It may a little smaller in dimensions and it may not kick off a big Marvel summer event, but the "Free Comic Book Day Avengers" comic is a great read and a strong introduction to the current Marvel Universe. With the New and Dark Avengers squads forced to confront one another and work together, Brian Michael Bendis touches upon a lot of what’s going on right now, but in a very new reader friendly way back by some career best art from Jim Cheung.
The plot is a very basic one, with Ymir the Frost Giant invading the world and transforming it into something more to his liking. With Thor out of commission, the two opposing Avengers squads put aside their differences for the greater good. Bendis is outside of his comfort zone with a story one would expect in an old Marvel comic from a couple of decades ago, but it doesn’t show too much. He peppers scenes with his trademark quirky, realistic dialogue, but doesn’t go overboard as he sometimes does.
Using Spider-Man -- Marvel’s most recognizable character -- as the narrator is a smart move since he’s also one of the more relatable ones. He provides a very grounded, albeit off-the-wall, perspective to the events. Bendis does get a little too wordy in these captions, going on and on and on, giving too much of a good thing. Compared to his restrained dialogue, the captions stand out.
Jim Cheung is the perfect artist for this book, having worked with Bendis numerous times in the past and more than capable of drawing so many characters. With two large teams, things could get crowded, but Cheung uses space very well, rarely allowing panels to get too full of heroes standing around. He handles the large, mythical aspects of the story with as great a skill as the smaller, dialogue-based scenes. His choice to never show Ymir fully is a great one since that lends the character a greater epic feel, a foe so big that even two teams of Avengers are virtually powerless against him.
It’s a shame, though, that Cheung never really gets a chance to draw some big action scenes since what little we see is great. Bendis is a writer more geared towards dialogue and creates a story with an enemy that doesn’t lend himself to big action sequences, but the book would work a bit better with a bit more emphasis there.
An all-out brawl between the two Avengers groups is only teased here and the “putting aside our differences to face the greater threat” is a bit cliched, but, otherwise, Bendis and Cheung make what could be a continuity mess very simple and accessible. Plus, you can’t beat the price.