Monday, 21 April 2014

New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies (Marvel NOW!) Review

New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies

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Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Steve Epting

Collecting: New Avengers #1-6

Background Information:

The New Avengers, contrary to what the title may suggest, are not a set of replacement Avengers, rather, they represent Marvel’s Illuminati. Here, that’s not group with a strange obsession for conveniently-placed triangles. Here, they’re a group that rule the world in secret made up of Black Bolt, Namor, Reed Richards, Iron Man, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and formerly Professor Xavier. Six of them possess one of the infinity gems each. These gems are important because together they form the infinity gauntlet- one of the most powerful tools in the galaxy.

Review:

What was wrong with calling this book, The Illuminati? This team, despite featuring both Captain America and Iron Man, is about as far from the Avengers as can be fathomed. It’s still a great team and it’s still a great book, but be aware that these are not the Avengers in any sense of the word.

So the Illuminati are called together with the kind of insanely massive crisis that you would expect to be worthy of gathering the world’s rulers; the multiverse is falling apart, causing multiple versions of earth to crash into each other. This presents the Illuminati with a bit of a moral quandary; these other earths are also populated, so the choice becomes one of destroying your own world or destroying someone else’s. It’s a great question that gets fairly well explored, with the ultimate answer being that sometimes tough decisions need to be made.

While  Everything Dies presents some great moral questions, the answer isn’t really satisfactory. These people are meant to be heroes, they are meant to be able to save someone against incredible odds, but that doesn’t happen. Isntead, Everything Dies reads like the first part of a two-part story. This is something that has been bugging me about Marvel NOW!’s trade paperbacks; so many of them feel unfinished; the majority of them collect about five issues. Compare that to DC’s 6-10 issues on average per trade and it’s clear which one is the better value for money. I like what I’m reading in Everything Dies, but I can hardly say that I’m satisfied with what I’ve read.

But that’s a small problem as what really seems to be on display here is the relationship between these characters. There is some great headbutting between Captain America, Black Panther and the rest of the Illuminati. My real problem here, though, is that none of these characters seem really likeable. They’re intriguing, they’re not people you can find yourself supporting. I mentioned before that this team are the furthest thing from the Avengers that you can imagine- that’s because thse characters just aren’t heroic. In fact, the only heroic character in the team gets removed from it fairly quickly. The result is a bad feeling in your stomach as you read.

That said though, there is some excellent action here, the pinnacle of which has to be the fight between Dr. Doom and a group called the Map Makers. If you want to know how big a claim that is, this is following a fight between the Illuminati and a servant of Galaktus- the big dude who eats planets. Let that sink in for a while.

The art here is fantastic. Epting manages to use a colour palette that allows him more detail than David Aja, yet still manages to feel minimal in its use. The result is a book where in multiple pages you sometimes have to pay attention to realise that Epting is using more than one colour. It’s not a criticism, though, it helps to book to have a kind of consistency that is very pretty to look at. The character designs in Everything Dies are also brilliant- Captain America looks better here than in his own book, and even ridiculous costumes like Black Bolt’s looks good.

Everything Dies is not a book about heroes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a passable yarn. It get three out of five conveniently-placed triangles.

***

+ Engaging morality tale

+ Art is great

+ Some awesome action scenes

- Characters are profoundly un-heroic

- Unsatisfying ending

Alternate Option: All-New X-Men

One of the best NOW! books I’ve read- you need to check this out.