Wednesday, May 18, 2016

'Avengers Forever' is a must-read story

This is the cover of issue 2 of AVENGERS FOREVER.
Cruising through the original online home of Cary's Comics Craze (when it's working, that is!), I found another trade paperback review that I feels needed to be reposted here -- but now with photos. Here's another grand storyline to add to your must-read list!

Sept. 19, 2012 -- Time-displaced Avengers, Kang the Conqueror and double identities — oh my!

The 12-part AVENGERS FOREVER story is nothing less than epic and grand. How could it not be?

Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern’s story does nothing less than bring together seven Avengers from different eras, ties into events in the Kree-Skrull War, explores tangential futures (that may or may not happen) and attempts to clear up Kang’s incredibly convoluted backstory.

Fans who love such grandiose stories will dig it. Marvel Comics historians will love it, too.

What especially I enjoyed about the trade paperback I read was that after every two issues, the editors include a detailed list of the references made in those issues as well as the characters who are mentioned or make cameos. The end notes are incredibly specific, complete with issue numbers.

This is the cover of issue 5 of AVENGERS FOREVER.
The present-day Avengers (about 1998) come to the Moon with Rick Jones, who often has been an ally and is an honorary member. With Jones stricken and comatose, The Avengers tell the Kree Supreme Intelligence they can’t figure what why he’s sick.

What becomes clear — well, eventually … — is that Jones’ fate is crucial to humanity’s development.

Humanity’s ultimate influence is something that immensely bothers the Time-Keepers, three technologically advanced god-like beings. They want to keep humans from spreading into the galaxy before certain eras in time because the Time-Keepers believe humanity is the cause of 42 percent of tangential, possible and disastrous futures.

Busiek and Stern also use this massive epic to clarify Kang the Conqueror’s history — and how the driven warrior relates to both time itself and Marvel Comics history.

With Kang popping in and out of the Avengers’ and Fantastic Four’s lives and of course, causing all kinds of havoc, it’s no surprise that things get wonky pretty fast.

Basically, Kang has found himself working with and against The Avengers because it suits his purposes at the time. Kang’s time-hopping life is intertwined with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes —whether either one likes it or not.
This is the cover of issue 7 of AVENGERS FOREVER.

Ultimately, AVENGERS FOREVER reveals how Kang separates himself from his future self.

Immortus, by pure force of will and how/why Marvel Boy (the future son of Captain Marvel) joins himself with Jones, who as annoying as he is, bravely sacrifices himself to save the day at the conclusion. All this amidst the epic Destiny War, which pits the “good” Avengers of every era against the “bad” ones.

Confused? Don’t worry about it.

So was I for quite a bit of the story, but not so much that I couldn’t follow what was going on.

Here are my suggestions to fans who haven’t read this trade paperback yet: Don’t put the trade down for too long before continuing to read it. And don’t get too bogged down on the time-travel details. It’s fairly well explained in the last two issues.

The story brings together seven Avengers from different eras: The Wasp and Giant-Man of present day, the demoralized and shaken Captain America from Steve Englehart’s stories right before he became Nomad for a short time, the early, randy and head-strong Yellowjacket, Hawkeye in his Goliath costume — but without his growth powers and trick arrows, Marvel Boy and Songbird from the future.

This is the cover of issue 11 of AVENGERS FOREVER.
I won’t rehash why the writers say each of these Avengers are crucial to the Destiny War, but needless to say, their chemistry — if you can call it that; it’s more of a volatile water/oil mix — is extremely fascinating.

Just take The Wasp. Janet Van Dyne works well with her ex-husband, Giant Man (aka Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym), with whom she has reconciled recently.

But she’s gotta deal with Yellowjacket, who at the time is when Pym is deranged and doesn’t acknowledge he is Pym. And Yellowjacket hasn’t even married Van Dyne yet, but he has his eyes set on doing so!

Then there’s Hawkeye. It’s all the archer can do from keeping himself from knocking Yellowjacket’s head off — whether it’s because he’s hitting on Songbird or undercutting and/or questioning his command of the sub-squad The Wasp has formed at one point.

Captain America’s an equally intriguing choice.

Having recently gone through Englehart’s SECRET EMPIRE saga that shakes his belief in the American dream, this Cap isn’t the assertive and level-headed warrior we’re used to seeing. (The legendary writer talks about this storyline and his memorable run on the CAPTAIN AMERICA series in this exclusive interview with CCC, which is combined with a review.) 

It’s tough for this lifelong Caphead to see this characterization of the usually laser-focused Steve Rogers.

This is the cover of issue 6 of AVENGERS FOREVER.
But in the closing pages, faced with what to do with the Forever Crystal, an object he could use to rectify horrible parts of history he’s already experience, Cap does the right thing by crushing it with his bare hands.

And Cap delivers one of his most moving speeches, about free will and the potential of not just good, but the greatness, of humanity. Go, Cap!

With a mopey but capable Captain America around, The Wasp steps up to the plate to be the chairman of this tumultuous version of The Avengers. AVENGERS FOREVER is Janet Van Dyne at her level-headed, assertive best.

As far as the art goes, I gotta say I really enjoyed Carlos Pacheco’s pencil work. His covers are dynamic and do a great job teasing the contents of the interior story.

Pacheco gives each of the characters great facial expressions -- not an easy accomplishment for any artist. His massive group/battle sequence shots are necessarily chaotic, given the scope of Busiek and Stern’s story, but they look as sharp as George Perez, who is the master of such panels.

Describing Pacheco’s art is a bit tough; it’s a mix of Perez, brothers Andy and Adam Kubert with a hint of distasteful, overdone Image Comics work. Luckily, the Image influence is only in passing. Overall, Pacheco’s art works nicely.

Grades: Story: B-; Art: A-

No comments:

Post a Comment