Avengers #21 // Review
Earth’s mightiest heroes have just thwarted a major invasion of the earth. In another life in another universe a few years ago, they would have gone out for shawarma. In the latest issue of The Avengers, the heroes hang out in a hot tub in an issue written by Jason Aaron with art by Jason Masters. It’s a cute, little ensemble comedy that takes a bit of time with every major character. Things are progressing nicely for everyone involved in a relatively rare, nearly issue-length opportunity to hang out with heroes during their down time.
Thor and Iron Man are hanging out in a hot tub. The War of the Realms is behind them, so they’ve earned a nice, little moment of peace. Captain America pops by to join them attempting to discuss matters of clean-up, but Thor and Iron Man have it covered by remote. Elsewhere, Captain Marvel hangs out with Ghost Rider in a cute, little fire-on-the-water moment and She-Hulk flirts with Blade. It’s not all relaxation, though. Black Panther is approaching S.H.I.E.L.D. director Phil Coulson, breaking into the Pentagon to do so. Coulson is far from happy about an unexpected visit from the Wakandan royal.
Aaron juggles all of the characters in a reasonably graceful 20 pages or so. There are a few witty lines here and there, but much of the humor feels relatively flat. As cool as it is to see a bunch of characters hanging out in a hot tub, their end of the issue would need to have a bit more substance or structure for it to be terribly exciting. The chapter has its moments, though. She-Hulk’s struggles with a sophisticated mind and a leaden tongue are heartbreakingly endearing, and the attraction between Captain Marvel and Ghost Rider is given subtle charm as well. Based on a very sophisticated character created for the talented actor Clark Gregg, Phil Coulson has never made it to the page with the unique blend of charisma the character really needs. Here he’s clearly a pawn for more considerable powers, but he comes across as little more than a dark bureaucrat he deserves better than this. With any luck, he’ll get more room to move in future issues.
The issue rolls through the inner and interpersonal lives of a group of fantastic people. It’s difficult to really connect-up with them visually as nearly every panel is crammed with characters. Aside from very detailed dialogue, much of what’s shown in the way of characterization is seen in body language, which is executed quite well by artist Jason Masters. Stray moments of physical action jump off the page to punctuate a primarily social issue.
The issue pulls things forward for all of the characters with a degree of wit but without much flair. Ghost Rider granting a watercraft Speedboat From Hell qualities aside, a bunch of characters lounging around isn’t a terribly engaging way to frame the inner lives of the characters. The conflict between Black Panther, Coulson and a matching set of Nick Fury L.M.D.s would be interesting if it were allowed to cover more of the issue, which seems to be trying to cram too much into a single installment without finding a way to bring it across dynamically.