The first issue in the new series of Marvel Action: Avengers takes on a tone different to what has come before as Katie Cook takes over writing responsibilities. The series has always read as a children’s book; it’s always been clear that its been designed for younger readers, but it’s still felt somewhat similar to Marvel’s regular superhero books. This issue, by comparison, feels a lot more like a story aimed at youngsters, and in some ways reminded me of the weird kookiness of comics from the 1950s and 60s.
The issue begins with Black Widow calling the Avenger together to tell them that H.R. has ordered them all to take the day off. Yes, apparently the team have a Human Resources department that wants to make sure they get time off and don’t end up having a mental breakdown. How is this not something that comics address more?
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Several members of the team clearly don’t know what to do with themselves when told they can’t run around saving the world, but eventually the team heads out to do their own things, leaving Thor alone in Avengers Tower to read his fantasy book ‘Storm Well’. Except, he’s not as alone as he thinks. A miniaturised Ant-Man pops up out of nowhere, causing Thor a fright that ends up with him accidentally breaking one of Black Widow’s porcelain figurines she got for her birthday.
When the two heroes decide that the only way to deal with this crisis is to try and replace the figure before Black Widow finds out they head out to a local flea market to buy a new one. Unfortunately, they’re spotted at the market by Loki, who’s enjoying a cup of coffee and a newspaper, and he decides to make things difficult for his brother.
Now, already this doesn’t sound like the typical set-up for a super-hero comic, and the fact that the villain is not only just chilling out and about in public, but only causes a mild annoyance before being let go really makes it stand out. This is why I was saying it feels like something from decades past. The story feels more like something these characters would get up to on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
None of the characters seem to have any motivation beyond chill and have fun, even the bad guy, whose main motivation behind his actions seems to be ‘this’d be funny’. But you know what? I kind of enjoyed it. There were no world ending stakes, no real danger, and the biggest issue the characters faced was finding the right porcelain doll so they don’t get a disapproving look from Black Widow. The whole thing felt as overly sweet and kitsch as the doll they were trying to find – but in a good way.
It’s not clear if every issue of this new run is going to be similar, with a series of wacky and laid back one-shots instead of arching stories where the heroes have to save the world, but maybe something like this would be fun for a change. Why have another story about costumed heroes beating up the villains to save the world when you can have something that makes you feel relaxed and brings the occasional chuckle? Perhaps this new approach can help Marvel Action: Avengers to stand out from the pack. The fact that the cover for the next issue shows Captain America teaming up with Squirrel Girl has me a little excited to see some wacky high-jinks speaks a lot to how fun this new volume of the book might be.
A great subversion of expectations for an Avengers book, one that is accessible and enjoyable for readers of all ages, but clearly aimed at the younger reader. It draws upon much older comics and recreates the fun and weirdness of titles that came before.
Marvel Action: Avengers #2.1 is out on 25th March from IDW Publishing.