[alert color=”COLOR”]Spoilers are in here, but shame on you for not reading your comics already[/alert]
I talk a lot about decompression when I write these things as of recent, and that’s because it has some merit as a talking point when discussing comics. Decompression basically just kills the pacing of a comic one-hundred percent. It’s designed to be written for trade, so writers have to stretch scenes out and artificially elongate a story to make it feel like the reader is getting more content per issue. Writers stretch scenes out by adding more pages of dialogue, often to useless effect, meaning that it has no affectation on the story or the character whatsoever. Additionally, they will add in fight scenes that mean nothing initially (although, depending on the skill of the writer, this confrontation can come back later in the long-term and serve as an important, of obscure factor) and kill the momentum of a comic entirely. This is where Avengers World #3 both succeeds and fails. It is essentially 20 pages of a drawn-out fight scene and a page consisting of a flying dragon carrying an island on its back.
Avengers World #3, written by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer, penciled by Stefano Caselli, is a 20 page fight between Shang-Chi and the Gorgon, leader of The Hand (correct me if I’m wrong in the comments below). And while illustrated with conciseness and clarity by Caselli, this issue fundamentally demonstrates the problem with comics today: very little is happening, and you are paying $3-4 for it. Okay, so it is a cool fight scene, and Shang-Chi gets to kick some serious ass, but the biggest problem is how it’s being used for characterization. So far all we have for Shang is vague, quasi-racist martial arts movie stereotypes about strength, honor and tradition. He barely feels like a person at all, and all that can be gathered is a.) He rules at martial arts b.) He’s got vaguely mystic powers stemming from his skills in martial arts and c.) As a person he is a bland cypher, a mostly blank slate. And this is wrong.
One of the things the issue did get right was that the fight scene itself is very cool, and this is mostly due in part to Caselli. Stefano really tries his best to capture the visual magic that is a martial arts fight, in all of its elegant savagery and graceful, precise death strikes. His movement is blurred kicks and punches with a whipping speed, and the occasional impossibly high jumps and backflips. Hits are blocked and reciprocated. Eyes are slashed, fireballs are thrown. This is a more elegant Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. Caselli’s backdrops are kind of generic fields and Asian wood temples you’d see out of a samurai flick. And yet if I’m reading it correctly all of this takes place atop a giant dragon. Caselli should’ve had more shots of the dragon in there to demonstrate while they were moving through their fight the landscape was moving as well. A golden opportunity was missed here. But other than that, the work done with the art is very good and competent enough to give the issue a bit of a pass.
My problem isn’t with the fight but what the fight represents. The fight is representative of the way comics are currently written: artificially elongated issues that could be 5-7 pages if they were compressed (while still being readable) and delivering the bare minimum of content required to fill an issue but stretching it out to make it seem like there’s more than there really is. The fight, while an excellent demonstration of Stefano’s ability as an artist (and Frank Martin’s as the quintessential flashback colorist), is dragged out to the point of well, pointlessness. Why did this have to happen? Why did we have to get a glorified extended scene that could have taken five pages at most?
Avengers World #3 gets some things right and a number of things wrong. A cool fight scene here, great art there, but ultimately being representative of the biggest hindrance on comic book storytelling.
My Score: 3/5