New Avengers: Everything Dies– Except The Amazing Artwork

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I grabbed a copy of New Avengers:  Everything Dies.  I was curious as to what was “new” about it.

At first, I thought I was going to be pleasantly surprised here.  The opening story, centering on Black Panther, is a solid tale, quite well told.  Unfortunately, after this initial narrative, the following stories pale in comparison.  The action is confused, and the characters’ interactions and characterizations come-off as ham-fisted and obtuse– no fine shadings, no breadth or depth.  Sure, Tony Stark is a wiseacre, but that’s ALL he is– and even then… he’s no Robert Downey Jr…  His witticisms are more like wetticisms.   And when the old-fashioned morality of Captain America is highlighted, it’s like being hit over the head with a blunt instrument… “I know I see things in black and white, but…” begins Captain America at one point.  That’s about as subtle as characterization gets for the New Avengers.

And there’s another section where the heroes, literally, go around the table introducing themselves.

The center of the story is a pretty cool concept if you can buy the idea that multiple Universes exist.  There’s a slight hiccup, however…  The Universes have shifted off course and are now colliding into each other– and always smashing together at the same point– which is, of course, at the various Earths existing in the different Universes.  Many Earths have already been destroyed.  Ours…could… be… next.

The New Avengers, themselves, are all seemingly ill-willed and over-charged with testosterone.  Each of them possesses a special gem of a different color and–  I guess–  containing a different power.   I came late to this party, so I can’t really say what the hell these gems are all about.  I did get that they can be combined together to form the super powerful “Infinity Gauntlet!” (ECHO!! Echo! echo…)– which I found a little silly (although a younger reader might be more fascinated by the concept).

My favorite part of the artwork by far was the stunningly beautiful, other-worldly opponent the New Avengers face.  She is drawn and shaded and colored so well (as is all the art– very impressive!) that she sometimes looks like a photograph of a model that has merely been cartoonized– like that Richard Linklater movie with Keanu Reeves several years back.  To cite one specific, I was impressed by the detail of her nose.  Yes, her nose– so perfectly sculptured, with such fine gradations of shadows…  And her tummy!– Dear God!– A narrow expanse of idealized planes and shadows.

The artwork in a modern, top-shelf comic such as this one is nearly beyond appreciation, it is so technically correct.  The drawing, the shading, the coloring… I can’t really imagine it getting much better as far as pure technical skill goes.  Doing the near-impossible, the artists here provide a wealth of visual detail without making the panels feel cluttered.  Even individual blades of grass are drawn.  Yet more remarkably, the artists are able to convey, as well as I’ve seen done, the underlying muscles and tendons of the human anatomy by the curves and dimples they so precisely create on the skin of their characters.  And the light cast from glowing or flashing sources– wow!– actual luminescence is practically achieved.  I can only shake my head in amazement and envy and type too many exclamation marks.

I also noticed more of the blurred action style of presenting fast movement.  This trending style looks computer-assisted (though it might not be).  I first came across the technique in the exceptionally good comicbook, BATWOMAN:  To Drown The World (blogged about here).  I have mixed feelings about the technique, but I’m becoming more used to it.

All in all, the artistry of comics is becoming so good that the representations look like frozen moments, or like those 3-D Viewfinder scenes in those old-school toys.  To cite only one panel… when the Black Panther springs forward in four images jumping out at you, the reader, closer and closer — you almost jerk your head back.  

I did have one or two qualms with the artwork in Everything Dies, however.  In several frames, the style of shadowing the face is so harsh and thick that it looks as if the character is half-masked or suffering from sudden skin splotches.  Also, I did not like the style of showing tears.  Perhaps this style would have worked better in black and white, but given the full color treatment, the tear tracks were too… I don’t know… solid-looking– they had the appearance of cooled candle wax.

Perhaps not very exciting to talk about, but important to me, the sequence of the panels was easy to follow in Everything Dies.  I hate it when the panel-work gets too creative and it’s difficult to tell without some serious study which panels are to be read in which order.  Not a problem here.

Lastly– and this is due more to the less-than-stellar writing than to the artists– too much of the comicbook is merely a series of talking heads.  Stan Lee would be appalled.  Very boring visually.

Main Credits for New Avengers:  Everything Dies…

Writer: Jonathan Hickman;  Penciler: Steve Epting;  Inkers: Rick Magyar with Steve Epting;  Colorist: Frank D’Armata

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