading lately.

The art, on the other hand, turned me off. If we weren’t reviewing this book for the club this week I would have left it on the rack because of the art. As far as the book’s rendition of 31st century cities, I think it’s just another Coruscant clone. Flying car skylanes, every scene takes place on the 145th floor of a building, etc.

DOUGLAS: My biggest problem with LEGION #1 is that every Legion artist has the job of showing us what “1000 years in the future” looks like. Historically, that tends to look a lot like Tokyo 20 years from the date of publication, but it’s always been an excuse for artists to show off some kind of sense of futuristic design–the way Keith Giffen drew holograms and circuit-board-looking things everywhere (and retooled the look and flow of the book altogether for the “Five Years Later” period), Barry Kitson’s iMac-like blobjects, George Pérez’s landscapes jammed with centuries’ worth of detritus all stuffed in together, even Al Plastino’s innocent evocations of what looked gigantic from a 1958 perspective in the very first story. Cenar doesn’t give us that–parts of this issue look kind of received from bits of early Giffen-era Legion, or Gary Frank’s, but we really don’t get a visual sense of what kind of future we’re dealing with here. (Gary Frank was the first artist to draw the future Metropolis of the Johnsverse Legion–what Chris Sims just called the “deboot”–but Frank’s version was a kind of worn-down, decrepit version of Plastino’s, which fit the “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” story. There’s not even much of a sense of that here.)

Also, the big explosion just makes me wish Christopher Bird’s “I Should Write the Legion” campaign a couple of years ago had been successful: his Reason #2 is a much cleverer premise for a story.

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GRAEME: And then I end up re-reading all of Chris Bird’s Legion reasons again.

What didn’t work for me about the Legion art isn’t, actually, the lack of interesting surroundings, because (a) I tend not to notice that thing, because I am an idiot, and (b) I was too distracted by the characters, who seemed very flat and sterile, if that makes sense? There was something disappointingly generically “cartoony” about them, something that made me think of fill-ins from the 1980s, instead of anything contemporary. A lack of dynamism, perhaps? A lack of overly-glossy style?

DOUGLAS: The actual story this issue seemed perfectly OK. Not terrible, not thrilling; I was happy to see some of Levitz’s old supporting cast back in action, and I don’t think the “forced to accept a new member nobody’s happy about” plot has been done before. I was just hoping that it would answer the questions “why is Legion different from every other super-team comic book?” and “why is this Legion series different from every other, and meaningful in 2010?”

And of course everyone knows what happens when you set the Time-Watching-Scope for the beginning-of-all-things in the DCU, although I imagined that since the question of whose hand that is was answered in Final Crisis maybe they’d let that particular image rest for a little while longer. I gather from all the time-travel stuff this issue, as well as in The Return of Bruce Wayne, that there’s going to be a lot of that going on in the DCU leading up to and including “Flashpoint.”

Readers: tell us what you thought!

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