I guess if Avengers Assemble #1 were equated to a jar of mayonnaise it would be Avengers Lite. This is the Avengers book for people who don’t read Avengers books. The frat guy who wakes up from the kegger, puts his cap on backwards and heads out to get breakfast with his Iron Man shirt on, this is for that guy. The thirteen-year-old that is flipping out over the summer movie version of The Avengers, yeah, this is the book for him. For us comic book people, it’ll either be a nice, fresh start or something to completely ignore. That choice, true believers, is yours.
There is no sense of continuity with Avengers Assemble, at least not with the typical Marvel Universe. Sure, there’s a shot of the Avengers giving a press conference that features Spider-Man, Wolverine, and all the current Avengers, but that’s about it. The Black Widow is not running around Europe trying to help the Winter Soldier dish out justice. Hawkeye is more of a sarcastic comic relief than anything else, and the Hulk doesn’t look like Kenny Loggins and isn’t fighting Bruce Banner on some weird island. All the current Marvel storylines are abandoned for this particular book.
So, what happens in Avengers Assemble #1? First up is The Zodiac, a villain group made up of various Marvel bad guys. They’ve decided to band together and use their combined talents to thwart the Avengers. Does that have anything to do with the movie? I have no idea but I doubt it. Next, there’s a big celebration of the new Stark Building in New York City. There’s a nod to the storyline from Fear Itself here, but not enough to snap this book into the Marvel Universe. After some witty banter between the Avengers crew, we’re whisked to the desert where a mindless “Hulk Smash” style Hulk battles a water creature bent on stealing some top secret Government thing.
The issue ends with Hawkeye and Black Widow attempting to pull off some kind of spy thing in Latveria only to be interrupted by a giant bull god calling himself Zodiac. How bad is this guy? He manages to beat the hell out of Thor and Iron Man. Interestingly, this isn’t some throw away title handed to some Marvel intern. Writer Brian Michael Bendis, the man who has been the driving force behind most of the Avengers books, pens this one as well.
Avengers Assemble is a weird little enigma into itself. It’s a first issue written by a top writer who has recently announced he’s leaving the Avengers books. The main characters are not within the Marvel time stream but there are nods that said time stream does exist to them. This book looks and feels like a jumping on point for new fans who driven to comic stores by the movie, yet it’s not an Ultimates book and most of the films have been loosely taken from that series. Trying to shed light on exactly how Avengers Assemble fits into the Marvel world is infinitely more interesting than the book itself.
The art from Mark Bagley is pretty standard comic book fare. Nothing happening within these pages is bad, but it’s also not art to get excited about. Bagley’s pencils tell the story, that’s it. His work doesn’t heighten the book, which would be more acceptable if the story was a little more interesting. I doubt I’ll keep buying Avengers Assemble but, if you are dying to learn about one of the best superhero teams ever before the movie comes out, I guess you could do worse.
(3, Story. 3, Art)