We try to stay up on what’s going on at Marvel, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of Marvel Comics. Today, we’re discussing Avengers 1, Death of X 3 and Moon Knight 3. And come back on Friday for our discussion of Unworthy Thor 1, on Tuesday for our discussion of Occupy Avengers 1, and on Wednesday for our discussion of Spider-Woman 13! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: Mark Waid and Mike del Mundo’s Avengers 1 begins a new chapter in the life of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and thus finds the team adjusting to a new roster and headquarters. I hadn’t checked in on Waid’s All-New All-Different Avengers since issue 6 because I found it somewhat dull and perfunctory, but Wasp and especially Spider-Man bring some welcome sparks to this new volume. Wasp has got personality to spare, and Waid writes a spot-on Spider-Man; he consistently brings the laughs throughout this entire issue.
In just about every other way, though, Avengers 1 doesn’t veer far from the style Waid established in ANAD; even the villains and their scheme stem directly from a long-running ANAD storyline. Avengers is still a throwback to Silver and Bronze-age stories. In some ways that’s good — there’s a nice balance of character and plot, of downtime and action, and it moves along at a brisk pace — but in other ways it’s frustrating: there’s a few pages of nothing but exposition, and a few of the characters (especially the villains) feel shallow. The writing has definitely improved since the early days of ANAD, but I don’t think there’s enough here in terms of story to win back any fans who didn’t enjoy that volume.
What makes Avengers 1 absolutely worth checking out, then, is del Mundo’s art. It almost goes without saying after Elektra and Weirdworld, but del Mundo is phenomenal. There’s real depth to his work; del Mundo brings literal depth to his art by blurring some items in the foreground or background, imitating human vision and creating multiple plains of perspective to enjoy. Waid plays to del Mundo’s strengths, providing otherworldly creatures and grand technological creations for del Mundo to bring to vivid life. Del Mundo is clearly having fun depicting time travel, breaking away from most standard layouts on those pages, and thus making even the most exposition-ridden pages of this issue sing visually.
My favorite technique of del Mundo’s this month, though, is how he depicts motion, especially when it comes to projectiles. There aren’t just speed lines following Cap’s shield or Mjolnir; the weapon themselves blur as they pick up speed and power. I’d check out just about any title if del Mundo was doing the art, and his work in Avengers 1 doesn’t disappoint.
Death of X 3
Patrick: The problem with setting the X-Men against another group — be they Avengers or be they Inhumans — is that “X-Man” means so many different things to so many different people. Last time, I mentioned how versatile the mutant metaphor is, making these characters perfect analogues for any number of societal issues. But the fact remains that, within the stories, they’re not just a diverse set of metaphors but a diverse set of conflicting philosophies and power structures. The Inhumans have their PR game on-point, and everyone’s towing Medusa’s company line. The poor X-Men don’t have a line nearly so straight.
The leadership of the mutants is starting to be severely fractured here, and all the most powerful parties are just getting angrier. Storm wakes up from Downer’s night-night knockout, justifiably pissed off that the Inhumans knocked her own guys out of the sky. She represents the most measured response to the Inhumans, and even she’s at her breaking point. But it’s most fascinating to see the difference in the way Magneto and Old Evil Scott approach this conflict. Writers Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire are careful to give us the connective tissue of Emma Frost’s conversation with Magneto, assuring the reader that both he and Cyclops have the same ultimate goal. The tenor of their rhetoric, however, couldn’t be more different. Erik is literally all threats — a revolutionary from a time where revolution required huge displays of strength and intimidation. Of course, Mangeto’s an old pro at this, and artists Aaron Kuder turns him into a one-man invading armada.
Kuder even has some fun with perspective here, placing the vanishing point of this panel below Erik’s feet. Your eye is drawn to the middle of the page, and then you have to look up to see the threat. Awesome. (Editor’s note: Kuder pointed out that this page was drawn by Javier Garrón. Apologies for the mis-crediting!)
OE Scott, meanwhile, is scheming. He’s collected the mutant Alchemy and presumably has a plan to attack the Terrigen cloud itself. Scott’s call to action isn’t about fighting the other, it’s about elevating the group you are a part of. He doesn’t threaten or coerce Alchemy, in fact he takes every opportunity to be as transparent with him as possible. It is important that Alchemy choose his own role in this — that of an X-man.
By comparison, the Inhuman elements take kind of a backseat here. Downer picks a name — a dumb name, I might add — but there’s not much else that develops in their camp. I suppose I’m letting my knowledge of the credits color my expectations for the series; this is a Soule / Lemire joint venture, so I had assumed equal representation from both groups. Silly Patrick, this is the Death of X.
Moon Knight 8
Drew: This American Life recently did an episode focusing on how facts fit in to this year’s election — at a time where we all curate and cherry-pick whatever facts we believe to be true. It’s a disturbing episode, revealing that we may all be living in our own personal realities. I suppose that we each perceive the world in our own way isn’t that much of a revelation, but the thought that those differences in perceptions build different worlds around us hadn’t really sunk in. It has damning implications for our ability to ever agree on anything again, but it also adds a layer of depth to the Marc Spector’s fracturing personalities in Moon Knight 8.
More than anything, the different personalities get to manifest as different realities rendered by different artists in what continues to be my favorite use of multiple artists on a single series. This issue continues to follow Francesco Francavilla’s Jake Lockley, Wilfredo Torres’s Steven Grant, James Stokoe’s Marc Spector as (potentially) one consciousness skips between their worlds. Writer Jeff Lemire adds several wrinkles to the provenance of these realities. Are they mere hallucinations of Jake’s, or is Steven confusing the film he’s directing (and the one filming next door) with reality? Further confusing things, artist Greg Smallwood returns with his own version of Marc Spector, who addresses all of our protagonists in one of Smallwood’s signature exclamation point layouts.
It works as an exclamation, sure, but this ending also serves as a huge question mark. I suppose the reality established in the first arc of this volume answers a question, but it also forces some deeper ones about the objective reality (inasmuch as one exists) about what’s actually going on here. Is Marc in a coma after his fall, and these realities have all just been part of one jumbled dream? Is he dead, but managed to distribute his consciousness across three different real people (albeit in apparently separate realities)? I’m not sure we have enough to predict anything, but the fact that it could be anything speaks to just how inventive this series has been — heck, I can’t even guess what the next issue will look like, let alone its plot points. That’s a level of uncertainty few series can achieve, and lends Moon Knight a thrill even beyond its many plot threads.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?