Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: Avengers: The Crossing

Avengers: The Crossing #1, Cover Date September 1995
Written by Bob Harras and Terry Kavanagh, Penciled by Mike Deodato, assist by Deodato's "studio"

Avengers Crossing Cover


At last, after months of vague hints, it's The Crossing! The opening to the story that will surely be the Avenger's answer to the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline! New costumes! Avengers will die! $5 foil-embossed comics for everyone!


We begin our story with an unidentified armored female, as she talks out loud to no one about how worried she was that she would die in the void. Unfortunately, she quickly realizes this is not her beautiful life, as Hawkeye and Black Widow are rounded up on the streets with considerable ease by a few jack-booted goons, to be carted off to a firing squad. Widow notices Rita DeMara, although she calls her "DeMeara," and warns that this all started with her, telling her to "stay away from the mansion." A young blonde woman thinks "Sweet Agon," a favorite exclamation of Inhumans, as she also recognizes the female Yellowjacket from the future.

Avengers Crossing Black Widow
Black Widow might want to get that hand checked.

Unfortunately, Rita jumps, seeing the Avengers in hideous 90's costumes over a series of short jumps before materializing at the Mansion. She says (to no one) that "they" warned her dizziness could be a side-effect of a "long crossing" as she falls over into a newspaper that reads "Feds Call Cap Traitor" (not related to the Civil War storyline). As she continues to jump, a mysterious blonde woman appears and gives Rita another warning, then disappears. Because Rita's a moron, she decides she'd better tell the Avengers all about the grave warnings. The door opens and she sees a silhouetted figure and says "oh it's you," but before she can explain, she's blasted, and the figure drags her body into the mansion. Unfortunately, there's a witness: adorable toddler Luna, the daughter of Crystal and Quicksilver!

Thor Avengers Crossing
Thor's letting his weird hobbies cross over into his superhero life.

The next day, a white street tough tries to steal an old lady's pearls when he's captured by Quicksilver, Crystal, Hank Pym, the Wasp (in civvies) and the Beast. Seems kind of like overkill to me. After they hand the mugger over to the police, he tries to grab a cop's gun and make a break for it, because he is the stupidest man who ever lived. Predictably, he is maimed, as an arrow goes through a car window and through the mugger's hand. Beast questions whether that was necessary, but Hawkeye blows him off. We'll see who's laughing when this random mugger sues! Hawkeye reminds everyone that he's here for the big party celebrating the Avengers' anniversary.

Hawkeye Avengers Crossing
Hawkeye is now a cool anti-hero. He still uses a bow and arrow.

Meanwhile, Iron Man wanders around the mansion reminiscing, pointing out that this version of the mansion is a simulacrum magically created during the conclusion of the Gatherers arc, but it's such a perfect replica that he still has flashbacks to growing up in the building. Scarlet Witch appears and the two wonder if the team could have a new beginning in this mansion. Across town, Hercules is visited by... a mystery blonde (in a different costume from each of the other two we've seen), who tries to give him a warning, but states she's "out of phase" and as she disappears, Hercules is left wondering if he forgot his car keys in his other toga.

Avengers Crossing Assemble


Hank Pym and a few other Avengers analyze the door from a few issues earlier (reviewed here). The Beast bounces in showing off his Mickey Mantle rookie card, and points out that the X-Mansion has mystery tunnels in their basement and they don't even care! They also have demon cairns on the grounds! The group leaves the door, but Hank Pym thinks he hears tapping. In the kitchen, Deathcry (she really needs a new name at this point) bothers Jarvis about who's mad at who coming into this party until he asks her to eat something or leave.

Avengers Crossing Wasp
Janet Van Dyne, fashion icon.

That evening, the team plays 5-card Poker, while U.S. Agent is there just to be a jerk, saying he doesn't play "penny-ante," while Black Widow, still in costume, plays the piano in the foreground. Tony shows up and asks to be dealt in, but Hawkeye acts like a big baby by literally pointing a finger at Tony and asking "where were you when my wife died?" Uh, why was it up to him to save her, Hawkeye? Vision shows up, apparently surprising people even though dramatic entrances are kind of his thing. Quicksilver and Crystal wonder if Wanda still has feelings for her ex husband, and Quicksilver for the millionth time wishes Crystal still felt that way about him. Outside, Vision and Scarlet Witch talk about Vision's re-found emotions, but their moment is ruined by the sounds of energy blasts nearby. The heroes easily fight off the unnamed goons, and rescue the old man they were accosting, only to find it's... Gilgamesh! But somehow he's been aged into an old man!

Avengers Crossing Hawkeye Black Widow
Fact: men and women don't have the same bones.

Back at the Mansion, Wasp (the only one in street clothes besides Tony), and Jarvis announce dinner is ready... only to find the room deserted. Upstairs, our mystery blonde appears again, tries to knock on the nearby door, but fades away even as Deathcry opens it. Later, Black Widow apologizes to Tony for Hawkeye's behavior and the celebration not exactly going as planned, but Tony shrugs it off. Quicksilver and Crystal ask Marilla to go find Luna's favorite stuffed animal, which is apparently in the room next to the mystery door. Marilla notices a bright light coming from that room and investigates, only to find Tony Stark. A moment later, Stark zaps her, as he says that she, like that morning's surprise, had to die. TO BE CONTINUED!

Review:

Well, this is it, the storyline we've all been waiting for! This issue is double-sized, with 48 pages of content to go with its foil wrap-around cover to justify its price tag, which is more than triple a regular issue. I should point out that my thoughts on these issues are going to be only based on what's actually here, not based on knowing what's going on six months down the pike.

Special issues like this are hard, as they really need something special to justify the price: a lot of Spider-Man special issues were really just part 25 of 64 in the clone saga, with very little to justify the increase in price. Here, the selling point is obviously the revelation that Iron Man killed two people in cold blood. As revelations go, that's pretty strong. The book also takes full advantage of the Malibu coloring style: as a result, the art looks very good even if it's Deodato continuing to do his Jim Lee impression. There's actually less photo-referencing in this then he's using at this time in the regular Avengers book, which is strange.

Outside of the big reveal and the better coloring though, this book feels like it's treading a lot of water. We spend a lot of time with complete unknown Yellowjacket (11 pages). There's also three warnings from this mysterious stranger, and it's not made clear if that's the same woman from the early scene (I think it is, because that one name-drops Agon, and later a mystery-figure name-drops "Randak," another Inhuman character). We're also not supposed to know who this is. When I read this comic as a ten year old, that was true, now, it's painfully obvious it's a time-jumping Luna. Also, while the Scarlet Witch/Vision meeting and the Hawkeye/Iron Man fight are nice relationship moment ideas, neither really results in anything new. It's just re-stating the status quo for new readers, which is really not what I'd like when I pay triple for a comic. I want human/alien plant marriages! Another issue is that while Deodato does a great job drawing some of the action scenes, they are extremely short and don't feel like a very big deal. I can't help but wish the random mugger that requires most of the Avengers was replaced with even a low-level supervillain. I'd much rather see Fancy Dan and Montana get pummeled than some random mugger get paralyzed. They also fight a bunch of unnamed futuristic goons who immediately retreat, and who basically look like the Vulture when he temporarily looked like a young guy.

Speaking of people looking the same, the colorists go all-in on just drawing Crystal like she's Jean Grey. Hank Pym and Hawkeye also look like long-lost identical twins, but I guess that's just sort of always been an issue with the characters.

Another problem is that for being a major "event," this doesn't really feel like an A-list bunch. Cap isn't even name-dropped (photos of him are on the walls), Thor only appears in a one page flash-forward in his hilarious 90's gear, and Iron Man doesn't do anything until the last page revelation. It feels like something that could be addressed by the characters considering this is supposed to be a party: where the heck is everybody? It's a one-shot, there's no reason you can't have a bunch of cameo appearances from people who only show up for the party and then leave. Maybe Tony could be sad that everyone is "too busy" to attend his big anniversary party, with only 3 founding members, and only eleven people actually showing up. Also Wasp and Iron Man are in their plainclothes, but everyone else attends the party in costume, which looks hilarious. Black Widow playing the piano in her (new) costume is just bizarre.

For all that though, it is a promising start. Revealing an "iconic" character as your mystery killer is a bold choice, the art looks strong, and there's enough that I wanted to read the next chapter.

90's Fashion:

Oh my God this is a goldmine. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver all get fancy 90's costumes. Thor looks like a weird gimp with a belly shirt to highlight his abs, spiked shoulder pads and spikes along his pants, buckles everywhere, and fingerless gloves. Plus he kept his cape! Black Widow's and Scarlet Witch's designs aren't horrible, as both are just slightly busier versions of old costumes: Black Widow does add a mid-thigh row of pouches, and Scarlet Witch puts a bunch of geometric designs on her boots. Quicksilver's outfit looks pretty much like his AOA gear from that storyline. Hawkeye keeps his purple boots and has plenty of purple pouches, but wears a blue outfit with no hood to cover his middle-parted blonde hair. He also has a weird geometric design that looks like two boomerangs going in opposite directions. Are they bows? He's a Grifter mask away from just being an Image character at this point. He should start calling himself "DeathBow" or "Hard Shot" or something cool.

Yellowjacket doesn't wear her red and black costume, instead wearing a red and blue armored costume that has odd tears in it as though it were cloth. At one point the mystery blonde woman appears in a green swimsuit and metallic boots, although there's also weird metal stuff on her leg that makes it seem like that's not skin? I don't know. Fashionists Janet Van Dyne wears ugly mom jeans. The Beast wears a red ball cap backwards, because he is a cool dude. Everyone wears their Avengers member jacket.

2 comments:

  1. I've never read "The Crossing" and I have no intention to ever read it, but I always love reading about it. It brings out every reviewer's best snarkiness!

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  2. Black Widow playing the piano in her (new) costume is just bizarre.

    Indeed. It seems like the kind of thing an animated series would do, because no one is going to pay for a new character model in street clothes.

    Now that I think about it, the absence of Cap, Thor, etc. seems like a "we couldn't get those actors back" kind of thing, even though in comics, there's no reason not to include them.

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