In a day and age when many team books don’t have their full team assembled until the close of issue #6,it’s refreshing to read a comic that by issue #5 is already shaking up the team that’s been established. Mark Waid’s All-New All-Different Avengers isn’t afraid to shake things up, play with expectations, and go in completely different directions. The subplot from the end of the first arc rears its head in this issue in an unexpectedly malevolent manner, straining this new team of Avengers in surprising ways.
The strongest aspect of this series so far is the disparate characters, and how Waid manages to keep their voices true to who these characters are, despite a change in their circumstances. The upgrade to Avengers membership is a huge deal for new, young characters like Miles Morales, Kamala Kahn and Sam Alexander, and Mark Waid isn’t afraid to write these characters like the kids they are. They’re in over their head in some ways, and Waid exploits those feelings in a very natural way. In theory, it might seem a bit early to start cracking the team apart, but the issue reads in a very natural manner, that something like this was bound to happen at some point.
The biggest mystery surrounding this issue, is just why is Vision acting in the manner that he is. First, he started blackmailing Nova a couple of issues ago, and now he’s doing more outwardly sinister things, to undermine his teammates and sow distrust. And given his stature as a longstanding Avenger, it’s a dastardly ploy that works just as its supposed to. Waid is able to take a simple premise and twist it in exciting ways, and the core of what makes the issue work is how the relationships between these characters are evolving.
The three youngest members are a joy to read, and even when Kamala is put through the ringer, there’s something special about her interactions with Nova. These characters play off each other so well, despite their initial frustrations with one another, and I like seeing Nova fly off the handle against the Vision (which only serves to get him benched for the issue’s main mission). It’s reactions like this that really underscore just how well Mark Waid can write teenage characters, as Sam’s response feels like a natural one (albeit impulsive).
The kids aren’t the only characters to get focus in this issue, as Captain America and Thor get some brief moments as well. The first is, unfortunately, not real, but it’s a fun moment nonetheless. The end of the issue has Captain America discovering Thor’s secret identity, and I’m glad that Waid didn’t wait too long to have this be revealed. Waid’s storytelling in general on this book is refreshing in pace as he moves plotlines and characterization quickly forward, instead of taking too long a time to develop them that they become less interesting. In a lesser writer’s hands, the story would either be decompressed to the point of losing a sense of urgency, not to mention the reader’s interest, OR rushed through without making the plot meaningful to the characters. Instead, Waid manages to instill the issue with enough meaning and pathos, while also making it a fast-paced, enjoyable read. This book has become my favorite current Avengers title, with its strong focus on both plot and characterization in equal measure.
Mahmud Asrar ups his game in this issue, as it felt like a much more well put together effort visually compared to last issue. There’s a lot of different types of characters on this team’s roster, and yet he deftly manages to portray each character in their own distinct visual style. Given how character-centric this book is, he manages to give each character their due. The last page is a haunting visual, and captures Captain America’s sudden surprise and shock quite well. A particular visual standout is the sinister look on Vision’s face throughout the issue, as it’s actually quite unsettling (which is what makes it so perfect, punctuating the moment each time he does something devious, malicious or sinister).
This book continues to be a welcome addition to the Avengers pantheon of stories. Given how the last few years have been full of plot-heavy Avengers books, it’s nice to see Waid return to smaller-scale storytelling, with a strong emphasis and focus on solid characterization. It’s what makes me want to read on, to see more of how this new team interacts with each other, and how they pull together in the face of their enemies.