Thursday, 26 January 2012

All Ages Book Gets It Right

Today I stumbled across a free (and legal!) online copy of Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #11, and I have to say, the characterization in this story was better than that in a lot of the 616 books these days.  You can read the story (I don't know for how long!) at  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Note the solicit and the comic don't match, so don't panic when Thor doesn't show up.

Without spoiling too much, the book starts out with the Hulk seeking out the Thing for his help.  Hulk found something (I won't spoil what) and he didn't know who to turn to for help in finding out what it is, so he sought out the closest thing he has to a friend, the Thing.  As Hulk put it, "Rockman is strong and smart".  So off the pair go to investigate.

The other part of the book features Steve Rogers and Richard Rider, but I want to focus on the Hulk and Thing part of the story.

The Thing and the Hulk take the Fantasticar to investigate the Hulk's findings, and the Thing notes that the Hulk is uncomfortable and a little withdrawn.  He asks if the Hulk is afraid of flying, and Hulk replies that he is just scared he is going to break the vehicle and then the Thing would get mad at him; everything breaks easily for the Hulk.

After Hulk uncovers his discovery Ben calls in the Invisible Woman to help them out.  I admit I was surprised that he didn't call in Reed, but things are obviously a little different in the All Ages universe; for example, Sue says that she runs the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, while in 616 Marvel she is not a member of the Avengers.

Anyway, it becomes apparent why Sue was summoned, and it's for story purposes; she has a bit of a heart to heart with the Hulk, talking about friends.  Hulk says he doesn't really have any, and it's kind of heart breaking.

There's a fight at the end and a conclusion, but I've spoiled enough!

The Savage Hulk is a tricky character to write, but Paul Tobin really does a great job with him.  Hulk isn't a monster; rather, he is misunderstood.  His lack of social skills (he punches the Thing when they first meet in this issue because he's scared the Thing will punch him, whereas Ben then tries to explain the concept of a handshake as a greeting instead) combined with his immense strength lead him to a lot of the conflicts he finds himself in and would rather avoid. 

This book illustrates two things that are lacking in a lot of comics these days:

1. A story can be told in a single issue but still be a part of an over-arcing narrative.  I haven't read any other issues of Marvel Adventures Superheroes, and I had no trouble following the story.  I wasn't expecting Sue to be the leader of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, but it was explained very quickly and easily.

2. Characters drive the story.  Sometimes it feels like a writer has a story to tell and they will try to mold the characters to fit the narrative even if they have to act out of character to do it; in this story, it feels the opposite.  The characters are driving the story, which makes for a far more enjoyable reading experience.  It also adds a lot more impact to action sequences; I want a reason for characters to fight, especially when it is a hero-vs-hero match.  There are 2 fight scenes in this book, and both happen for a reason; the first one in particular has a lot of oomph due to the relationship between Hulk and the Thing even though it is a skirmish at best.

I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if switching over entirely to the All Ages line would be the way to go, as I find I am rarely disappointed when I venture into those books.


  1. "I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if switching over entirely to the All Ages line would be the way to go, as I find I am rarely disappointed when I venture into those books. "

    But are you particularly impressed? Do these stories have any true merit or challenge beyond being technically decent and an apparent refuge from the changes in modern comics?

  2. I enjoyed myself; as I read comics for entertainment, that goes a long way. A well-constructed story is very important, and this book was very well constructed. I'd take this over the garbage Matt Fraction is putting out in Thor any day.