Review: Avengers Annual #1 – Immonen/LaFuente

avengers-annual-01-300x461Avengers Annual #1 is a welcome bit of light relief, after the convoluted complexity porn that was Hickman’s Infinity. It’s equal parts action packed, witty, poignant, and bizarrely adorable.

Writer Katherine Immonen has written a fun and charming stand alone story, that could have easily been as preachy as an after school special, but instead had me grinning from start to finish. David LaFuente’s art fits nicely with Immonen’s at times chaotic plot, and some of his panels are the funniest sight gags I’ve seen so far this year.

The plot centres around Zamira, a student of Shang-Chi who stows away after a tour of Avengers Tower for unclear reasons, and Steve, who drew the short straw and has been left behind to stand guard over Christmas. Somehow Immonen has managed to pack an affecting, almost depressing sub-plot for Steve, in to what is otherwise a chaotic and action packed book. I was expecting something with as much substance as candyfloss, but instead this is a surprisingly character-driven issue, that takes a moment to look behind the superhero persona.

While I didn’t really think much of Zamira, the manifestations of her power – self styled copies of existing heroes – delivered some genuinely funny one liners, often full of innuendo, and always poking more than a little fun at characterisation. Subsequent reactions from each Avenger sometimes feel like you’re sitting through a semi-satirical DVD commentary, with real life versions of characters commenting on their on screen personalities.

BWhile I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and laughed out loud at a lot of the dialogue, what I enjoyed most however, was LaFuente’s art. He does a great job of conveying the disorderly mess that Zamira’s power creates (although visually this may be a bit much for some readers), and I liked the exaggerated cartoonish style a lot. Facial expressions are over the top, movement is well conveyed, and as previously mentioned, the sight gags are just hilarious.

Some may find this book a bit too much of a departure from the serious plot of Avengers as a whole, but perhaps a light-hearted one-shot is just what we need after Infinity and its long, drawn out lead up.

If you want to read a book where Cap wears an apron, Tony wears a crab-shaped pool ring, and Natasha tells tall tales about herself, then this is the book for you.

Review: All New X-Men #1 – Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

all-new-x-men-1-marvel-nowI’m a sucker for a good time travel story. Most of my favourite works of fiction deal with the concept of time travel, and I can’t seem to get enough of it. So when Marvel announced as part of their Marvel NOW! relaunch that All New X-Men would find the original five X-Men; Beast, Angel, Iceman, Jean Grey and Cyclops, taken from the past and brought to the future to help talk down one of their own from committing mutant genocide, my interest piqued. Fortunately for everyone,  Brian Michael Bendis sets the stage for what will be one of the most interesting titles in coming months.

All New X-Men #1 picks up right after the events of the Avengers vs. X-Men event earlier this year. Professor Xavier is dead, murdered by a Phoenix-possessed Cyclops. This leaves the school renamed as the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning under the leadership of Wolverine. New mutants have been popping up all over the globe, as Cyclops’ X-Men move to start the “mutant revolution”, leaving a trail of regular human-beings in their wake. Wolverine’s X-Men soon discover that desperate times call for desperate measures, as they are forced to retrieve the original X-Men in hopes they would be able to save the mutant race from once again being caught under the prejudices that the series was built on.

Bendis brings the feelings of prejudice and fear for the mutant race back on to the table easily. While not allowing humans to be outright  assaulting the new mutants, the sense of fear and dread, even to one mutant who can save lives with his touch, is palpable throughout the book. This title may say New X-Men, but these are classic X-Men themes.

The characterisation takes a back seat for the first issue, as Bendis first seeks to set up the world post AvX. The only character who is given any real spotlight  is Beast. With his opening monologue, we learn that the idea of travelling the space-time continuum was not something he has taken lightly. The rest of the characters take a back seat to action and story – with the notable exclusion of Wolverine, this initial outing seeks to set up events to come rather than showing the characters who will take part.

Stuart Immomen’s art, coupled with Marte Garcia’s colouring, gives the entire issue an animated feel. The action panels have a sense of momentum, and his art in the more talking moments gives each event their proper due. While his work may not necessarily stand out, it still looks fantastic, and suits the tone of the book well.

All New X-Men #1 succeeds fully in introducing the new status-quo for our favourite mutant family. While the first issue is light on character, its heavy themes, and the set up for the time travelling X-Men gives the coming months much promise for the title.

Plus did I mention that it has time travel?