Welcome back to the round-up! This week it’s a battle between Avengers books as we’ve got reviews of both Uncanny Avengers and Avengers Assemble. But first! Firefly returns (sort of) with Dark Horse’s Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.
SERENITY: LEAVES ON THE WIND #1/ Written by ZACK WHEDON/ Art by GEORGES JEANTY/ Inks by KARL STORY/ Colors by LAURA MARTIN/ Letters by MICHAEL HEISLER/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
Review by MATT MORRISON
Despite being canceled before completing a single season, the science-fiction series Firefly developed a huge cult following once the series was released on DVD. In 2005, the follow-up film Serenity helped to resolve many of the show’s story lines. “The Verse” was further expanded over the following decade through a number of miniseries published by Dark Horse Comics. This extensive back-story might seem intimidating to the uninitiated but this first issue of Serenity: Leaves On The Wind is quick to explain everything for the greenhorns who haven’t seen the show, the movie or read any of the comics.
As the book opens, it’s eight months after the events of Serenity. Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the rest of our favorite crew of outlaws are on the run and in hiding from The Alliance, who are in full-blown damage control mode. The revelation that The Alliance was responsible for the creation of the cannibalistic raiders known as Reavers (information our heroes exposed) has led to the formation of a new anti-Alliance rebellion that bears more resemblance to the Occupy movement than The American Confederacy. Both groups are trying to find Malcolm Reynolds – one to offer him their allegiance and the other to bring him to “justice”.
Zack Whedon’s script perfectly captures the the essence of the original Firefly series. The dialogue is perfect and there’s a number of the same good character moments that made the show so memorable. There’s even a few honest surprises and curveballs that will shock even the most devout of fans, including the unexpected appearance of some familiar faces.
Talking of faces, artist Georges Jeanty does a fair to middling job of capturing the likenesses of the Serenity crew… most of the time. Some of the character portraits are good when the characters are still but add in a suggestion of motion and the whole thing goes niou fun! Malcolm Reynolds himself comes off a bit young and clean-cut at times and the physical proportions of some of the characters seem slightly off in some panels. For instance, at one point Simon and Malcolm resemble a pair of boys rather than grown men.
Browncoats rejoice! This isn’t Firefly Season 2 but it’s a mighty fine substitute. The artwork’s a little dirty but the heart-felt script more than makes up for it. Like Serenity itself, this book may not look like much but the story flies true.
UNCANNY AVENGERS #16/ Written by RICK REMENDER/Art by STEVE MCNIVEN/Inks by JOHN DELL & JAY LEISTEN/ Colors by LAURA MARTIN/ Letters by CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
Rick Remender knows how to bring a dark edge to comics. He proved this in the first volume of Uncanny X-Force and is doing it again in Uncanny Avengers. In Uncanny Avengers #16, Remender brings the drama and action to a head as the Avengers Unity squad is decimated by the Apocalypse Twins rapture of the mutants.
Remender has developed epic fights, cosmic threats, and dramatic dialogue to match the epic scale of Hickman’s Infinity. In issue #16, the non-mutant members of the team take center stage as Thor and a savagely beaten Captain America take the fight directly to Uriel and Eimin. The action sequences, built through sparse dialogue and titanic hammer and shield throwing power shots, are exactly what one could hope for in a match between an angry god, a consummate tactician, and the offspring of Apocalypse. Thor’s repeated “I CARE NOT” is as impactful as the hammer tosses to the head the Uriel suffers.
The one downside to this issue is that it feels choppy at the start. Remender connects to different timelines as the actions of the Apocalypse Twins send shockwaves through time and space. The beginning of the issue serves to update the reader on what’s happening in the year 3193, as Immortus waits with the Infinity Watch for Wasp to destroy a time barrier. This future involvement that started with Kang in the first issue of the story arc just feels inconsequential to the story at this point. Surely, as with most stories with an epic span, Remender will tie it all together. It’s just a bit distracting at this point.
McNiven’s artwork is stellar throughout. Each frame captures the physicality of the conflict and emotional turmoil left in its wake. McNiven’s Captain America is impactful. After been attacked by the Apocalypse Twins in the previous issue, Cap has never looked so vulnerable and beaten. McNiven also does an excellent job of showing Cap’s strength as he musters his last will to save mutant and humankind alike.
Overall, the combination of Remender and McNiven bring a fresh intensity to the Avengers that needs to be read. There may be a few speed bumps in the way, but Uncanny Avengers #16 is a roller coaster ride worth picking up.
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #23/ Written by KELLY SUE DECONNICK & WARREN ELLIS/ Art by MATTEO BUFFAGINI/ Colors by NOLAN WOODARD/ Letters by VC’s CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Review by ANNE MORTENSEN-AGNEW
The current story arc of Avengers Assemble has been really enjoyable, which makes this uninspired issue stand out even more than it otherwise would. Not only was it less fun and snappy than issues #21 and #22, but Avengers Assemble #23 just dragged. Not only did nothing really happen–nothing really happened very, very slowly.
Anya teams up with another Avenger (Wolverine this time), fights some more goons, and then in the last few pages June Covington makes progress with her Inhuman DNA scheme. That’s basically been the last two issues’ formula as well, but at least those issues were fun. Which is a shame, since pairing up a teenage girl with Logan is usually a recipe for success.
The reason this issue Avengers Assemble comes off as a more somber book is because this story is reaching its climax. Spider-Woman and Logan chastise Anya and tell her she needs to mature: step up her hero game and prepare herself to make the tough choices heroes have to make. But still, DeConnick and Ellis are talented writers who have managed to balance seriousness with levity pretty well before. The snappy dialogue and fun banter of the previous two issues are absent, and Anya’s jokes just don’t fly. Both writers have done better, individually and together, so there’s really no excuse for why this book was such a drag.
On the upside, while issue #23 may have been a slog to read it was pretty to look at. Matteo Buffagini turns in another rock solid art job, with a fun action scene and some good expressions, especially for Jess and particularly Anya. And again, if anyone is looking for a reference point for lovely but non-exploitatively drawn women, this is a book to check out. Woodard’s coloring is also terrific, especially on the increasingly inhuman June Covington.
But as lovely as Buffagini and Woodard’s artwork is, it’s not enough to save the script. This arc wraps next month, wherein Anya will team up with Iron Man, so expect the conclusion to be more thrilling. Until then, spend your $3.99 on something more exciting.