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Uncanny Avengers #28: Struggling to justify its existence

Uncanny Avengers #28: Struggling to justify its existence

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I remember reading the first run of Uncanny Avengers and thinking “this is a great idea.” To take flagship characters from both Avengers and X-Men books and put them together on their own team for world-saving heroics isn’t new. However, Rick Remender’s run had a level of humor and stakes that lasted up till the divisive “Axis” storyline.

The current roster of the same team, unfortunately, suffers from a lack of direction. In both their hero duties and the general uneven story by Jim Zub, these Avengers are more mundane than uncanny. I initially picked this book up due to the cover – a seemingly fun-filled reunion between hero BFF’s Beast and Wonder Man. Sadly, those two are essentially a side-story.

And while there is some good work by the art team of Sean Izaakse and colorist Tamra Bonvillain, it’s not enough to propel this series into something interesting. Let’s assemble the details to find out more:

Writing

Holy exposition Batman! In the aftermath of Secret Empire there’s a lot of damage control to be done. Rebuilding takes time, particularly when the former bastion of morality and leadership goes full-fascist and conquers the country. Unfortunately, the writing spends all its time reminding us of those events.

In fact, almost every scene involves one character or another simply rehashing their own past to the point where one feels like they’re reading a Wikipedia page more than a superhero narrative. Our opening scene, for instance, shows the team standing in the ruins of yet-again-destroyed Avengers mansion. A nameless lawyer-type approaches the Human Torch in what feels like a forced way to mention Johnny’s missing (presumed dead) heroic family.

Instead of running with this as an easy plot device to rebuild the mansion and the Avengers Unity Squad, Zub writes the character like a petulant brat despite just inheriting his family’s proud and supremely lucrative legacy.

The narrative splits at that point, and follows pairs of heroes (save for Dr. Voodoo, for some reason) as they – you guessed it – talk about the past events, absent of any allusions to what comes next. With Cap back to normal and Marvel creating an overall ‘back to basics’ slate of hero books, those next steps have potential to be fun for this hodgepodge of a team.

But that’s proving to be a struggle, particularly since their roster is down to less compelling and even C-list heroes. Looking at you Synapse. The most encouraging appearance here goes to Beast and Wonder Man. Both big-time Avengers at one point, they also rehash their recent pasts before thwarting a bank robbery getaway from Whirlwind.

It’s a fun enough scene, but without either of them coming into contact with the rest of the team, what’s the point? Stage setting aside, if characters’ relationships are predicated on explaining their entire history each panel, it’s going to be hard to care about them when the fists  start flying.

Art

The art here is fine. It’s not amazing, not terribly unique or genre-defying, but still serviceable. Line work and character design are well executed, with nice work on facial expressions in particular. In a story where there’s a lot of sitting and chatting, it’s important to get those reaction shots right, and Izaakse does solid work.

Unfortunately, a lot of those panels are so crowded with speech bubbles the art is pretty much there just to remind the reader who’s talking. Little circles of reaction shots also seem out of place, especially here with Synapse, reminding us she exists:

Uncanny Avengers (2015-) #28
Image: Marvel Comics

When they reassemble, it’s to summon the minions of Cyttorak (the extra dimensional entity from which the Juggernaut gains his abilities) so they can rebuild Avengers Mansion. Needless to say, messing with the minions of an indestructible demon is a terrible idea.

This is superhero comics though, so even recent past mistakes are quickly swept aside to launch into a new adventure. Narrative-wise, that’s not so great for character development, but at least the art team is having fun with these monsters.

As a pretty bad-ass looking Cyttorak descends upon the team, Quicksilver rightly declares, “Magic sucks!” At this point, one can hope that a despondent and wayward team can pull it together in time to rectify their mistake. Perhaps with a little help from Beast and Wonder Man? That’s the clear choice, but there isn’t a lot of ground work laid to get there.

In the beginning, this title used its characters’ rich history to tell compelling stories of real emotion, at heart, a real team book about working together despite an ocean of difference. I hope they use that as a context for events more than a dialogue center piece going forward.

To see for yourself, head to Downtown Comics for this and other Legacy titles!

Nick Hedge A longtime comics fan, Nick grew up reading the much derided comics of the 90's (Clone Saga! Liefeld! Pouches & Guns!) and has never looked back. Now an adult with literary prowess of his own, he uses his powers for good; reviewing comics for Pure Fandom and holding the beloved art form to a higher standard for all. Excelsior!