When it comes to mainstream superhero team books these days, often plot takes precedence over character, for a myriad different reasons. All-New All-Different Avengers has managed to buck this particular trend, however, as over the first four issues Mark Waid has taken his time to highlight the characters that form his team of Avengers, bringing their characterization to the fore. Often with these superhero team books, by necessity the plot overwhelms the storyline and is the driving force of what propels readers forward. It’s easy to point to examples, with the last volume of Avengers by Jonathan Hickman being a great example. His run was fantastic, with heady, sophisticated ideas and concepts, but at times it meant that the characterization of his cast took a backseat to these elements.
Perhaps that is why this book has felt like a breath of fresh air, because it’s far more interested in the dynamics of the characters that make up the team. The interplay between the characters feels fresh, exciting and new, and it doesn’t hurt that despite all these characters having their own solo books, many of them are still characters in their formative years. The youngest members of the team are Miles Morales, Sam Alexander and Kamala Khan (Spider-Man, Nova and Ms. Marvel, respectively), and they’re the lifeblood of this book, in my opinion. They’re the characters that make me excited to read on, as they’re an unlikely but very entertaining trio of characters. There’s a youthfulness and optimism to how Waid writes them, and they feel like very different people, all coming at being superheroes in distinct and different ways that feel authentic and real.
Not everything works in this new issue, however, which is why this issue in particular is merely “OKAY” and not great. The stumbling blocks of the issue in terms of the script are primarily in the initial set-up to the issue, as we see Jarvis being summoned to the new Avengers base now that Avengers Tower is no more. The sequence reads clumsily, and something about Jarvis being brought back into the fold fails to really engender the level of familiarity and comfort that one would expect from the character being brought back in out of limbo.
Jarvis as a character has really been reduced in prominence ever since the character was refashioned as an intelligent AI in the “Iron Man” film eight years ago, and although Waid pulls on a nostalgic heartstring by including him, his inclusion no longer feels as natural and as important as it used to. There was definitely a time when not having Jarvis around felt as weird as Captain America not having his shield, but sadly it’s starting to feel as if that time has passed. The idea that suddenly the Avengers have no real money to support them feels odd, given that eight months previous the Avengers had an entire framework that supported the Avengers World concept. And yet suddenly, that’s all been stripped away. Waid definitely mines the concept for some humor, but the continuity cop that still lives inside my head finds it harder to give these elements a pass when they’re being played up so blatantly without truly being well-explained.
However, once the issue gets going, it really picks up speed and doesn’t let up. The discomfort that Nova, Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel have around Vision is palpable, and more interesting given how the last issue ended with Nova believing that the Vision is potentially blackmailing him for his own scary and unknown purposes. The team-up against Cyclone was well-handled, and was a good use of a character that isn’t seen all that much, but has always been an underappreciated favorite of mine.
After the highs of Adam Kubert in the opening three issues of this title, this issue sees the other alternating artist, Mahmud Asrar, take the wheel. Unfortunately, although the art is still serviceable, it fails to attain the heights of the prior three issues artistically. I will admit that there was a greater sense of overall visual consistency than I was expecting, but the art still felt like it wasn’t quite as on-point as when Kubert was on the book. The action wasn’t always completely clear and understandable, and the details were at times loose and more casual-looking. The book was still nice to look at, but the storytelling wasn’t as strong as in previous issues.
At this issue’s heart, despite being about teamwork and the team going up against Cyclone and saving civilian lives, it’s really about who these characters are now that they’ve decided to be a team together. There’s still a lot that these characters don’t know about each other, and I like how Waid is making this a sticking point to move the character-centric plot forward. I like that there’s not necessarily a sinister sense of distrust, but instead people realizing that perhaps taking things on face value isn’t quite enough. The idea that just because someone calls themselves Thor, and wields Mjolnir doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily Asgardian or an immortal is an intriguing one that the team is now starting to question and reconsider. This book remains my favorite Avengers-branded title at the moment, as it puts the focus back on the actual characters that make up the Avengers. Historically, the Avengers has arguably been more about the interplay of the characters themselves than the action and plots that they become embroiled in, and it’s nice to see Mark Waid delivering a strong character-centric piece of superhero team book writing.