Assembling the ‘Avengers’ and other comics


Like many other members of the movie-going public, I headed out to see Marvel Studios’ new film, “The Avengers,” over its opening weekend. As someone who has enjoyed the other movies the studio has produced, from “Iron Man” to “Captain America,” it was a really easy decision for me to go out to see it.

While I started reading comics as a kid, I never really had much interest in superheroes at the time. Outside of watching Marvel’s “X-Men” cartoon every Saturday morning, I had absolutely no interest. Batman? Superman? The Hulk? I could have cared less. I stuck to Popeye, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Sonic the Hedgehog almost exclusively at that time before ultimately falling out of the medium entirely.

Flash forward about 10 years ago, and I started hanging out with people who not only read comics as kids, but were still big fans of them. In those heady days before wikipedia, they were able to give me the complete rundown on the various superheroes and storylines I had missed out on entirely. I was intrigued, and while it wasn’t enough to start buying the comics, it was enough for me to check out the movies and read anything they lent me.

Two years ago I finally was convinced to purchase a couple superhero comics, featuring the X-Men spinoff group, “X-Force.” What followed over the course of a little more than a year was a series featuring gorgeous artwork and an intriguing storyline. The team faced betrayal, difficult and morally ambiguous choices, and hardy foes while wearing silly costumes and arguing amongst themselves over the best course of action.

That was practically all it took for me to begin looking into more superhero comics. With DC Comics’ restarting all of their comic lines, I took it as an opportunity to look into “Animal Man,” about a man who can call upon the abilities of any animal on Earth, and “Batwoman,” an amazing book taking a minor acquaintance of Batman and expanding on her character and her own elaborate exploits.

Most recently I started picking up “Winter Soldier,” which tells the continuing tales of Captain America’s former sidekick Bucky Barnes, who rode out the Cold War as a brainwashed Soviet assassin. Seeking redemption, Barnes stars alongside Black Widow (made famous in the movies “Iron Man 2” and “The Avengers”) in what can only be described as a Cold War spy story in a world featuring costumed villains.

What sets all of these books apart most of all is how they approach their artwork. Comics are a visual medium, and that can have a strong effect on how the story is told and the emotional impact of any given sequence. “Batwoman” features massive two-page colorful splashes. “Animal Man” features grotesque inhuman monsters, while “Winter Soldier” has small close-ups that evoke a spy drama.

It’s generally considered fact that the actual comics are only a small part of the comic book industry’s business model: blockbuster films, video games, and television programs bring a lot more attention to the characters than the comic books ever can. Nevertheless, if you’re someone who enjoyed “The Avengers,” odds are good you can stop off at a local library, look up a collected trade paperback of a well-known storyline, and enjoy a good story.



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