Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
Not a bad for start new readers, but not the best either.
on 25 September 2013
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!