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3.4 out of 5 stars10
3.4 out of 5 stars
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This stand-alone story is, we are told somewhere or other, but not in or on the book itself, intended to make the Marvel Universe more accessible to the general population. It might do, but it is still comfortably sitting in the `real' Marvel Universe apart from a few minor emphases. This could very well be a Secret Avengers story, since most of the cast are of the right background. Jarvis the Butler is in position, Bruce Banner is working for SHIELD, and Captain Marvel is in her Marvel Now uniform, as is Hawkguy (and is even called that by Logan). Steve Rogers is still in his `man out of time' mood, though refers to his rescue from the ice by the Avengers, and indulges in some wartime army versus Airforce banter with Carol Danvers. There is enough of both worlds on display to confuse or comfort both audiences, but long-time readers will be able to get past it as just being `one of those days' at Stark Tower. However, everyone is happy to pick on Tony Stark, even Pepper Potts. So, basically, they manage to cover most bases in terms of characterisation.

THE SPOILER ZONE
The plot itself is straightforward: there is a civil war in the little country of Slorenia, on the border of Iran and Afghanistan, and some militia types shoot down a drone with American markings on it, and film it for Youtube. Now, I thought it was a version of one of those flying things from the film, but despite looking like it, it was actually something more exotic, and both Captain America and Thor recognise it. They both have encountered something similar in 1944, when Cap was on a mission to destroy a secret Nazi research facility on one of the Norwegian Arctic islands. Cap and his bomber crews got close to the base, before encountering some Nazi secret warplanes, but before they could attack the base itself, it exploded in a flash of light and disappeared under the ice. It is now revealed that Thor was there hunting a mystical beast that had escaped from somewhere under the World Tree, and he (or the mother beast) was responsible for the destruction.

The Avengers Assemble and dash off to Slorenia to take down the rest of these `drones', only to discover that the US Government has outsourced the war there, to a `reputable' weapons company whose base is on the site of the old Nazi one, SHIELD has just taken delivery of the next generation of drones, and there is stuff obviously going on that no-one wants to talk to them about.

This is an excellent and spectacular Avengers story - with no modern-day Nazis, and no real `villains' as such, just businessmen, who are producing modern weapons for modern warfare. That doesn't stop the Avengers from dropping the Hulk and Logan on them, of course; and there is excellent characterisation of the Avengers roster too. Think of it as a new Secret Avengers line-up, possibly set slightly in the past, a year or two maybe, and all will be well.
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on 25 September 2013
THE STORY:

DC's 'Earth One' series of graphic novels - Geoff Johns' Batman and Michael Straczynski's Superman - have recently proved to be a critical and commercial success for the company. Designed to be 'free-standing', those books told self-contained stories largely untouched by the travails of comics' week-in-week-out continuity, meaning that any fans of the heroes' films could pick them up, start reading, and a get a neat, concise slice of Superhero action. Convincing comic book movie fans to try actual comic books has always been a puzzle to The Big Two - the 'Original Graphic Novel' appears to be the solution.

So much so that Marvel have decided to ape DC's strategy, with 'Endless Wartime' being the first in a planned series of stand-alone Marvel tales. On that front, this thing's a success; if you're a fan of the movies and just fancied trying out a comic book, you'll find yourself at home here. It's full of characters you'll know and love like Iron Man, Cap and Thor, and it puts them in scenarios and locations that you'll recognize from the Cinema. Most importantly, it doesn't require you to have a an extensive knowledge of decades' worth of comics continuity. It's an open-armed welcome to non-nerds, and that's never a bad thing!

Does it make the best impression on newcomers? That's harder to say. The story's quite clever, which was always to be expected coming from Warren Ellis. In short, the enemy's one from Thor and Captain America's shared past that's been come back to haunt them in the present. Like a lot of Ellis' work there's quite a lot of allegorical stuff relating to real life hot-topics; the ethics of drone strikes and 'might makes right', the curse of violence that creates more violence. These ideas play out well enough, though often through some lengthy and occasionally turgid dialogue scenes; they're often engaging but sometimes lack the trademark Ellis' verbal fire. They're usually rounded off with regular bursts of action though which gives the book an enjoyable pace.

It also allows for some surprises (well, for new readers at least). This is a full Avengers line-up so Hawkeye, Hulk and Black Widow are all key players, but Captain Marvel and Wolverine also make an appearance, with the specter of S.H.I.E.L.D always hovering in the background. Everyone gets time to shine, with some of the best banter coming from Hawkeye as the team's resident joker/fall guy. All around it's a pretty solid Avengers romp.

But it does have problems. Both Ellis and artist Mike McKone seem to labor under the editorial intent to make this something of an all-ages story; there's nothing *too* edgy in respect of either art or dialogue, and this leaves the book feeling a little neutered, too safe in the parts where it feels like its creators really wanted to take some bigger risks.

The action gets hit hardest by this, stifled by the need to meet the impossible task of depicting violence that's dynamic enough to thrill, but not harsh enough to worry the kiddies. Hulk's scenes feel particularly lifeless, and there's none of the grandstanding violence that permeates books like Ellis' 'The Authority'. There's a feeling that this book wants to be dark and edgy, but fears alienating its audience if it does so.

So does the story, trapped in a similar fugue state by attempting to provide a thematic challenge to adult readers, but a simple enough story to appeal to younger readers. Caught in the middle of these warring ambitions, the results can sometimes feel a bit tepid at best, and muddled and boring at worst. Also, the need to give every character their own defining 'moments' can make the book feel like it's running down a Character Motivation Check List; Cap's distress at being a man out of time? Check. Banner racked with Hulk-guilt? Check. Tony insecure about being just a man in a suit? Check. It can be a little heavy-handed.

Still, is it worth a read? Yeah, I reckon so. Even though it plays things safe it really is nice to have an Avengers story that stands on its own two feet with a beginning, middle and end all fit into the one book. The art's clean and serviceable, the story has some interesting ideas and the script provides some enjoyable character moments and action. It's a solid 6/10 (or an Amazon 3/5!) and gets Marvel's 'Original Graphic Novel' series off to a decent start.

THE BOOK ITSELF:

Finally, just a word on the format. This is a Hardcover, yes, but not the type you'd usually expect from Marvel (or DC, for that matter). It's size, shape and binding has more in common with the Beano or Dandy annuals of old than those of your usual Graphic Novel, and that surprised me at first. This doesn't present any real presentation problems though - the pages meet properly in the middle and I didn't notice any panels getting cut off by the binding etc.

My copy did have a couple of issues however, with the odd page welted as if it was water damaged (even though the book came shrink-wrapped) and a couple of word balloons that had been poorly printed - ghosting in one case, faded printing in another. Didn't ruin my enjoyment too much, and it's unusual from a Marvel book.

Other than that there's a surprisingly interesting foreword from Clark Gregg (the Marvel Movieverse's Agent Phil Coulson) a brief biography of the creators involved and the usual shilling of Marvel's other books (though they're all Ellis-related, and as such worth turning people onto). There's a great sense of graphic design throughout the book too which seems to take inspiration from the infographic stylings of Jonathan Hickman; never a bad thing. There's also a generous sprinkling of glossy metallic detailing both on the in- and outside of the book. In short, once you get past the odd page size, this one's real looker!
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on 21 October 2013
The first of Marvel's Original Graphic Novel series sees the Avengers battling an enemy with past connections to two of their roster.

Don't worry about continuity when picking this one up, because this comic is very much on its own telling its own complete story. The comic resembles the modern Marvel universe as we know it, but things are aesthetically changed around to make it seem almost like it's set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The story is an interesting one. It feels a little more like an Ultimates story than a regular Avengers story in parts, and features some great action scenes. The roster of the team is great. There are the heroes we know from the blockbuster film - Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye - plus Captain Marvel (formerly Ms. Marvel) and everyone's favourite X-Man the Wolverine.

The characterization isn't perfect though; the characters seem to bitch about each other a little too often and Iron Man's suit is battered and left immobile way too often, leaving him useless. Captain America is still a brooding "oh, it sucks getting used to the 21st century" fish-out-if-water, but this status-quo of the character needs to end. With all the stories and team history of the Avengers, the least amount of time between Cap's rescue from the ice and now must be ten years in the comicverse. He needs to move on and become a modern-day hero (of course, most good writers get this spot-on). But the worst mischaracterization is with Wolverine. Warren Ellis makes him into a cold-blooded killer. Wolverine is supposed to have matured and tamed since being an X-Man. He's been the leader of the X-Men. He's supposed to be a hero, not a murderer.

But as a unique graphic novel, Endless Wartime is a very good read, with excellent pacing, an awesome story and one of the most exciting Avengers rosters ever.
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on 26 August 2014
Great art in places, but it looks rushed in others. Not Ellis' best work, but still an enaging story.
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on 20 September 2013
Really enjoyed this book ! - No masses of continuity to get through, just a cracking good story showcasing all the movie Avengers plus the new Captain Marvel and Wolverine. Very accessible to new readers who only know of the Avengers through the movie and also to long time readers like myself as well. Loads of action and some great dialogue in places too. Would make a great movie !!!!
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on 6 April 2016
Good book,self contained story.
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on 2 November 2014
Went down well as a gift
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on 23 November 2013
A grave disappointment. Characterisation - which seems to be a mix of post Civil War 616 and a superficial viewing of bits of the MCU - is sacrificed for a political message. The artwork is such that the people look like a bad CGI animation - Tony Stark, in particular, does not look (or, indeed, act) like Tony in any universe. The splash panels are nice and the villains interesting, but this isn't a book for an Avengers fan, whether of comics, or movie, or (as I happen to be) both.
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on 19 December 2013
I love Warren Ellis and I love the Avengers, but the author's casual disdain for the 'underwear perverts' bleeds through every page of this standalone graphic novel. The art is excellent, but the rhythm and content of the story unfolds like scraps that Ellis dug out of a drawer full of creative leftovers.
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on 20 December 2013
Good story but short and expensive for the price paid. Tends to follow the continuity of the films more then the current comics.
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