In Review: Avengers #14

The Vampire Civil War has begun and it's outstanding!

The covers: Three to get, so you better book your flight on Roxxon Airlines now! The Regular cover is by David Marquez & Justin Ponsor and has the team racing at the reader with two sinister images in the background. Black Panther is in the front followed by Captain America on his right and Iron Man on his left. She-Hulk is behind all three and to her back right are Thor and Captain Marvel. In the upper right is the menacing mask of the Shadow Colonel and to the upper left is a Gothic castle with a purple moon swarming with a colony of bats. Ghost Rider’s car is speeding from the left to the right behind the big three. There’s a lot going on in this cover and I wish the coloring had been a little lighter because it’s hard to make out Marvel and the Panther. The Skrulls Variant cover is by Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, & David Curiel and it’s a shocker — Captain Marvel is a Skrull! A beaten Doctor Strange is held by his cape in one of the villain’s hands, while she holds an unconscious Cap in the other. She turns to see the Black Panther springing at her and Ghost Rider hurling his fiery chain. Nice image with T’Challa looking really cool. I like the shock of a team member being a Skrull, but, thankfully, this is just a promotional frontpiece and has nothing to do with the issue. The Wraparound Variant is by Matteo Scalera & Rain Beredo. This features the heroes on the left side (the front cover). They include Black Panther, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, She-Hulk, and, flying in the distant sky, Thor. On the right (the back side) is the Legion of the Unliving. They include the Shadow Colonel and Sarge, the dog. The other characters aren’t named in this issue. Between the two teams is a distant castle on a lone twisted rock that looks inspired by Frank Frazetta. I like this and it should be a poster. Overall grades: Regular B, Skrull Variant B, and Wraparound Variant A

The story: Lots of action in this vampire loaded issue by Jason Aaron. Castle Dracula in Romania is under siege by bats fitted with sunburst grenades, while outside the main sepulchre is under fire from a “rotary cannon currently firing 2,000 wooden stakes a minute into their undead hearts.” Within Dracula’s quarters his coffin lies empty. The Shadow Colonel and his Legion of the Unliving have arrived to finish the job and end up empty handed. Meanwhile, high in the skies, on board Roxxon Air Flight 959, Blade is killing the passengers, made up entirely of vampires who are fleeing the wrath of the Legion. Blade doesn’t care and is killing them as quickly as he can as Captain Marvel tries to keep the plane in flight, fending off bloodsuckers coming for her. Across the world, vampires are being fought by Avengers: Black Panther and Iron Man in Wakanda, Captain America and Thor in Transylvania, She-Hulk and Ghost Rider under Manhattan. It’s at this location that a tiny demon speaks to someone, setting the stage for something terrible to happen in the near future. The story moves to Avengers Mountain for an interrogation that doesn’t go well. This is perfect super hero reading with lots of action, fun lines — the best being from Captain Marvel, and Blade back in the Marvel Universe! Overall grade: A

The art: David Marquez does a really strong job on this issue. He opens with a small, but incredibly detailed, panel of Dracula’s castle going up in flames. A turn of the page is a full-paged splash that has the introduction of the Legion of the Unliving. They look good, with their leader the Shadow Colonel having a familiar Marvel character on his shoulder. The rest of the characters aren’t seen this issue, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of them after this one image. Blade enters the book spectacularly at the top of 3 pounding a stake into a vampire’s heart with it exploding into dust. The third panel is funny as it shows Captain Marvel trying to pilot the plane with a vampire trying to kill her and the co-pilot drained of his blood to her right. The next two pages show the Daywalker in action and he’s outstanding. This is definitely his return to Marvel Comics! The point of view he’s shown from at the bottom of Page 5 is the perfect hero stance. Moving to under Wakanda, the Black Panther and Iron Man are about to battle a swarm of vampires crawling over every surface of a massive cave. I like that when the Panther releases his power he’s got parts of his costume that light up, making him look like he belongs in Tron. I really like him at the bottom of Page 7. The traditional European village is under siege and it looks terrific: peasants on the run, an ancient church, vampires flying about and on the ground. Having Captain America and Thor inserted into this chaos is exciting to look at and the vampires’ reactions in the third panel on 9 are fantastic. The mysterious demon that speaks with Ghost Rider is unsettling for the combination of its face and what it’s wearing: that’s not natural! I love the visual for how the She-Hulk inserts the reluctant young hero into the fray. The third panel on 13 is an excellent way to show someone being submissive and that character is dominating the setting just sitting there. Pages 14 and 15 easily communicate what’s going on, but I would have liked to have seen them a little more clearly. Page 18 is a full-paged splash with a hero undergoing an unwelcome transformation. This promises tons of trouble in future issues. The final page is also a full-paged splash, focusing on an iconic character in a desperate state and when combined with the dialogue it’s unsettling, but not for the reasons one would think. Excellent job on this book’s art! Overall grade: A  

The colors: There’s a pair of colorists on this issue, Justin Ponsor & Erick Arciniega, but nowhere in the credits does it state who is responsible for which pages. Editor Tom Brevoort should correct this so fans are aware of each artists’ contributions. The oranges and yellows in the first panel of the first page are outstanding. Having the narration boxes colored yellow is a good way to have them stand out on the first few pages. There’s a lot of rust and tan on the second page, which works for the setting, but has the characters blending into one another, except for the entirely clad in black Shadow Colonel. When Blade goes into action his backgrounds go a red-orange to increase the ferocity of his attacks. The cavern under Wakanda is gorgeous in blues, which make the energy released by the pair of Avengers explosive in yellows and oranges. Thor commands the eighth page not only due to the art but the white blast of lightning he projects against the dark background. The coloring of the close-ups of Cap and the vampire on 9 look good. The sequences under Manhattan are cool to see for the immense work done with oranges and yellows. It’s impressive that the colorist, whomever it is, is able to make the colors stand out without overpowering the artwork. Pages 14 and 15 are just too dark, but it’s being done to make the tone of the scene intense. Yellows and oranges return dramatically on 17 and 18 and they are explosive. The work on the character’s skin on the final page ages this icon extremely well, while the rest of his accoutrements have the expected colors one would associate with this individual. Ponsor and Arciniega’s work is dynamite. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Cory Petit creates scene settings, narration and dialogue (the same font), yells, and transmissions. The scene settings continue to be impressive on this series, being massive block letters that always draw the reader’s eyes. I was happy to see that the narration and the dialogue are the same font when they should look different because they are different forms of communication. Yes, they are differed by the shape and colors of the balloons and boxes, but I prefer they look different. The yells are fairly massive in this, especially from the vampires getting killed. Sadly, there are no sounds in this book. I don’t understand why Aaron continues to have his Avengers’ comics silent when sound effects are so fun in their own right. Could any reader imagine reading a classic Avengers, Spider-Man, or X-Men book without the sounds? It’s as blasphemous as the undead. Overall grade: B

The final line: The Vampire Civil War has begun and it’s outstanding! There’s plenty of action with the team paired off in different locales fighting all sorts of bloodsuckers. One hero undergoes a transformation that’s going to cause problems as the heroes continue to fight the fangers. The visuals are killer, with the characters, their actions, and the settings superb. This is a team book to find before the sun goes down! Recommended. Overall grade: A

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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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