Thursday, May 10, 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012: Marvel Comics

This may be post-Avengers fever talking, but Marvel Comics' Avengers: Age of Ultron #.1 is the perfect Free Comic Book Day offering.  First of all, based on the criteria I established in my last review, this comic is a complete issue, like any you could pick up off the stands.  It isn't a stand alone story, though; it's the beginning of another Avengers adventure, one that has Tony Stark quaking in his iron boots.  For casual readers of the Avengers (like me), or a newbie to comics fresh from the movie, what better way to hook 'em then by striking fear in who we've perceived as a fearless hero?

Marvel also presents some of its top talent in this free funnybook, with Brian Michael Bendis behind the words, and Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary behind the pictures.  Again, I'm only a casual fan of these artists, but Bendis sets a motley stage, with Avengers of all types in attendence, introducing new readers to characters they wouldn't have seen in the film.  Further, Bendis creates a very poignant problem and offers a multi-faceted way to solve it, with a slew of macabre villains along the way.  Hitch and Neary volley superhero adventure and espionage very well, and while the characters' grimaces are very realistic, weirdos like M.O.D.O.K. look appropriately -- well, weird. 

Perhaps this is what struck me most about this issue: it's a classic superhero team versus a classic super-villain team, mirroring each other in opposite objectives on the same spectrum.  Despite the contemporary context, this issue seemed very old-fashioned (another term Avengers movie fans might remember), yet without shoving nostalgia down out throats.  Here, we can have a horde of bad guys working together, and they don't operate under a name like "The Secret Society of Ne'er-Do-Wells."  They're just there, in a cave, almost like a terror cell, doing something that could cause great harm to the world, for their own selfish gains.  Then, superheroes try to stop them.  This is the genre.  For a moment in this issue, Steve Rogers (formerly Captain America) is tempted to think it's more complicated than that, as covert groups come to light, but in the end everyone just works together.

And that's the pleasant thing about this issue.  Everything works together, with a satisfying ending that leaves just enough dangling to keep us coming back for more.  The unspoken thesis of Free Comic Book Day is this: "Here is something for free.  Is it good enough to make you come back next week and PAY for it?"  In this case, I say, "Absolutely."  Avengers readers, assemble!

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