Tradewaiter returns to its regular format after a month of examining Marvel’s cosmic catalogue, but the focus remains on the larger Marvel universe. If you’re wondering what to expect from the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy,” look no further than “Avengers Assemble,” where Bendis had his first chance to write the team. Spoilers ahead!
Written by Brian Bendis
Illustrated by Mark Bagley
A perfect jumping-on point, featuring the cast of the summer blockbuster – but in Marvel Universe continuity! When the new Zodiac rears its many heads, the Avengers must assemble to combat them. But who is behind the group’s return? None other than Thanos, the mad Titan, who has claimed Earth as his own! The Avengers team up with cosmic blockbusters the Guardians of the Galaxy to bring Thanos some cosmically charged pain – but can even these two mighty teams stop Thanos from making Earth the homeworld of his new empire? This explosive battle will change one of the Avengers’ lives – forever!
184 pages / $34.99
This storyarc was hard to pin down. It features the cast of the movie, which had a number of fans thinking it was set in the Cinematic universe instead of the good old 616. For the first half or so, it seemed designed to be a gateway for fans of the film, then it took a wild turn and utilized some of very obscure characters with no introduction at all. By the end, it felt like a springboard for a new “Guardians of the Galaxy” series. It’s hard not to wonder how much of this book was mandated by editorial, because its effort to be so many things results in a big ol’ mess.
The first chapter opens with a member of the new Zodiac explaining to the other members why they’ve gathered, and why they should work together. He must be a very persuasive, because he got everyone to put on their Zodiac costume before telling them why they’d be a team. They’re all ambitious villains who can’t conquer the world alone according to the organizer, but you’ll find out later they’re all mooks from the various crime organzations in the MU. I guess it’s possible for a generic AIM goon to feel like he could rule the world, but it feels more like lazy characterization.
The humans are given abilities inline with their sign, and they use them to steal mysterious things. This draws the attention of Hulk and some other Avengers. Despite verbally acknowledging Zodiac’s physical superiority, Captain America chooses not to seek help from Avengers who weren’t in the movie because. That’s not a typo. He really had no reason. When Iron Man uses soundwaves to block an energy transer (?), Thanos comes arrives and admits he’s been behind the whole thing. Then there’s an explosion and he escapes.
Unsure of what to do, the Avengers breathe a collective sigh of relief when the Guardians fly in and explain the situation. Some alien council told the whole universe to stay away from Earth because. Thanos, being the crazy guy he is, decides to disobey because. Taking advantage of a loop hole, because he would never outright violate universal law, he hand picks the various goons because, then gives them powers somehow, and makes them do what he wants. When that backfires, he says “Screw it” and just comes to Earth himself, because no one cares anymore. The Guardians (who are apparantly exempt from the new law?) are here to stop him.
The Avengers and Guardians team-up to follow Thanos into space, where he’s gathered various elders of the universe together and banishes them from the universe with a cosmic cube. Then Thanos’ army of Badoon intercept the heroes. To beat them, Iron Man hatches a clever plan. Hulk reverts to Bruce and fights his way into the Badoon ship in the Iron Man armor. Then he surprises the Badoon by hulking out and destroying things. Keep in mind, the Badoon don’t know who either Iron Man or Hulk are, making this a surprise only to the reader.
Realizing his army’s been beaten, Thanos banishes the heroes with the cube. Here, Bendis acknowledges the big continuity snarl that is half the Guardians and Thanos dying in their last appearance. That acknowledgement is a serious look on Starlord’s face before moving on. Meanwhile, Iron Man defeats Thanos with technobabble and a science gun.Continued below
The plot summary for this collection is longer than this column normally does, and that’s because some of the dumber events couldn’t be described without context. There were dozens of other ridiculous things in the book (Groot suddenly being able to grow instantaneously, Captain America’s speech in the first issue sounding like a declaration of war) which will make you wonder how this book got published.
Plot aside, it seems Bendis barely bothered to think about what he was writing. Every page is filled with Bendis-speak, including the captain of a SHIELD helicarrier using the phrase “No duh” while the ship is crashing. Other than Hulk, who uses bad grammar, all the characters sound identical. They all ramble, they all seem bored, and they all feel the need to talk constantly. The Zodiac are inconsistant, saying they know everything about the Avengers on one page, then asking which one Black Widow is on the next. Continuity shouldn’t be so important as to drag a story down, but things like characters being dead should be on a writer’s radar. Between issues six and seven, Bendis forgot the Iron Man armor can survive in space. All these add up to a book which feels more like a first draft than a final product.
As a collection, the book reads poorly. The plot hiccups between every chapter, and big action moments are cut with slow scenes of dialogue before returning to the scene. There is a vague line of cause-and-effect tying the individual chapters together, but by the end of the book lots of events from the first half seem to be totally forgotten. The Zodiac? Who are they? Other alien artifacts on Earth? Who cares?
The art is not as loose as the scripting, but the colorists help to disguise Bagley’s bad case of sameface. There are lots of examples throughout the volume where the only difference between two (or more) characters is their hair color. Aside from that, this is his standard work with dynamic action, clear scenes, and a good sense of scale. The only really odd choice in art was in an early chapter. The Zodiac are out collecting various alien artifacts which aren’t connected in any way, but the Earth-made cosmic cube (which still made their list somehow) is in the same container as the ulimate nullifier being sold in Latveria. Did Bendis forget to tell Bagley they weren’t related?
The only extras in the book are some sketches of Starlord from Bagley, but they don’t offer much. One is the Starlord seen throughout the book, the other is the same Starlord in a terrible jacket. The hardcover’s $35 price tag is eleven bucks higher than the already overpriced single issues, with pretty much nothing being offered to increase the value.
Final Verdict: 3.0 – Stay away. Far away.