Avengers #0 is a prologue of sorts to the lineup of Avengers (and Avengers-adjacent) titles launching from “All-New, All-Different Marvel”, the latest in a line of rebranding efforts that Marvel has attempted in the past few years. This all-star anthology issue (of sorts) features a “Squadron Supreme” framing story by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk, a Scarlet Witch/Vision story by Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar, a Deadpool story by Gerry Duggan and Ryan Stegman, a New Avengers story by Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval, a Captain Marvel/Alpha Flight story by G. Willow Wilson and Victor Ibanez, and an Ultimates story by Al Ewing (again) and Kenneth Rocafort. Is it good?
Avengers #0 (Marvel Comics)
I hesitate to refer to Avengers #0 as an anthology, because to do so would be to imply that it is a collection of stories. It is not. This is a collection of prologues loosely connected by a weak framing device. If the goal of this comic is to generate excitement about the upcoming Avengers line of titles, it fails.
Mind you, this probably not the fault of the creators involved with these… let’s call them “segments.” Most of the creators here are exceedingly talented. But if, for example, you love Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar and are expecting more great work from the Indestructible Hulk team, you’re going to be disappointed.
Really, the fault lies with whoever decided that it was a good idea to give these creators so few pages to work with. Is it possible to tell a great comic book story in less than ten pages? Absolutely. But it’s a challenge that’s only made more challenging when you’re simultaneously trying to introduce the characters and premise of a new ongoing series, setting up the upcoming debut issues (well, proper debuts, at least), and doing so in such an inconsequential way that it’s not required reading for people who want to jump on board with the actual #1 issue.
By the way, some of the digital “sneak peeks” that DC did a few months ago to promote “DC You” faced a similar problem. The most successful of these free (so there’s less to complain about) comics were the ones that opted not to set up any particular storyline and instead told a brief, standalone story. People are more likely to come back for more when they feel entertained, not when they’ve been introduced to some mystery that require more issues to make sense of.
Anyway, back to the comic at hand. Writer James Robinson, penciler Leonard Kirk, inker Paul Neary, colorist Frank Martin, and letterer VC’s Travis Lanham kick things off with the Squadron Supreme in “Supremacy,” which bookends the issue as well as serving as a bumper between each story.
Here’s some comic book heresy: I did not read the original Squadron Supreme. Worse, I read the first issue and did not find it particularly interesting or entertaining. So take this with a grain of salt, but it’s difficult to imagine even a diehard Squadron Supreme fan caring much about this framing story, which sees the Squadron analyzing the different Avengers (in the other stories by other creators) in preparation for their worlds intersecting or crossing over or… I don’t know, I’m not reading Secret Wars.
Anyway, there’s not much to the story, and the dialogue is a little clunky, but the artwork is competent. Kirk, Neary, and Martin do some great work with shading and lighting.
The first non-framing story “Eidetic” comes to us from writer Mark Waid, penciler/inker Mahmud Asrar, color artist Sonia Oback, and letterer VC’s Cory Petit. It’s a peek at the current status quo of the no-longer-a-couple Vision and Scarlet Witch, setting the stage for Waid and Asrar’s upcoming All-New, All-Different Avengers, which is confirmed to feature The Vision on the team but not, to my knowledge, The Scarlet Witch. It would be a shame for her not to show up in future issues of that series, because Waid has a great handle on their relationship.
Not only that, but I love the outfit she’s wearing. I’m not much of a fashion guy when it comes to superheroes or otherwise, but man, I hope this is her actual costume from now on. I haven’t seen her in anything lately, so I don’t know if this is Asrar’s original design or someone else’s (feel free to let me know in the comments), but it’s great. Let’s hope that this recent trend of superheroine costume redesigns that look like things actual women might choose to wear continues.
This is one of the better parts of the issue, but neither Waid nor Asrar provide their best work here. Part of the reason that I love Waid so much is that he writes such clever, natural dialogue, but it’s a little too expository here. Moreover, the story suffers from the same problem that almost every other segment of this issue has, which is that it isn’t much of a story at all. There’s a great reveal toward the end, at least, with great potential to be mined for future issues. Even so, it’s doubtful that there would be as many readers coming back for All-New, All-Different Avengers #1 as there would if it weren’t for the goodwill that Waid has built up throughout his impressive career.
As for Asrar, his layouts are clever (and don’t suffer from the overzealousness that occasionally prevents his work from being comprehensible), and he hits most of the emotional beats, save for one noticeable moment. I understand that The Vision can be a bit cold, but he shouldn’t have a faint hint of a smile when he says “it appears that I am being haunted.” Regardless, the coloring and lettering by Sonia Oback and Cory Petit, respectively, is impressive, and it’s surprising that these names aren’t talked about more.
As disappointing as this segment is, the premise and creative team is still promising enough to make ANAD Avengers #1 a safe bet. But if you’re looking for something to whet your appetite, you’re better off seeing if your LCS has any copies of that Free Comic Book Day issue lying around.
Next up is “In the Beginning,” a story of Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight that serves as a preview for “A-Force.” It’s written by G. Willow Wilson, penciled and inked by Victor Ibanez, colored by Laura Martin, and lettered by VC’s Cory Petit. Wilson, of Ms. Marvel fame, is a promising new talent that, like Waid, shines when it comes to dialogue, and her segment benefits from a relative lack of exposition. And while there is an actual conflict and resolution here that makes the segment more deserving of the word “story,” it lacks an interesting hook. Meanwhile, Ibanez’s art is solid and his use of facial expressions and “acting” is strong, but it’s Laura Martin who shines here, literally and figuratively.
Then we have the first of two stories written by Al Ewing, this one a (new) New Avengers story entitled “Everything is New,” penciled and inked by Gerardo Sandoval, colored by Dono Sanchez Almara, and lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna. Knowing little about the (new) New Avengers characters, premise, and creative team, this story was a pleasant surprise. Granted, the segment, short as it is, isn’t easy to follow, but it makes up for it with a handful of great, weird moments. When “Trans-temporal team-up is go!” isn’t even the third best line in an eight page comic, you’re doing something right.
The obviously manga-influenced art—angular yet cleanly lined—from Gerardo Sandoval gives a highly kinetic and energetic bombast that should set it apart from what we usually get from superhero art, with colors by Dono Sanchez Almara that mixes varied hues with the dark undertones that the story needs. Joe Caramagna also continues to prove why he’s one of the best letterers in the business, making the line “My—my head—IT’S DRILLING INTO MY HEAD!” even more terrifying than it already is.
Once again, this segment suffers from not telling an actual story, and the last-page reveal won’t mean much to many readers, but there’s enough style here to make up for a lack of substance.
Deadpool stars in “The Night That Hell Froze Over” written by veteran Deadpool scribe Gerry Duggan, penciled and inked by Ryan Stegman, colored by Richard Isanove, and lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles. Though it’s meant as a set-up for Duggan and Stegman’s upcoming Uncanny Avengers run, this is a Deadpool feature through and through. It’s wise for such a short segment to focus on just one character, even if he’s in a team book, but once again, there’s no story being told here! It’s mostly just Deadpool sneaking around and fighting people while his internal monologue muses about how strange it is that he’s actually doing something approaching nobility. It’s okay for Deadpool to get a little serious now and then, but readers who prefer their Deadpool to be a total jokester may be disappointed.
Really, though, this comic’s biggest sin is that it’s uninteresting. Duggan and Stegman have both proven in the past to be capable of much better comics than this, so it’s not hard to imagine that they’ll have a better showing in future issues. It’s just a shame that they made such a poor first impression for their new series.
Finally, writer Al Ewing makes another impressive showing with The Ultimates in “The Opposite of Kicking,” penciled and inked by Kenneth Rocafort, colored by Dan Brown, and lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino. If you like Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s run on Young Avengers, you should find a lot to like here, as Ms. America Chavez fights and dances her way through what Black Panther calls a “significant breach in the fabric of space-time.” Is it pandering? Maybe. But it’s fun. And while there isn’t much that happens here in terms of story, at least there is a story at all, replete with a conflict and a resolution.
Rocafort does some interesting things with his layouts, and he really knows how to draw an alternate-dimension-alien-creature-type-thing. It’s a shame that Rocafort is still largely known for that terrible moment in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 where Starfire in a skimpy bikini tries to seduce Arsenal, because he really does have talent—his work easily stands out from most other superhero artists. Hopefully with a writer like Ewing he’ll start getting the praise he deserves from people looking to get more out of their comic book art then sexy women.
Is It Good?
If you’re a completist and plan on getting any of the comics previewed here anyway, you may find something worthwhile, and even a few pleasant surprises, in Avengers #0. If you’re just looking for great stories from a sampling of some of the top names in superhero comics, though, you’re likely to be disappointed.