Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Essential Avengers vol. 1 Graded

Avengers #1. Grade: B. Obviously an important issue, but it laughably clear from the start how unbalanced this team is.
Avengers #2. Grade: A-. A more fair and balanced script – aided primarily by making Ant-Man into Giant-Man makes for a stronger second showing. The inking is sketchier, but still looks good to me.
Avengers #3. Grade: B+. Not much of a plot, but can you go wrong with Sub-Mariner vs. Thor vs. Hulk? A pure Kirby slugfest.
Avengers #4. Grade: A-. Captain America could not have asked for a better relaunch. Oh, and the Avengers are in it too.
Avengers #5. Grade: B+. Kirby makes the Lava Men look so good and everyone but the Wasp gets a moment to shine.
Avengers #6. Grade: B+. It’s always exciting to see a supervillain team-up, but these are purely second string villains.
Avengers #7. Grade: A. Finally, some villains worthy of Thor!
Avengers #8. Grade: A. Kang the Conqueror debuts. Nuff said!
Avengers #9. Grade: B. Wonder Man debuts and the reader has to keep from laughing at his costume. The decline of the Avengers has begun.
Avengers #10. Grade: B-. Why a new time-traveling villain already? Probably because Kang was too powerful for Capt. America to tackle.
Avengers #11. Grade: C-. Chic Stone’s inking looks horrible and the story isn’t much better; it just makes you wish Spider-Man was an Avenger.
Avengers #12. Grade: D+. The Mole Man has been reduced to a generic mad scientist, the sudden team-up with the Red Ghost is just weird, the science wackier than usual – and yet the plot about trusting in ants has an odd charm to it that saves the story from failure.
Avengers #13. Grade: C-. One of those stories about how quickly the establishment can turn on its heroes and law enforcement, that usually can’t handle supervillains, is inexplicably deadly towards the heroes. And Count Nefaria keeps the antidote conveniently sitting out in a spray bottle, of all things.
Avengers #14. Grade: D. It’s a shame Stan chose to place the Wasp in peril just to highlight Giant-Man this issue. The inking is minimal to the point of almost looking un-inked. The sci-fi elements here aren’t bad, though the whole doctor angle is just plain wacky.
Avengers #15. Grade: C-. The Cap vs. Zemo showdown is oddly unsatisfying, as rushed as it is. The stalemate between the Avengers and the Masters of Evil seems forced to foreshadow the need for a leaner, stealthier team in the next issue. The science is typically wacky – the intercontinental jet is traveling over New York so slow that the Masters only have to wait on nearby rooftops and attack it as it passes by.
Avengers #16. Grade: A-. The roster change is contrived (nobody tries to stop Hawkeye from shooting arrows at the butler?), much of the issue is just spinning its wheels, but – those last two pages, with Iron Man talking about what being an Avenger means to him – are genuinely moving.
Avengers #17. Grade: C+. The robot looks great, there is some dramatic build-up to the Minotaur’s appearance, and the near-constant ads for the Hulk’s comic kind of work as simultaneous stories. But do the Avengers really need a clue to look for the Hulk in the desert? And aren’t they essentially running away from the Mole Man at the end?
Avengers #18. Grade: B. One of Stan’s anti-communist propaganda pieces works by showing off the heroes individually, both in battle and in rare glimpses into their personal lives (who knew Wanda could sing, or wanted to act?).
Avengers #19. Grade: B-. I can tell I was supposed to like the Swordsman a lot more than I did. But, boy, what saves this issue is a real humdinger of a cliffhanger! Also, solid inking from Wally Wood begins this issue. Don Heck’s art never looked better!
Avengers #20. Grade: B-. Did Stan just make me like the Swordsman, or does he only look good next to the dorky-looking Mandarin?
Avengers #21. Grade: A. A great example of how a smart villain could easily sabotage a super-team’s public image. The Enchantress is so versatile that she is easily one of the best early Avengers foes.
Avengers #22. Grade: A-. Cap’s solution to their problems is too pat, but the fight with Power Man is great. It’s clear that this guy could have taken down the whole team if he’d wanted to and the fact that he, in the end, doesn’t want to, gives him more believable pathos than his predecessor, Wonder Man.
Avengers #23. Grade: B-. The new Avengers continue to be woefully out-classed, this time with Kang kicking their tails. A good set-up, and cliffhanger, before the next issue.
Avengers #24. Grade: A. The Avengers team up with Kang, of all people, in a clever, exciting tale of love and betrayal. Curiously, most of the action is off-panel and it gets annoying how quickly Quicksilver is getting sidelined in these stories so as not to show-up the other Avengers.

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