Marvel Adventures Avengers #31

Background

Spider-Man, Hulk, and Iron Man hang out with new recruits Luke Cage and Tigra in southern California.

Bold action and adventure in the mighty Marvel manner!

Story 'Good things Come to Those Who Bait!'

  Marvel Adventures Avengers #31
Summary: Spider-Man appears
Editor: Nathan Cosby
Writer: Paul Tobin
Pencils: Ig Guara
Inker: Sandro Ribeiro

More in media res from Paul Tobin. Tigra is zipping across the water on a jet-ski, with Spider-Man water-skiiing behind her. Well, a kind of waterskiing, with webbing for a tow line and no skis, just his spandexed feet. Also he and Tigra have to keep dodging tentacles that burst up from the water and try to grab them. The splash page reveals the source of the tentacles – a giant sea monster, natch – and the source of the monster: the Sub-Mariner, who is riding the monster and driving it on.

Cut to an hour earlier, where a handful of Avengers are hanging out at the beach. They ditched the rest of the team and came out for some rest and relaxation, which is nice, and also suggests the Avengers have great employee benefits, given that Tigra and Luke just joined. If they worked where I work, there`s no way they would have earned enough vacation credits to take off for the day so soon into their work terms.

But I digress. We readers have to endure several pages of wacky and allegedly amusing antics before anything important happens. Watch the Hulk eat ice cream! Spidey pump iron! Iron Man and Luke Cage go fishing! Yes, really. The plot inches forward when both of the last two decide to engage in a fishing contest, after which each decides privately to cheat. While Cage goes the low-tech route of bribing a fisherman to give him already-caught fish, Iron Man introduces a high-powered sonar device into the water and hopes to draw the fish to him. Meanwhile, back on land, Spidey and Tigra hang out, and Thor drops in for a three-panel cameo before flying away again.

Readers are spared further tedium when the Sub-Mariner arrives aboard the giant sea monster we saw back on page 2. Seems he interpreted Iron Man`s sonar device as a sonic attack, and in his typical hot-blooded fashion he`s come to retaliate.

Many pages of superhero action follow, most of which are pretty good. In true martial-arts movie style, the Avengers don`t attack Namor as a team, but in a series of individual sorties. This turns out not to be a good strategy. Spidey and Tigra are fast, but Namor is fast enough, and much stronger than they, and he pitches them both out into the sea. Cage is strong, but again, not as strong as Namor, and Namor gives him a royal beat-down. Namor is even strong enough to withstand Iron Man`s repulsor blasts, fly up to the armoured Avenger, and tear his armour into pieces.

Namor then returns to the water to finish off Tigra and Spidey, which leads to the jet-ski race going on when we came in. The dynamic duo brings the jet-ski back in to the beach, where Spidey has the bright idea of cowering behind the Hulk and asking him to fight the battle for them. This is a good plan! Hulk is stronger than Namor, stronger than the big sea-monster, stronger than anybody, and proceeds to pummel both of the Avengers' foes into unconsciousness.

Later, after Namor wakes up, Iron Man apologizes for starting the whole thing with his sonar device. Namor is willing to accept this apology, given that Iron Man has humiliated himself by admitting the fact that he cheated. Namor and Tigra make two lame jokes, and we're done.

General Comments

Hoo boy, this issue is lousy. Where to start?

Start with the cover. Flagrant false advertising: of the nine Avengers who appear on the cover, only four appear in the story, and one of those for only three panels. If I bought this issue because I wanted what the cover suggested, namely a big donnybrook between Thor and the other core Avengers, I`d feel ripped off. And hey, if we`re trying to bring in new readers with the demographic appeal of Luke Cage and Tigra, why aren`t we bothering to put them on the cover, where potential new readers might see them and decide to buy the book?

While on the subject of the art in the book, let's give a dishonourable mention to Ig Guara's lazy pencils. After Matteo Lolli's beautiful work last issue, this stuff is terrible – hastily drawn and with poor command of anatomy. Tigra and the Hulk come off the worst, which is surprising: I would have thought big guys with ridiculous muscles and girls in skimpy outfits would be the first things a comics professional learns how to draw.

Paul Tobin's not improving matters with his writing. He relies too much on jokes that aren't funny: I count nine 'Tigra is a cat-girl, and therefore hates getting wet' gags in this issue alone. That's at least eight too many. But Tobin's got bigger problems than his weak comedy skills. Correct me if I`m wrong, but I think this is the first issue in this entire series where the Avengers cause a disaster by behaving irresponsibly. The plot point driving the action is that to win a fishing contest against Luke Cage – which is so unlikely an occurrence itself it needed more setup to be plausible (and therefore funny) – Iron Man cheats by disrupting the marine ecosystem with a massive sonar pulse.

Avengers don`t cause problems: they fix them. And they certainly don't do such damaging things for such small gains. The reason the Avengers don't do these things is that the Avengers are adults. In this issue, the Avengers behave like children. I`m sure that`s because Tobin thinks that his primary audience is young and thus can relate to such behavior. He`s half-right: yes, his primary audience is young, but no, that audience doesn't want to read about adults behaving like children. Kids enjoy reading about adults because they are naturally curious about the adult world they will shortly be joining. This book used to provide a glimpse of that world; there's no evidence of it in this issue.

For all of his talent for zaniness and wit, Jeff Parker always portrayed the Avengers as fundamentally responsible people, except perhaps for Wolverine, from whom the point to be drawn was that irresponsible people are a pain to deal with. I wish Paul Tobin had taken better notes.

Overall Rating

This is crummy. One web, and I'll throw in half a web because the action in the second half of the book was well done, even if it does conclude in a deus ex Hulk.

Footnote

Here's your stinger:

LUKE CAGE: "My name's Luke Cage. They call me Power Man. Here's why!"

[Cage punches Namor.]

NAMOR: "That's it? That's why they call you Power Man? I believe I'll call you Luke."