Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 3, originally released November 18th, 2015.
Spencer: Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval’s New Avengers is rather explicitly a book about problem-solving; the very purpose of Sunspot’s revamped A.I.M. is to use their resources to solve crises on a global scale, and the bulk of the second issue was spent breaking down the threat of Life-Minus like a math problem in order to find a solution. It seems appropriate then that, with the concept of problem-solving having been thoroughly established, Ewing and Sandoval shift the focus of issue 3 to exploring the effectiveness (and morality) of various approaches to solving problems. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing New Avengers 1, originally released October 14th, 2015.
Spencer: I love “team” books. There’s just something fun and exciting about throwing a bunch of heroes — be they A-List or Z-List — together and seeing what happens. Despite the potential for almost endless variations, though, many team books find themselves repeating certain familiar combinations, tropes, and ideas over and over (look how many books started using the “traitor” plot once Terra first popped up in the Teen Titans, for example — and even she was a riff on Kitty Pryde’s role in the X-Men). Thus, my favorite part of Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval’s New Avengers is how quick they are to acknowledge and subvert many of those tropes. This book is clever, fun, and gets right to the point; it’s pretty much everything I look for in a team book. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Ryan are discussing Avengers 44 and New Avengers 33, originally released April 29th, 2015.
Spencer: Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga has gone through three different phases. The first, which lasted from the series’ debut through the end of Infinity, found Avengers exploring the forced evolution of the planet Earth via Ex Nihilo’s Origin Bombs while New Avengers established the threat of the Incursions and the drastic measures the Illuminati would have to take to combat them. The second phase found Avengers essentially spinning its wheels, waiting for the Illuminati in New Avengers to reach their limit and, ultimately, fail. Then the books skipped ahead in time eight months, and both lost a bit of their former identities as they became swallowed up in the Incursions storyline. New Avengers has spent most of phase three explaining the mechanics of everything that came before, while Avengers explored the personal fall-out between the members of all these various teams. While the Incursion storyline is continuing into Hickman’s upcoming Secret Wars, the final issues of Avengers and New Avengers focus on wrapping up the ideas they’ve been exploring since phase three began. One is decidedly more engaging than the other. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing New Avengers 30, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Spencer: Jonathan Hickman and Dalibor Talajic’s New Avengers 30 reads a bit like a textbook on multiversal theory. It’s about as dry as beef jerky, and is focused so strongly on explaining every minute detail about the Ivory Kings that it largely fails to address why they’re doing what they’re doing. The information contained within its pages will likely prove important as Secret Wars grows closer, but for the moment, New Avengers 30 feels like an issue that highlights the greatest weakness of Hickman’s Avengers books: a focus on plot that supersedes “story” or characterization. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Avengers 40, originally released January 14th, 2015.
The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Drew: I think it would be fair to say that Dostoevsky’s polyphonic style — one built upon the perspectives of an array of characters — is antithetical to the notion of the hero’s journey. Indeed, Dostoyevsky’s philosophies (as articulated in the quote above) suggest that there’s an active tension between caring about an individual and caring about humanity at large. I’ve always been partial to the depth of understanding achieved by sticking with one protagonist — especially when it comes to comics — which has made me wary of the kind of expansive, Dostoyevskian scope of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers. In my mind, a tight focus on a single character more accurately reflects how we experience the world, but with Avengers 40, Hickman makes a compelling case for how his dense interconnectednessreflects how the world actually is. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Avengers 39, originally released December 10th, 2014.
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 →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing New Avengers 27, originally released November 26th, 2014.
Drew: I suppose it’s no surprise that the phrase Deus ex machina is ancient in origin, but I was surprised to learn that it originally described an actual machine used to levitate actors playing gods in ancient tragedies. Of course, it’s more popular meaning as a totally lazy plot device are also ancient in origin — Aristotle took Euripides to task for using a dragon-drawn chariot to whisk suddenly Medea to safety — which speaks to just how long people have been hating it. I dislike unlikely reversals of fortune or sudden interventions by benevolent higher powers as much as the next guy, but the thing that really annoys me about the thought of meeting the man behind the curtain is the expectation that it will be in any way satisfying. I’ve had enough experience to know that the more interesting a question is, the less interesting its answer will inevitably feel, which makes the presence of a being with all the answers extremely unappealing to me. Jonathan Hickman manages to avoid this a bit in New Avengers 27 by answering some of the less interesting questions, though that unfortunately also doesn’t yield particularly satisfying answers. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing New Avengers 24, originally released September 24th, 2014.
Spencer: New Avengers hasn’t really been a title with an antagonist, at least in a traditional sense; the Illuminati are trying to stop the Incursions, but such a mysterious, primal, multiversal threat can be hard to fathom, and they largely act as the impetus behind most of the title’s action rather than the “big bad”. Instead, the Illuminati mainly grapple against themselves, dealing with matters of morality and conscience. In New Avengers 24, Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti skip ahead eight months from the climatic final pages of issue 23, giving them time to establish the Cabal as a group of horrific, homicidal monsters. In a way, they may be serving as the more physical, black-and-white antagonist this title’s been missing, but that seems to be far from their only purpose. Both the Illuminati and the Cabal have done horrific things with a noble goal in mind; the methods of these two groups, and how the world at large have responded to them both, is where the differences lie. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 19, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Spencer: The more I look at the following panels, the more I realize how succinctly they sum up the primary conflict of Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti’s New Avengers 19.
The Illuminati are no longer concerned about whether they can stop the Incursions without destroying inhabited worlds (spoiler alert: they can’t), nor are they any longer concerned about their mission turning them into monsters (they seem to have realized that it’s all but inevitable, and the title of this issue is even “We Are All Monsters Now,” as if to dissuade the reader of any hope otherwise); instead, the million dollar question now seems to be whether it’s better to die with one’s morality intact or to save the universe, but at the cost of one’s own soul.
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 18, originally released May 14th, 2014.
Spencer: As I’m sure most of us do, I love the big, climatic final battles that usually come at the end of superhero stories. That said, I’m perhaps even more fond of the moments before the final battle, the calm before the storm, the time where the heroes prepare and steady themselves for the horrors to come. Many heroes use this as an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve lost or to visit with their loved ones, but the Illuminati — as pragmatic as ever — mainly use it to steel their resolve and to prepare to do the unthinkable. After all, for them this is only the final battle if they lose; if they win, they get to continue on dealing with an infinite number of Incursions. No wonder they’re so grumpy. Continue reading →