Monday, March 22, 2010

Mighty Avengers #34

Mighty Avengers has been stuck in the past lately, and I mean that in more ways than one. No, the team hasn't boarded a DeLorean and cruised through the time stream towards parts unknown. What I'm referring to is the squad itself, its current membership, and the style of storytelling that's been employed by its current scribe, Dan Slott. Robbed of most of its big names, this looks more like a West Coast Avengers team from twenty years ago than the star-studded squads that have dominated the series over the last decade. Longtime fans may see a team helmed by Hercules, Quicksilver, The Vision and The Wasp and instantly burst into a fit of gleeful clapping and tiny leaps of joy, but speaking personally I never saw the D-Team aspect of the book's past as being all that appealing.

Another thing that doesn't exactly rub me in the right spot is Dan Slott's throwback style of writing, a direct descendent of the silver age and all its heavy-handedness. Don't misunderstand, there's plenty to appreciate about that era and Slott has effectively captured some of it here, but he's also drug along many of the age's attributes that were left in the past for a distinct set of reasons. When this series first launched, for example, Brian Bendis reintroduced the thought bubble in an attempt to modernize the concept. It worked for a few issues, but ultimately became more of a distraction than a benefit and slowly disappeared near the end of his run. If that attempt to re-imagine the device failed because it couldn't shake the ghosts of its past, why would a more loyal try be any more successful? But Slott gives it a go, complete with verbiage so corny I'm surprised it didn't include a "golly," and meets a predictable fate.

The anything-goes mentality gives our writer plenty of chances to flex his creativity, with some efforts more fruitful than others. The Infinite Avengers Mansion for example, which allows Jarvis to gather ingredients for the team's breakfast from all corners of the world, is a fun (if inconsequential) little touch that's probably a bit too silly for the other Avenger books to devote any time to. More serious subject matter, though, like Loki's impersonation of the Scarlet Witch, doesn't work nearly as well.

Filling in for the book's regular artist, Khoi Pham, Neil Edwards doesn't manage to turn Slott's ramblings into anything worthy of enthusiasm. I won't lie and claim the Avengers have never looked this stiff, awkward and dorky, but it's been a long time since that was so much the case. Edwards endures an epic ongoing struggle with the two-headed beast of perspective and proportion, one he ultimately loses, and fills the issue with dull, pointless background renderings. He has almost no feel for the personalities of each member, his fight scenes lack any measure of excitement and the team's facial expressions rarely stray from the requisite clinched teeth and squinted eyes. Not a good showing.

Despite a few glimmers of trivial originality, on the large Mighty Avengers genuinely reeks. It means nothing to the big picture, struggles to prove it's even relevant to the small picture and ultimately resolves nothing. If the combination of a shoddy squad of also-rans, crappy pseudo-retro dialog, a confusing, pointless plot and sincerely hideous artwork is what you're looking for, well, there's plenty to go around. Otherwise, I'd strongly recommend you just skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.5

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