First things first: if you’re looking for the answer of whether or not you should buy this book with the new creative team, then the answer is quite simple — yes. Yes, you absolutely should. Buy it, read it, love it, laugh with it, enjoy it, share it.
If you need more than that, there’s a full review with no spoilers below. Lucky you!
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Illustrated by Stefano Caselli
ALL-NEW CREATIVE TEAM WITH ALL-NEW OUTSIZED ADVENTURES!
– Kelly Sue Deconnick (CAPTAIN MARVEL) and Stefano Caselli (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) team up to tackle the titanic tales YOU DEMANDED! And in continuity to boot?!
– Two scientists. Two giant egos. One wears a tank. One is a tank. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are SCIENCE BROS!
– When a fellow bigbrain goes missing, wanna bet who can find him first? It’s Amazing Race, Avengers-style, as Iron Man and Hulk form their teams and embark on a global manhunt with the ultimate prize at stake…bragging rights!
Marvel’s Avengers film is the biggest superhero film ever – no questions. It’s one for the books assuredly, and it proves without a doubt that people are willing to get into the same crazy superhero nonsense that us “normal comic reading folk” are, at least when provided with the right formula to make everything work (read: handsome actors and a great script). This is where “Avengers Assemble” comes from; it’s not that we needed a fifth Avengers title (adjectiveless, New, Dark, Secret) but rather that Marvel wanted a book for people who were fans of the movie to get into the same sprawling opera the regular fans read monthly. Makes sense.
However, the downside to it is that the first arc seemed a tad bit phoned in. Brian Bendis has been the man behind the Avengers for an incredibly long epic of a run so he’s the natural candidate to launch a new Avengers title, but his story in “Assemble” didn’t match the highs or even the lows of his regular work. Detached from the “regular” continuity (however you prescribe to that term) he himself had developed, this story seemed more like your average film tie-in — something done without too much thought under the assumption that the right people will buy it regardless (so, fans of Bendis, completionists and/or fans of the film). It was a bit disheartening to see a creator so well known to a franchise put out a story that, when done, just seemed like a teaser for Avengers 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, or at most a trailer for the cosmic section of Marvel NOW!. Bendis is capable of great Avengers stories and has told many during his run over seven different Avengers titles now, and this just wasn’t one of them.
Thank the higher ups at Marvel, then, for handing this book off to a creative team who can give it all the humor, heart and charm it was lacking for eight issues: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Stefano Caselli. And holy crap, what a turn around.
With “Avengers Assemble” #9, everything changes, and not just in that way that marketing likes to throw around. With a new creative team comes a new roster and a new dynamic, all of which is readily apparent within the first few pages; instead of “the movie team,” we’re given a smaller unit of Avengers, one that’s a bit more open-ended to the Marvel Universe and somehow infinitely more playful. Not only that, but we have a massive shift from a cosmic-level threat (read: movie tie-in opportunity) towards something smaller, and a bit more intimate. In fact, our new villain isn’t really fully revealed until the end of the issue (a new villain!), and even then it’s not so easily given away. Where the initial launch of the book gave us A Place To Go, the current iteration of the title feels more like A Place To Stay, and seeing as how Marvel was hoping for this book to be the place for new fans, it’s nice to be given a book that you can point to and say, “This? This is why I read the Marvel Avengers title, Random Friend who is unaware that the Avengers just fought the X-Men. Please, share in this world with me!”
Suffice it to say, all the changes are absolutely welcome. Given how easy it is to slap the word “Avengers” on a comic right now and present what is ultimately a throwaway experience, it’s nice to have a book that instantly feels like it should always be on the market from Marvel. This is more than just a New Reader Friendly book, it’s the Avengers book we’ve been missing; it’s fun, it feels a bit looser, it doesn’t play towards any of the styles or trends that most modern comics do. It’s the first Avengers comic in a while to come out that feels like you can relax while reading it, and it’s a very welcome diversion from the doom and gloom that has inhabited the franchise recently. Heck, if I was just getting into the Avengers franchise for the first time in my life, a title like this would be the perfect gateway for me, which is why it comes so heartily recommended. It’s very rare that a book comes out with such a high profile that actually feels like it’s accessible for anyone — young, old, neophyte or scholar.
Here’s the intriguing bit: the book does seem to take a few cues from the earliest days of Bendis’ work with the Avengers teams. The celebration of the banal aspects of their lives (such as the breakfast making), the snappy dialogue that’s almost too witty for your average person to say (but in a good way, not an over-done Sorkin fashion) and the chemistry between the teammates is fairly palpable, which is important given the switching of the roster. This is the stuff that stands out so much in some of Bendis’ best “New Avengers” stories, truthfully. And yet, as much as the book feels like a logical predecessor to some of the more fun of Bendis’ stories, a more accurate description of the book would be that DeConnick is “getting her Whedon on,” so to say; that is, she’s channeling the heart that Whedon always manages to infuse into his groups of characters, and she’s making it work for her — and if this book is for people who saw the Avengers, then that’s perfect! We’re given a book with a team that feels like they want to work together, to the extent that at a certain point it’s easy to get lost in the story and forget that this is a fictional comic, not a pictorial representation of events that actually happened. That’s how real these people suddenly feel, and that’s all DeConnick’s excellent recording of their dialogue.
Which, really, is just a long way of saying that Kelly Sue DeConnick has written what is easily the single most entertaining issue of any Avengers title in I don’t even know how long. (Maybe the date night issue of “New Avengers” two years ago? Maybe.) That alone is all the justification anyone needs to pick up this comic.
Plus: science bros!
Of course, let us not forget the talented Stefano Caselli. DeConnick’s writing certainly brings the characters to life in terms of delivery, but it’s Caselli’s vibrant and emotive characters that allow you to get so easily lost in the comic’s world, to see the characters as actors and not just still figures illustrated onto the page. There’s no posing, no grandstanding – everyone is interacting with their environment on a level that feels human and realistic, and that’s what really sells the book. There seems to be a tendency these days to always make characters look action-figure ready, but with a large amount of focus put squarely on the expressions and body language of the various characters within the story, Caselli’s excellent renderings of the various foibles that inhabit a person’s face and body during any given emotional response leads us to be drawn that much deeper into the world of the book (pun intended!).
One could argue, however, that perhaps a little too much emphasis is given into the characters and not enough into the world. That, to a degree, is fair; as with the examples above, we’re given a lot of focus on character close-ups and not too much on their world, which fits considering a large part of the book takes place solely within Avengers Tower and the personal character interactions within before moving to an icy/dreary landscape. However, the few situations that open the setting up beyond just that limited scope (such as with the STAN Speakers — get it? — opening segment) are all examples of Caselli stretching his wings a bit, giving a slight tease of what we can expect from the immediate future: big moments illustrated on a grand scope, with a mix of optimism and pessimism based on the characters involved. If that’s not a great and blatant tease of what to expect from the book as it rolls forward, I don’t know what is.
It may not have a #1 on the cover, but “Avengers Assemble” #9 is the perfect place for any new or lapsed fan to get into the Avengers and is the best not-#1 on the market. The book finally feels like what it was always meant to be — a place for fans of the movie interested in checking out something similar to find their haven within comics while old fans have just as good a time. Together, DeConnick and Caselli have hit all the right marks that Bendis and Bagley didn’t seem able to, and the book is reborn in a fashion that most other NOW! titles can’t boast. This isn’t just a new status quo for the title; this is a brand new book with a completely new outlook — and damn, that outlook is mighty bright.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – This is your book