New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
Today continues our run-through of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga on the road to Endgame (two days to go!) with volume two of the main Avengers series, The Last White Event.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Dustin Weaver & Mike Deodato
Real Name: Anthony Edward Stark
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963)
Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist. Former weapons designer Tony Stark often found himself at the centre of all heated conflicts across the globe, providing munitions to the military and more covert organisations like S.H.I.E.L.D., alike. But when that heat proved too extreme, and Stark was mortally wounded and kidnapped by terrorists, he teamed with fellow captive Dr Ho Yinsen and used his genius to build himself a suit of armour that would keep him alive, and allow him to escape captivity. Returning to the western world a changed man, Tony Stark, aided by his butler Jarvis, his assistant Pepper Potts and his chauffeur Happy Hogan, started continually upgrading his armour, forgoing his former bloody path as an arms dealer, instead hoping to make the world a better place as the invincible Iron Man.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Between 1986 and 1989, Marvel published a new comic book imprint called ‘New Universe’. It was intended to have a more realistic setting, and feature a new wealth of heroes separate from the likes of Iron Man and Spider-Man.
There would be no secret races like the Inhumans or godlike beings such as Thor, and the number of superpowered beings would be much more limited – the fallout from their adventures more devastating.
In fact, the line almost crumbled after the first year.
However, the ideas presented in the New Universe line wouldn’t disappear completely, occasionally popping up every few years, and twenty years after the lines initial release, the series was reimagined as an even more realistic miniseries by Warren Ellis, now titled newuniversal.
The most recent return of the New Universe concepts, however, although this time only limited to heroes such as Starbrand and Nightmask, was in the second volume of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers. Here, he would weave the concept into the primary Marvel Universe, and make their story an integral part of the overarching storyline he was telling.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
As the Earth itself begins to evolve after the actions of the Avengers’ battle with the Gardeners, a ‘white event’ occurs, triggering the creation of a new superhero called the Starbrand. Forced into action after his genesis wipes out thousands of people, the Avengers must capture this godlike new hero while dealing with the fallout of an altered Earth.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
It’s accessible in that if you’ve read the previous volume you’ll understand what’s going on. Mostly. Unfortunately…
Once again, while creating a healthy balance between intellectualism and coherent story over in New Avengers, here, the writing on display continues to be a bit over-the-top with its attempts to appear epic.
And once again, the structure of this graphic novel is also half-interesting, and half tedious.
The first three issues deal with the Avengers trying to apprehend the being known as Starbrand. The stakes are high, character shines through in what little opportunities it has and it culminates in some interesting action pieces. This Avengers team has been built to counter the most powerful threats, and here they finally find an opponent capable of withstanding the might of Thor, the rage of the Hulk, and the power of Hyperion (who is, for all intents and purposes, Superman).
However, Starbrand’s origin is oversaturated with needlessly complex science-fiction jargon – not in the way that it’s hard to grasp, just in the way it has an unnecessary amount of moving parts.
That coupled with the fallout of previous issues, wherein the Earth itself is becoming sentient, makes for a story that just seems like it’s trying a bit too hard.
The final two issues of the collection then tell standalone stories; the first of which follows the Avengers on a mission to Canada which is mostly quite boring and seemingly inconsequential at this point, and the second of which is a bit more interesting (and actually quite fun at times), but once again inconsequential and pretty disconnected from the overall narrative that the story is telling.
The art from Dustin Weaver, however, is the best this series has seen so far. It’s powerful, colourful and is very much akin to watching a well-crafted science-fiction blockbuster – the clashes between the Avengers and Starbrand being the highlights.
However, literally mid-issue, the art switches over to Mike Deodato – an artist who I find, while good at drawing characters, can sometimes make panels feel quite empty. His action becomes quite static, and the backgrounds, while giving the illusion of being detailed, oftentimes feel quite empty on closer inspection.
It’s a fine comic. It has good points. It has bad points. I imagine its existence will be justified as part of the larger whole, but overall it feels quite skippable.
Also, Spider-Man continues to come off as a total dick if you’re unaware that it’s actually Doctor Octopus possessing his body.