Comic Picks By The Glick

Avengers by Jason Aaron vol. 4: War of the Realms

January 26, 2020

I don’t think anyone expected “Avengers” to not have any tie-ins to the big crossover event that was “War of the Realms.”  Especially when its current writer was also busy writing the main event.  What we could expect was that it would have greater relevance to the inter-title fracas.  As these issues show, it does not manage that. What it does manage to do is keep the many story threads the series has set in motion ticking right along.  It may not do it with full grace, but that’s not actually the crossover’s fault.

Take the first story in this collection, “Crisis on Ten Realms.”  It’s a spotlight issue on the new Squadron Supreme of America run by Phil Coulson.  In case anyone has forgotten, the Squadron Supreme is Marvel’s answer to the Justice League.  They’ve also got a history of being mind-controlled into fighting the Avengers, and Coulson looks to be continuing that tradition here.


I honestly think villainy suits Coulson well.  His motivations may be a bit murky, yet his overall blandness slides very well into the whole banality of evil thing Aaron is pushing with the character.  Plus, the scenes where he’s manipulating the Squadron are also good for a laugh.


Where the writer loses me is in showing us who Coulson’s mystery backer is.  He’s the kind of villain that someone without superpowers should know to stay far away from.  Not strike deals to safeguard your country and take down the Avengers with. Because if Coulson had any idea about the character of the demon he’s dealing with -- and he really should’ve -- he should know that anyone who makes deals with him gets burned in the process.  It’s an eye-rolling lapse in logic, to be sure.


It’s still kind of a minor issue compared to the zero-sum game that the following story finds itself in.  “The Man in the Mountain” is a spotlight issue on one of the Agents of Wakanda: Gorilla Man. When he’s not running errands for his boss T’Challa, he’s working as security chief of Avengers Mountain.  So when the Mountain finds itself under siege from Malekith’s army, Gorilla Man finally has a chance to show that he’s worthy of the position.


A talking gorilla who’s also something of a secret agent, Gorilla Man feels like the kind of character Aaron made a mission of getting around to write at some point.  I’m glad he did since the majority of the issue is the kind of freewheeling adventure that the writer has a real knack for. A covert meeting in a zoo with Ursa Minor.  Shop talking with T’Challa in the Mountain. Taking out Dark Elf commandos in the Celestial superstructure. This issue has it all, and even a retcon that addresses my biggest problem with the previous volume.  Dracula may have wanted to set up shop in Chernobyl, but that was part of T’Challa’s plan too.


So what’s the problem?  Well, at the end of the issue we find out that Gorilla Man doesn’t feel his life is as awesome as we’ve been led to believe.  So he’s gone and struck a deal to get out of it with the wrong people. Essentially he’s become a walking timebomb of betrayal inside Avengers Mountain and I hope that if T’Challa could plan for Dracula, then he could plan for this as well.


Last up for the crossover is “No Fun,” an awkwardly defensive effort by Aaron to justify his take on She-Hulk.  I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of how the writer has essentially turned the character’s Gamma self into “Classic Hulk” and here he tries to square that approach with the character’s classic self, and even Al Ewing’s explanation of it over in “Immortal Hulk.”


I’ll give Aaron this, he’s sure committed to this take on the character.  His defense basically boils down to this being just another side to Jennifer, one that she’s not afraid to keep hidden anymore!  Still, speaking as a fan of classic Lawyer She-Hulk, I have to side with Deadpool when he asks her why she can’t be funny anymore.  Or why she can’t be both for that matter. Aaron seems like someone who’d have a field day with the superhuman legal system, so it’s too bad that he’s willing to forsake it in pursuit of this take on the character.


Things wrap up with “The Day After a Day Unlike Any Other” which is basically a cooldown issue for the high-stakes action of the previous ones and the crossover as a whole.  Steve, Tony, and Thor are relaxing in a hot tub, She-Hulk and Blade share a tender moment in the hangar, and Captain Marvel and Ghost Rider unwind on a speedboat. Everyone is relaxing in their own way, except for T’Challa.  He’s decided to pay a visit to Phil Coulson to let him know that he knows what’s up.


Out of all the issues collected here, this is the one I didn’t have any problems with.  Aaron conjures up a nice hangout vibe with the team, and something like that is always nice to see.  Yes, there are some deliberate teases for future storylines and some angst lurking in the background.  These things aren’t too obtrusive, though, and they don’t drag down the good vibes either.


This last issue is also the only one illustrated by Jason Masters, who gives the proceedings a servicably grounded feel to them.  It’s in stark contrast to the work of the artist who handled the previous three issues, however. That’d be original series artist Ed McGuinness who I can only imagine was lured back after someone told him he’d be drawing lots of giant trolls and Dark Elves getting punched, decapitated, or otherwise dismembered in this issue.  McGuinness is an artist who specializes in over-the-top action like this and it’s good to see him come back for these three issues. I wish he’d come around more often.


Vol. 4 is rounded out by the inclusion of the “Free Comic Book Day” issue, which is illustrated by Stefano Caselli.  It doesn’t add a whole lot to the volume since it’s basically a series of glorified teasers for future storylines. Said storylines look entertaining enough -- get ready to see the Avengers break into an intergalactic supermax prison -- though I know the main reason for its inclusion here is to pad out the volume’s length and distract readers like me from the fact that this is basically a four-issue collection.  What’s here is good enough, even though the problems with each issue will likely keep Aaron’s “Avengers” run from picking up more fans than it already has.

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