Joe Casey expanding upon the early days of the Avengers isn’t anything new after his two “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” series, but “Avengers: The Origin” acts as a prequel to the first of those minis, which told the tale of the Avengers after their formative adventure. This series looks to expand upon and update the schemes of Loki that brought together Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man, and the Wasp, with the first issue only covering the first seven pages of “The Avengers” #1.
As an expansion and update, the issue works for the most part. Beginning with Loki in exile, Casey gets to show off his skills at writing villains that revel in their villainy and absolutely love being the bad guy. That drives the issue forward as Loki causes havoc on Earth by manipulating the Hulk into destroying some train tracks. This makes the Hulk public enemy number one, and Rick Jones springs into action with his group of friends to contact the Fantastic Four to help the Hulk, but, thanks to more mischief by Loki, a different four heroes receive mysterious e-mails featuring Norse runes.
The areas where Casey’s writing works best are in Loki’s over-the-top rants about doing evil, in the portrayal of Rick Jones and his “Teen Brigade” (as they were called by Stan back in the day), and a corporate speech by Tony Stark, all areas that Casey has shown himself adept at writing about in the past. Some parts falter as, despite acting as an introduction to these characters, not everyone is introduced properly. Jones and his gang, for example, are just there with no real explanation, relying on readers to know who they are.
Or, in the modernization of the story, Iron Man’s clunky gold armor looks severely antiquated and almost unbelievable as something Stark would actually use. The tension between updating details for the modern day and staying true to continuity works against the book in that regard.
Then again, Phil Noto draws a very good-looking gold armored-Iron Man. Handling all of the art chores, Noto’s washed out colors and slightly retro look suit the book well. His art has a foot both in contemporary and older styles, giving the book a visual bridge between the original story and this updated version. His Loki is lanky and looks evil, matching Casey’s dialogue, while his Hulk is visually closer to Jack Kirby’s rendition than the current one. He’s more square-jawed and leaner, not the ‘roided-out, vein-popping freak that he’s evolved into. But, he also makes Jones and his crew look very modern, showing that ability to blend old and new elements well. He’s definitely a fantastic choice for a project like this.
It’s hard to say if this book is aimed just at continuity nerds or it’s meant to be a window into the Avengers’ past for newer readers brought in over the past few years by Brian Michael Bendis, but it’s a good issue either way. Both Casey and Noto have a flair for combining the bombastic elements of these old stories with modern styles and trappings. There are a few things that don’t work, but it’s an entertaining read that gives the story of the Avengers’ formation a little bit more room to breathe.