Review – Avengers: Disassembled
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: David Finch
Inker: Danny Miki
Colourist: Frank D’Armata
Letterer: Albert Deschesne
Release Date: August 2004 – January 2005
Avengers: Disassembled is an infamous 2004 story arc written by Brian Michael Bendis. The story serves as somewhat of an ending to the early 2000’s Avengers line-up and it sets up a new beginning for the heroes involved. The story is notoriously controversial for its callously brutal treatment of some fan favourite characters, which was a big deal at the time due to the repercussions it caused within the larger Marvel universe.
I didn’t read the arc when it was released in 2004, instead first reading it in trade paperback form ten years later in 2014. This is perhaps why I actually really enjoyed this book upon first reading it and still enjoy it today. I believe at the time when this was the current Avengers line-up, people took the handling of their characters more personally; whereas with the benefit of hindsight and where the characters are at today, it is easier to see them through a more detached historical lens. However, that’s not to say that the book is perfect.
For the most part, I enjoy the work of Brian Michael Bendis and I appreciate what he is attempting with this story arc. The events of the book aren’t quite on the universe-shifting scale of DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths, but the aim is similar: to strip down a somewhat bloated history and crowded roster and allow the characters to have individual fresh starts. However, the execution is somewhat heavy handed at times and the intention is often less than subtle.
I am glad that I got to read this story for the first time as a TPB collecting the entire story arc. If I had to wait week-to-week for this arc to release, then I could see my patience wearing thin, as the first few issues see inexplicable chaos take place without any clear explanation whatsoever. If I was to witness this for the first time without being able to read on to the point of explanation, then there is a good chance that I would have given up on this arc rather than having to wait months to figure out what is going on.
However, the title of the main arc is ‘Chaos,’ so you certainly can’t accuse Marvel of false advertising here. Seeing the whole team thrown into complete disarray in such a short span of time is fascinating. At this point, the Avengers are so used to being in control and being trusted to protect Earth’s citizens, that it does come as a complete shock to both the characters within the story and to the reader that control can be lost so quickly.
The trouble with having a bunch of crazy events play out consecutively without a minute to breathe, is that we never get to see the heroes contemplate the gravitas of their situation. The fact that the deaths of major characters are just breezed over for the sake of the next big shock, ends up making some of the bolder story beats feel somewhat hollow.
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Also, just as a quick word of advice, if you are new to Marvel comics then this would be a terrible place to start. I am very familiar with the convoluted continuity of Marvel’s comics and even I struggle to take in everything that takes place in certain sections of this story.
I have somewhat of a mixed opinion on the artwork in this book. There are certain points where I feel that the grand scale of the story being told is put across brilliantly through David Finch’s pencils; showing the grand magnitude of certain major events and showing the full extent of their devastating effects. However in some of the more intimate moments, the way that he chooses to draw his faces and expressions, slightly takes away from the gravity of the situation and tonally feels a bit out of place.
I don’t think that the choice of garish colours from Frank D’Armata helps with that. Although bright and bold tends to be D’Armata’s style when colouring, I think that certain scenes could have used a slightly more subtle, muted colour palette so as not to take away from some of the darker story beats.
Additionally, revisiting this book in a post Me-Too era, some of the costumes haven’t aged very well in hindsight, – especially the female ones. After seeing media like Watchmen and The Boys parody a lot of the closet lasciviousness that has taken place in comic book art over the years, some of the more impractical leather and spandex designs stick out like a sore thumb.
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The clear highlight in terms of the book’s artwork comes in the finale section of the story when the surviving Avengers reminisce and we are gifted with a beautiful series of two page spreads showing a highlight reel of the Avengers greatest moments over the years. Each recreates a classic moment such as Captain America being discovered and revived or Wanda and Vision’s wedding and they are each drawn by a different artists. This savvy decision allows these moments to be recaptured for the modern audience and allows each artist to put their own spin on the highlighted moments.
Overall, although I have gave Bendis’ writing a bit of a bashing through this review, I still enjoy this book. I can’t fault the unflinching boldness of the writing and I think it’s actually somewhat refreshing to see our favourite heroes totally out of their depth every once in a while.
I do feel that this story had to happen in order to set up what was to come and although I understand the fan backlash, I also appreciate the guts it took to put out a story like this. As long as you have a firm grasp on the pre 2004 Avengers history and don’t mind seeing something bold and different, then you will very much enjoy Avengers: Disassembled.
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