Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Avengers Assemble: Science Bros Review (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Christos Gage)

I’ll just say it: I’m not a fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing. I tried her Captain Marvel and didn’t like it; Pretty Deadly was full of unrealised potential that divulged into a turgid mess; and one issue of Ghost was enough. So I was REALLY surprised when I picked up her Avengers book and found myself laughing at the banter and enjoying the book. She surprised me in the best possible way and made me want to give her Captain Marvel another shot. 

Here’s what I’ve noticed about modern superhero comics - they split into two camps. You either get a good character story or you get a well-plotted story. The great books are the ones that have both but the good ones usually do one or the other, while the weaker ones do crap versions of those types while the awful ones achieve neither. 

So for example, good character books are Gillen/McKelvie’s Young Avengers or Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye where you don’t mind what the story is because you love the characters. Good story books are like Soule/Pulido’s She Hulk or Ellis/Shalvey’s Moon Knight where the plot captivates you more than the characters. The truly great ones are books like Slott/Various Artists’ Superior Spider-Man which has a great central character you want to read more of AND a fantastic absorbing plot. 

ANYWAY: Avengers Assemble is a good character book - the plot’s not important, it’s just something for the characters to be doing while they’re riffing. The first arc concerns a Chinese villain called Yun Guang Han who wants to create an unstoppable army of super soldiers or something. The second sees an outbreak of lizard people amidst the youth of Siberia. Meh. 

But the character stuff is wonderful. Like Banner and Stark arguing over who’s got the better scientific morals/approach, leading to a bizarre bet where the stakes are walking through Manhattan in your birthday suit. And Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman’s face when she uses her pheromones to get Hulk to make her a sandwich: “Huuuuuuuulk, make me a saaaandwiiich!” (as if she eats carbs!). Then her face when she sees what a Hulk sandwich looks like! By the way, this is all just five pages though it’s representative of DeConnick’s work on this book as a whole. 

There’s even a bit where Jessica and Hulk are in the Arctic and she says she’s cold so Hulk puts his hand over her face which warms her up. Same thing happened on the set of The Princess Bride when Robin Wright told Andre the Giant she was cold so he put his massive hand over her head! 

One other detail I liked which was unexpected was the appearance of the classic Cap outfit. Nowadays his outfit looks like the one Chris Evans wears in The Winter Soldier movie - very modern, practical, etc. But I miss the old Cap with the blue chainmail scales, the wings sticking out on the sides of his mask and the corsair boots. Well, he’s got them in this book - woohoo! And he has an awesome aerial battle too. 

I won’t mention every little thing I liked about this book but DeConnick’s character voices are highly entertaining to read - she does ensemble stories better than individual characters like Captain Marvel. 

The one writer who does live up to the lowest expectations is Christos Gage whose Vision story that closes out the book was totally pants. It’s the same cliched “scientist has crap life and goes batty with superpowers” thing that’s been done to death for decades. I suppose the last couple panels are cool but everything that preceded it was 100% Gage-certified crapness. 

If you’re like me and don’t think much of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel or Pretty Deadly and you’re willing to give her another chance, check out Science Bros - it’s an eye opener! Definitely one of the funniest Marvel books I’ve read this year, DeConnick proves she can write the hell out of an Avengers book. Get rid of Jonathan Hickman and put her in charge of the title, Marvel!!

Avengers Assemble: Science Bros

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