FOR ALL THE MARBLES... "The Battle for the Brand" breaks loose! Black Widow, decked out in her slick, Iron Man-supplied War Widow suit against some space-ne'er-do-wells kicks all the right butts as Blade slowly dies from red sunlight poisoning and Ghost Rider gets "rebooted" by his satanic car.
After making short work of her foes (she is Black Widow, after all), the real battle begins, as Silver Surfer shows up to stop the heroes from not-killing the newborn Starbrand!
The battle is pitched, and swiftly looking to fall in the Surfer's favor, who vastly overpowers the Widow. But Blade - encased in a protective sheath thanks to the Boy-Thing - jumps in and makes all the difference!
Elsewhere, the other two members of the Ex-Heralds of Galactus Club, Terrax and Firelord, are attacking the rest of the team...
And while all the Avengers are otherwise distracted, Gladiator of the Shi'ar quietly makes his way to the newest Starbrand - and puts into motion his own plan to deal it swift justice...
Jason Aaron could be accused of a lot of things both good and bad as a writer, but one thing he excels at better than almost anyone is a knack for writing some of the most flat-out insanely fun comic-booky comic book moments around. You want Thor turned into a Brood, and beating the living crap out of Terrax? Got it. How about Black Widow in her own version of an Iron Man armor? Got it. Blade encased in a spacesuit made out of the weird childlike offspring of Man-Thing and stabbing the Silver Surfer through the chest with a fear-sword? Got that, too.
These inherently silly moments are also extremely fun because they aren’t telegraphed at all. This is fan service to be sure, but not in the predictable sense. Instead, they’re moments of pure joy wrung from the simple prospect that comics don’t have to be self-serious gloom-and-doom-end-of-the-universe affairs month in and out. They can just be comics where a man possessed by a vengeance demon and given a flaming head drives his satanic car around in space.
Sometimes this approach works, and sometimes is doesn’t. Aaron’s Avengers run is littered with these moments, and while at times it feels like he’s peppering them in to cover for a plot’s innate skimpiness, other times they work despite that. Take “Starbrand Reborn,” for example. The plot to this yarn isn’t all that complex: somewhere in the galaxy, a new Starbrand is being born with terrible destructive power, and the Avengers have to reach him/her/it to save it from itself before any other interested party can straight-up kill the ‘Brand. It’s not that tough of a story. And if it weren’t for the sheer insanity of all the set-decor Aaron keeps coming up with, it would honestly be a pretty dull read because of how straightforward it is. Instead, though, what readers are treated to is a madcap space romp where literally anything can happen – and quite frequently does. In other words, this story is entirely the sum of its parts.
Ed McGuinness brings an extremely rewarding sense of fun to the proceedings. After last issue’s apparent rush job on the art, this issue feels much more in line with the artist’s usual standards. And those standards and style suit the story well: what could be more perfect than a cartoonishly over-the-top artist (in the best way possible) for a story involving as much undiluted lunacy? It’s all dumb, but it’s smart-dumb: Aaron knows just how gloriously silly this story is, and makes no bones about leaning into it as hard as possible. The last-page reveal of the Starbrand’s… unique circumstances adds yet another wrinkle to a story that’s been one thrill ride moment after another, and makes it even harder to have to wait a month for the final chapter.
Writer Jason Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness hit a home run this issue, leaning as hard as they can into every wonderfully over-the-top aspect of "Starbrand Reborn" they can possibly think of. It's been awhile since the Earth's Mightiest Heroes were this fun!
Avengers #29: Alternate-Costume Action Figures Battling in Space (Is Actually Pretty Fun)
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 6/106/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 7/107/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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