Review Round-up: Smasher saves Avengers, Rotworld draws to a close

Posted: February 7, 2013 in DC, Marvel, Reviews

By Alex Headley

The cover to issue 5 is my favorite so far. It just has a lot of personality. Property of Marvel Comics.

Avengers 5
This issue marks a tremendous improvement for this book. Everything the last two issues was lacking, this one has in spades. Intimate character moments, interesting new characters, big space battles and entertaining dialogue between Avengers. Finally, this feels like the book it’s supposed to be. Smasher is an instantly likable character and an excellent addition the Avengers roster. Her origin story, told in this issue, is born moving and original. This is a complete 180 degree turn from Hyperion’s mediocre origin tale last issue. Lets hope Hickman can keep this up because this was a hell of a ride. Of course any comic featuring Gladiator is sure to be a hit with me. I would to see more cosmic stuff take a central role in this title, the cast calls for it really and it looks like we might get that soon thanks to some interesting images found in New Avengers this week.

This is the kind of cosmic scale conflict that Avengers promised and even though this new plot interrupts the A.I.M./Garden sites story, its okay because it’s so intriguing and frankly last issue’s exploration of the Garden sites was kind of dull. Adam Kubert performs a great deal better this time around too, rendering the small moments on the farm just as well as the big battle in Shi’Ar space. This story feels a bit like new ground for Hickman, who is always focused on big casts and big moments. Slowing down his epic story to focus on Isabel for so long gives her a higher level of importance than some of the other new additions. And that’s okay. More than anything I feel like this epic story needs a point of view character to keep it grounded. Isabel can serve that function perfectly. This is a character I definitely want to see more of in the future and who feels like a proper addition to the Avengers cast.

New Avengers 3
Wow. This issue is intense. Just one punch is thrown here and only two pages break up the talking heads but Hickman not only makes it work but also makes it tense, touching and epic in scope. The introduction of Beast to the team is great, even if Epting seams to be sticking with the previous Beast appearance and ignoring his new mutation. Do you think that was intentional or just a continuity blunder? That little detail and Cap still wearing his old costume really begs the question as to when this story takes place. Writers should never be a slave to continuity but a little consistency is appreciated too. At least with his own books.

Beast’s introduction gives us a great window into the state of the Marvel U and how Xavier’s death has changed the world. The Illuminati is pretty shaken up by the end of this issue.  Beast is probably my favorite mutant so his addition and Hickman’s obviously deep understanding of the characters make for some great moments. Cap’s absolute refusal to budge on morality is exactly in character. Likewise the pragmatism of the rest of the cast is appropriate, even Black Panther was a bit of a dick about it.
Steve Epting continues to impress me more than ever on this book. He does a great job with body language and facial expressions and I think he is largely the reason this issue works so well. I’m not sure anyone else could pull it off but the lighting and layout really make this comic easy to read and understand. Reed, T’Challa and Cap all have great moments in his issue. I particularly enjoyed the conversation with Black Swan  and the call back to it later in the issue, Hickman did it last issue too to great effect. But it’s the return of the infinity gauntlet that’s the biggest news here and it’s telling that Marvel just released a teaser for a Hickman penned free comic book day special titles Infinity. Looks like more than Age of Ultron is brewing on the horizon.

The covers to Animal Man 17 and Swamp Thing 17 form a cohesive image. Property of DC Comics.

Rotworld Finale 1&2
*this review contains mild spoilers*
The end is nigh and Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have teamed up to send the event off in style. Here at the end, things are just as fun, gross and over the top as the rest of the event has been. There are some really cool moments here, especially in Animal Man 17(Green Lantern Frankenstein!) and the battle at Arcane’s castle is big, bad and ugly. It seems like all might be lost on several occasions but the heroes manage to always find another option, just before a new threat beats them down again. The battle has an excellent ebb and flow, takin time to highlight all the combatants and give us more rotling cameos to spot in the carnage. Beast Boy, Batgirl, Frankenstein and of course Animal Man and Swamp Thing all get their moment in the spotlight before the plot moves on to Anton. And that’s where things suffer a bit. We all knew from the beginning that this little ‘What If?’ Tale would be reversed somehow and that is a blessing and a curse. It lets Snynder and Lemire have plenty of fun with the established characters but also doesn’t allow for much of a lasting impact. And so the fates of Buddy and Alec’s loved ones just doesn’t have the proper impact. Especially once the time travel solution is revealed. Although I do like that the Rot is instrumental in saving the day after all the damage done by Arcane.
Animal Man is definitely the better of the two this time around. And that’s almost entirely due to the art in Swamp Thing. It’s not bad, heck I might even like the style in a different comic, but it is not the right style for this dark tale. It’s far too cartoony and bright and lacks the depth and moody atmosphere needed for this story. And it comes at absolutely the worst moment. Swamp Thing is by far the more emotional of the two stories here, Animal Man mostly featured bad-ass fights,  and the art completely fails to convey that. This is especially tragic in the handling of Buddy’s breakdown after his fight with Maxine. It’s weightless, it no impact whatsoever for me and I’m a pretty invested reader at this point. This is an example of how art can hurt a comic book, especially a change in artist. Yanick Paquette is very sorely missed here.

  1. raheadley says:

    So very glad Avengers is finally getting better!

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