Brian Michael Bendis’ first storyarc for the relaunched Avengers focused on a post-apocalyptic Earth dominated by Ultron. Our present-day Avengers were called into the future by aged versions of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, who tasked their younger counterparts with staving off the future they felt to be inevitable. Our Tony Stark has set out to do precisely that, only to find his dreams crushed in an instant with the last pages of Avengers #12.1…
The Avengers wind up facing off against a team of B-grade supervillains in this issue: M.O.D.O.K. (the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), Klaw (the master of sound, and a frequent foe of both the Fantastic Four and the Black Panther), the Red Ghost (a former Soviet super-agent, who comes complete with a team of trained apes), and the Wizard (who’d kind of like Doctor Doom, if Doom lacked his own country and about 60% of his ability). You see, S.W.O.R.D. sent Spider-Woman to investigate a… disturbance, but didn’t count on the B-team’s reaching the source of that disturbance before the good guys. In the ensuing confusion, Spider-Woman got captured, and now she needs rescuing. The real threat, though, isn’t the easily-dispatched-with villains, but the mystery object both sides were seeking.
Like the other members of Marvel’s “Point One” family, this issue of Avengers is meant to be a way for new and curious readers to ease themselves into the series, to get a taste of the adventure in store for them. Leaving aside the fact that every issue of a comic could potentially be somebody’s first, so they should all be written with some degree of accessibility in mind, Avengers #12.1 probably succeeds more often than it fails. It does herald the beginning of a new storyarc, which is always a good time to jump aboard a comic series, and we get a substantial introduction to the character of Spider-Woman (and since Bendis has been fascinated with her, chiefly, among the litany of second- and third-tier heroes who command his attention, it is a substantial introduction), but I don’t think this issue really captures the feel of Bendis’ Avengers so far. It’s not big and spectacular in the way his best issues have been, and it’s frequently vague in a way that a newcomer, I suspect, would find neither mysterious nor compelling. Like the “Point One” plan itself, Avengers #12.1 is a mixed bag.
This is probably at least in part due to the John Romita, Jr., hangover, but I just didn’t find Bryan Hitch’s artwork in this issue all that compelling (excepting the Ultron splash page at the end – that felt like classically awesome Hitch). It lacks a good deal of the detail I associate with his best work, and just felt stiff and posed, not fluid like his days with The Authority, or even The Ultimates.
It’s difficult to recommend something that doesn’t succeed at anything it sets out to do, like Avengers #12.1. I can’t imagine the target audience for this issue being anyone other than folks who’ve already invested a substantial amount of time in this series (especially when the last page teases the next issue as a Fear Itself tie-in, which probably gets us off the Ultron track once again). There’s some reward here for those already in the know, but anyone interested in jumping on board with the series would be better served with the tried-and-true methods: picking up a trade paperback, or some back issues.