Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Avengers Prime #5

The classic Avengers squad of Thor, Iron Man and Captain America may have finally reassembled into a single formidable unit once more, but they’re still badly in need of a group hug. After alien invasions, assassinations and superhuman registrations, the three heads of this all-world superhero stable still have some major issues to work through – and, fortunately enough, they’ve stumbled into the closest thing to a weekend retreat the Marvel universe has to offer. Transported into separate mystical realms by a mysterious force, this trio has fought their way through trial after trial and, ultimately, come together as one to tackle the renewed threat of Hela, Goddess of Death. Looks like this is the month their new partnership gets its first real trial by fire.

Kudos to Brian Bendis for trying something different with the scenery in this arc, trading the standard orgy of plasma-based laser blasts on city streets for a simple struggle between black magic and cold steel, but I’m just not feeling it. By stripping all three heroes of their most iconic abilities – Cap of his shield, Thor his hammer and Tony his technology – Bendis had a good chance to reinforce the classical personalities behind those powers. Which, one would think, would be essential to their mutual reconciliation. Instead it just plays like a handicap, something the three have to deal with for the duration of the big fight before the status quo is restored and everybody gets to reclaim their crutches. Stark and Rogers don’t even seem all that upset about it, merrily smashing random foot soldiers throughout the issue while Thor tackles the more risky challenges. Their constant wise cracks, while often amusing, also rob the story of its serious undertones. How solemn can the son of Odin’s life-and-death struggle really be if his cohorts are too busy coming up with their next zinger to pay him any mind?

As with almost any of his previous collaborations, Alan Davis's artwork grants the issue a deep sense of legitimacy and respectability. His illustrations greet each character like an old, familiar friend, and ground a tale that might otherwise have flown a bit off the handle. Davis is a master, no question about it, and while a few of this month’s illustrations do seem a bit dated and restrained, there’s always a more exciting panel just a page or two away. In particular, he delivers on pages spotlighting Hela and her dark army of undead monstrosities, in which the ink is thick and the tone is sinister. It’s a good showing, if perhaps not on the level of the work he was pumping out in his prime, twenty years ago.

As the ultimate resolution to a clash of personalities that’s been unfolding for ten years, this was amazingly unimpressive. It’s a resolution, I can give it that, though not a particularly interesting one. The three classical heads of the Avengers have taken the first real step toward resolving their long-standing differences, which should be a landmark moment in the history of the team, and here I am feeling like it wasn’t really much of a moment. If medieval fairs and tear-stained beards are your thing, this is the place to be. If you’re after a moment with a bit more electricity, turn your eyes elsewhere. Avengers Prime is just painting by the numbers. Flip through it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 5

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