Review by Karl Verhoven
The first thing to be asked is why on a custom project are four pencil artists used for just over a hundred pages of story? It’s an unpleasant transition from the naturalism of Andrea DiVito, who completes the opening and closing twenty pages, to the cartoon exaggeration of Jon Buran, and then back to more realism with Nigel Raynor. Yes, these and the team of Mike Bowden and Walden Wong illustrate chapters spotlighting individual team members, but these are the same folk united in the opening and closing chapters.
As created in 1963, the basis of the Avengers’ origin was Loki attempting to set the Hulk against his half-brother Thor in the hopes that one of the few beings able to match Thor for raw power would administer a crushing defeat. Much to Loki’s chagrin others became involved, misunderstandings were untangled and the Avengers were formed, soon thereafter adding Captain America. Peter David brushes that off in the opening pages, focussing his story instead on Loki’s attempts to rectify what he perceives as his mistake.
David doesn’t bother with Giant Man and the Wasp, away on a cruise, which some might consider a cheat, but indicates the book is a primer for those attracted to the Avengers via the movie franchise. He presents individual missions for Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, as they’re ostensibly searching for the Hulk. As well as being a nod to the structure of the early Justice League who always split into smaller teams for individual missions, these have a purpose feeding into the larger plot. This is to arouse in each Avenger suspicions regarding a team-mate.
With David’s sit-com sharp dialogue and the utilisation of very modern technology, Avengers Season One never feels as if it’s set during the earliest days of the team, this despite the use of several villains possibly unseen for decades. We get a Thor vs Hulk set-to for our money, three actually, the way Loki’s plan seeps into the open is excellent, and David toys with the emblematic nature of Captain America in amusing fashion, if occasionally skirting with parody: “I’m going to ask you to put down your weapons and think about what you’re doing” is how he addresses an armed gang. Overall there are some nice snatches here and there, but nothing to generate enthusiasm, or even a conversation.
For contrast we’re also provided with the first issue of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s Avengers Assemble series, new when Season One was published, and the line-up indicating it’s also deliberately aimed at Avengers movie viewers. Bendis also has a great facility with clever dialogue, but there’s not much evidence of it here as he coasts with crude comments and little distinction. Bagley delivers reader-friendly superhero art, but such is Bendis’ decompressed style there’s very little story in a single chapter. As it’s considered a bonus and presumably intended to induce purchase of Avengers Assemble for the remainder, no-one at Marvel will concern themselves with that.