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Waiting for the Trade - Avengers Assemble

By Bill Miller

Marvel Adventures: Black Widow and the Avengers
by Paul Tobin
Collects Marvel Adventures Super Heroes 17 – 21.

Why I Bought This: There is no comic franchise I love more than the Avengers. The impending movie has my anticipation building to a full on geek-gasm. I stumbled upon this on Amazon at just $4 (and that includes shipping costs) and was like Hell Yeah I’m up for some Avengers stories I haven’t read before the movie comes out. Plus the description promised Diablo and he’s actually my favorite FF villain so I’m more than happy to see him switch foes since I like the Avengers a lot more than the FF.

The Plot: Marvel Adventures is a different continuity in an “all ages” format. This is the story of the Avengers coming together in a new continuity. While I know some people don’t care for stories outside the main Marvel continuity (and to an extent I understand that as I can’t be bothered mustering the effort to care about the Ultimate universe); I think once you start reading only trades it really doesn’t make much difference. After all look at the stories I’ve reviewed since starting this column: My first review was Brand New Day Spidey and two books later I was back to married Spidey; a week ago I had Galactus fighting Thor in the modern-era, yesterday I had him fighting the FF in the 80s. The point is you bounce back and forth through time often enough you begin not take care so much about when the stories take place versus just whether it’s a good story or not. And once you cross the bridge of not caring about when so much, it’s a short jump to not caring about which universe it’s in either. Plus let’s be honest continuity gets reset every 15 years or so anyway so what difference does it make?

So onto the story at hand: (spoilers ahead)

Chapter 1 – Cap, Iron Man and Thor are working together on a case but are not yet a team. They arrive in Iowa where a small town was devastated by a mass rage incident. In checking out cell phone videos they discover both the Invisible Woman and Diablo (for those who don’t know he’s an evil alchemist with his three primary powers being control of the four Greek elements, potions that transmute inorganic matter such as lead to gold, and immortality thank to the Elixir Vitale) were both present before it all went crazy. They find Sue buried under-wreckage but she is still under the rage-spell and attacks the heroes doing quite well and even neutralizing Thor until Cap takes her down with some strategy because Cap is awesome like that. Sue reveals an alien life-form caused the chaos and we see the not-yet-Avengers along with Reed Richards investigating several leads in a series of well-written mystery scenes such as Androids and Diablo. The Vision gets involved in the investigation and ultimately Diablo is proved to be innocent, instead it is an artificial construct that Thor banishes to another dimension before its origins are uncovered.

Chapter 2 – Nova (who in this reality is either a teenager or early college age and still new to the superhero biz) is in Scotland with his brother and a group paranormal researchers looking into poltergeist-like phenomena that seems to cause an emotional response and gets attacked in the woods by a creature that looks like a satyr but they say is the ghost of a giant. The five not-yet-Avengers arrive to see if this is related to the incidents from last chapter and they run into Black Widow doing her spy thing. The ghost remanifests and the seven heroes unite to vanquish it with Thor doing the heavy lifting since it is a mystic threat and in the end they decide to form the Avengers. So your Avengers are Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Vision, Invisible Woman, Nova and Black Widow.

Chapter 3 – Iron Man sets the team up with a mansion when Plant Man arrives seeking asylum because Silver Surfer is after him and seems to be possessed by an uncontrollable rage. Vision is off with Diablo again, but everyone else is present when Surfer arrives and we then get an epic fight scene. Seriously, this is one the best choreographed fights I’ve seen in years. Anyway the Avengers are losing the battle because let’s face it Surfer is arguably Marvel’s most powerful hero when Vision arrives with one of Diablo’s potions and manages to cure the Surfer.

Chapter 4 – We start 'in media res' as the Avengers are battling Diablo and it’s another really good fight scene with him trashing Iron Man thoroughly and sticking some elementals on the rest of the team including an earth elemental that absorbs an entire building as it goes toe to toe with Thor. The fight is interspersed with flashbacks and we see Diablo has fallen into despair and madness. Vision manages to track him down and talk Diablo to his senses before he can kill Iron Man as Diablo realizes the demon D’Spayre is the cause of this and uses his magic to banish the demon.

Chapter 5 – Another story told parallel in action and flashback, Nova gets put in charge of duty roster assignments for a day and has to handle twin problems of a mystic crisis in Hawaii involving obscure titans and goddesses and a closer to home problem with two World War II era heroes that I’ve never heard of seeking help in preventing one of them from becoming a proto-Hulk creature. Anyway this is more a character piece on Nova with a bit of humor tossed in with the threats as window dressing (hence why they’re all so obscure no doubt) so we’ll leave it at that.

Critical Thoughts – I loved this book. This is exactly what an Avengers story should be: big battles with big stakes interspersed with interesting character interactions. I know some people may shy away from this because it’s “all ages” and thus may think that means dumbed-down but they’d be wrong. Heck, the best writers in Marvel history wrote in a time when all comics were meant to be appropriate for younger audience and that never stopped them from creating the stories we rightfully consider classics today.

While I wouldn’t call this a classic, there is some damn good writing here. The investigation in chapter 1 is very compelling. The fight scenes in chapters three and four are awesome; and Nova’s reaction to the idea of even trying to fight the Surfer is well-written and adds to the anticipation for when he does arrive. But also there are really nice character interactions here. Some examples: In this reality Sue is not yet married to Reed and Cap begins to fall for her, and it’s well-written and you want to see how it plays out. Black Widow has joined the team just to spy on them for Reed, which is another intriguing plot twist; at the same time she has a nice comedic chemistry with Nova as she’s the jaded all business spy and he’s the “oh wow” noob—his reaction the new headquarters in chapter three is laugh-out-loud funny. The friendship between Vision and Diablo is well done. Here are two characters that have little in common: one is a hero, one is a villain; one is the science of the future, one is the magic of the past; and yet the writing shows where they have common ground and can find respect for each other. I don’t know who Paul Tobin is, but based on this I’ll be looking for more of his stuff and the main Avengers title would be blessed to have him.

Also this writer gets Cap. And that to me is one of the most important things an Avenger story needs to do to be a success.

Grade A. I don’t what more I can add to my thoughts above. Good writing, good characterizations, great fight scenes focused on characters that I enjoy from the Avengers themselves to Surfer to Diablo. That’s an easy A on every front.


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  2. "There
    is no comic franchise I love more than the Avengers. The impending
    movie has my anticipation building to a full on geek-gasm."

    Having seen the movie yesterday, I will say that this movie will BLOW YOUR MIND. The final battle defies description, and is unlike anything you've ever seen in superhero cinema. The audience reactions (especially to the Hulk) is comparable to Taker/Shawn or Taker/HHH

  3. Great review as always Bill. I probably would have passed it because it was all ages but you are correct that comics were all ages for more years then they have been otherwise. I'm also putting some focus on The Avengers in my posts in anticipation of the movie. Always enjoy your reviews, but did not read the FF one because I plan on getting that one, one of these days and want to be surprised. I did see you gave it a good grade so at least I know I will enjoy it.


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