Monday, December 17, 2007

Mighty Avengers #6

The pro-registration team of Avengers, consisting of Iron Man, Ms. Marvel and The Sentry, among others, has been struggling to deal with the latest version of Ultron for about six months now. And, while that’s given the story an important sense of magnitude, a collision on a grand scale, it’s also begun to drag on. What started as a high-impact threat to the heroes (the villainous robot has taken over Iron Man’s armor, slaughtered the Sentry’s wife and launched a series of nuclear warheads at the mainland United States) is now beginning to feel a month or two overripe.

Brian Michael Bendis has been using Mighty Avengers to explore and repurpose the concept of the thought bubble since the book’s inception, and this has definitely worked to bring the series its own unique flavor. While these frequent peeks into the Avengers’ psyches usually work as a gateway to deeper characterization, they do occasionally reach the point of oversaturation. In the heat of the battle that opens this issue, for instance, every single character on the page is given one, and they aren’t always necessary. For every truly imaginative use of this practice, there are two or three cutesy one-liners that only serve to disrupt the story’s flow. I appreciate his ingenuity, don’t get me wrong, but when his gimmicks start to get in the way of good storytelling, Bendis needs to know how to reign them back in.

On the positive side, those relentless thought balloons are really one of the only flaws in this series. I would’ve rather seen the Ultron saga wrap up last month, but when it does finally reach its conclusion at the end of this issue it’s a pretty good one. BMB is outstanding when he’s working with an ensemble cast such as this, and this issue in particular is a great example of that. He knows when and where to use each member of the team, how to capitalize on their strengths and uncover their weaknesses, and that makes for a wonderful team environment. No one character is over-emphasized, nor is any face underused. Each hero has a distinct role to fill on this team, and at the end of the day no matter how much their survival may be thrown into question, they find a way to work together and get things done.

Frank Cho’s artwork is one of a kind. His characters have a tremendous amount of depth and weight to them, considering the very clean style he employs. His renderings are so carefully laid out and plotted, his Avengers so individualized and recognizable, that he really doesn’t need any dynamic shadows, excessive speed lines or extra details. His linework is extremely minimal, but the legibility and appeal of the book never suffers as a result. He really is a huge part of what sets this series apart from its anti-registration sister, New Avengers, and I think readers are beginning to recognize that. His style may not be for everyone, but nobody can argue its consistency nor its legibility.

Of the two Avengers books on the market, this one is the more understated. Where New Avengers has the heavy hitters – Wolverine, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange – this series is much more of a classic lineup. Iron Man leads a set of characters who are more tailor-made to a team atmosphere, and so that collaboration and one-for-all attitude drives the series in the place of the marquee names. This first story arc has been a wild ride, even if it has taken its time in crossing the finish line, and while it isn’t the greatest book on the market today, it’s still some damn fine reading. I’m recommending it as a buy for the time being, although I do have some concerns about how long Bendis can keep me interested when I don’t typically have a lot of time for its core characters.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5

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