Once upon a time, this book's covers featured action poses of the core Avengers, even when only some of them appeared in the book. I complained that this was false advertising: if a kid buys a book with Thor on the cover, it's only fair that Thor appear in the book.
At least those were just generic poses. Now we have entire scenes appearing on the cover with no relation to the story inside. Anyone who buys this issue because they want to know why Spider-Man is impersonating Wolverine, Captain America, and Thor is going to be very disappointed, because not only does nothing like that happen in the book, neither Cap nor Thor appears here at all.
Marvel Adventures: Avengers, you've reached a new low. And that's even before we consider the story...
For once, we're going to read a story told in chronological order. We open with a horribly-drawn Spider-Man and Tigra preparing to race through Central Park. The winner gets tickets to the USA vs. Japan all-star baseball game. So, yet again, the Avengers are acting like children. Strike one. And Tigra is drawn horribly badly. Strike two.
The race is interrupted by the Rhino calling Spider-Man on the web-head's mobile phone (!) to tell him he's been coerced into launching a raid on an army base. Huh. That's interesting, that the Rhino is calling Spider-Man (how does he know the number?) to interrupt his own crime spree. Never seen that before – ball one.
Cut to the Avengers exploring the army base, where a general reluctantly admits that the Leader, and his flunkies the Rhino and the Abomination, have stolen the controls to the US Army's orbital laser platform. Spider-Man, who seems to be the team leader now – take that, Storm – wants to study the platform schematics, so Wolverine commits an irritating and pointless burglary in the base vault. I mean, he could have just asked for the plans, it's already been established that the Avengers have sufficient security clearance to expect full cooperation, but no, Wolverine wanders around the base for a while, unnoticed, and then cuts into the vault, steals the schematics, and raids the fridge too.
Strike three, the story's out. But there's still two-thirds of the book left to go, let's run up the score some. After taking time out for three pages so that Wolverine can challenge Spider-Man to a hot-dog cooking contest (pad your stories much, Tobin?) Wolverine and Cage beat up a conveniently-found Abomination; Rhino pretends to fight Tigra, but takes a fall so he can be arrested and escape a life of crime; and Spider-Man fights the Leader, easily punking the little green man by ripping apart his battlesuit. Sure, he tries to retaliate with his orbital lasers, but Storm has handily countered them by "ionically disturbing" the atmosphere with her weather-control powers. The lasers can't handle all those ions, and the beam just fizzles out.
Of course, we have a happy ending, with the team taking in the baseball game mentioned earlier. The Rhino, now the mascot for the Japanese team, the "Rhinos", gifts Storm and Wolverine, who are sitting up front, with free T-shirts. The rest of the team, sitting in the cheap seats in the back, also get T-shirts, but aren't happy because they have a lousy view.
There's a reason why they aren't all sitting together, but it's really not worth re-capping.
(It involves Wolverine committing another theft. How heroic.)
The worst issue of this book in recent memory, and that's saying something. It hits all the recent marks: a deceptive cover, Avengers behaving like bratty kids, a story that doesn't make sense and isn't paced well, and artwork that looks like it was drawn by someone goofing off in study hall. But add to that a new demerit, one we haven't hit in this title before: it's boring.
In twenty-two pages, we have two pages of Wolverine committing a pointless theft, and three of him going on about poorly-cooked hot dogs. Four pages of Spider-Man fighting the Leader, and not cracking wise once. No explanation of what the Leader's plan is, or what his motives are, or why we should care about any of this.
So, all the time and energy that should have been spent emotionally investing the reader in the story is instead frittered away on jokes that fall flat, and on pointless, irritating tangents.
Every time I think this book has hit rock bottom, it finds a way to drill deeper. Any passion Paul Tobin has had for his writing duties is gone. Marvel needs either to find a new writer or cancel this book.
I'm sad to say it, but I'm fine either way.
UPDATE: ...and it seems they chose the latter - see below. I think #39 is the final issue of this title. I can't find any trace of a #40. So that's it, people. For a while, in the Jeff Parker era, this book was fantastic. But it's long since been time to take it behind the wood shed.
And no warning it was going, either. Classy, Marvel. Real classy.
The only reason I didn't abandon this issue half-way through, in the hot-dog segment, is because I promised the editor here at SpiderFan that I would read and review every issue of this title.
What's your excuse?
This just in: on a hunch, I checked Marvel.com, where I found this tidbit on editor Nathan Cosby's blog:
"So now that MARVEL ADVENTURES THE AVENGERS (a team that was initially built for the purposes of marketing our more popular characters, with the noticeable exception of the awesome Jeff Parker creation, Giant-Girl) and MARVEL ADVENTURES FANTASTIC FOUR are going away, I'm funneling a lot more energy in the remaining MA titles, Spidey and Super Heroes." And I've decided to make Paul Tobin the regular writer of both, because we seem to get each other and he's bald."
So, Marvel has cancelled this title. And as a result neither Cosby nor Tobin cared about the last few issues, and made no effort to turn out an acceptable product, but still put the book on the shelves for gullible readers to buy.
I guess Tobin and Cosby hold the readers of MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS in contempt. Believe me, the feeling's mutual.