It’s a truism of any long running series that creative teams will come and go, and while some incoming writers can stick the landing and create a seamless narrative between the two runs, some teams feel like they haven’t even read the book before. It’s beginning to look like Jim Zub’s run on Uncanny Avengers may fall into the latter category, as his characterizations of these characters feel out of touch with where they were at the end of the previous arc.
Shaken Rogue is back, and this time she’s a jerk. Remember a few years back when Rogue and Scarlet Witch got past their personal issues and accepted one another as team members if not friends? Yeah well that shit’s out the window, after Wanda’s possession by the demon Chthon during Secret Empire. Dr. Voodoo points out her hypocrisy, given that he himself was possessed by an evil presence not one issue ago and still has a spot on the team, and Rogue responds like a spoiled child not getting her way. It’s borderline character assassination, made even worse later in the book with a romantic relationship between her and Johnny Storm. Now maybe I missed that part of an earlier run (I can do that, I’m not WRITING THE BOOK), but this revives an issue I had with the previous arc where Rogue suddenly had a thing with Deadpool. I get that she’s a strong independent woman who can have as many relationships with whomever she wants, but Jesus do they have to hook her up with literally every male character she shares a team with? If he had stuck around long enough, they’d probably hint at something between her and Cable.
The unearned romance bug seems to have bitten the entire team, as a matter of fact, as Wanda makes some of the most clumsy efforts at flirting with Dr. Voodoo I’ve seen. Now as a couple they make sense to me — two mystics with a history of being conduits for evil spirits should have some experiences worth bonding over. My issue is that it takes time to develop that kind of connection, even if you are attracted to the other person. Wanda’s making passes three panels into their conversation. Why not take the time to develop something between them and make us care about their connection? Instead you just tactlessly rush it out like it’s some middle school infatuation and it just feels like Zub (or Marvel corporate, perhaps) said “why not pair all of your characters up?” without giving much thought to how it reads.
The big reveal of this issue is the return of Graviton, a seldom-used and super OP villain that most people of this generation probably know best from the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon series. Now it’s not just that he’s ridiculously powerful and named after a carnival ride that has made him such a rare choice for a lot of writers, it’s that – as a villain – he’s very one note. There’s no real nuance or pathos to his actions; he’s a mustache twirling caricature who wants to destroy the world for…reasons. Even he doesn’t sound like he’s sure why he’s menacing our heroes. Admittedly every word he says comes through in some oddly wavy speech bubbles, which is usually used to denote some kind of exhaustion or mental control, which could be an interesting dynamic given Rogue’s aforementioned issues believing Wanda’s whole “controlled by evil” excuse. Of course, it’s far more likely I’m reading too far into a somewhat unique artistic choice.
Speaking of art, I rather enjoyed the pencils of Sean Izaakse in this issue. For one, his take on Wanda is beautiful. He really captures the western European features of the Scarlet Witch, as well as her familial resemblance to Quicksilver. I’m less enthused by his depictions of Rogue and Human Torch, especially as Johnny looks exactly like Peter Quill, but it’s not distracting or denigrating to the book. Honestly, though, I have to give the loudest shout out to colorist Tamra Bonvillain, as the inks in this book are very on point. I absolutely love the fact that she gives a slight glow to the human form of Johnny Storm. It’s a really subtle touch that makes a ton of sense for the character, and I can’t remember it ever being done before.
This is a book that’s on the right path, just taking a couple of ill advised detours. Pairing off your coed super team into ill developed romantic relationships just feels forced and a little fan-fic-y. I’d like to see where this whole Graviton thing is going, as he is a pretty major villain that could use more development as a character. Hopefully future issues give Izaakse and Bonvillain a chance to show what they’ve got in new and unique ways.