Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War

I’ve always been a big fan of the X-men. When it came to Marvel comics, the various X-men series is what I gravitated to but in recent months, I’ve developed a liking for old stories featuring the Avengers. I’ve read a considerable amount of Avengers stories written by Bendis in the last ten to fifteen years but there is just something about his writing that doesn’t work for me. A lot of it might have to do with the faux-realistic-dialogue and the overuse of banter. And even though I’m not particularly well-read when it comes to Avengers comics, his team never really felt like the Avengers.  The difficulty with exploring older comics, especially superhero comics where continuity is very fluid and often contradictory, it can be easy for a reader to get lost. Because of my familiarity with the modern Marvel Universe and many of its characters, I feel pretty comfortable just jumping into a series and reading. That being said, before reading The Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War, I haven’t read any previous Avengers comics by Roy Thomas and generally speaking, when it came to back issues of The Avengers, it’s pretty limited. Though I can tell you for sure that I don’t enjoy the earliest issues written by Stan Lee.

The Kree-Skrull War is pretty darn good. It reads like a mini-series within the pages of an ongoing series. There is a pretty clear structure, a pretty nice beginning with a clear middle and end to the story. Since it took place in the issues of an ongoing series, there are some threads that aren’t wrapped up, but they aren’t crucial parts of the story. Thomas built the story in layers. Each additional issue brought forth new ideas, more characters and Thomas meshed it all together into a larger narrative. Some of the elements are used extensively in a single issue and are only mentioned later on but it all contributes to the overarching story. I’m very disappointed that something called The Kree-Skrull War doesn’t actually have a war between the Kree and the Skrull in it. Instead, the Avengers, through their actions, prevent the war between both alien races. The later issues almost contain some pretty good superhero battles in space but it’s too little too late. The real joy in this story is the variety of different story elements that Thomas weaves into the narrative. The other highlight is the characters.

It’s fascinating to read about characters I’m familiar with in their previous characterizations. Some of these characters have radically changed throughout the years. Some of the changes are actually improvements. Thor’s terrible Shakespearean-light dialogue is a pain to read. Some do it better than others, but Thomas doesn’t have the knack for it. Other times you learn an interesting bit about a character’s history that you weren’t aware of before. I never knew Clint Barton, most often known as his alter ego, Hawkeye, spent some time in the guise of Goliath. I had always though that Hank Pym was the only person to take on that persona but it makes sense that another person could and did take on the identity of the size-changing hero because the powers are science based. Goliath can increase his size and mass using Pym particles.

It’s strange to read a comic in which Iron Man’s secret identity isn’t known by the public. Most of the Iron Man comics I’ve read his identity is public and everyone know Tony Stark is Iron Man. He’s actually a more interesting character because of that. Many superheroes have secret identities and we’ve had that played out. A significantly smaller portion of them have public identities (the Fantastic Four probably being the most famous). The thing that really annoyed me though is just how fake and just plain dumb Iron Man sounds when he’s explaining to people that he only knows how to destroy the trio of Mandroids because Tony Stark told him how to defeat them because he built them. It’s just silly and the scene is poorly written. More than that, Iron Man is constantly talking about Stark and it’s strange that the other characters don’t even seem to notice or care to know why he talks about Stark so much. T doesn’t work for me at all (at least not in this story).

Quicksilver is also pretty ridiculous at this time in Marvel history. He’s not nearly as interesting as he became during the nineties after Peter David’s great X-Factor story. He’s actually pretty lame in this comic. His fighting techniques completely baffle me. His go-to move consists of him running towards an opponent at top speed, rolling himself into a ball, and smashing into them. What the fuck is that? Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver’s sister and the only female Avenger at this time (Wasp wasn’t a part of the team during these issues but she does show up in the story), is more competent than her brother. She uses her hex powers rather effectively against their enemies and her opinion seems to be valued by the rest of the team but not as much as that of her male team members.

My favourite character though has to be Vision. He’s a great character! He’s very powerful but he’s also pensive. Despite being an android, he’s rather in-tune with his feelings and the budding romance between him and Scarlet Witch is quite nice. More than any other character, Vision embodies the spirit of the superhero team. He has genuine concern for the prosecution of Captain Marvel and he suffers a powerful blow because he defended his teammate. He’s very humane, focused on his work and quite the fighter. That last part means a lot because the Big Three, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man weren’t part of the regular roster at the beginning of the story. they step in later to disband the existing group and then decide to change their mind and support the team’s efforts. In their absence though, Vision is the key member and he continues to be important even after the Big Three have returned.

There is something undeniably beautiful and effective about comic book art when it’s done just right. Marvel has many comics in their back catalogue drawn by artists who got it right. For me, when I think of old comics, I think of Sal and John Buscema. I haven’t read tons of comics from this era, but when I think of 70s Marvel comics, the Buscema brothers always come to mind. Not everything they do is great but they’ve produced some fine comics and it’s hard to beat them. Still, for nearly four complete issues, Neal Adams gives them a run for their money. It’s very easy to see why issue #93 is considered a classic. I absolutely loved Ant-Man’s exploration inside Vision’s body. Adams knocked it out of the part in this storyline and it’s actually a bit sad when you compare his work here with some of his work from recent years. A great comics master has past his prime . . . which is just one more reason to check out this fine comic book story from the pages of The Avengers.

No comments:

Post a Comment