Sunday, April 17, 2016

'The New Avengers Annual' No. 1 (retro-review)

For comic book readers and collectors, there's nothing like finding a bargain in the back-issue section.

During my most recent trip to The POP! Shop, I found a steal — two of them.

I decided to look through the back issues, which are newly alphabetized and categorized. In the Avengers section, I found two goodies: No. 1 of the four-issue limited series of JLA/AVENGERS (for 50 cents no less!) and THE NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL No. 1 featuring the wedding of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones for $1.50. (Look for my review after the jump.)

While I'm no investor, with Jones already starring in a live-action Netflix series and Cage's on the way, the annual is historically significant and could be worth a bit of money down the road. (Or not, who knows!)

Needless to say, the JLA/AVENGERS story is a gem. Not only is it the first time the two superhero teams were in the same publication, it's published during the rare time DC and Marvel co-published several one-shot crossovers and two limited series.

It's by the killer creative team of writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez, who inked his own work and did the covers. Busiek and Perez had done an unforgettable run on the relaunched AVENGERS title during the "Heroes Reborn" relaunch at Marvel Comics (known as AVENGERS ASSEMBLE in trade paperback form, which shouldn't be confused with Brian Michael Bendis' story). Put quietly, Busiek and Perez deliver one of the best takes on Earth's Mightiest Heroes in Marvel Comics history, so if you see either AVENGERS ASSEMBLE or JLA/AVENGERS at a great price, they're worth picking up.

(Word to the wise from the voice of experience: You'll be able to find most of this dynamic duo's AVENGERS issues for as much as $2 each issue — a ridiculously great price for the value — at comic book conventions. Collecting the nearly 50 or so issues of the title (all of which Busiek writes BTW) definitely will take a while, but be patient; you end up paying less than the generally overpriced cost of the trades, which rarely are on sale. That's the way I snagged my run.)

Since I've reviewed JLA/AVENGERS in the earlier online version of Cary's Comics Craze (through a series of my favorite quotes, no less!), I will do a brief one of THE NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL No. 1.

This 2006 issue is set after the SECRET INVASION storyline (another highly recommended read) when this newly formed spin-off of The Avengers don't exactly trust Spider-Woman (aka Jessica Drew). Well to be clear, Tony Stark doesn't.

This is also the time in the Marvel Universe when Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are married and Parker is wearing the gaudy, Iron Man-like Spider-Man armor created by Stark.

The first and last sequences are what makes this annual worth reading.

An exhausted Jones comes to Avengers Tower and hands over her and Cage's baby to Ms. Marvel and Mary Jane, both of whom coo over the adorable girl. Soon enough, Jones informs Cage she's accepted his wedding proposal, but the bliss and congratulations are interrupted.

Of course, because warm-fuzzy Marvel moments have to be interrupted by a big baddie (!) — in this case, an Adaptoid-type species synthesized by Hydra and A.I.M. She can absorb heroes' powers and by the time The New Avengers figure that out, she's pretty much wiped the floor and downtown Manhattan with them. But thanks to an idea from Spider-Man, Stark overwhelms the invader in a sequence not unlike the climactic battle that ends "Iron Man 3."
The issue ends with the Jones and Cage's wedding.

Jones surprisingly interrupts the magical moment when the minister (who subtly resembles Stan Lee with sunglasses) is about announce they're husband and wife. She tells Cage that despite him being an Avenger in a scary world, she loves him "so much" watching him being a father to their daughter "to wear this poofed-out dress." Good stuff!

Grade: B

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