When a private company invents a new form of partially biological/intelligent military drone, Captain America and Thor discover that its originators are somehow connected to their separate pasts. Sensing ominous undertones, they assemble The Avengers to investigate, an act that puts the team up against some pretty hefty governmental and corporate powers, not to mention various departments of S.H.I.E.L.D.
When films such as Watchmen, Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim are released, their graphic novel counterparts see spikes in sales that indicate an appreciation for the product outside the comic buying community as well as increased popularity within the community.
This happens for a number of reasons, which includes the buzz surrounding the film basically acting as an ad for the comic and, potentially more importantly, mainstream stores having enough confidence in the product to display and sell it.
This is good for both the creators and the industry as a whole. These additions are bound to be a great many people’s first comic purchases, and if you’ve enjoyed one comic, the odds are high that you’ll pick up another.
These mainstream sales spikes are negligible when DC, and especially Marvel, release films. Rather than having one definitive product to put out there, they kind of flood the marketplace with product for a few months around the film’s release, making it very difficult for mainstream suppliers to cater for the average Joe. Worse, very few of these products actually stand alone, so the average consumer must contend with a collection with no prior knowledge of its context from a continuity perspective, making it confusing and a little pointless, unless, of course, it’s one of those lame retellings of the origin story, which very few care about.
Long has this reviewer bemoaned the lack of logic that would have the Big Two producing stand alone stories that work within continuity, though without referring to it, by reputable and genuinely talented creators that will both please longstanding comic fans AND supply a singular product that stores can market with a film’s release; but, praise mighty Odin, Marvel seem to be addressing the issue with their OGN (original graphic novel) line.
The first of this line is Avengers: Endless Wartime, and it’s a hell of a start. Written by fan favourite/partially retired maverick, Warren Ellis, Endless Wartime is a near perfect example of what this line should be.
It DOES take place within the current Marvel continuity, so there’s impetus for the average fan to pick it up now, but as the story unfolds, each character is introduced in a manner that explains their personality and motivations in as concise and natural way as possible. Also, cleverly, the story involves all of the movie Avengers with only the addition of an incredibly popular character (Wolverine), and a character that it’s worth the general public discovering (Captain Marvel), but even this decision has a basis in the dynamic of the drama, so anyone can pick up, understand and enjoy this book. It’s balance of commercial consciousness and narrative integrity is really very smart.
All that beside, it’s just a cracking Avengers story, with Warren Ellis doing what he does best, taking a genre he loves and a storyline that he finds interesting and placing superheroes in it, rather than writing a ‘superhero’ story. This time it’s a tale of corruption and espionage, with a healthy dose of sci-fi and mythology thrown in for good measure.
Also he’s found some interesting takes on the characters, played out with his usual witty and often scathing dialogue, like a bitter and twisted Aaron Sorkin has been given The Avengers to write. What, for instance, does Wolverine think of Captain America’s distain of the way that he often takes care of business? This is a man who fought in WW2 and has often let others do his dirty work when it seems necessary; do you think Wolverine will let this man’s hypocritical judgement lie? These aren’t necessarily friends, but people forced to spend a lot of time together for the greater good.
Each character has here been rendered in three dimensions, and each gets his or her time in the light to stand up and be heard, infusing this stand-alone story with more personality than most team books can muster in two years.
Mike McKone is on art duties, and is giving it everything he’s got. Those who are aware of McKone’s work will know that few can match his clean/crisp style, either stylistically or narratively. He tells a story simply but with energy and dynamism, here realising Ellis’s complex ideas into a flow that is deceptively easy to follow. Sure, they could have put a ‘superstar’ artist on this thing, but the synergy created with the contrasting talents of this creative team makes this story a breeze to get through.
Avengers: Endless Wartime is an exciting and intelligent story, choc full excellent character interplay and is highly recommendable to Avengers and Warren Ellis fans in all their varying and wonderful flavours. The £18.99 ($24.99) price tag is a little excessive for a book that just scrapes over a hundred pages, so the soft cover may be worth waiting for, but the hard cover edition is a beautiful package.
B+ grade – for story
A grade – for character
B grade – for artwork
Overall grade – B+