In Review: Avengers #11

A great story that features no villains, though the visuals could have been tighter.

The covers: She-Hulk gazes into Thor’s cool blue welcoming eyes as the god of thunder has his arms around the emerald giant. Lightning is crackling around the couple that are embracing on a dark violet background. I knew that they had feelings for each other, but will this issue go where no issue of Avengers has gone before? This Regular cover is by Ed McGuinness and Marte Gracia. The Conan VS Variant cover is by Carlos Pacheco, Aneke, and Jason Keith. Hawkeye and the Hulk are unconscious, while the Vision has also been knocked out, and he’s being held up by his cape by the Cimmerian. The barbarian has raised a battleaxe in his right hand and wields it before Iron Man and Thor, with the god standing atop a bus on its side. Captain America is running at Conan from behind. A good tease to welcome Conan back to Marvel Comics, but the Howard character is not in this story. The final cover is the Fantastic Four Villains Variant by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Matt Hollingsworth, This features the Super-Skrull raising a fist at the reader with an elongated arm, his left fist is on fire, and he’s turning invisible from the waist down. Such an awesome character that looks incredible from this trio of artists. It’s a shame this character is nowhere in this issue. Overall grades: Regular B+, Conan VS B-, and Fantastic Four Villains Variant A+

The story: “The Strength and Conviction of Phillip Coulson” by Jason Aaron opens with the iconic former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and former dead human, speaking to a character the reader can’t see. He’s explaining his dislike of the heroes he once revered. His death has made him see these former idols as they clearly are. He then says, “Though I suppose that doesn’t answer your question, does it? What you really want to know is…Why am I holding this gun? And why am I about to point it at your face and pull the trigger? The answer is simple…because of the Avengers.” The story then goes to Avengers Mountain where Robbie Reyes is fielding questions from Captain Marvel about his Hell Charger. He’s complaining about the amount of homework he’s gotten from Captain America. This gets Marvel to smile that Steve did the same thing to her, but it’s helped her fight baddies. She tells him he’s on his own today since every other Avenger is doing something important. Before she zips off, Robbie looks at his tablet and finds a villain’s name that stands out, “Mephisto. Why does that name sound familiar?” Nice call back to a past issue and a past Ghost Rider. Meanwhile, Jennifer Walters and Thor are in the Savage Land watching dinosaurs fight as they drink mead. Thor is having a fantastic time, but Jennifer longs for the Final Host to return so she can avoid this entertainment. In the Eden Room at Avengers Mountain, T’Challa is entertaining several heroes from other countries to ask that they work together. Who is in the room and what occurs is fantastic stuff. Things go well until one character speaks with the results not being surprising, though how this individual is dealt with is great. The story goes between this gathering, Thor and Jennifer, and Coulson. The surprise that Coulson reveals isn’t much of a surprise, but I still don’t know whom it was that he was speaking to. Aside from that nit, this is incredibly entertaining. For no baddies in a book or action sequences, Aaron makes the characters and what they’re doing incredibly engaging. This was great! Overall grade: A-

The art: There are two artists on this issue, Ed McGuinness and Cory Smith, and three inkers/finishers, Mark Morales, Scott Hanna, and Karl Kesel. Sadly it doesn’t state in the credits who is responsible for what, so that leaves a reader, and a reviewer, hanging out to dry. The first page is a full-paged splash of Coulson with his gun raised in his right hand. It’s okay, but it’s a bland illustration of him: is he angry? Happy? And where is he? It looks like in a chair and the light source is diagonal. Not a great way to start. Robbie and Carol look much better, with the engine on Robbie’s car being teased with tentacles and weird parts — I loved this! Both characters look excellent and the stance that Carol takes before the younger Avenger just as she leaves is outstanding. Jennifer Walters looks as though she’s eighteen-years-old. Thor looks fine, but it made the situation awkward with how young she looked. The scenes in the Eden Room were very well done when the characters were in close-ups, while from a distance their faces looked bland.  The character creating discord at the meal has a really odd construction when he first appears; I thought I was looking upon the Armadillo from way back in Captain America’s past. This character looked much better after his introduction, but it’s T’Challa that looks exemplary on these pages — he’s great. There’s some wasted space in the first panel on Page 17, which becomes apparent when looking at the panel next to it and the two similarly constructed panels on 18. The last page easily explains to the reader what’s occurred through the visuals, but it doesn’t have much of an impact since I don’t know who was on the receiving end of the action. Overall grade: B-

The colors: The first page has colorist Erick Arciniega doing a decent job on the skin tone and shading on Coulson, but Pages 2 and 3 are much better. There are bright colors that draw the eye and the background, when undefined, is given an engaging gold and silver tone. The scenes in the Savage Land are too orange. Yes, the color is supposed to represent the untamed nature of the land, but it came across as a lens flare in every panel. Plus those colors have Thor’s hair and gold arm blending in too much with the background. Better are the scenes in the Eden Room, which uses the greens of the plants for the backgrounds to highlight the other characters, which it does handsomely. I like that the colors at the top of 13 are key to understanding what’s occurred before it’s explained. Very cool. The coloring of the character on the penultimate page is confusing because I don’t know where the light source is in the room. Granted, there’s that parallelogram of orange-yellow light behind him that’s been there from the start, but what’s before him to light him? This isn’t Arciniega’s fault since he didn’t draw the page, but it did leave me wondering how I can see the character so clearly when the room the pair is in is completely black. Overall grade: B-

The letters: VC’s Cory Petit is responsible for the character identifiers and scene settings, dialogue, whispered text, and Asgardian dialogue. I was a little disappointed that the character identifiers and the scene settings are the same font. They’re different forms of communication for the reader, so they should visually be different. I did like the easy to read dialogue and the whispered text, with the latter coming across as a tease of upcoming peril. Thor’s dialogue continues to nicely separate him from mortals, though when I read it comes of with an echo because of its classical style. Overall grade: B

The final line: A great story that features no villains, though the visuals could have been tighter. I’m really liking what Aaron is doing with the characters and how T’Challa is reaching out to other characters. I liked seeing Coulson back in action, though what he did or why he did it, I have no clue. The visuals run from great to better than average. I wish that one artist was responsible for this series’ artwork and that the credits properly stated who is responsible for what. Even with all this grousing, I’ll be back to see what happens next because I really like the characters. Overall grade: B

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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