While Civil War II has still yet to conclude, the fallout of the event has already started to occur within the pages of Marvel’s most recent batch of title relaunches. Gone is All-New All-Different Avengers, the pairing of the Avengers proper with their younger counterparts, and in its place are the millennial targeted Champions and now The Avengers, both penned by industry legend Mark Waid. With Champions embracing a fun, youthful energy and Humberto Ramos’ cartoonish artwork, I expected that The Avengers would strike a decidedly different, adult tone. Not only was I wrong, but I could not have foreseen just how much the title would embrace its Jack Kirbyesque origins as a larger-than-life, idiosyncratic team-up book.
Mark Waid’s debut as the writer of All-New All-Different Avengers was a much-anticipated letdown. As one of the industry’s top talents, it was disappointing to see Waid pull his punches, delivering one standard Avenger’s team-up story after the next. Within those pages were two separate teams of characters that I longed to see get their own titles, representing their distinctly different views on the world and their place in it. Now that they’ve been separated its as if Waid has been freed to do what he wanted all along.
The Avengers #1 does all the things a first Avengers issues should: the team is assembled, a new headquarters is debuted, the heroes engage in a multifaceted battle in the streets of New York City, and several world-ending threats are introduced. The story is pretty standard stuff, not to mention that it sees Waid returning to Kang’s story again (this time with a far stronger hook), but its how the story is told that makes this issue so special. The Avengers #1 finally lands the tone Waid has been search for since taking over the main Avengers title: pure joy.
Gone are the mean-spirited and angry characterizations that dominated the books since Millar shook Marvel up with The Ultimates and there’s no ultra-complicated techno-babble from Jonathan Hickman, instead The Avengers #1 embraces the silliness and bombast of Stan Lee’s 60s scripts. The character crack wise constantly and are always just a hair away from taking a swing at each other. There’s even a callback to Stan’s insistence that the Wasp hate Spider-Man because wasps and spiders are natural enemies!
Fans of Spider-Man will be delighted to know that the character is given more to do than make lame jokes in the middle of the fight, as Peter Parker fully embraces his role as the new Tony Stark in the Marvel Universe. Here Peter offers up the Baxter Building, home of Parker Industries, as the new Avengers Tower, complete with its very own stealth quinjet. Waid’s Peter is both confident and bumbling, jugging his dual personalities with little grace, but holding up his own during the battles. Meanwhile, those who reject Peter’s new industrialist role will likely find that The Avengers #1 has firmly pushed him far past his role as the everyman from Queens.
As great as Waid’s writing is, nothing can top the incredible artwork from artist Mike del Mundo and colorist Marco D’alfonso. Del Mundo is fresh off an incredible run on the underread Weirdworld title but he takes absolutely no time to hit the ground running on this title. Even just the first page is Thor and Hercules charging at the reader, guns blazing and Mjolnir flying. His psychedelic, line-free, pastel stylings and exaggerated poses add a level of surrealism to the events of the book, which work great for the time-warping powers of Kang but may rub readers the wrong way when characters are out of costume. There characters are prone to making constant duck-faces and over-exxagerated gestures; I love it, but it’s not going to appeal for all. What is inarguable is del Mundo’s keen eye for a clever layout. Embracing cinematic, wide paneling lends the book a blockbuster importance, as exemplified when Peter reveals the Baxter Building’s incredible view of the city. Smaller moments are brilliant as well, such as how del Mundo and D’alfonso utilize an explosion in the city as a stand-in for Peter’s Spider-Sense.
The Avengers #1 finally delivers on the promise of a Mark Waid written Avengers title by establishing a great team, that’s a mix of both Marvel new and old, and playing them off each other in a fantastical fashion. With the promise of more of Mike del Mundo’s artwork and a surprising cliff-hanger, the next issue can’t come soon enough.