When I was a kid, the quiet “catch your breath” issues that came between the event books frequently were my favorites. This is one of those books, and has reminded me why I used to like them so much.
In “Avengers” #18, readers follow a character who is not identified except as a doctor and an apparent agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. as she visits a variety of superhero disaster sites and gathers superhero DNA at each of them. This brings us up to the present and the destruction of Avengers Tower. All the Avengers are holing up with Luke Cage and Jessica Jones at Avengers Mansion (much to their chagrin). There are several delicious pages that make a fan feel like a fly on the wall during downtime and then we’re returned to what that S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor is up to: joining H.A.M.M.E.R. with her magic briefcase full of superhero DNA. It’s a great set up, all in all.
Brian Michael Bendis is doing traditional Bendis work here, which is to say strong writing, solid character work, and everything pretty decompressed but surprisingly talky. But it works for him. It always does. He moves his plot along, effortlessly setting up an interesting layered villain and some controversy about who will or will not be an Avenger in the near future. He also shows us intimate stuff between characters that makes them feel real and flawed and funny, which is always good. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but it’s good solid comics.
If there’s anything revolutionary here it’s Daniel Acuña’s artwork, which continues to be glorious. Acuña has a very specific style that is probably not to everyone’s liking, but it is right in my sweet spot. Acuña’s style is somehow both detailed and also simplified and graphic in a way that feels effortlessly iconic and thus perfect for superhero stories. His characters all feel heroic even when hanging out casually at impromptu Avengers “mixers” and it’s the kind of detail that makes my inner fangirl very happy. Acuña’s work is incredibly smart, from his character expressions to detailed backgrounds that perfectly set the stage for his stories. His pacing is perfect and he’s not afraid to play ever so lightly with his panels and double page spreads. Acuña does nothing flashy here that distracts from the story, but he makes well thought out choices that punctuate certain moments nicely. The more I read of Acuña’s work, the more I realize he’s an artist I’d follow into just about any story.
We all need that quiet before the next storm, and “Avengers” #18 with its fun character moments and intriguing set up is a great example of that small book that actually makes the next crisis we’re running toward work.