The New Heroic Age – So Far – Part 1

Quite a few of these titles have now completed their initial arc, and others are over 4 issues in, so time for a look at how we’re getting on.

First I’ll look at the four Avengers Titles, so much for saving myself money.

Avengers

Well, good news is we have a title that is just Avengers, not new, mighty secret, dark or minty.  However, so far at any rate, this is my least favourite of the Avengers titles.  To be fair, it has a few handicaps.  First is the art.  People seem to get excited when John Romita Jnr is drawing a book, and I feel like some sort of nutter because I really fail to see why.  I have joked in the past that Romita Jnr and myself have something in common; neither of us can draw Iron Man.  This is unfair of course; at least if we were both to draw shellhead you’d be able to work out who Romita Jnr was drawing.  In general though I wouldn’t count him as one of my favourite artists.  Add to that Bendis writing, which I don’t mind, but its never worked in an all out superhero book and for my money is better used in titles like Alias, or indeed New Avengers.  The plot has some interest to it, the Avengers must travel into the future at the behest of Kang the Conqueror because, something has to be done about their kids.  It also has its faults, yes it’s nice to see Noh-Varr used again after he was re-vamped in Dark Avengers, but overall so far this really isn’t doing it for me.  Hope the plot picks p pace soon.  Also hope we’ll see why Wonder Man is acting up, he’s really out of character at the moment and I think that jars too.  As for the line-up, well at the end of Dark Reign, Steve Rogers basically said anyone who wanted to be and avenger was, but there was going to be a core team, and it’s a slightly odd hybrid between classic and Bendis, so we have Iron Man, Thor, Captain America (Bucky Barnes) and Hawkeye, with Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Wolverine coming from the Bendis era.  It actually works quite well although I still don’t think Spider-Man and Wolverine work in Avengers.  A nice addition is Maria Hill, former Director of SHIELD as their liaison; in fact the three teams all have a liaison which is a nice touch.

New Avengers

The plot here is a little different.  Luke cage was a little put off that cap was returning things to business as usual, so cap gave him his own Avengers team.  Aside from the main squad he has his pick of members and he gets Avengers mansion to live in.  Funny thing about New Avengers, most of the members have another super-team.  Cage leads the Thunderbolts, Hawkeye, Spider-Man and Wolverine are all Avengers (actually lets not go into how many teams Wolverine is on, he does at least joke about it being his mutant power) and Thing is still on the Fantastic Four.  In fact only Iron Fist, Ms Marvel, Mockingbird and Jewel have no other affiliation.  They also have a Liaison in the form of Victoria Hand, Osborne’s second in command when HAMMER were running things, and probably one of the most interesting characters invented for Dark Reign.  Despite my mockery, it is actually pretty enjoyable; the plot is leading on from Dr Strange loosing his role as Sorcerer supreme and has mystic foes possessing various team members and in the last issue all appears to be linked to the Ancient One.  While Bendis’ writing seems out of place on Avengers it fits well with the team dynamic in New Avengers, hell half his team are usually in as wisecracking jokers in some form.  Immomen’s art is bright  Overall this is really promising which is a great turnaround as New Avengers titles have previously been the most forgettable for me.

Secret Avengers

This one had me a little excited, but then it had the advantage over every other comic bar Iron Man, War Machine was in it.  While the world is more Heroic, Steve Rogers leads a more covert squad to deal with serious problems hopefully before they become serious.  The Team isn’t exactly A-list, featuring Steve Rogers, War Machine, Black Widow, Valerie, Beast, Moon Knight, Nova and Ant Man (Eric O’Grady), plus Steve’s Girlfriend Sharon Carter as Liaison.  Not A-List but then they are meant to be a more covert squad.  So far it’s had a nice mix of espionage, mystery, in the secret society stalking the team apparently lead by nick Fury, and action, then I shouldn’t have doubted this from Ed Brubraker, who is definitely one of Marvel’s top writers.  Mike Deodato does a star turn on art as well giving us both luxury penthouses and Martian dig sites with ease.  I have a possible theory for this team, with Steve’s “Everyone Is an avenger now” idea I wonder if the roster for Secret Avengers might fluctuate a bit, with Steve doing Mission: Impossible style selections for each specific case.  I’d quite like that although the end of the first arc doesn’t really support this.  It did remove my misgivings regarding Nova being on the team as at the end he flies off and cap notes that he won’t be a reliable team member with his cosmic responsibilities.  Still, I know the story needed Nova but does Cap carry so much weight that Nova would say “Sorry trainee corps, but your most powerful member has to go off and do something for cap, good luck with the evil universe breaking into ours and all.”  Still, interesting stuff, and if it is Nick Fury in this secret society, does that link to the “Zodiac” society we’ve had glimpses of in Secret Warriors?  Or is Nick Fury the Wolverine of secret societies.  The story itself was a good setup involving the Serpent crown, secret societies and a huge throwdown on Mars.  A very solid title indeed.

Avengers Academy

I got over my initial disappointment that this wasn’t a knockabout comedy where mismatched wise-cracking recruits try to defeat the evil machinations of an overbearing guy called Harris.  Instead this replaces The Initiative and so for me has some big shoes to fill.  Fortunately it doesn’t disappoint.  We see a new batch of recruits, all near screw ups, most suffered some sort of abuse under HAMMER rule, all have one thing in common, as they find out they were the kids thought most likely to turn to villainy so the Avengers Academy faculty, as well as teaching them mastery of their powers also have to prevent them from turning.  Christos Gauge has a very nice setup, with the character Veil being the voice for #1 and Finesse for #2, and so far seems to continue through the following isses.  Once the twist is revealed near the end of #1, you can see quite clearly how close our young students are to villains.  Nice to see familiar faces in the faculty as well, although it seems to have its share of screw ups.  Wasp (Hank Pym) leads with Justice, Tigra, Quicksilver and Speedball as trainers.  I’m sure many fans are glad to see the back of Speedball’s Penance phase, me included but it is nice to see Speedball isn’t entirely recovered and back to normal yet, so it doesn’t have the stink of a retcon, just progress.  Mike McKone had not been on my radar before, but I do like his work in this.  More importantly, I liked The Initiative because it seemed like Marvel were trying to introduce some new characters and be a little creative, after all in Marvel and DC New Heroes are pretty rare.  What I like about this is that I could believe we may loose a few recruits to villainy, and that would make things very interesting.  This title is half way through its crossover with Thunderbolts called “Scared Straight” while it involves some of the T-Bolts it can be read in isolation (In fact the prison shutdown is handled in less than an issue over in Thunderbolts) but it is interesting to see the members who were directly harmed by osbourne teaming up to go after him.

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