In Review: U.S.Avengers #1

The first superhero book from Marvel that has thrilled me in several years. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: There are a lot. No, really. There are a lot of variants for this first issue. I’ve been able to track down about 63 different covers. The Regular cover is by Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Jesus Aburtov. This features Roberto da Costa saluting the America flag. To his left Cannonball streaks through the skies accompanied by several military planes. A golden skull is between the two heroes, seemingly laughing at the proceedings. Below them, from left to right, is Iron Patriot holding the flag, Enigma, Squirrel Girl, a Red Hulk, and a female Captain America. These heroes are standing upon a tank. This is a cool cover and captures all the characters wonderfully. The next fifty three covers feature one hero with each state in the union, as well as Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. They are all illustrated by Rod Reis. When the state covers are connected they form an American flag. Here’s the listing of characters to state: Alabama–Thor; Alaska–Hellcat; Arizona–Nova; Arkansas–Tigra; California–Iron Man; Canada–Deadpool; Colorado–Hercules; Connecticut–Black Widow; Delaware–Steve Rogers: Captain America; Florida–Ant-Man; Georgia–U.S. Agent; Hawaii–Havok; Idaho–She-Hulk; Illinois–Beast; Indiana–Winter Soldier; Iowa–Hawkeye; Kansas–Sentry; Kentucky–Cannonball; Louisiana–Spectrum ; Maine–Scarlet Witch; Maryland–Sam Wilson: Captain America; Massachusetts–Captain Marvel; Michigan–The Thing; Minnesota–Quake; Mississippi–Rogue; Missouri–Whizzer; Montana–Two-Gun Kid; Nebraska–D-Man; Nevada–Red Hulk; New Hampshire–Spider-Man; New Jersey–Ms. Marvel; New Mexico–Hulk; New York–Luke Cage; North Carolina–Namor; North Dakota–Machine Man; Ohio–Black Knight; Oklahoma–Thor; Oregon–Sunspot; Pennsylvania–Doctor Strange; Puerto Rico–White Tiger; Rhode Island–Iron Fist; South Carolina–Marvel Boy: South Dakota–Jack of Hearts; Tennessee–The Wasp; Texas–Firebird; United Kingdom–Captain Britain; Utah–Totally Awesome Hulk; Vermont–Ant-Man; Virginia–Quicksilver; Washington DC–Vision; Washington–Jocasta; West Virginia–Valkyrie; Wisconsin–Quasar; and Wyoming–Red Wolf. Omar Casanova and Wil Quintana have created a Hip-Hop Variant that shows the interior of a ship with Squirrel Girl at the controls surrounded by, from left to right, da Costa, Red Hulk, Enigma, and Cannonball. The Action Figure Variant is by John Tyler Christopher and it’s a spectacular take on an Iron Patriot figure. Daniel Acuna is credited within the book as doing a Variant, but I couldn’t find an image of it online. Ryan Stegman and David Curiel did a hilarious send up of the iconic Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster, but this features the Red Hulk assuming the same pose, but with a bald eagle on his right shoulder, an Uzi in his left hand, and Sam’s hat on his noggin. Very funny and worth tracking down. Mike Perkins and Andy Troy also have a Variant cover that’s a take on the cover to Marvel Team-Up #11. It shows Havok unleashing upon Spider-Man, Nightcrawler, and the Beast. It’s cool, but the image is fairly empty between the title and Spidey. Skottie Young has drawn another Baby Variant cover, this time with Squirrel Girl standing atop Red Hulk. She’s laughing because she’s taken white paint to R.H. and given him white stripes. It’s okay, but not for me. There’s also a Blank Sketch Variant cover for those looking to get an artist to create a one-of-a-kind illustration. The penultimate cover is a Secret Incentive Variant cover by Phil Noto that has Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor racing at the reader. It’s by Noto, so you know this one looks good, and it does. The final cover is an Incentive Retailer Bonus Variant cover that’s a wrap around cover featuring all fifty of Reis’s state covers. This looks terrific and has got to be a poster at some point. Regular A, State Variants A, Hip-Hop Variant A, Action Figure Variant A+, Uncle Hulk Variant A, Marvel-Team Up Variant B+, Baby Variant B-, Blank Sketch Variant C, Secret Incentive Variant A+, and Incentive Retailer Bonus Variant A+

The story: Ruminating on his past, Roberto da Casta, the leader, addresses terrorists calling themselves the Empire. These baddies are speeding a helicarrier carrying an active volcano toward the California coast. Roberto wants General Maverick to activate his Red Hulk capabilities, but he can’t for another four minutes and they have less than two to solve things. This is a great countdown clock story crafted by Al Ewing. As the time gets closer to the “ultimate disaster movie” moment, each Avenger appears, one by one, to try and stop the craft. Preceding their appearances, each character talks, seemingly, to the reader, revealing a little about themselves and why they’re an Avenger. This is a fantastic way to roll out this book’s cast and then showcase their abilities to the reader. The way the villains’ plan is thwarted is outstanding and the double cliffhanger a slick way to get readers to return next month. Oh, I definitely want more of this. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: The gorgeous visuals on this book come courtesy of Paco Medina on pencils and Juan Vlasco on inks. Every page looks sensational. Page 1 teases Roberto’s full face, while having a New Mutants moment that had me gushing with nostalgia, ’cause I was there when The New Mutants first started. The partial double-page spread on 2 and 3 shows the hot helicarrier making its destructive run, with several panels superimposed over it, spotlighting Roberto’s pleas and the antagonists’ response. Page 5 was my introduction to Toni Ho and she comes off as young, smart, and spunky based on Medina and Vlasco’s work. When Iron Patriot makes the scene it’s a powerful moment. I’ve not seen Enigma before and she’s a terrific hero in action, a combination of Shadowcat in Halo armor, while out of costume she comes off as shy and unsure. Squirrel Girl’s entrance with Cannonball is the scene stealer of the book that was awesome and funny. Then there’s Maxwell’s address to the reader. Even without the text, one can see that he’s overconfident, a butt kicker, and egotistical. His transformation was very different, given his mustache and shades: made me think of Stan Lee as the Hulk. The action in this book is great and the visuals I wish Marvel would have on all their books. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Matching the superior artwork are the superior colors by Jesus Aburtov. Why can’t all Marvel books be this bright? These aren’t over-the-top garish cliche comic book colors, but ones that appropriately match the visual and enhance it considerably. Take a look at the vivid reds on the villains’ robes that make them sinister eye catchers. There’s exceptional work with computer screens that illuminate oranges onto da Costa. Ho’s hair is beautiful in violets. The glow around Enigma when she uses her abilities is enchanting. The shine done with the Skull’s skull is fetching. This book’s colors should be looked at by other artists at Marvel to see how bright colors make the art’s power increase. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Character identification, transmissions, dialogue, scene settings, yells, the story’s title and credits, sounds, and the text on Sam’s shirt are created by VC’s Chris Elipoulos. Every piece of text is strong, easily read, and absolutely suitable for its purpose. I particularly liked the yells that characters gave, such as when Maverick had a transforming moment, and the dialogue from a character that appears on Page 18. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is the first superhero book from Marvel that has thrilled me in several years. If this is the future of Marvel, I’m all on board. This is my highest possible recommendation of the week. Find one and experience the joy of what comic book heroics should be. 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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