Comic Picks By The Glick

Avengers World vol. 3: Next World

March 29, 2015

The saga of the Avengers’ horrible, no-good, very bad day comes to a close here as Nick Spencer wraps up his run in a tidy fashion with this volume.  Looking back on things, it becomes clear that even though the book was pitched as the “global” Avengers book that picked up on some of Hickman’s plot threads from his books, Spencer had his own story to tell with a clear beginning, middle, and end.  That kind of planning makes it easier to appreciate the story, even if the most impressive part about it was Marco Checchetto’s work in the latter half.  Then you get the “Axis” tie-in in the final two issues which make me wonder why Spencer didn’t write them himself since they’re all about setting up a key plot point for his “Ant-Man” series.

A.I.M. is preparing to take over the world thanks to the dialogue with the future they’re having on their island.  The Madripoor Dragon is wreaking havoc over Southeast Asia.  Morgan Le Fey is raising the dead all over Europe.  Oh, and it turns out that A.I.M.’s first stop on their world tour is Washington D.C.  All of the various Avengers teams that have been tasked to deal with these threats are stretched to the breaking point.  Fortunately for the world, they’ve got help from a diverse group of international superhero teams -- new, old, and from the future -- to show these villains who this world really belongs to.

Spencer’s work on “Avengers World” has shown that he can tell an entertaining superhero story when he’s playing within the confines of the genre.  This is as opposed to his work on “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” where he gleefully and mercilessly skewered their conventions.  I prefer his work on that title to this, but there’s still a good amount of fun to be had from the events showcased here.  Seeing Iron Man face off with A.I.M. leader Andrew Forson on a talk show after the latter tries to spin the actions of his group to the public.  Watching as the assassin known as the Baby Killer (because he is a baby who is also a killer) wreaks havoc against Le Fey’s forces.  Witnessing Giant-Size Shang Chi take on the Madridragon.  The action here is a great mix of the glorious and the absurd, and makes for some rousing superhero entertainment.  

The writer does overreach a bit with some of his narrative captions as they try to sell this as being a last great adventure before “Time Runs Out.”  This may be the last time we see these particular Avengers working together as a team for a while, but the story being told here is no classic.  After all of the buildup, most of the threads are resolved through the use of MacGuffins and handwaving the threat away (literally in the case of the Le Fey threat).  Spencer’s wit helps keep things entertaining and he deserves a lot of credit in the way he manages to deliver a coherent story between the major plot threads and gigantic cast involved here.  However, the actual plotting is ultimately pretty simplistic.  It’s the details the writer provides that makes things work as well as they do.

If the writing fails to sell this as an epic “Avengers” story, then the art on the issues from Marco Checcetto does its best to pick up the slack.  Prior to his work on vol. 2, I had mainly thought of the artist as someone better suited to street-level books like “Punisher” and “Daredevil.”  In “Avengers World,” Checcetto shows that he has the chops to deliver some truly spectacular superhero action.  You can feel the crunch of the fight scenes which have an incredible sense of scale to them.  Particularly the ones involving Shang-Chi and the Madridragon.  I can definitely see the artist going on to A-list books after his efforts here.

I can’t say the same for the other artist in this volume, Raffaele Ienco, who does two of Spencer’s issues here.  At first, the linework of his art convinced me that he was capable of delivering a good amount of detail in a competent style.  The “competent” part quickly faded away as I saw his character work over the course of his two issues.  I can’t say whether or not he actually did this, but it looks like the artist simply posed a bunch of action figures and tried his best to copy their poses in his art.  Ienco’s characters look supremely awkward on the page and noticing that takes you right out of the story.  This is an artist who is not ready for prime time yet.

Checcetto also illustrates the final two issues in this collection (with a couple pages from “Ant-Man” artist Ramon Rosanas) which were written by new writer Frank Barbiere.  This means that they look great, and the story they tell isn’t bad for the mandated plot point it has to provide.  It takes place during the “Axis” event and features an inverted Doctor Doom.  In case you haven’t heard, the idea behind “Axis” was that the mentalities of the heroes and villains are switched.  So you have good guys acting like bad guys and vice versa.  With Doom, this means that instead of his incredible ego driving him to do things for his own glory, he’s now letting his ego drive him to do things for other people.  So when an inverted Scarlet Witch comes looking for some payback, Doom gets the idea to use her power to redeem himself and make a better world for all.

It’s a solid idea and Barbiere has fun with it as Doom works with Valeria Richards to recruit a B-list team of Avengers and Elsa Bloodstone (being a member of “Nextwave” exempts her from my snark) to handle the Scarlet Witch when she arrives.  The recruitment scenes are fun, though the story pretty much goes into battle autopilot when the fighting starts.  As good as Checcetto’s art is, the narrative winds up feeling bloated over the course of these two issues.  Particularly since it has only one thing it needs to do here.  I’m left wondering how Spencer would’ve handled this given his quirkier sensibilities.

Spencer may have been an unconventional choice to write this series, given his history with titles like “Morning Glories” and “Superior Foes.”  Ultimately, he turned out to be a good one as these three volumes have told an entertaining superhero story over their length.  I would’ve liked to have seen more cleverness in the resolution of the threats here, and a better choice in fill-in artists for this volume, though.  Even so, these three volumes are a pretty good read and are worth your time -- either now or if Marvel decides to repackage them in the nice one-volume edition that they’d be perfect for.

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