When it comes to comics, especially Marvel comics, I’ve usually focused on the Transformers line, with occasional forays into X-Men in the 90’s. Most of my knowledge about anything related to the Avengers comes from the recent movies (*waves madly* Hi, Mr. Hiddleston! You’re awesome!), and when I wanted to try to jump into Avengers comics, something by Warren Ellis seemed like the best place to start. I’ve read Ellis’s Transmetropolitan several times through, I’ve heard lots of rave reviews of Iron Man: Extremis, the man is a god of comic book writing, so I thought the recent Avengers:Endless Wartime would be a great introduction.
The final verdict? It was okay.
I liked it, certainly. With the cast they included, and an introduction by Clark Gregg, it was obviously meant to appeal to long-time comic book fans and still include the movie fans like me. The dialogue can be snappy; Ellis always does a great job with dialogue. I know some readers have complained that there was a little too much of the characters making digs at each other, but that sort of thing has always worked for me. Hawkeye and Stark bear the brunt of the abuse, Hawkeye for being immature, slovenly, and raised in a circus, and Stark for being, well, Stark. And there are some cute bits with Bruce Banner: at one point S.H.I.E.L.D. literally drops Bruce into the middle of the group, with the intention of having him Hulk out and getting everybody to back off. Captain America assures him that they’re all friends, everything’s fine, nobody’s gonna make a move, while behind him Logan, Clint, and Natasha have all got their weapons out and ready to go. It’s a cheap joke, but Mike McKone’s art makes it work, especially since he’s so good at drawing Banner as the harmless, friendly everyman who’s so matter-of-fact about explaining why threatening him is such a potentially horrible idea.
Banner: You want to put a Hulk app in me.
Stark: The Stark Hulk-O-Matic.
Banner: Listen, if I start change color sitting here? That means I like the idea and you should totally stay sitting there.
Speaking of Banner, I felt he was very much McKone and Ellis’s favorite character. He’s got the worst superpower imaginable, and he’s in the employ (if you want to call it that) of an organization that has no problem with waiting until he’s juuuuust about ready to have an “episode”, and then deploying him like a missile. Or bomb. But he has a very self-deprecating sense of humor about it all, and enough scientific knowledge to make things work his way. Or as close to it as he can; McKone drew a heart-breaking picture of him in one scene where he conveys exactly how he feels about the fact that the Hulk is not “The Other Guy”, and never will be.
My dislikes can be summed up pretty quickly: it was a little hard to tell what was going on in the fight scenes sometimes, the addition of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel felt cartoonish and kind of silly (although that’s possibly because I knew less about her than any of the other Avengers characters) and it bothered the HECK out of me that one of the final climactic battles happened off-camera. I mean, really? Show us the final death throes of whatever alien/inter-dimensional menace they’re fighting, for crying out loud. It’s not like you have to worry about an effects budget in a comic book.
The story is a combination of superhero cliches and angst: Captain America will never feel at home in the modern world, Thor is always trying to atone for the time he spent showing off as a warrior, and Stark feels like he makes things worse just by being, well, Stark.
It’s fine, it all works and it has some fun and exciting bits. But I guess with the combination of Marvel characters and Warren Ellis, I was just expecting a little more. Especially when you consider the price-tag on this book. Twenty-five bucks, guys? Putting this inside a digest-sized hardcover may have seemed like a good idea, but honestly that just made it look like a children’s picture book. Let’s try to not cash in on the movies quite so much next time.