Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Braeden Says Things, or Whatever: Why Avengers Assemble #9 is a perfect comic book

So we've had this blog thing for a while, but I haven't used it much. Since we've cut back to only one episode a week, we'll see if I can't find the time to write an article every week or two, with the compelling title of "Braeden Says Things, or Whatever" (It's obviously a working title). I make no promises, but I figure it's worth a try.

So, friends, some scenarios:

Scenario A: You're an avid comics reader. (This is generally the type of person we figure listens to our podcast, after all.) You have a sizable pull list, filled with characters of many different varieties and types. However, you're not an Avengers reader - for whatever reason. (Maybe you're not a Bendis fan, since he's been running the Avengers show for so long. Maybe you've just never gotten into the team books. Maybe it's just too big of a team, with too many characters and not enough development for you to really latch on to. Like I said, whatever reason.) However, you figure it's about time to give the Avengers a chance.

Scenario B: You used to read comics years ago, but it's been awhile. You know your basic characters, but you don't know what's happened in the last, let's say, ten years or so of comic-book-dom to really jump into many of the series that are going on. You see that they're in their something-hundredth issue and you get intimidated. But you're really jonesing for some good graphic storytelling in the superhero genre, and you're thinking it might be time to dip a toe back into the pool.

Scenario C: You've never read a comic book. I mean, sure, you've read the comics in the paper, or maybe you've picked up some of the seminal things in the artform (like Maus and the like), but you've never followed comics on a monthly basis. But you saw this one movie that came out this summer, I don't know if you remember it, it was called The Avengers or something like that, and consequently you're wondering if it's the right time to try these darn comic magazines out.

Well, intrepid reader, I have a solution that can solve the problem for anyone in scenarios A, B, or C . . . and that solution is issue #9 of the book Avengers Assemble.

Yes, it says #9 on the cover. Yes, that means there were 8 issues that came beforehand. Don't worry about them. Forget about them. They were written by someone else (Bendis, incidentally) and were designed to be a jumping-on place for new readers but the first 8 issues didn't really do that. (For those of you that don't know, Avengers Assemble was actually the name of the film outside of the US, but I digress.)

This book has no ties to any other in the Marvel universe. It stands alone, a welcoming, inviting way to give comics a try. It's got a basic roster of six, four of which you know really well from The Avengers - Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America - and two you'll get to know (and grow to love) over the course of the next twenty pages - Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman.

It's simple - this book pays off on the relationship between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. You saw the beginnings of it in The Avengers, and it grows here as they start a contest to see who is the better scientist . . . by tracking down another scientist. Yes, it's silly. It's clearly supposed to be. The whole thing unfolds beautifully, as they build their teams and leave Cap Marvel as the arbiter of their little contest (left back at base eating popcorn with a complaining Wolverine) and go off looking for adventure. And it all ends with a big action sequence and a great hook for the next issue. What more could you want?

Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick captures the voices of the Avengers characters perfectly. You can imagine Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo uttering the lines you're reading off the page - it sounds just like how Whedon wrote them in the film. Captain America is proper stoic like he should be, Spider-Woman is as quippy as always, Thor gets some of the best jokes of the issue, Spider-Man's cameo appearances are hilarious, and of course DeConnick writes Captain Marvel well - she is, after all, the one who has redefined the character.

Artist Steffano Caselli brings his A game to this book. I was unfamiliar with his work before this book, and more's the pity for it - he's extremely talented, with a vibrant ability to portray emotion in character's faces. Lots of comic artists have a knack for the action scene, but have wooden faces on each character - not so here, especially with a page of all faces, where so much is left unsaid. I mean, that final panel of Jessica Drew using her pheromone powers on the Hulk to get him to make her a sandwich? Priceless.

And really, that's the best thing I can say to sell this book. It has Spider-Woman using her pheromone power on the Hulk to make her a peanut butter sandwich. If you don't want to read that, there's nothing more for me to say to you, methinks.

Go buy it. Make sure Marvel keeps this team on this title, because it's a winner. And when you love it, buy #10. And when you love that, start a pull list already with your LCS and add this book. And then start adding other things you love. You'll thank me later.

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