Jason Aaron’s “Avengers” was a little hard to get a read on at first, but now it is 100% certified Aaron-style insanity. Nothing could be better. Aaron’s blend of mad imaginatings, comic book craft, and soap opera storytelling are why we read superhero comics. There is so much happening in this issue, it’s almost overwhelming, but the central storyline more than delivers. All those little conflicts bubbling around the edges? That’s pure serialized comics baby!
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by David Marquez
Colored by Justin Ponsor & Erick Arciniega
Lettered by VC’s Corey Petit
THE WAR OF THE VAMPIRES BEGINS! TRANSYLVANIA IS BURNING! As vampire civil war throws the world into chaos, the mysterious Shadow Colonel and his squad of undead revolutionaries have one burning question on their murderous minds: Where is Dracula? And if the Avengers find him first, will the lord of the damned be friend or foe?
After establishing the rules earlier in his “Avengers” run, “Avengers” #14 is the first issue to take full advantage of them. Let’s go over them real fast. The Avengers are Earth’s mightiest heroes and include Black Panther, Captain America, Thor, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Ghost Rider. They operate out of the corpse of a giant god in the arctic, and are supported by obscure and wonderful heroes ranging from Gorilla Man to Fat Cobra to the Wasp to Broo (Broo is back!). The increasingly suspicious and jingoistic United States isn’t cool with the Avenger’s global mission, and are a constant antagonist. Every arc the main Avengers team will team up with one other Marvel hero to deal with a conflict out of their wheelhouse. This time around it’s the Daywalker himself- Blade!
And man do Jason Aaron and red hot artist David Marquez have fun with the half-vampire hero. An early sequence has Blade staking vamps left and right with silver nunchucks on a private jet. Though this version of Blade is recognizably the Marvel hero from the 70s and 80s, his near-nonsensical one liners display their Wesley Snipes influence with pride. “C’mon suckhead” Blade says to a soon-to-be dusted vampire, “Time to return your seat to its upright position.” Awesome.
The Avengers need to team up with Blade because there is a vampire war brewing. A mysterious new team of villains, led by the Shadow Colonel, is hunting for Dracula. I mean, I feel like at this point you know if you are on board or not. The design of the Shadow Colonel and his spook squad are totally rad, and I’m thrilled that Marquez is getting the chance to dip into “Tomb of Dracula” horror imagery. The action is totally bananas, and two of the top creators in cape comics try to one-up each other on every page. Either “Avengers get pulled into a Dracula War” blows your mind, or you think comics begin and end with “Watchmen” in which case, I don’t know what to tell you.
One thing Aaron has always excelled in is coming up with weird goofy weaponry. In this case, we open with napalm bats and rats armed with sunburst grenades. By the end of the issue there’s a skull-faced phasing hell hound of some sort. Marquez is one of my favorite artists in the Marvel bullpen. He more than earned my respect when he drew “Iron Man” for Bendis. In that series, Marquez often had to draw very dense dialogue scenes and rose to the challenge with dynamic panels and an eye for detail.
This issue… is not mostly dialogue scenes. It’s mostly screaming, posing, kicking posturing, and rad quips. Marquez needs to design monsters, and Wakandan solar weapons, and Captain America leaping through Transylania with a big ‘ol cross. It feels like he’s been let off the chain. He makes this issue look like a breeze, though I imagine it was a gauntlet of design challenges.Continued below
What takes this issue from good to great though is Aaron’s narrative captions. This is “Avengers” after all, not just a Blade book. The carnage would all be good forgettable fun, but he takes every action beat as an opportunity for a character beat. When Iron Man and Black Panther team up to roast an army of vampires, we get in their heads to learn the difference in their approach. Iron Man assures himself that these monsters aren’t really people… and T’Challa reminds himself that these monsters are people, and that by killing them, he has failed them. Captain America defends a church, and tries to remember the last time he was in one of those. The somber and sometimes melodramatic character beats are welcome, but the monster fightin’ is totally kick-ass. A perfect marriage of style and substance.
And I haven’t even mentioned the crazy business Ghost Rider gets up to! Or Captain Marvel’s multiple moments to shine! Or the situation with Russia’s Winter Guard! Or the big Drac himself! So much happens in this comic!
This is it for me right now, the superhero series I would recommend to everyone. Start with this issue, or the next one, or the previous one, it doesn’t matter. But Aaron and Marquez are two of the heavy-hitting greats in cape comics, and this issue is why you should care about that. Lapsed “Avengers” reader, Marvel movie fan, curious newbie looking for where to start, it doesn’t matter- this is what an “Avengers” comic should look like!
Final Verdict: 9.2 – After reading this issue I’m thoroughly convinced that Aaron and Marquez are capable of anything, including ice-skating uphill.