Graphic Novel Review - AVENGERS: ENDLESS WARTIME by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone

Posted by Michael A. Lagocki
Marvel's getting back into the original graphic novel game. DC must be making too much money off of direct to bookstore GNs like the Superman and Batman Earth One Earth One books. Marvel used to publish a lot of original GNs back in the 70s and 80s (Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz's Daredevil: Love and War being a stand out example), but since then it's been mostly monthly comics and mini-series followed by trade paperback collections. Now they're back, and the first forray is Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone.
It's a hardback with a $25 cover price, and it's about the length of 5 or 6 comics. Not huge, but a good sized read. I couldn't resist taking it home when I saw it. I'm a Warren Ellis fan, and if he's writing characters I like, I'm probably going to read it. 

I read through it in one sitting, which was a real pleasure. It's a full story- beginning, middle, and end and it's executed well throughout. Not perfect, but dang good.  

Here's what I thought worked, and what didn't:

The Story
The basic premise is that something really nasty has crawled out of the ground from the distant past, and it's going to be killing a whole lot of people if the Avengers don't figure out what the heck it is and how to kill it. The twist is that this is a nasty something that Captain America once confronted himself in the 40s, and that Thor faced before that. Both men failed when they met it before, and it serves as a reminder that Cap has never really left WWII behind, and that Thor has never left the shadow of his father.
That's the backbone, and there's a lot woven into it and on top of it. The rest of this Avengers team is made of the movie cast plus Captain Marvel and Wolverine. Considering the Avengers roster in the current Marvel U has like 72,000 members, this is probably a more palatable team for the Barnes and Noble crowd. They essentially treat Banner and the Hulk as they do in Joss Whendon's movie version as well. Banner as a ticking timebomb, the Hulk as an unpredictable last resort kept under the eye and heel of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This is most definitely an action comic from beginning to end, and fight fans will get their fill. Even better, Warren Ellis is just a really good writer, so the character development is balanced and the dialog is fantastic. Ellis' Avengers team is both highly dysfunctional and insanely powerful. It makes for an interesting combination. They're not particularly confident, they argue constantly, and while they all respect Cap, none of them are really “followers”. 
And not a dang one of them likes Stark.

The Art
McKone can really draw, and his storytelling has always been strong (*see the Teen Titans book he did with Geoff Johns - CLASSIC!). Although I do have to admit, I have a particularly sensitive eye when it comes to the Hulk, and he's maybe McKone's weakest character in the book. McKone misses the mark on him at times. Example– tense moment...who's gonna save us?... Hulk crashes through the ceiling ready to smash everyone... except... he's got a dead pan serious look on his face. In fact, he looks a bit bored. This is a blown opportunity to me. I prefer my Hulks screaming and rage-enthused, especially when they're about to kick evil's ass.

But that's only a few panels, and probably wont bother most people, and the truth is this book is drawn very, very well. McKone is a craftsman. Every environment, every vehicle, every enemy, and every Avenger is drawn with real skill, every time. And it's more than 100 pages of that skill.

The Verdict
Worth it. Especially if dig modern sensibilities in superhero comics (this is not Lee/Kirby). $25 bucks is a chunk, but 5 comics pretty much cost that these days anyway. I wish they would've went one step further and printed it a little bigger (it's normal comic size), but I'm glad I got it. I suggest reading it like I did - in one sitting all the way through with as few distractions as possible.

If you read this and want more Warren Ellis in your life, any of these books are definitely worth your dollars: Planetary, Desolation Jones, FreakAngels, The Authority, and/or Ocean.

Hopefully Marvel will keep putting out interesting projects with these original graphic novels.

The next one on tap is Spider-Man: Family Business by Mark Waid, James Robinson, and Gabriele Dell'otto. That's two of the industry's best writers and one absolutely amazing painter on a single book. That's something to be on the watch for. Unfortunately, we're gonna have to wait until April '14 to see it hit shelves.  

Oh well, plenty to read until then.
Michael Lagocki is one-fifth of the mighty GhostWerks Crew, and one of the wheels within the wheel that is ArtLoveMagic, a massive collection of artists, musicians and poets dedicated to fighting evil with the power of good art.


Jack said...

Honestly, I know next to nothing about comics besides what's shown in the movies.

But having just watched the Captain America movie for the first time last night, and Thor the night before that, anything with Marvel and The Avengers is catching my attention lately.

I'm even thinking about delving into buying some comics.

I found this review to be very insightful and well written. You wrote it like someone that is really knowledgeable. Thanks for that.

samax amen said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jack!

Yeah, the Marvel movie machine is doing a great job of introducing their characters to a new audience, and I'm particularly excited to hear that it's gotten you interested in reading comics!

We are all big fans of comics around here, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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