Avengers Disassembled

Avengers #500-503

And now, for something completely different.

Avengers #500 cover

"Chaos" Parts 1-4

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Penciled by David Finch and Oliver Coipel
Inked by Danny Miki
Colored by Frank D'Armata
Lettered by Comicraft (Albert Deschene)
Flashback by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers

I bought the four-part "Avengers Disassembled" with the hopes that it might provide some inspiration for the Vigilants storyline over in the Japanese Beetle. No such luck. All I really have to show for my purchase is a burning hole in my wallet where $17.25 used to be.

For those of you who've been living in a spiderhole for the last six months, "Avengers Disassembled" is a simple story where the Scarlet Witch goes nuts and uses her hex powers to destroy the Avengers by pitting them against wave after wave of their deadliest foes. This is a classic superhero premise — good guy goes bad — but the writing is mediocre at best, and the art is horrible.

I understand that Brian Michael Bendis is the superstar writer du jour, though I'm not familiar with his work (mostly because he writes mainstream superhero comics). At first glance, "Avengers Disassembled" seems innocuous enough. There aren't any gaping plot holes, red herrings, or dangling plot threads, and the dialogue is readable.

The actual pacing of the story is horrible, though. The first issue is an action-packed thrill ride that leaves you gasping for more. But nothing of note happens in the second issue, and the third and fourth issues are structured around single events. It's certainly an interesting way to structure a story — typically, things pick up towards the end instead of trailing off. Unfortunately, Bendis isn't clever enough to pull it off.

He doesn't seem to have a good grasp on the characters, either. They all speak with the same voice, and they don't show any spark of personality. Now, admittedly, this is an event-driven book, not a character driven book, and the Scarlet Witch is messing with their minds anyway. Furthermore, the cast is huge — almost everyone who's been an Avenger shows up. Still, at the very least Bendis could have focused on a core group of characters with more developed personalities.

As uninspiring as the writing is, it's not helped by the art, which is even worse. Here's a sequence from Avengers #502, featuring the death of Hawkeye.

Avengers #502, p. 17-18

Avengers #502, p. 171

Gah. Where to begin? First, let's salute penciler David Finch for bucking the trend. This isn't a comic filled with big, splashy panels that don't move the story along — it's a comic filled with tiny, crabbed panels that don't move the story along. Finch's panel-to-panel storytelling is terrible — actions aren't flowing across the gutters, and key plot points are given the same weight as transitional events. There's also no sense of the environment this scene takes place in — this is just a random sequence of pictures that fails to add up to a whole.

Finch's art is also just plain ugly. It's packed with non-descriptive detail, as if showing us every chain of Captain America's armor or every muscle of Hawkeye's abs is somehow a mark of quality. The character designs are inconsistent — the women don't have the same face from panel to panel, and all the men seem to have the same face.2 Of course, let's give credit where credit is due — some of this could be the fault of inker Danny Miki. He's certainly responsible for that lumpy, solid smoke on the second page and the bizarre, non-descriptive feathering on everyone's muscles.

For that matter, let's spread some blame to colorist Frank D'Armata, who gives the entire issue a weird burgundy sheen. It's supposed to make the issue seem creepy, but it's so overdone that it's oppressive. Dr. Strange's eventual appearance is a great relief — he's the only source of cool colors in the issue.

It's sad, because "Avengers Disassembled" also features the work of a much better artist — namely, Oliver Coipel, who pencils some of the flashback sequences in issue #503.

Avengers #503, p. 1-2

Avengers #503, p. 1-2

Coipel is the anti-Finch. The aspect-to-aspect transitions slowly draw you into the environment, turning a dull talking-heads sequence into exquisitely-timed banter. The characters have distinctive appearances and show a lot of personality (especially the Wasp, though I'm also tickled by the way he makes Hawkeye look like a big dumb moron). There's no unnecessary detail, and yet the page doesn't feel empty. So I have to ask — why does Finch get the regular gig, while Coipel's reduced to penciling flashbacks?

  1. For those of you wondering about the quality of this scan, well, let me say that this particular issue of Avengers has seen a lot of abuse. It's been rolled up and used to swat flies, pressed flat and used as a coaster, had phone numbers jotted down on its pages, and so on. Yeah, I loved Avengers #502 that much.
  2. I love the look Captain America's got in panel seven — he looks like a big, constipated baby.

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