Friday, January 24, 2014

Review # 94: "Avengers: Absolute Vision Book 1"

A funny thing happened to the "Avengers" series in the 80's: it became historically insignificant. While big things were happening in the pages of, say.... Captain America (the emergence of US Agent), Iron Man (the rise of Jim Rhodes), Thor (about a million things written by Walt Simonson), and even West Coast Avengers (Hawkeye becoming a leader) nothing that happened in the central line stuck. Monica Rambeau, the Black Knight, Eros, Wasp as a leader and Doctor Druid barely register a blip on the collective consciousness of the casual fan.

Regardless, I have committed myself to Roger Stern's run on the title. I wasn't wowed by his definitive work "Under Siege" the first time around and would like to give it another shot with more context. My optimism is buoyed by his outstanding character recovery of Hank Pym at the tail end of "The Trial of Yellowjacket," and I entered "Absolute Vision Part 1" really wanting to see what else he did in the long lead-up to his epic at Avengers Mansion.

In this trade? He didn't do much.

The most notable item collected here is the debut of Rambeau, the second Captain Marvel. Funny enough, it's not even in the pages of "Avengers," as it takes place in a Spider-Man annual. That's not a complaint, mind you. Including her origin is first-class fan service and it's actually pretty good. There's a great set-up about how - as a member of the New Orleans harbour patrol - Monica had ironically been passed over for captaincy on many occasions. While how she obtained her powers is goofy, there's something endearing about her roots and her temperament that makes me appreciate the character more than I had before.

The rest of the book primarily features crossovers as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange and Spider-Woman all turn up. I like the Doctor Strange story the most, which has Strange, Scarlet Witch and Rambeau defending Avengers Mansion from a violent horde that's been brainwashed by Dracula. It's like a dry run for "Under Siege." What stands out to me most is the art in the Doctor Strange issue. While Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott do a workman's job on "Avengers," Dan Green's pencils in the more adult-drawn series are gorgeous, particularly his opening shots of Scarlet Witch. It's probably the only storyline in this collection where I was eager to see what would happen on the next page.

The remaining crossovers have their moments. Spider-Man's arc features Moonstone as a villain, who has quietly sneaked into my list of favourites. The Fantastic Four story is good, but is only part of a much better whole collected in the first John Byrne omnibus. Spider-Woman's is OK, but this was during a time where Jessica Drew was being rendered irrelevant.

Of course, you'd expect with a title like "Absolute Vision Part 1" that it would delve into that storyline. However, this really is nothing more than a lead-in. I'm curious to see where it goes, but all this collection offers is hints.

I must admit I am still not enamored with Roger Stern's time on this title. Seeds are clearly being sewn, though, and I'm more than willing to see if they bloom.

Rating: 6.5/10

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