Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book of the Week 7: Mighty Avengers #19

[The Book of the Week is a comic that I got this week that I feel like discussing in more detail. It is chosen not for quality, but just because I find it interesting in some way, good or bad. I don't do this every week.]

Gee, what a surprise, I am discussing the issue that features Noh-Varr and Captain Mar-Skrull... What can I say, I have a strange attachment to that alternate reality-hopping Kree and a slight affection for Mar-Vell thanks to Jim Starlin. Surprisingly, my complaints about this issue have nothing to do with the characterisation of Noh-Varr--so little happens with him that there isn't anything to do upset over. His reaction to the return of Mar-Vell is intriguing as he's unsure what to think about him. I'm not sure Noh-Varr would necessarily feel such a connection to the Kree of this universe, because they're not much more advanced than humans compared to the Kree of his reality. That actually raises an interesting question: if you travel to an alternate reality where everyone is thousands of years behind where you are, would you actually see them as being the same as you? Something about Noh-Varr tells me that he wouldn't. His attitudes toward the barbarous humans suggests that he wouldn't think much more of the Kree.

Ignoring that question, his uncertainty about Mar-Vell is compelling. The issue begins with him trying to contact the Kree and then Mar-Vell reappears... was he sent by the Kree? Does he know about Noh-Varr? Noh-Varr has learned that Mar-Vell betrayed the Kree for humanity, but is that necessarily wrong? The Illuminati suggested Noh-Varr take up his mantle... What does this all mean? All interesting questions and not a completely inane way to treat Noh-Varr. But, then we shift gears to Mar-Skrull and the issue kind of sits there.

Some have jumped on Mighty Avengers and New Avengers for not actually featuring the Avengers, telling these little one-off Secret Invasion-related stories. I think that's a smart approach, except that the execution is lacking. Bendis devotes entire issues to stories that barely deserve half an issue. A much more effective route would have been to put two stories in each issue, especially since most of them are simply "Here's how this character was replaced by a Skrull!" After seeing it once, the novelty soon wears thin. This issue isn't like that, but it isn't much better as Bendis strings together scenes of Mar-Skrull combating Skrulls that we've seen in issues of Secret Invasion, expanding upon them and providing narration by Mar-Skrull. The narrative captions are interesting as the Mar-Vell and Skrull personalities combat for dominance... but, there's not much else to it.

At the end of the issue, Noh-Varr finds Mar-Skrull after he's crashed into the Earth after destroying some Skrull ships... and discovers that the returned Mar-Vell is actually a Skrull. And that's it. It's frustrating, because this will no doubt be followed up in the pages of Secret Invasion, but feels very incomplete here. The Mar-Skrull internal struggle stuff is pretty bland and uninteresting, while Noh-Varr dealing with this relevation after the set-up of the first few pages holds a lot of cool possibilities.

In a sense, this issue's biggest failing is teasing the reader with a better story idea--and not finishing the story it begins. Cutting down on the Mar-Skrull stuff and increasing the Noh-Varr plot would have worked a lot better. Not only that, but the preview of next issue pretty much tells us that this plot won't be continued next issue--then when? Again, I assume in Secret Invasion, but way to just leave it hanging there, you know?

What an odd mix... a plot that doesn't really deserve an entire issue and hints at a plot that could have made for an interesting comic book. It's not enough to provide a mediocre comic, Bendis has to tease us with the idea of a decent one.

Khoi Pham's art is serviceable, although the flashbacks to moments from Mar-Vell's life doesn't help since all it does is remind us of the far superior artists who drew those moments. (I should reread my Jim Starlin cosmic stuff...)

The funny thing about these Secret Invasion issues of Mighty Avengers and New Avengers is that it's caused me to drop the titles from my pull list when the Civil War issues of New Avengers got me reading the books. I haven't given up on these series entirely, but they don't get a pass anymore, not after months of half-complete or undeserving stories.