Monday, March 24, 2008

Mighty Avengers #11

Tony Stark's team of government-approved Avengers haven't had much chance to rest since they came together. Whether it's the threat of a new Ultron, the attack of Venom symbiotes in New York City or a time-traveling adventure with Dr. Doom, the action has been pretty much non-stop for these guys all year long. As if the endless battles weren't headache enough, when Iron Man and the Sentry returned to the present last month, their time-traveling companion, Dr. Doom, was nowhere to be found and an enormous explosion seemingly engulfed Stark.

Although I loved this book at its inception, I've soured on it over the last few months. Brian Michael Bendis has given the series a different flavor than New Avengers, focusing more on cartoony action in contrast to NA's more adult tones. And while it's cool to have such a unique pair of voices for Marvel's premiere super-group(s), I think he's gone a bit too far over the top with this series. It feels like Mighty Avengers is his way of apologizing to older fans who may have been turned off by his radically different take on the team in Avengers: Disassembled, which is noble but ultimately not something he's all that good at. The adventures are too stereotypical, the dialog too casual, the thought balloons too frequent – the gimmicks are starting to wear thin.

Seriously, Bendis's thought balloon experiment in particular is out of control. About a third of this issue is a chat between Doom and the Avengers, and the imaginary bubbles are so frequent and overdone, I wanted to scream. It was a cool idea when he first introduced it with the launch of this series, but at this point it's become Frankenstein's monster, overpowering its creator and causing a big mess. Paired with a story that centers on time travel, (a tricky proposition of its own) that means this issue is seriously tough to read. I'm not even entirely sure what really happened.

Marvel legend Mark Bagley is providing the artwork for this storyline, one of his last for the publisher before he becomes exclusive DC property, and he's had much better showings. When he took on Ultimate Spider-Man for the book's first hundred issues, he clearly stepped up his game. His work was phenomenal month in and month out, possibly the best of his career, and it was a perfect match for the tone of that series. Thus far on his brief stretch with Mighty Avengers, he's taken just as big a step in the opposite direction. His work here is nothing compared to what he proved he could do elsewhere. It's not exciting, even in situations that one would assume would almost fill in the action automatically. He doesn't have a feel for the characters. His renditions of the Black Widow, Ares and the Wasp are nasty, and his Doom is missing the impressive, showy nature that's always made him stand out. Bagley's working with an incredible cast, but he just isn't doing anything with it.

I wish I could say I loved this issue, but I just can't. The story never really took hold, the resolution was sudden and coincidental at best, and those damned thought bubbles were everywhere. Paired with a sub-par effort from Bagley, that means the entire issue came across as a disappointment. I expect more from these guys, but I guess not every experiment can be an unbridled success. Flip through it to stay current, but don't expect much.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4

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