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posted April 4, 2013
Jonathan Hickman, Adam Kubert, Frank Martin
Marvel, comic book, 28 pages, April 2013, $3.99
This is one of the new Avengers
comics, from Marvel's soft not-a-relaunch that began last Fall and has been rolling into the new year. Marvel's Marvel Now publishing initiative boasted a very Marvel-style solution to recent torpid sales: move their rich array of writing talent into new places, pair them with as many talented artists that work for them as they can find, and have them make comics in a way that allows for as many books as possible with sales hooks to hit the stands. By that last item I mean there are not only a lot of comics made featuring some version of the Avengers
super-team concept, but that within individual series there are more comics than used to be sustainable by most artists working as the sole contributor on that side of the creative process. This series' solution to the very human problem of production seems to be to intersperse its longer adventures with stand-alone stories featuring various team members. I would assume this makes it easier to have artists work in short bursts. It helps in a story-sense that many of those Avengers team-members are new to a lot of readers, at least in the roles they play now.
One such character takes the lead here: a Smasher character, which is from the Imperial Guard concept introduced into the X-Men comics a middle-aged lifetime ago. We get a pretty standard origin -- farmgirl finds interstellar magic item, gets remade into space cop with powers beyond mortal man -- mixed in with some typical recent Marvel flourishes. The Smasher character, we learn, is part of a bunch of different Smasher characters that play different roles within the larger Imperial Guard organization. This help extends the Smasher name into a kind of forceful narratives and give our new one a bunch of story possibilities concerning other people with her same powers. The other modern comics trope that gets a workout is a tie into an old pulp character in terms of it being made clear our new superhero is a blood relative of Dan Dare. I never know what to think of things like that, other than that I'm aware some people seem to love those kinds of hints at an all-encompassing fictional universe. I always thought the lesson of Wolverine was that only Jack Kirby shows his entire hand and the other creators may be better off showing hints of grander things rather than explaining them outright. Placing characters in wider continuities does this for that company, and gives other creators a framework on which to hang future stories.
To my eye, Avengers
#5 was a standard superhero action comic book, competently done -- nothing to sneeze at in today's marketplace. It's hard to remember any specific sequence a day or so removed from my reading it, but I think I would have liked it at age 12 as much as I would have been able to afford to buy it. I was a big fan of there being a lot of superheroes and I was a big fan of superheroes standing around talking, things Marvel does very well now. Two positives that seem to me to arise here is another female superhero of some strength and potential importance should always be welcome considering the dearth of such characters in those fictions, and the possibility that Marvel may be moving out of black-ops super-espionage phase and into worlds-of-wonder science fiction could be a smart move in terms of finding new creative juice in older concepts. Not only is space a suitable place for all of these strange people to go, and not only is there a history in the 1970s and 1980s of similar, major moves out of the urban landscape, doing space opera even fits into the company's movie plans. I'm not always sure what drives Marvel Comics creatively anymore, but everything seems to be pulling in the same direction.