Last month’s All-New, All-Different Avengers’ launch ended up feeling rather same-old, same-old for me, regrettably. (Although seriously, they set themselves up for that putdown with the title alone.) Forced dialogue, a distracted focus and a forgettable villain all make a return with #2, resulting in an issue with a scattergun approach and little in the way of meaningful character development. There are some… interesting creative choices at work here but, sadly, they don’t really add anything to the story.
It’s the Avengers – but not as you know them. Except they’re not the Avengers as Captain America seems so keen to point out at every opportunity. This initial arc sees a group of disparate heroes coming together on a day unlike any other but while it’s inevitable they will form a team (hey, this is an Avengers team book, after all) the characters seem determined to flag up at every opportunity that they currently lacking the legitimacy to use that title. It’s an odd wrinkle in the dialogue that, unless addressed soon, will likely begin to affect the wider scope of the narrative.
Legitimacy can be a really interesting narrative concept to engage with for a team or for particular characters, whether it’s the implicit illegitimacy of outlaw teams explored in Runaways or the current New Avengers or wider considerations about what produces and merits legitimacy (as an adult, as a hero, as a force for good) such as Kieron Gillen’s Young Avengers run. However when series spend issue after issue dancing around the question of a team’s in-universe legitimacy, very little is typically accomplished beyond making the characters’ adventures feel insignificant or tangential.
A great example of this is the recent female-team X-Men run that brought together an amazing, dynamic group of characters who ended up standing about for half the run panicking whether or not they deserved or were allowed to be a genuine team. When you’re fighting giant robots, aliens and monsters all day, no one wants to spend your evenings arguing whether or not you’re a real team (and, God forbid, who is in charge if you are.) Brian Wood evidently got tired of this distraction a dozen issues in and had Storm text Logan to establish that they were a team – refusing to ask for permission in the most ‘Oh would this be okay? Yeah?’ fashion imaginable. It’s not one of the book’s highlights, let’s put it that way.
Kubert’s pencils for this issue prove to be surprisingly uneven in their execution; a few genuinely impressive panels are inevitably lost in a deluge of sketchy figuring, bizarre creative choices and inconsistent design choices. Comparing the introduction of Vision at the start of the issue with Thor’s arrival at the end reveals entirely different styles, to the extent that I had to double check that ANADA’s rotating art team hadn’t split the issue between them.
The character who suffers the most from all this undeniably Ms. Marvel – who spends most of the issue bemoaning the damage to public buildings and having exaggeratedly large hands as part of her strategy to take down the Avengers’ Chitauri foe. Not only do her super-hands feel very inconsistent with how she normally utilises her polymorphing powers in her own title but Kubert draws with the world’s most awful manicure imaginable. (Of all the places I thought comics criticism would take me.) While the fuschia-painted dagger nails don’t look that great super-sized, more importantly it feels totally out-of-character for Kamala to portray herself in such a way. Kamala is fashionable in her own way but she’s never shown to have any exceptional interest in makeup, and that’s without considering her conservative family. It doesn’t feel consistent with other portrayals of the character thus far.
Luckily, this inconsistency also extends to Sonia Oback’s colouring. You might have noticed it in the above panel, but take a close look at Kamala’s skin colour here.
For me, that’s way off with how she’s been typically portrayed. By comparison, this is Kamala on the recap page.
Finding the right skintone with characters of colour isn’t always easy but is obviously crucial to rectify when mistakes are made. A similar issue has emerged following the launch of Angela: Queen of Hel with fans noting that Sera is now significantly lighter-skinned than previously. (Luckily, writer Marguerite Bennett has confirmed this is being resolved for the trade.) In times such as these, it’s well worth returning to Ronald Wimberley’s essay on colouring and race in comics but, in short, do better Marvel.
With its team now assembled, ANADA and Mark Waid might be able to produce something interesting with its character pairings – although these have proved disappointing thus far. If the series continues on its current track, Marvel may simply end up with a book that sells purely because of the Avengers name, which is a shame given the potential to do something special here. It’s time to take some big leaps – no more giant hands.
Writer – Mark Waid
Artist – Adam Kubert
Colourist – Sonia Oback
Cover artist – Alex Ross
Adam Sorice is a literate graduate turned grown-up who writes about comics when he’s not describing himself in the third person. He wrote his dissertation on Lady Gaga; he’s quite proud of this.