Did you know that Captain America is now a black man? What about Thor being a woman? Miles Morales being part of the ‘616’ Marvel universe? (Oh and Iron Man doesn’t have any money anymore.)
Chances are you’re aware of (at least some) of these revelations because Marvel PR has been doing an exceptional job of pumping out these story developments in press release form like a buzzwordy machine gun on rapid-fire setting. Now the publisher has brought together a number of its most PR-hyped characters into a single series – All-New, All-Different Avengers. Just don’t expect them to shut up about their new status quos any time soon.
Representing both a diverse view of the Marvel universe and a narrativised-version of the company’s on-going press blitz, the series (written by Mark Waid and alternately drawn by Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar) was initially pitched as Marvel’s flagship Avengers book. However, upon finishing the first issue, ANADA (yeah, there’s no way I’m writing that out again, sorry) instead feels more like that cluttered bulletin board in your building lobby that is constantly covered with a combination of the following –
- Passive aggressive notes about people not dividing their recycling correctly
- Reminders about the next tedium-filled building meeting next Thursday
- Updates about the stairway cleaning rota accounting for 2016’s leap year
- Adverts for the horrific music lessons and maths tutoring your neighbours offer to kids
- Crumpled takeaway menus for the new Turkish place around the corner
- A giant sign saying ‘stop insulting our important recycling notes’ in comic book reviews
- And so on
That is what the first issue of ANADA boils down to, sadly. Did you not know that the Falcon took on the mantle of Captain America? Because here’s five whole pages about it! Also, he’s currently having a fight with Steve Rogers – the old Captain America – and we’ll chuck in a really weird racial joke for good measure because, hey, nothing in this issue is too obvious.
Even brand new character developments revealed in ANADA end up feeling unnecessarily drawn out or over emphasised. Discussing the Avengers’ new bankrupt status quo seems to fill pages and pages and none of it ends up being particularly rewarding dialogue between the new Captain and Iron Man.
The point of changing status quos is to offer characters new challenges, new situations and new opportunities to grow – not to be inherently interesting themselves. Take Daredevil’s recent move to San Francisco in Mark Waid’s previous run on the series; we didn’t spend six issues reading Matt Murdock breaking down why San Francisco was the perfect place to move to because of intriguing legal precedents and the crisp March mornings – it was just taken for granted and Waid got on with the actual story.
I fear that may be the core issue with ANADA – is there an actual story? This debut issue reads like one of those editor footnotes explaining when an obscure reference happened that’s been bulked out to fill 28 pages. When the story deviates from ‘did you know?!’ the dialogue falls frustratingly flat, as evidenced by a back-up story featuring Nova and Ms. Marvel’s first fraught encounter. Both characters mean well and detect a twinge of flirtation but struggle to come across well. All fine – except the entire conversation is micromanaged by an excessive use of internal monologue on both sides. And in the midst of all this – Thor doesn’t feature once.
Waid’s handling of the story struggles to feel authorially confident, especially compared to his acclaimed work on Daredevil over the last several years. On paper, ANADA should be a superstar book under the Waid’s guiding hand but the outcome feels shaky. While Waid charted a story lasting years for Daredevil that was so utterly confident in its perspective, tonality and trajectory, ANADA might just have too many distractions for the writer to bring his A-game; too many characters, too many inevitable tie-ins, too many gimmick status-quos to work into dialogue that feels continuously on the borderline of contrived.
This debut issue feels incredibly reminiscent of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD tie-in comic series, also penned by Waid with a number of rotating artists and featuring a churn of single issue storylines that failed to coalesce as an overarching story of any particular merit. (But hey, at least Fitz got a monkey.)
Perhaps by its very title, All-New, All-Different Avengers finds itself weighed down in the technicalities of Marvel’s revamped continuity and then, almost haphazardly, seeks to build a story out of it.
Artistically, this launch issue fares a little better –with the main story pencilled by Adam Kubert and the Kamala/Nova backup by Mahmud Asrar. Kubert’s story does a solid job of producing something that instantly looks reminiscent of what an Avengers comic looks like in your head, although there are no real superstar visual moments. Asrar has a much tighter focus with 2 characters – and actually succeeds pretty well in capturing the complex range of facial expressions involved in teenage infatuation. Sadly, this insight doesn’t really extend to the issue’s lengthy fight scene, which comes across a little haphazard. (Especially for a flagship Avengers title.)
Waid excels in detailed character studies and stories which build for years and so placing him on a series which Marvel appears to be positioning as the bulletin board of its new universe… offers cause for concern. If ANADA can boil away the publishing line’s excess noise and focus on telling an engaging story with human voices and diverse perspectives, it still has the potential to be something special – just don’t expect it to be breaking all-new, all-different ground.
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar
Colouring by Sonia Oback and Dave McCaig
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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.