Spencer: When you read enough comics, you start to see certain repeated themes and styles emerge among various writers. Brian Michael Bendis is known for dialogue-heavy, somewhat decompressed comics. Kieron Gillen makes no attempt to hide his musical influences and knack for clever dialogue. Geoff Johns loves to rehabilitate long-forgotten or mishandled characters and concepts (and is also a bit infamous for cutting off his characters’ arms). Jonathan Hickman, meanwhile, is probably best known for his cerebral, somewhat detached style of writing that can spend years setting things up before finally letting all the dominos fall into place. With this week’s Avengers 39 we’re getting closer and closer to the end of Hickman’s Avengers epic, but the most interesting part of the issue is the commentary Hickman seems to be making on his own writing style. Continue reading
You can’t tell the players without a program!
Spencer: I actually bought a program at a ballgame once, and while it made a nice souvenir, I can’t say it helped me follow the game any better — if anything, it was a bit of a distraction. I didn’t need to be able to tell the players to follow the action on the field, but the same isn’t true for Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers epic; thankfully, Avengers 38 provides us with a pretty snazzy program of its own, free of charge!
While only the characters in color actually appear in this issue, almost all of them play some sort of role in its story, making me increasingly grateful for this handy run-down. Actually, in its own way all of Avengers 38 is a program; the issue sets up the players in the upcoming conflict between the various Avengers teams as well as their motivations, allegiances, and weapons, and I have a feeling we’re going to be referencing this issue for quite a while to come. It’s place-setting, but place-setting is rarely this entertaining. Continue reading
Spencer: Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers hasn’t exactly been a character-driven book; that’s not to say Hickman doesn’t have an excellent grasp on the various voices of his cast, but to say that this title is very much driven by the plot, with the characters often feeling like cogs in his Avengers machine. Starting with Avengers 35, though, the title skipped eight months into the future; catching us up to the activities of the various Avengers in this new setting has given Hickman a chance to refocus on his characters, as well as on some of the many plot points that have fallen to the wayside in the last nine months or so. Avengers can sometimes be a hard book to love, but issue 36 continues the return of the kind of storytelling that made me pick up this book in the first place.
Today, Spencer and Ethan are discussing Avengers 23, originally released November 20th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Spencer: Guys, I’m just gonna be frank with you; I’m getting kind of tired of Infinity. I thought it started out great, with immense threats, exciting action, a fun war-story vibe and a colorful cast of alien supporting characters who were fleshed out just enough so that the scenes featuring them weren’t boring, but Infinity never really broke away from or added any depth to that formula, and after over ten issues of it, I’m thoroughly tired of this interstellar war-story. Maybe writer Jonathan Hickman is too; it would explain why this issue of Avengers feels so pointless. Or maybe he just thinks that the infiltration of the Peak is important enough to devote two whole issues to; unfortunately for us, it’s not. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Avengers Assemble 19, originally released September 25th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Patrick: The Avengers is a fairly masculine construct. I recognize that most superhero teams are, but this one in particular makes you really look for the contributing female members. On a team that just recently exploded to include over 20 members, there are five women in group, two of which are bizarrely abstract concepts (Abyss, the Universe). They don’t perceive the world or act like human beings, let alone as human women. That leaves Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Spider-Woman – none of whom have gotten much attention in the main Infinity series or either of the flagship tie-ins. Kelly Sue DeConnick has been tasked with injecting a little feminine energy into the saga. Unfortunately, she’s made to retread the same events endlessly, and ground the same emotional beats into a fine paste for easy digestion. Well, Infinity fans, open up: we’ve got a piping hot serving of emotional paste for you… I just can’t promise that it’s fresh.
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Infinity 3, originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Spencer: Infinity and its tie-ins have been dripping with ego and machismo. Between the Builders, the Illuminati, Thanos, J-Son, the Galactic Council, and even some of the Avengers, there have been a lot of big words and threats thrown around, and almost all of them are strong enough to back up their words with actions (except for J-Son, of course). This isn’t necessarily a complaint; some of the coolest moments of Infinity (such as the spree of sick burns in last week’s Avengers or the Skrulls’ touching suicide mission) have sprung from this kind of machismo. It’s exciting, but in this week’s issue, writer Jonathan Hickman flips our perspective a bit, reminding us of why we probably started reading comics in the first place: its always more fun to root for the underdog.
Today, you and Patrick are discussing Thunderbolts 14, originally released August 21st, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Patrick: You might have guessed this from the name, but “Infinity” is a pretty big story. Not just in terms of page count (though, it should be pretty astonishing in that regard), but in terms of scope. It’s already taken two dozen Avengers into deep space for some interstellar warfare, and there’s still the yet-unexplored threat of Thanos invading Earth. Jonathan Hickman was said to have been setting up Infinity in his Avengers and New Avengers series – which he…. sorta did. Most of what those series accomplish — in terms of setting up this event — is that they introduce the relevant superhero teams. Each team battles its own cataclysmic threats, only to be cut short when the main aggressors of Infinity entered the fray. Issue 14 of Thunderbolts is this concept in miniature: complete with team introductions and a mission cut short by alien invaders.
Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing Avengers Assemble 18, originally released August 21st, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Ethan: Ever since the birth of the film industry, it’s been a race for the technology and craft to keep suspending our disbelief as we become desensitized to each decade’s best special effects. Every once in a while, a filmmaker pulls off an innovation that jumps way ahead of our expectations, and the medium feels special again. And even while fancy visuals can surprise us, if the movie forgets that it’s supposed to have a plot and just chucks those visuals at our eyeballs for two hours without going anywhere, it feels like a waste. We talked about the long build-up to the Infinity arc, and then the first issue felt like a much more violent version of the grand finale at a fireworks show. With so many pyrotechnics and most of the characters strapped in to acceleration harnesses, it would have been easy to become distracted by the spaceships and forget the people inside of them. To balance out our view of that battle, Avengers Assemble 18 rewinds all the way back to the pre-launch scene and tells the story all over again from the perspective of one character: Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman.
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Avengers 18, originally released August 21st, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Spencer: I’m not a huge fan of the genre, so this might be a complete oversimplification, but in my mind most war stories seem to be divided into two categories: the stories that are about glory, honor, and the beauty of warfare (which I’m not fond of), and the stories about the people who sacrifice themselves to protect others (which I appreciate more). Avengers 18, an Infinity tie-in, takes the form of a war story as the team joins a massive Anti-Builder Armada, and while it largely falls into that second category, a few early scenes even manage to make aspects of the first compelling to me.
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Avengers 17, originally released August 7th, 2013.
“Bigger?” Look, it’s not for one of the new guys to say, but — feeling kinda crowded around here already.
Drew: In our discussion of Avengers 16, I complained that the bloated story and cast was collapsing under its own weight — far from making me excited, the sheer scope of the story was preventing me from fully engaging with any subset of elements. It’s a feat that writer Jonathan Hickman can keep all of these plates spinning (and these are only half of the plates he’s writing in this event), but that triumph of multi-tasking unfortunately precludes any real emotional connections. That is to say, the story here is already too big, but as this issue concludes into Infinity proper, we pile on even more Avengers, and widen the scope even further. And there are still only, like, two showers. Continue reading