”Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an age old adage that I think everyone is familiar with. And yet, we tend to judge that damn book by the cover! It recently happened when I saw the cover for Captain America and the Avengers: The Complete Collection, in part because I couldn’t recall the story displayed, but also because it drew me in. Once I opened it though, I realized what I was reading and that I read most of this already! Still, it’s always fun to revisit old reads.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Captain America spends some one-on-one time with his Avengers buddies! Something is eating the locals in the San Andres Mountains – Cap and Hawkeye had better hope that arrows and a shield will be enough to defeat a hive of dino-monstrosities! Then, Cap and Iron Man head to Madripoor for a technology expo – but when Batroc’s Brigade shows up, a nightmare is unleashed! Back in World War II, Invaders Cap and Namor face a huge problem when the Thule Society releases the Kraken! And Captain America and Black Widow are chased across countless worlds by Kashmir Vennema and her multiversal corporation! It’s all leading to a huge confrontation involving Hawkeye, Iron Man and…Doctor Doom?
Why does this book matter?
This book collects a brief team up series written by Cullen Bunn with art by Alessandro Vitti, Barry Kitson, Will Conrad, and Francesco Francavilla back in 2012. I actually reviewed a few of these issues and they most of them ended up being fun. Given the long running story arcs these days this volume offers a respite that’s easy to jump into and enjoy. Plus, Captain America isn’t a Hydra agent!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This volume can be split up into four stories, running from a single issue story to a five issue story arc. Since Bunn wrote every issue there’s a cohesiveness to the entire volume, largely because Captain America is the featured hero in each story. That isn’t to say Namor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Iron Man aren’t given a healthy amount of page time, but it’s nice to see this collection holds together well and isn’t just a smattering of stories. There’s also a recurring thread to each story that’s similar to DC Comics recent Kamandi Challenge series where every story arc ends with more danger around the corner. Bunn gives each story an ending, but there’s always a new threat–or the same threat–gearing up to do more damage to the world. It’s a nice way to remind readers the fight never ends for these heroes and more great stories are coming in the future. It’s worth noting that in the afterword Bunn lets the reader know some of the characters and story ideas will be back in the future.
What an action packed way to open the book.
Of the four story arcs the best might be the opening and closing ones. The opening arc has Hawkeye and Captain America take on some symbiote/dinosaur things under the Earth. It’s about as fun and silly as it sounds, and Alessandro Vitti (with Matteo Buffagni) draws a heck of a story. It’s a thin-lined look that’s detailed and dark, which suits the setting. Bunn is quite good at capturing the personality of Cap and Hawkeye too, with great banter between them. There’s some fun ribbing that makes you realize they’re old friends who respect each other, but aren’t afraid to crack a joke at the other’s expense.
The last story, drawn by Francesco Francavilla, is great fun and largely a success due to Francavilla’s art. If you’re unfamiliar with his work just look below and you’ll see he pumps a good deal of color and uniqueness into every page. The art stands out, is highly dramatic in a movie poster sort of way (if that makes sense) and is used to full effect by Bunn. We’re talking alternate dimension jumping, War of the Worlds-style alien busting, alternate versions of character fighting fun. It’s science fiction to the max and it’s a lot of fun to see where Bunn takes the story. It’s a five issue arc–the longest in this trade paperback–and it ends up being one of the most fulfilling. It’s a great way to end the book!
Marvel readers who might want to check this book out because it contains future storytelling possibilities will want to read the Namor story. This one is drawn by Will Conrad and tells a team up tale set during World War II.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Unfortunately not all the stories can be winners. I wasn’t a fan of the Iron Man team up, with art by Barry Kitson. The story drags, seems to be filled with filler material about robotic bees and turns a corner that isn’t sustainable based on the story set up prior. The art ends up feeling flat for much of the arc due to flat backgrounds and sometimes awkward or downright off-looking art. The faces on these characters change quite a bit here and there too. It’s not without a few interesting ideas, but the inclusion of M.O.D.O.K. and a Tony Stark that ends up being rather boring makes this a chore to get through.
Is It Good?
This trade paperback collects 13 issues and it’s safe to say 10 of them will offer up a lot of fun and good team up style action. It’s clear Bunn has a handle on dialogue, but also building up some lore within the Marvel Universe that we’ll see again soon. He’s also accompanied by some great artists who take his words and put them over the finish line.
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