Who We Are: I Am An Avenger #1

Litte Wonders: In a meditative postmodern moment, writer Duane Swierczynski meditates on the amazing scope and yield of popular culture

Unlike other divided yet cohesive narratives like 52, I Am An Avenger has no actual impact on mainstream continuity or ongoing arcs. However, the story is not exactly a throw-away.

Comics: I Am An Avenger #1 (of 5)
Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2010-09

“We need more Avengers books.”

Many would guess that this fictional quote is not pulled from the secret diaries of comic enthusiasts but from the minutes of an editorial meeting at the Marvel offices. With I Am An Avenger #1, readers are provided with another narrative source for the Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Unlike other divided yet cohesive narratives like 52, the book has no actual impact on mainstream continuity or ongoing arcs. However, the story is not exactly a throw-away.

Though the new miniseries is touted as an exploration in what makes an Avenger, only two of this issue's four stories hint at the answer. This issue is the first of five--providing multiple involving both popular and lesser-known characters with ties to the Avengers. Divided between the Young Avengers, Iron Fist and Misty Knight, Squirrel Girl and the Pet Avengers, the book provides stories that progressively decrease in page length, scope and relevance. Even quality mostly follows the trend, as the ending Wolverine riff should have come packaged with a rim shot.

The first story in the issue is “Homecoming,” following members of the Young Avengers as they approach the Avengers Mansion in response to an open invitation. Scribe Jim McCann and artist Chris Samnee provide a worthwhile anecdote, as quick-witted exchanges, shifting team dynamics and identity perils build to a resolution at the doors of the Mansion.

Hawkeye's involvement in the story signals the transition of the Young Avengers from hopefuls to welcomed tenants. The story shows promise for the miniseries, as the advertised theme of the stories is given clear context despite the narrative at the opposite end of the issue.

Duane Swierczynski and Jason Latour provide “The Books of the Iron Fist”--a drama between Daniel Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, and Misty Knight. The super-powered aspect of the characters' lives seems to take a back seat as the couple deals with a separation. Rand, relocating closer to the Avengers Mansion, intimately recounts the process of moving out, a pregnancy scare and hopes for a future with Misty.

The story is told mostly though prose and flashback, as the exchange of books represent shared interests and tokens of intention. How the ordeal makes Iron Fist an Avenger may be up for debate--though Rand's devotion and perseverance seem to provide enough of an answer.

And then there was Squirrel Girl.

“Welcome Home, Squirrel Girl,” featuring the former Great Lakes Avenger coming back to New York City. Penned by Alex Zalben, the story reaches for inspiration but falls flat merely by concept. Squirrel Girl seems quite out of place in a meditative arc, as the character has no true importance to the Marvel Universe - at least, not in deciding what makes an Avenger.

Committed fans of the character (whom I hopefully will never encounter) may argue this and point to her recorded defeat of such villains as Doctor Doom, Mandarin and Thanos. And true, the ability to control squirrels may be a more powerful attribute than it seems. However, the ability to control squirrels is still the ability to control squirrels. And without a compelling personality, that leaves us nowhere.

The final one-page tale, provided by Chris Elipoulos, shows what makes a Pet Avenger--a burning question for readers who will eventually end up coloring on the pages of the issue with crayons. Hint: Wolverine doesn't have what it takes. And no, the answer is not sobriety.

I Am An Avenger #1 certainly accommodates readers looking for additional Avengers tidbits and character reference. Though it may not quite justify its $3.99 price tag in the face of a struggling economy for those needed to show discernment over monthly intake, it at least represents an attempt to get at something meaningful within the super hero genre. As the progression of ongoing storylines leaves the reasoning and motivations of players in the mainstream dust, some context can prove beneficial and appreciated for the sake of readers.

The miniseries may be continue to consist of hits and misses alike. Hopefully, like the case of I Am An Avenger #1, the engaging continues to outweigh the bland in page length.


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