When Marvel first announced a new Uncanny Avengers title – written by Gerry Duggan, with art from Ryan Stegman and colors by Richard Isanove – to debut during its post-“Secret Wars” relaunch, a lot of people we’re all set to board the hype train to Funtown. The lineup for the team looked interesting, the creatives working on it looked solid, and, oh yeah, Deadpool and Spider-Man on the SAME TEAM. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, that’s kind of the thing. Nothing’s REALLY wrong with the idea behind Uncanny Avengers #1. Nothing’s wrong with the lineup either: Old Man Captain America, Rogue, Doctor Voodoo, Deadpool, Spider-Man, The Human Torch, and a mysterious new Inhuman hero named Synapse seems like the perfect combo for a team that was originally brought together as a show of unity between the Avengers and X-Men (see Avengers Vs. X-Men for a look at the conflict between the two groups in the past).
There’s just not a whole lot to this comic, and what is there, doesn’t really work. Based off the first issue, readers will likely have a serious debate over whether they will want to add it to their weekly pull, fantastic line-up or not.
The comic starts with a brief intro showing an older man, who’s suffering from some sort of cancer, as he succumbs to the Terrigan Mist and is reborn into a new, Inhuman form. We don’t really know much about this guy, aside from the fact that he has a sweet trucker mullet and he’s very fond of plants, dolphins, and other “rad” hippy things. The book then takes readers eight months into the future, right in the middle of a “big” battle between the Avengers and a real D-list villain called the Super-Adaptoid (bonus points for anyone who can name the issue that this jolly green giant first appeared in).
A quick battle ensues, Deadpool makes jokes, Spider-Man thinks he’s lame, the team hates him blah blah blah. You know the routine. But, instead of reconciling their differences, Spidey decides to up-and-quit the team because he refuses to work with Deadpool. So, right off the bat, it looks like Spider-Man isn’t even going to be on the team! (damn me and my luck with reviewing non-Spiderman comics for a Spider-Man fan site!)
From there, things quickly get messy in the story-telling department. We get a couple of brief side-stories that I’m guessing are supposed to set up future options in terms of storytelling direction. We’ve got Rogue suffering from some kind of disease involving high-levels of Terrigen, Doctor Voodoo talking to the ghost in bar hidden underneath the team’s homebase, and Quicksilver (who, by the way, was apparently too busy to help out with the previous battle) flirting with multiple women across the globe, including his own teammate, Synapse.
The team then goes into battle against a bunch of mutated insects and dogs, which at the end of the comics are revealed to be controlled by a new villain called, wait for it, THE SHREDDED MAN (no relation to TMNT’s Shredder, I’m guessing), great… another sorry looking villain with an even lamer name.
The plot isn’t anything offensive or unseen in modern comics but the book left me with some serious concerns and questions. Elegant or not, I’ve listed them here:
1) What the hell, Marvel? You promise a great looking team, featuring some of my favorite heroes, and then right off the bat you remove Spidey from the lineup and introduce two lame-ass villains in one book? Cool. I mean, I know it’s the first issue, but if I was a new comic reader picking up my very first book, I’d be sincerely disappointed to find out one of the characters I’m super interested to see in action isn’t even going to be on the team anymore.
2) If everyone was warned beforehand that Deadpool was going to be on the team, why even join it in the first place? None of this is explained in this issue. Even Avengers #0, which featured a short story showing how Deadpool was recruited by Cap to join the Avengers, fails to explain why this team even exists.
3) What the hell are Synapse’s powers? I mean, really. She controls things with her mind? That would make sense, but it’s never even put to good use in this issue. She resorts to using a bunch of pigeons to attack the Super-Adaptoid. Really.
Duggan’s plot kind of jumps from one uninteresting idea to another, when all I really wanted to read was a comic about a bunch of my favorite superheroes fighting a true A-list villain capable of putting up a challenge against them. Not all of these B plots that, aside from Rogue’s ordeal, feel boring and overdone.
This is where the messiness comes in, as these B-plots and characters seem completely unconnected, but somehow when Synapse collapses while eating dinner with Quicksilver, it’s suddenly time for the heroics to start again. There’s no mention of why the team comes back together, how they all heard about the invasion, why Cap is leading the team when he’s shown no signs of true leadership yet, or why Deadpool is flying a helicopter into battle for the team (you really shouldn’t give a psychopath the keys to a chopper).
None of the characters seem to want to work together as a team, and some of their characterizations — such as Cap’s lack of leadership and Spider-Man’s unwillingness to even try working with Deadpool — seem way off from what readers have come to expect from these heroes.
Last but not least, Ryan Stegman’s art just does not work with this title. Now, I’m not a Stegman hater by any means. His work on Superior Spider-Man was fantastic. He does best when drawing spindly, lean characters like those in he Spider-Man family, mainly because those characters beg to be drawn with contorted shapes and oddly framed bodies. Stegman professed to being inspired by the work of Todd McFarlane, so contorting characters and twisting convention to find what’s “cool” is right in his wheelhouse.
But giving Captain America, Deadpool, and the others goofy, cartoonishly oversized feet and hands, with super-skinny ankles and blown-out muscles is in my estimation an inappropriate choice in character design for this particular team. Cap needs to be bulky; so does Deadpool. Rogue and Synapse don’t need their bodies to look like skeletons wearing cheaply made human being costumes. Stegman fails to use any smooth, curving lines, and instead gives all the characters jagged appendages that look like they’ve stuffed their sleeves with boulders.
This is artistic direction what an Avengers comic needs. In my mind, when I think of an Avengers comic, I think of sharply drawn lines, buckets of beautiful color, and meticulously choreographed action sequences that place you in a world that’s both chaotic and beautiful to behold.
I was really excited for this comic when it was first announced, but I honestly don’t know if it’ll be worth picking up in the coming months. Here’s hoping this first arc ends quickly, and Spider-Man makes a triumphant return to the team. Ryan Stegman’s unique talents and flair for the different deserve a book that best utilizes those skills. Uncanny Avengers #1 is not that book, so either Stegman is going to have to find a way to adapt quickly, a skill artists like Stuart Immonen have proven adept at doing, or find his work being sorely misplaced.