In the past year, a lot of digital ink has been spilled about what is “wrong with Marvel.” A lot of the answers provided are all over the board, and many contain hot-button issues that I simply don’t want to discuss in a review of The Avengers #10. We’ll let other web sites write their fifteen-item lists on what is or is not wrong with the House of Ideas. One issue that comes up a lot in such lists: constant events. Indeed, while we saw with the last issue that often times company-wide events can provide opportunities to tell interesting one-off stories, this issue demonstrates how sometimes event comics can hijack the narrative thread of a series, providing a jarring reading experience when read by itself. This issue, more than the last issue, must be read alongside Secret Empire in order to understand it, particularly to understand why this odd team exists in the first place. All this said, this issue is hardly a bad one and has many positive aspects making up for its deficiencies.
One of the most interesting aspects of a team like the Avengers is that it provides the reader the opportunity to see very different characters who come from very different worlds come together, to see how they react to one another. Seen here, the Hydra Avengers team consists of an interesting blend of characters who are traditional heroes, such as Scarlet Witch and Vision, as well as villains like Taskmaster and the Superior Octopus. The team is held together by differing motives and is marked by a deserved distrust of one another. Doctor Octopus takes the role of team leader, a position his experience with the Sinister Six prepared him for. Otto himself provides a blink-and-you-miss-it allusion to his time with the Sinister Six.
The strength in writer Mark Waid’s script here is in the character’s voices, for which Waid has an impeccable ear. Those among the Spider-Man fan base who have missed the inner monologue of Doc Ock’s Superior Spider-Man will enjoy reading Otto’s over-the-top mustache twirling. Also present is Deadpool, a character I often find grating in concentrated form, thankfully diluted here in a team dynamic. He makes his typical fourth wall jokes, including one aimed at the Distinguished Competition’s movie universe. Watching Deadpool’s chattiness get under the skin of the relentlessly uptight Doc Ock is a pleasure unavailable outside the unique conditions of this event.
The story itself is less compelling. There isn’t much narrative to speak of; mostly, this story serves to set up the rest of the arc that will carry the title through the duration of Secret Empire. Unlike the previous issue, this issue does not work quite as well outside of the immediate context of the Secret Empire event. It’s a straightforward enough plot: the Hydra Avengers must shut down an alien outpost to stave off what they perceive as a possible invasion. The Superior Octopus helpfully explains the setup a few pages in, an inattentive Deadpool standing in for any readers who may be behind on the Avengers’ role in this event.
While the issue is lite on narrative, it leans heavily on the art team to carry it. Mike del Mundo’s art, is gorgeous as always. However, it does lack a bit when it comes to communicating the actual narrative, often looking like a series of portraits rather than a story. This trait has been a constant weakness in del Mundo’s otherwise outstanding artwork, one avoided in the past by focusing on his strengths. Oftentimes, his work can become confusing. One small scene conveys the power of his art, however: an imaginative presentation of Vision’s inner workings reprogrammed to repress his hesitations concerning the current status quo. It’s a brief couple of panels, emotively portraying something that may have otherwise been left abstract.
Overall, The Avengers #10 offers the reader an opportunity to see a unique cast of characters such as Odinson and Taskmaster thrust together and watch as the ingredients explode. That keen ear for the various character voices, mixed together, with each character maintaining his or her integrity, is one of the strengths of this issue. The art is as well, though del Mundo’s art works better for the big, dynamic scenes, such as Black Ant diving into an alien’s eye, than it does for actual panel-to-panel storytelling. Not much happens here, but some characters make decisions that perhaps set up future drama for the team. The real fun is perhaps to be had next time when the repercussions of those small choices are felt.
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The Avengers #10 shines in the keen ear it brings to the disparate voices of its team and with del Mundo's typically gorgeous art. There isn't much story going on, but the issue sets up some interesting narrative possibilities in the issues to come.