REVIEW: Avengers / Invaders #1 (of 12)

avninv001.jpgPlot: Jim Krueger & Alex Ross

Script: Jim Krueger

Pencils: Steve Sadowski

Colours: inLight Studios

Publisher: Marvel Comics

I’m not sure if I have read a single decent comic book time-travel story involving established super-hero characters since Days of Future Past – and coming to think of it I can’t actually recall any before that, either. Usually, it either seems forced, or lazy, or a combination of both, and very rarely does it have a significant impact on the real-time status quo. Such a storyline can’t get much bolder in the current Marvel Universe than this new twelve-issue maxi-series – an in-continuity meeting of the World War II heroes The Invaders, and their contemporary counterparts The Avengers – especially within the context of the death of Captain America and the Secret Invasion plot.

Avengers / Invaders #1 brings the celebrated creative team of Jim Krueger and Alex Ross back to Marvel, whose names are synonymous with stylish and epic storytelling, so I am very interested to see whether they can pull such a tricky plot device off successfully. First off the bat, I have to say this – whenever I hear Alex Ross’ name involved with a project, it is always a disappointment when it transpires that he will not be the regular artist on the book; his fully painted style is luxurious and almost always a joy to behold (although I fully accept that this artwork takes a great deal of time and effort to produce, making the commitment to a monthly 12-parter pretty much impossible).

However, in steps collaborator Steve Sadowski, who brings his textured, detailed artistic style to these pages, combining a commendable layer of realism with standard super-hero action scenes. He also displays a good handle on sequential composition, including a nice use of panels across double-page spreads, giving the book a cinematic feel without wasting page time. Particularly impressive is his depiction of the World War II scenes, graphically illustrating the realities of war, without feeling the necessity to push for a gruesome, overly-dark angle.

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The story kicks off with The Invaders in 1943, on a mission behind German lines. Sensibly, Krueger and Ross opt for a more human point-of-view narration from the diary of Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s original sidekick (who clearly has some demons to discover ahead in 2008). As expected, these initial scenes serve mainly as an introduction to the Invaders for more recent Mrvel readers, but it is handled in a sensitive way that works to drive the plot forward without feeling forced or un-natural; in fact, it provides some nice insights into the character of Bucky, who could well develop into the most interesting player in this time-travel game. Unsurprisingly, the scene then shifts to the present day Marvel Universe, until both timelines are converged… in a totally unexplained fashion.

Krueger displays a solid handle on he multitude of characters involved here, although in one or two cases he goes a little over-the-top. However, the script rings true, and on this level, especially given that handling such a large cast can be difficult, there can be few complaints.

Overall, then, the story is nicely handled, but unfortunately there is nothing particularly innovative on show here. At least so far, it reads like your traditional time-travel caper, although there are a few hints of some fun, games and intrigue lying in wait ahead. To be fair to the creative team, the real drama of this story should develop as the past and modern-day characters meet, and this cannot be expected to occur wholesale in the first 22 pages of a maxi-series such as this. Given the talent of the creators at work here, I am sure they have something(s) up their sleeve, but for a first issue, the lack of any real excitement – beyond the geek factor of re-uniting heroes – makes this is a little of a disappointment.

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Rating: 6.5 / 10

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