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New Avengers #1

Al Ewing, writer
Gerardo Sandoval, artist
Dono Sanchez Almara, colorist
Marvel $3.99

newavengers1My experience with Marvel post Secret Wars begins with this first issue of New Avengers. Over the years the share of Marvel’s books I’ve read has remained low in part because I’d stopped reading most series and perceived many of them too continuity dense to jump back into easily or I wanted to avoid event heavy titles. Dodging an event like Secret Wars that restarts the bread and butter superhero books is impossible and so my experience of the Marvel Universe post Secret Wars began last night with the first issue of New Avengers. With Young Avengers being one of the series that I found to be both really fun and accessible I really wanted to find out how Hulkling and Wiccan would transition into this new post Secret War scheme of things.

The basic premise is a group of heroes and scientists led and seemingly funded by Roberto Dacosta, still a mutant and Sunspot,comprise what is known as Avengers Idea Mechanics, or the new AIM. They’re based on an artificial island 13 miles off the California coast and therefore are in international waters, a fact that makes the American government and SHIELD uneasy. The cast of characters seen here include the aforementioned Roberto Dacosta, Hulkling and Wiccan (their relationship seems intact based on their dialog), White Tiger, Songbird, Power Man, Squirrel Girl and Sciuridae companion Tippy Toe, POD (from Hickman’s run and playing Dacosta’s bodyguard here), and Drs Toni Ho and Max Brashears. I’m trusting that Ewing can make these characters gel as a team and make them compelling on their own. I like that with these characters we have a number of women, several people of color, two gay men, and a lesbian.

Rather than beginning with an origin story, Ewing starts the story with the heroes embarking on a mission to Paris where people have been turned into crystal headed, hive mind style drones, a fate foisted onto them by the Maker, the super scientist and alternate evil universe counterpart of a beloved character who masterminds W.H.I.S.P.E.R (henceforth WHISPER since I hate typing caps and periods in succession) which may or may not be new to Marvel. Just what is the Maker’s plan? As Power Man explains after observing the mutated Parisians: “They’re turning the city into a circuit. Into a switchboard! A telephone to the dead!” Shades of Grant Morrison! That does appeal to me and the crystal headed people recalls for me some of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol weirdness and the globe headed Ruby Thursday villain. But as the Maker rather assuredly explains, it’s all about “Life-Minus” and killing heroes and spreading chaos which these Avengers are beginning to discover once they’ve jumped from Avengers One, the new concept quinjet, into Paris, conveniently identified by the Eiffel Tower. Cue evil scientist monster and crystal headed minions for a cliffhanger.

Ah, but I’ve left out Ewing’s plot with Dacosta dealing with an agreed to inspection from SHIELD’s Dum Dum Dugan, who according to the caption is “Agent of SHIELD. Ghost Robot Frankenstein. More human than most.” and confuses me more than intrigues me. Though whatever Dugan’s new status may be isn’t attributable to Ewing. At least SHIELD’s purpose seems to be the same. Ewing has Dugan outright explain to Dacosta what SHIELD’s secret plan regarding these Avengers is and Dacosta goes right along with it. I’m trying to tell myself Ewing’s choice was meant to reflect Dugan’s no nonsense character. And how many times has a spy declared “I’m the super-secret traitor on your team.”? Maybe intrigue will somehow arise from this situation, say if Ewing has Dacosta keeping the secret from the rest of the team.

Artist Gerardo Sandoval’s style is distinct and very consistent. Unfortunately, I think it may not be a good match for for what I think is meant to be an upbeat yet serious tone. Often the heads and hands he’s drawn are large and out of proportion. Male figures look blocky. Eyes are sometimes missing irises, creating a bit of what seems to me an unintended creepy effect. Sandoval appears to be inking his own pencils based on the lack of a separate inker credit. If that is the case, I wonder how his pencil work would be affected by another person inking it and think it might be an idea for editors Tom Breevort and Wil Moss to consider. Almara’s colors are for the most part rendered flatly in keeping with Sandoval’s style. They’re quite nice when space allows them to shine though in some panels become rather dull because of heavy shadows and inking.

This first issue is mostly set up and action with a fair amount of mystery surrounding Roberto Dacosta’s role as head of these Avengers which form an integral part of AIM. And just how did Avengers Island come to be? For that matter AIM. How did these heroes come to form a team? Why did Ewing choose these particular characters to work with? And how does Squirrel Girl not miss classes at Empire State and will her humorous character be glaringly out of place here as White Tiger seems to emote? And don’t take that as hate for Squirrel Girl! Is something going on with Wiccan? Why are these Avengers “new” and how and why are they differentiated from other Avengers now who are kind of new too, right?

I want to like this series and after giving this first issue two reads I’m uncertain yet going to stick around to read about Hulkling and Wiccan. My only familiarity with Ewing’s writing comes from Loki which I liked though grew tired of because of mandated event tie ins and I trust that he’ll grab my interest more with each issue.

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