Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mighty Avengers #21

Huzzah, the Secret Invasion is finally at an end! But alas, the giant crossover left both rosters of Avengers shaken and dissipated, particularly Tony Stark’s band of merry men, the Mighty Avengers. In the aftermath of Stark’s removal from power by no less than the President of the USA himself, the team has been virtually left for dead. But when natural disasters suddenly strike dozens of cities around the globe, a new group of heroes find themselves working together to defeat the common enemy. Any bets on who’s the first to shout “assemble”?

New writer Dan Slott has the unenviable task of following Brian Michael Bendis on this series, and though I can’t fault him for trying to set a different tone I’m really not a fan of the new direction. Under Bendis’s watch, this was inarguably a superhero title first and foremost, but that was tempered with an unrelenting serving of action and a boundless mind for adventure. I may not have liked everything he did, in particular those early experiments with bringing thought bubbles back into the picture, but I could at least count on him to deliver a worthwhile story that made sense in the grand scheme of things. At its best, Mighty Avengers was both a love letter to the glory days of Marvel storytelling in the ‘60s and ‘70s and an homage to the heyday of the smart action flick.

Slott’s interpretation is similarly injected with an inspiration from the past, albeit a much less positive one. Between the unnecessary new threads flashed by familiar characters, the revisionist flashbacks that don’t really make any sense and the mindless plans flaunted by its villains, reading Mighty Avengers #21 is akin to flipping through a mainstream back issue from the mid ‘90s, the dark ages of good storytelling. It’s filled with changes nobody asked for, a mismatched roster that I can’t imagine functioning as a single unit and an evil mastermind so dull I was ready for a nap after his first appearance. For all its huff and puff, this storyline spent the better part of the issue going nowhere, and when it finally got up and did something, the results were so spectacularly bad that I wished it would go back to doing nothing.

I’ve enjoyed Khoi Pham’s artwork elsewhere, but found nothing to get excited about this month. Pham has always shown a tendency to lose focus and rush his work from time to time, but that’s never been as obvious as it is here. Though he’s given dozens of characters to try his luck with this month, some of which he’s worked with in the past (Hercules and Amadeus Cho in particular) he fails to connect with any of them. His contributions are universally tame, underdetailed and disproportionate. Having seen and appreciated his artwork in the past, seeing Khoi’s work fall so flat on a stage of this size is disappointing.

I’ve been a Mighty Avengers subscriber since the word go, and though the series has survived some lean times in the past, this issue has left me seriously considering dropping it altogether. I’m always willing to give a new creative team the chance to prove themselves, and for the most part Marvel has been very good with such changes over the last few years (see The Punisher or Daredevil) but this is just plain bad. Skip it whether you’re a longtime follower or an unfamiliar reader looking for a new fix. Something stinks.

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

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