The Avengers #55

The Silver Age of Comics has brought about changes in pop culture that will reverberate for years to come. From the two major companies, Marvel and DC, the sheer amount of work they created that is still being mined is amazing. But do they stand the test of time? Not always.

To get back in the saddle of reviewing I thought I would dive into a classic issue of The Avengers. This issue was the debut of Ultron-5, the evil robot played so amazingly by James Spader in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The premise of the issue is that The Avengers have been kidnapped by the reformed Masters of Evil under the guise of the mysterious Crimson Cowl. While the previous issue came out and said Jarvis, Tony Stark’s butler, was The Crimson Cowl, it turns out Jarvis was being hypnotized by Ultron. The scheme was to have a hydrogen bomb held over the Empire State Building while Ultron contacts authorities for a ransom. The Black Knight arrives after Jarvis is able to escape, hijinks ensue, and The Avengers save the day.

The overall story itself was not horrible. I’ve certainly read much worse than this. Yet it does have a couple major failings. The biggest one is how Jarvis is dealt with. First, they imply he’s being hypnotized yet at the end of the issue Jarvis tells The Avengers that his mother was sick and he needed money so he sold them out. Which is it? Was he forced against his will through hypnosis or did he go along with the plan simply to help his mother? Also, maybe someone can fill me in as to what Tony Stark’s fortune was at this point in time but I strongly suspect that Tony would have willingly given Jarvis whatever cash he needed to care for his family.

Secondly, he was attacked by the Melter (after previously being attacked by Ultron) yet was able to escape with essentially minor bruises. When Jake and Elwood Blues in The Blues Brothers were attacked over and over again yet were able to simply walk away it was done for humorous effect. When a simple butler is able to survive an attack from a robot and a hardened criminal with simply nothing more than an Excedrin headache, it takes the believe ability of these villains, tosses it out a window, and lets birds use them for scraps for their nests. While I could let it slide when it happens to one of The Avengers, because let’s face it, even during the 1960’s you would expect members of a group to train for situations for like this, for an average civilian, you’d expect them to be straight up murdered.

Another issue I had was something I’ve seen a lot in Silver Age Comics. They introduce the big bad villain yet only showcase that villain for a couple of pages. Granted, I’m admittedly being a little impatient here. This issue was during the era where they were just getting into the groove of multi-issue stories. If you take early Avengers stories, early Spider-Man stories, most would be single story issues. With what is called decompression, they were letting stories breath really, letting them flow longer and more organically like a story in a novel or movie compared to the compression stories of the past eras. One drawback of the decompression method is if you find yourself in the middle of the story you may find that certain characters you want to see are simply not going to be around in a particular story simply because they’re not needed. Yet, I still found myself frustrated because for Ultron’s part in the story, we mainly saw him as The Crimson Cowl. Once he reveals himself as Ultron, he only appears in four more pages of the story in only a small handful of panels. This is a complaint…but a complaint I am sure a writer wants to see a person have because I wanted to see more of him.

So where do I stand on this issue? You have to take it in full context honestly. It’s a part of a longer story told in previous issues. With that, as a stand alone story, it doesn’t hold up too well. However, what it did right was not having the enjoyment of this issue be completely reliant upon total knowledge of what happened in previous issues. To me, the sign of a good comic is one that you can pick up with any issue and enjoy it. They have to have the mindset George Lucas said he had for Star Wars, that each film is its own story but all the films together tell one coherent story. This issue fits that formula nicely so I do recommend it as a read. It’s certainly not a classic in comics history along the lines of Amazing Fantasy #15, with a solid beginning, middle, and end, it does what it needs to do. In the age of graphic novels and comics available upon demand digitally, I think this is something some comics creators are forgetting today. They have the mindset that each issue is a chapter in a story and write it accordingly. Comic stories, even today, share more with old movie serials than they do with books. Basically, you have one issue to sell a new reader on your story so make whatever issue they pick up feel like a complete story, not a small part of something bigger. If they like what they read, they will purchase the other issues.

The Mighty Avengers #14

mighty-avengers-14-cover

The Good:

We dive further into the Secret Invasion by exploring more in depth a scene that had occurred in a previous comic involving The Sentry. When the Skrull spacecraft landed in the Waste Lands and the Skrull impostors came out of the ship, one of the impostors appeared to look like The Vision. During an interaction while fighting with The Sentry, he told The Sentry that what was happening was his fault causing The Sentry to leave.

It’s been established by this point that The Sentry is not the most stable hero in the Marvel Universe. He’s schizophrenic and agoraphobic. While he comes across as a guy wanting to do the right thing, the fact that he has the power of multiple suns mixed with his mental issues keeps him one breakdown away from being a danger to everyone.

I liked how they established that The Sentry had a doppelganger that was his exact opposite called The Void. The Void IS The Sentry yet they manifest themselves as two separate beings. When a person has tremendous power what type of strain to their psyche do they go through in terms of deciding when to use that power or when not to? It is interesting to think about and for the most part a nice little tease for the character. I don’t really know much about The Sentry and the comic did a good job of piquing my interest.

I also dug how they established that the Skrull invasion had been going on for a while. The scenes showing Jarvis talking with Tony Stark about the recent breakdown of The Scarlet Witch and how, being that he saw he more than anyone and should have seen the signs of her mental breakdown, were well played especially with the reveal that Jarvis was in fact a Skrull invader. With Jarvis having the access to the personnel files of The Avengers, it would make sense for the invasion to occur as it has without anyone noticing. Jarvis can send the appropriate files to his Skrull masters in order to get his fellow invaders to act just like the people they are being sent to impersonate.

The art work was pretty solid. Drawn in the classic comic style, the characters were emotive. Their reactions based on the what was happening with them appeared real and made you care more for them. The locations had depth too which I liked. They felt like the action was taking place outside in a real location and not some small sound stage.

The Bad:

They skimmed over years of story to meet the 22 page goal here which was distracting. The core of the story is pretty interesting and something that could have been explored with a little more in depth storytelling but they chose to skim over a lot. It would have been great to explore a little more how the Skrull’s slowly invaded the planet, taking over the identity of Earth’s heroes as well as the blatant question that has not been asked yet. Where the hell are the actual heroes who’s identity has been stolen by the Skrulls? We’re going to get to that point I’m sure but a little heads up by now would have been nice. For all we know they’re dead. Being a comic that is not going to be the case because good will prevail over evil in the end but now we’re close to two hundred pages of story with no clue as to the whereabouts of the heroes of the story that have been kidnapped. It would be nice to know where they are.

The only real complaint I would have with the art is in regards to the fonts. Maybe it’s because I have a headache now but the overuse of large fonts to describe explosions or people yelling was just excessive and unneeded. It’s like when someone adds a ton of exclamation points in a text message to imply how serious what they are writing is. We get it. You want me to pick up milk from the grocery store. You don’t have to write the message like you’re telling me the President has been shot.

Bottom Line:

This was not a bad issue. I think Brian Bendis did a great job of making you interested in The Sentry. I certainly want to find out more about him after this issue. But I find myself disappointed that a story that could have been explored with a lot more detail was sped through like a kid in the 80’s speeding to his favorite scene on a VHS tape. The speed at which they flew through this story really killed my interest near the end and made my enjoyment suffer. For that, I have to give the story a 4.

The art work was pretty consistent. I don’t ask too much from my art in a comic book apart from the fact that the art should not distract me from the story. The artwork in a story should compliment the words. You could have the greatest artwork but if the story doesn’t rise to the level of the art, the entire piece suffers and vice versa. While not everything has to look like it’s ripped off from the pages of the golden age of comics, I do think that should be the default stance an artist should take unless they have the talent to do something else with that work. I think of the new Ms. Marvel comics with Kamala Khan. While that art is a bit sloppy it actually leads to what makes that comic great. You get the real sense that the comics are being drawn by the young lady the story is about. While this comic didn’t commit any real sins apart from too many large fonts in regards to the art, it also wasn’t memorable. That’s not a bad thing at all because not every comic can go down as the greatest ever. Some comics need to be the next step in the road to get you to the main focus of the story. This happens to be one of those issues. I give the art a 7.