In the final issue before The Avengers enters into “Marvel Legacy”, Mark Waid and artist Mike del Mundo set up the future of the Avengers in their new status quo. Waid pairs off the Avengers into three different conversations. Avengers #11 is a self-contained, dialogue-driven issue that is light on action but heavy on character. The issue brings us closer to the series’s cast by allowing us to see characters who do not often interact converse and allow us to see how they see one another. It is an intimate issue that highlights some of Mark Waid’s strengths as a writer: his character development within a small team.
Waid’s Spider-Man has often drifted too much into incompetent loser territory. His portrayal of others perception of Peter Parker as a loser has merit, however. It fits nicely with how Spidey is often perceived as a menace despite his best efforts to do the right thing. Parker tried to do his best with Parker Industries, a responsibility that, like his powers, he never asked for. Over in Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus forced Peter’s hand into damaging Parker Industries. The company’s failure has widespread implications, since Peter has become this volume’s Tony Stark, the team’s financier. His conversation helped resolve some of the longstanding tension with the Wasp. Spider-Man disarms The Wasp’s hatred of him in characteristic fashion: with his humor. Waid has played up the Wasp’s dislike of Spidey in nearly all of their reactions so far and it had gotten a little grating, mostly because it was not founded on anything in particular. It was good to see it resolved in a way that felt natural for the characters so that they could move on.
The most interesting of the conversations was the one between Vision and Hercules. Marvel’s Hercules typically is portrayed as a fun-loving buffoon, but Waid shows that even Hercules’ goofiness is rooted in character. Hercules’ immortality forced him to deal with millennia of losing mortal friends. This scene was my favorite from the comic, and not only because it made me think of Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever”. It brings together two characters who on their surface belong in completely different genres of fiction altogether: the Greek god Hercules of mythology and the sci-fi synthezoid Vision. It is the fact that both of them will outlive all of their friends, all of the others in the Avengers, that brings these two together. In the face of such isolation, of the fleeting existence of those they surround themselves with, Hercules recommends that only enjoying the brief moment of their human existence will keep at bay the crushing sadness.
The third conversation, the one between Thor and Falcon, is the least compelling, but probably the most relevant for future issues. As Falcon wonders whether the Avengers will still follow him when he is no longer Captain America, I can’t help but think that this is the writer himself suggesting that readers will follow the man in the costume, not just the title or the costume. I hope that this is true; the Falcon is a long-running Marvel character who deserves his own title. The conversation probably didn’t merit going on as long as it did; I can imagine the same conversation happening over just a few panels and being perhaps even more effective.
I love Mike del Mundo’s art in general, as my reviews have shown. His art is dynamic and epic. He is a bit of an odd fit for an issue that features mostly talking heads. In the past, he’s avoided letting his characters look static with creative compositions. This is a good thing since his art looks great in motion but distorted when the characters stand still. He exaggerates the expressions of his characters to the point of being nearly grotesque. Instead of just focusing on the faces, he has his figures fly, crawl about, and take selfies with fans.
Besides the big, blockbuster action, one of the greatest draws for a team comic like The Avengers is the oddball team-ups that it makes possible. Readers get to see all of the wildly divergent corners of the Marvel Universe come together. Many times, some of my favorite moments in Avengers comics come in the quieter moments when we just get to see these characters simply talk to one another. That is exactly what we get here: a calm between the storms of “Secret Empire” and “Legacy” where we learn these characters as they interact with these others. If every single issue were like this one, it would make for a dull comic. Within the context of the larger narrative, however, it gives us reason to root for these characters and gives us a better idea of how they exist as a team.
The Avengers #11 is a slow burn, character-driven story. Not much actually happens, but it is great to see these heroes interact in ways that deepen and nuance them.