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House of M, Secret War, Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign. Most of you probably have no idea what those terms mean, but if you've read anything Marvel related in the last 5 years then maybe those names are familiar to you. Basically, these are the names of the big events that have pushed the heroes to their limits and consistently changed the status quo of the Marvel Universe. Of course it all had to start somewhere, and where it started was with the events of Avengers Disassembled.
Avengers Disassembled chronicles the events of Avengers issues 500-503 which saw the Avengers being relentlessly attacked on both a physical and emotional level. Plus it includes the one shot Avengers Finale which concluded the careers of The Avengers as they had previously existed. It's also written by my favourite comic book author Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spiderman).
The story starts simply enough with a group of Avengers chilling out around the Avengers Mansion when a recently deceased member tries to gain access to the grounds. Ant Man tries to contact his friend, but this is a course of action that ends up costing him his life. A Code Red alert is immediately sent out summoning all Avengers to action. Meanwhile Tony Stark (AKA Ironman) is tied up with his own problem. In his position as Secretary of Defence he has to appear before the United Nations, but finds alcohol related issues are interfering with his performance. Back at the Avengers Mansion Vision (He's one of the Avengers) unleashes a group of Ultron robots onto the currently weakened team, and She Hulk loses it big time and goes on a rampage.
Hawkeye believes that these are all totally unrelated events in a really bad day for the Avengers. Ironman however claims not to have touched a drop of alcohol in years, and sees his drunken state as proof that a third party has coordinated these attacks. This is a theory that carries a lot more weight when a whole lot of other bad stuff starts kicking off within the hour.
If I'm perfectly honest I'd say that it's in this constant barrage of action that the book starts to falter. A lot of people criticize Bendis for his usual decompressed style of writing, which means he can spend 5-6 issues on a story that could have been told in 1. Avengers Disassembled suffers from the opposite effect. 4 issues is just nowhere near enough time to fully develop the deconstruction of the avengers. There's no room for the reader to breathe and take in what's happening between the attacks and as a result you barely feel anything, even when some fairly important characters are killed off unexpectedly.
Still I would definitely say that I enjoyed Avengers Disassembled, and the reason is in the writing from Bendis. To put it simply the guy knows dialogue. He knows how to script a scene realistically enough that a group of characters sitting in a room talking about nothing in particular can be enjoyable. It's not just limited to the easy going flirting before everything kicks off either. Bendis dialogue; when its given time, actually manages to add that much needed weight to the story. When She Hulk goes mad you actually feel the intimidation that her team mates feel, because of the way their responses are scripted. The horror of an Ultron attack actually feels horrifying because of the way the characters react, and there's one stand out hospital scene involving 2 characters I loathe that still managed to leave me with a lump in my throat. I should also note that when the villain is finally revealed, Bendis dialogue ensures that you not only understand their actions, but empathize with their feelings at the same time.
It's hard to explain to someone who's never read a Bendis comic, but people say this about Tarantino films all the time, so I'll explain it in the same way. Bendis writes dialogue that people would actually say, and it makes his work great. Also; when the other super heroes show up to help, Bendis proves why he's still the best man for writing Spiderman with some absolutely hysterical one liners!
On the art front I'd say that David Finch's art blows the competition out of the water. He puts so much effort into the colouring of every shot that the story really comes alive. His action scenes in particular look stunning, and I challenge anyone to witness his slow morphing of She Hulk in the panels leading up to her scene not to be impressed by his ability to let the images tell the story as the action flows by.
All in all I would definitely recommend Avengers Disassembled to anyone who's interested in either the team, or the darker Marvel Universe that this story kicked off. Just bear in mind that having it all crammed into a 4 issue arc does mean that a lot of impact fails to connect, and the reader will find themselves getting a little breathless.
Avengers Disassembled is a Marvel trade collection of a story arc for the superhero team that first appeared in 2004 (in Avengers issues #501 to #503 and the one-off special Avengers "Finale"). It was written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by (chiefly) David Finch. This is one of those retconned comic arcs that attempts to throw the kitchen sink at the familiar characters and put them in a story or situation that you might find surprising - although of course if you already have issues of Marvel's "What If?" and numerous annuals and graphic novels then you've seen this approach all before anyway. In this case the "surprise" is what the writer described as an emotional and physical assault on the current pantheon of heroes in the long running superteam comic. The very basic premise here has the Avengers mansion and the Avengers themselves coming under a ferocious and sustained attack triggered by the uncanny hex powers of the surprise villain. The villain probably won't come as a huge surprise if you are familiar with the Avengers and their West Coast Avengers counterparts. The story begins with an intruder alert at the Avengers mansion. It turns out to be Jack of Hearts - which is strange because he is supposed to be dead. He apologises and then explodes, killing Ant-Man (Scott Lang not Henry Pym) and reducing much of the mansion to rubble. It's not a great start to the day but things are about to get much worse for Captain America and his superpowered friends (now crawling out of the debris and dust). The android Avengers member Vision flies a Quinjet (basically a high tech jet plane that the Avengers use) into the crash site and then warns his colleagues that he has no control over his actions. He releases capsules that become Ultron robots and attack the Avengers. As if that wasn't enough, an alien armada appears in the sky with hostile intent. Will the Avengers manage to get out of this most testing of days alive?
Although the storyline is supposed to be rather controversial with a sense of ripping everything up in order to start again, I did feel a vague sense of deja vu and not just from Marvel's often enjoyable "What If?" series. I feel like I already have a batch of comics where teams like X-Men, The Justice League and The Avengers are defeated, lose members or are driven to the edge of their limits by some fiendish outside threat. It's nothing new. I suppose this story maybe takes it a bit further than most with an Avenger blown to smithereens at the start and also Tony Stark getting into bother at the United Nations when he appears to be drunk while making a speech and becomes aggressive towards the Latverian delegation. He swears he hasn't had a drink though (Tony Stark is of course a recovering alcoholic) and so adds another layer of mystery to the apparent manipulation and wide ranging assault on the team. I tend to prefer more vintage comics when it comes to Marvel rather than anything too modern and I think a big part of the reason for this is the art. Everything seems so glossy and dark in later comics but I love the simple but colourful panels of really old comics. Avengers Disassembled goes for small panels and is bathed in a strange purple sheen over the blacks and blues. Very brooding. Although the art is very detailed and occasionally striking it just seems to lack a bit of character and personality at times and Bendis is one of those artists who faces all the characters to look facially the same. You don't get much of a sense of location here either and the comic never really opens up as it should.
One thing did I did love here though was a double page spread where practically anyone who has ever been an Avenger arrives on the scene and we get a splash page of them all together. It's fun to dwell on the illustration and work out how many of them you can name. There are many, many guest stars here including Doctor Strange - the Sorcerer Supreme. I'm a bit fan of Doctor Strange and the mystic magician is desperately needed here when the true enemy is revealed. This is an obvious end to a particular era of The Avengers and a move to position them for a new future. I think the best part of the book arrives with the Finale section when the Avengers realise that it is the end of a chapter and reminisce about old Avengers moments. These flashbacks use some vintage panels from old comics that date back to the sixties. It's a nice touch although the sharp contrast between the old and new incarnations of Marvel (and specifically the art) tends to highlight the lack of charm in Avengers Disassembled. The first part of the story piles on the action and then you get some more reflective character moments later on although the writing is not brilliant and characters often struggle to have their own distinctive voice. I was always aware that one person was writing all of this. It's an unfair comparison because he's arguably the best comic writer in the world but with an Alan Moore book the distinct characters all have their own personalities and come to life. You don't get any of that here really.
The Avengers here are more or less as you'd think and remember. Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Hank Pym, Wasp etc. She-Hulk (Bruce Banner's cousin) is a member too and it's quite novel to see her go completely berserk as she was always a very sensible and refined character from what I remember despite being a giant green skinned woman! There is unavoidably a sense here that they are doing some things simply because they can rather than because they are essential components of some intricate plot. It moves along at a fair pace, especially the start, and is never boring but you don't feel as if there is too much going on beneath the mayhem and that some plot threads are lost in the etha. The character moments are lacking on the whole. Avengers Disassembled is entertaining but something of a mess at times. While I was never bored by the comic I don't feel that it's one of the better Avengers collections you can buy. There are dozens of Avengers arcs and collections that are better than this (Operation: Galactic Storm and The Kree-Skrull War to name two off the top of my head) and most of them have the advantage of colourful retro art rather than the gloss gloom that seems to pervade a lot of the more modern comics. The bonkers story is sort of fun but ultimately I didn't leave this book feeling like I had found anything terribly special or an essential purchase and always wanted to like it much more than I actually did in the end. Avengers Disassembled runs to around 170 pages and at the time of writing is available to buy for just under ten pounds.
I'm afraid this is going to be a hard book to review without spoiling some plot elements so if you want an entirely plot spoiler free review I suggest that you look somewhere else, but I will try to keep them minor.
The story is set some time after the events where Jack of Hearts is seen to sacrifice his life to save Ant-Man's daughter, thus leaving the team (duh!) The alarms of the Avengers mansion go off alerting the team to an intruder who comes in the form of Jack Hart who without explanation explodes, destroying Ant-Man (Scott Lang) in the collision. The story continues with a series of bizarre and unexplainable events resulting in loss of life of a number of key Avengers many of whom will have fans of the team shedding a tear or two.
What is nice about this particular story is that it bills itself as starring every Avenger ever, now I have to admit that I'm not an expert on the Avengers but the cast is certainly impressive including characters such as the Beast, Triathlon, Daredevil, Spidey, Captain Britain and countless others.
The art style in the book is also very impressive with David Finch pencilling most of the core story (actually I believe all of it), it's a pseudo realistic style which is certainly one of my preferred Marvel styles.
The book ends on an emotional note with a a tear jerking scene which I shan't spoil but involves several key avengers making serious life decisions.
The story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, although in fairness I only own the trade paper back and not the issues on either side so that's not an entire shock but even so there are continuity issues within the story itself, but those appear to be minor.
The book is a good read and certainly a bit of fun, definitely worth a buy if you're an Avengers fan.
PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THERE ARE SPOILERS WITHIN THIS REVIEW. This may not be an entirely popular view but Avengers Dissassembled is an excellent example of what is wrong with Marvel Comics these days.
It's all filler leading from one event to the next without any real meat.
I'm putting spoiler warnings on now.....
In these issues it transpires that the Scarlet Witch has flipped out at the revelation that her kids never existed (she's told this by a drunk Wasp - as Bendis strives to destroy Jan's character). Odd thing is, Wanda already knows that her kids don't exist.
She then somehow ressurects Jack of Hearts who then explodes killing Ant-Man.
The Vision shows up & somehow regurgitates several Ultron robots before being ripped apart by the She-Hulk. She-Hulk herself obviously going a bit mental & ripping apart one of her friends....
Then a load of fake Kree turn up & Hawkeye, a master bowman & strategist decides to take out a ship by flying directly into it's engine & effectively commiting suicide.
Yes folks, logic has left the building, but that's alright cos Bendis will relaunch in a few months with a series starring Spider-Man & Wolverine.
It's pretty poor storytelling obviously designed to set up the next big thing, in a similar way that House of M & Secret Invasion were all style over substance.
Bendis seems to eager to subvert the status quo without paying attention to character or history
Reviewing the trade paperback, "Avengers Disassembled", which reprints material originally published in Avengers issues 501 to 503 and the one-off special, Avengers Finale.
Jack of Hearts has apparently risen from the dead - but he's doesn't look so good.
The Vision brings a terrible message from one of the Avengers' oldest foes.
A contingent of Kree warriors arrives from a distant galaxy and wages war on the Avengers.
Iron Man finds himself disgraced in office, as he addresses the United Nations in an apparently drunken state.
What is happening to The Avengers? As the team's world starts to crumble around it, only the mystic sorcerer known as Doctor Strange can help them find the answers - but will he be too late to save the Earth's mightiest heroes?
Originally introduced as a test to see if comic books could appeal to a younger generation, the Ultimate franchise has grown from strength to strength. Amidst the pages of The Ultimate Spiderman, writer Brian Michael Bendis has helped re-write comic book history and now a new generation of readers is addicted. The Avengers series has been running since the 1960s but the launch of an "ultimate" variant (surprisingly named The Ultimates) wasn't as successful as had been hoped and in 2004 it was decided to bring the original Avengers series to a close altogether. This was not, however, to discontinue the concept. This was merely to bring the current incarnation to an end and enable a new creative team to set a new direction for the team. It seemed that the world had finally grown out of the Avengers' values.
Disassembled was something of an event in the comic book year, pitched only over three issues of the main series, with Finale a sort of gathering up of loose ends rather than the expected climactic showdown. In the entirety of those three chapters, Disassembled feels as though it is going to become another classic chapter in Avengers history, joining the likes of the Skull/Kree War, the Masters of Evil and the Korvac Saga as firm fan favourites. There are certainly some essential ingredients here. Major characters are (apparently) killed off. The ranks of the team are decimated by an unknown foe and everything that the team holds dear is destroyed or damaged, from the physical (the mansion) to the less tangible (the reputation and the image).
And it's true to say that there are some classic moments here. David Finch's excellent artwork brings some incredible scenes to life and there's a breathtaking scale to the whole thing that, initially at least, leaves you wondering just what can/will happen next. An enormous explosion outside the mansion, an incoming Kree armada and the Hulk's cousin cutting loose are just some of the highlights of an exciting and fast-paced storyline. Indeed, the storyline is arguably TOO quickly-plotted, with scarcely a moment for the reader to draw breath before something equally cataclysmic unfolds. But whilst this is epic stuff, it's not just the big action pieces that entertain. There's a lovely, double-page conclusion to chapter two, where nearly every current and former Avenger assembles outside the mansion in the team's darkest hour. It's classic Avengers stuff, borderline overly jingoistic but indisputably affectionate towards a vast array of characters and more than forty years of continuity.
Shockingly, however, Bendis drops the ball in the third chapter, where the story's nemesis is soon revealed. The villain's identity feels like something we've all seen before and it's difficult not to be disappointed that this doesn't see the return of one of the series greatest foes, when the story is, after all, supposed to be the swansong of an era. The resounding feeling that we've been here before dampens the bristling enthusiasm and the conclusion is too neat, too easily wrapped-up and simply not appropriate to what has gone before. The reality is that this is a storyline that should have simmered for far longer than it did. This should have been a story that was told over at least six issues, more if necessary, and is, instead, crammed rather clumsily into just three issues. When collected for the trade paperback, it all seems even more rushed.
The fact that Finale is such a gratuitous self-indulgence doesn't help. With little to add to the events of the previous three chapters, it instead opts to reflect in a melancholy manner, showing the teammates discussing the previous events and individually starting to make decisions about going their own way. It's when they start reminiscing that the whole thing starts to wear really thin. Admittedly, this section is a visual treat, with a host of different artists drawing 2, 3 or 4 pages to showcase an enormous variety of styles. Most notable are Michael Gaydos's hideously grotesque pages (in which Ms Marvel looks more like a crack whore) and in complete contrast, David Mack's stunning watercolour painting of the moment that the Vision and Scarlet Witch first kissed. It's an interesting way of looking at the series' history, but it's so terribly self-indulgent that you feel as though you've gatecrashed a private party. Rather like a DVD boxed set, there are other "extras" including an interview with the writer and a montage of all the Avengers book covers (too small to fully appreciate, but fascinating to peer at, if nothing else.)
Value and variety aside, however, the overwhelming reaction to Disassembled is to feel rather cheated. Aside from the fact that it leads up into something of nothing, the entire premise is rather flawed, given that everybody knew that Bendis was also going to pick up the replacement series, innovatively titled The New Avengers. As such, the idea that The Avengers have "disassembled" is really only ever a transitory notion and any apparent boldness is quickly dismissed as boastful showmanship.
There's lots to like here, and every Avengers fan should have a copy of this, but as the Heroes Reborn reboot previously demonstrated, in the Marvel Universe, there is nothing permanent about anything, not even death. Every reader knew that if this didn't work, it could all conveniently be pieced back together because it's all been pieced back together before.
This is an American publication but is easily purchased via www.amazon.co.uk for around £9.