The Avengers has been a hot and cold read since Jason Aaron has restarted this franchise. The lack of consistency in the quality of the story has been surprising. Hopefully, Aaron has gotten his legs under him with this franchise and we can get some better consistency as we move forward. Let’s hit this review for Avengers #9 and find out.
Words: Jason Aaron
Art: David Marquez
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin off the coast of the Bahamas. We see Tiger Shark attacking a cruise ship. Stingray appears on the scene and tells Tiger Shark to knock it off. Stingray is married to Tiger Shark’s sister. The two start brawling in the sea beneath the cruise ship.
Stingray says that Tiger Shark was once a human before the genetic experiments drove him insane. Stingray says that Tiger Shark’s sister misses him and that Stingray can help him.
Suddenly, Namor appears on the scene with some great white sharks that look all hacked up with bony armor on random parts of them and what looks to be barbed wire. (Bwahahahahahaha!! How in the world am I supposed to take Namor even remotely serious when they have him dressed like a male stripper?! Seriously?)
Namor tells Stingray and Tiger Shark to join him or leave the oceans forever. Stingray tells Namor that his warring with the surface world has never worked out for him. Stingray says that he is one of Namor’s oldest friends. Suddenly, Namor attacks Stingray and beats the shit out of him.
Namor says that he will have no more friends from the surface world. That any humans in the ocean will be treated as invaders. Namor tells his war sharks to finish Stingray. (War sharks? These things are ridiculous looking and so is their name.)
The war sharks then eat Stingray. (Dang, Stingray. You just got fridged.) During this entire scene, Namor narrates the origins of Atlantis. He also talks about how baby nurse sharks have to eat their siblings in order to escape their mother’s womb. (Uhhhhh…ooooookay. Thanks for that info.) Namor says that sometimes the act of birth requires something else to die. (This was a cheesy and ham-fisted analogy.)
Namor then asks Tiger Shark if he is going to join him. Tiger Shark immediately agrees to join Namor. (Maybe Namor is recruiting other guys for his new all male strip show?)
We cut to “days earlier.” We see the Avengers under the sea and engaging Atlantean warriors in battle. All the members of the team are wearing hi-tech scuba gear except Ghost Rider. Robbie Reyes is driving his Hell Charger across the surface of the ocean floor. Ghost Rider asks if this is a bad time to mention that he is not a strong swimmer. (You know, giving Robbie nothing but the dumbest dialogue possible will do nothing to get him over with readers. It just makes a lame character even more annoying and stupid.)
Man She-Hulk yells, “Hulk smash fish people.” Carol tells Jen to remember her mental training she has had with T’Challa. (Uhhhh, is T’Challa now a trained psychiatrist?) Man She-Hulk says “Jen! Walters! Smash!” (Stares blankly into the window at a sole dying rose It is so sad to see what they have reduced Jen to in this title.)
One of the Atlantean warriors blows a large horn. Suddenly, a massive underwater dinosaur-like sea creature appears and eats Ghost Rider’s Hell Charger. (And with that Robbie Reyes is dead!! YES! This is turning out to be the best issue of Avengers is a very long time!)
We then see that Robbie isn’t dead and he is driving his Hell Charger down the sea monster’s esophagus. (Damn it!!) Robbie then says its time to find out how spicy this sea monster likes his food. The Hell Charger blasts a ton of fire and the sea monster belches Ghost Rider out of his mouth. Robbie screams, “Wahoooo! Just call me the human habanero.” (Stares at comic book. Rereads line over a few more times. Did Aaron really just have a Hispanic character refer to themselves as the “human habanero?”)
Thor and Iron Man then punch out the sea monster. Iron Man asks if he is the only one suddenly hungry for sushi. Thor replies that he does not eat anything from the ocean. Iron Man says that they can get Thor some nice meat and potatoes. (This dialogue is just awful.)
We cut to Black Panther sneaking into Atlantean prison where the Roxxon employees are being held captive. Suddenly, Namor appears on the scene. Namor battles Black Panther. (Seriously. I just cannot take anything with Namor in it seriously. You can actually see the top of his butt cheeks. Dude…Namor…buddy….Tammy’s bachelorette party is waiting for you. You need to stop messing around and get there already. Those drunk and horny ladies are ready to stuff dollar bills into your fishnets.)
Namor is still pissed at Black Panther having Wakanda attack Atlantis. (Fair point. Black Panther was kind of the dick in that situation.) Iron Man and Thor go to attack Namor at the same time. Namor grabs Thor’s hammer in one hand and Iron Man’s fist in his other hand. The Avengers are stunned at Namor’s increased strength and power.
Carol Danvers then attacks Namor. Namor says that every wench under the sea would kill to lay hands upon Namor’s bare flesh. Namor tells Carol to enjoy the privilege that she has just been granted. Carol comments that Namor is gross. (This dialogue is so dumb and pointless. Adding a layer of creep to Namor does nothing for the story or his character. It just makes things seem lame.)
Namor then head-butts Carol and takes her down. Man She-Hulk then attacks Namor. Man She-Hulk yells, “Hulk touch. Hulk touch a lot.” (Remember when Jen Walters was her own unique character? Good tomes. Good times. Also, memo to Man She-Hulk. Non-consensual touching of people will get you sued.)
Namor punches out Man She-Hulk. Robbie then runs over Namor with his Hell Charger. Robbie then says, “Oh man. Did I just hit somebody? Please tell me that was the bad guy.” (Seriously. Aaron is doing Robbie absolutely zero favors with this incredibly stupid dialogue.)
Namor then picks up the Hell Charger and threatens to smash it. Captain America then tells Namor to stop or the next Avengers Namor will face will be him. (Well, considering Namor is powerful enough to take on Carol Danvers, Man She-Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Ghost Rider all at the same time then the odds are he is not intimidated by having to face the second weakest Avengers on the team in a one-on-one fight.)
Namor replies that out of respect for their long history that he will hear what Steve has to tell him. (Invaders, baby!) Steve says that they understand Namor’s rage. But, Namor taking the Roxxon employees captive and killing them will not bring his people justice. It will bring Atlantis war with the entire world.
Steve asks Namor to turn over the prisoners and let them face justice in the court system on the surface. Namor asks what happens if he refuses? Black Panther responds, “Don’t.” (Well, that threat would be more compelling if Namor did not just fight all of you guys to a standstill just a page ago.)
Steve asks Namor what is going on with Atlantis. Steve says that Namor’s people are living in caves and are destitute. Namor says that Atlantis experienced death from the sky. We see a dead Celestial lying across the ruins of Atlantis.
T’Challa says that the surface world has suffered the same destruction. T’Challa says that he has made offers to help Namor rebuild Atlantis. Namor dismisses T’Challa and tells them to take the murderers and go tend to their own while Namor tends to his.
Steve says that he knows Namor and his pride. Steve says that the Avengers are here to fight for everyone. Steve asks Namor to let them help him. Namor tells Steve to never come here again.
The Avengers take the prisoners and leave. Namor then swims over to a cave where Atlantean children are taking refuse. Namor tells them to come with him to the Royal Palace where they will be fed. The children suddenly run back into the cave.
We shift back to the present. We see Namor near the wreckage of some S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers. Namor narrates how a group of Atlantean children came ashore on a beach in California. The children were tired of living in squalor under the sea. Tired of living amid the world’s great dumping ground. Because Atlantis had failed them and Namor had failed them the children sought salvation from the surface world. They thought the Avengers would protect them.
But, the children died on the beach. They choked on the poison air while the humans stood by and watched and laughed at the funny flopping fish people. This caused Namor to come up with a plan.
Namor then talks to people who are off panel. Namor says that was has been declared. Namor says that three days ago the Avengers took the Roxxon men who killed the Atlanteans and put them in a prison far from the water thinking Namor could not get to them.
We cut to a prison in New Mexico. The cell holding the Roxxon men suddenly floods from the water from the toilet in their cell. The men drown to death.
Namor says that this is not an ending. This holy war has just begun. Namor says that they will not repeat the mistakes of the past. No more invasions. No more armies hitting the beach. Namor says that they will let the air-breathers have their mounds of dirt and blackened skies. That they will fight for the seas and those who call them home.
The camera pulls back and we see Namor flanked by his new super team. Namor says that the surface world has their Avengers. Now we have the Defenders of the Deep. (Sorry. The name Defenders of the Deep is already taken.) End of issue.
The Good: Avengers #9 was a slightly above average read. Having said that, there is certainly plenty to enjoy in this issue. After two slow and meandering issues that lacked quality pacing and plotting, Aaron definitely rebounds with Avengers #9. This issue is tightly plotted and moves at a brisk pace with a clear objective in mind. Aaron never loses his focus and keeps the reader engaged from start to finish.
Aaron packs Avengers #9 with plenty of plot progression. We get to learn about what has happened to Atlantis. We also learn about the shift in Namor’s personality. Aaron also introduces conflict between the Avengers and Namor. And then we get the dramatic reveal of the new super team in the Defenders of the Deep. This is plenty of enjoyable plot progression for a single issue.
On top of that, I love that the entire story moves with a sense of urgency. Aaron moves the story forward with a clear purpose in mind. The pace is lively, but never feels rushes. Aaron knows how to gently ease the throttle at just the right times in this issue. The flow of the story is massaged perfectly and allows for the story to unfold in an organic fashion.
Avengers #9 also delivers plenty of high-octane action. Seriously, if you are a fan of fighting then Aaron has got you covered with this issue. You get a vicious Namor attacking Stingray. Then you get a big brawl between Namor and the Avengers. There is more than enough fighting to keep action fans happy. To be sure, no matter what weaknesses Avengers #9 may have being dull is not one of them!
I appreciate that Aaron is keeping the Avengers a classic mainstream super hero title that focuses on action and adventure first and foremost. We got a nice big concept cosmic story with the Celestials in the opening story arc. This new story arc involving Namor and the Defenders of the Deep promises to be another story that is massive in scope. And this new story arc also promises plenty of larger-than-life super heroics and wild concepts.
The dialogue is a bit hit or miss in Avengers #9. However, Aaron absolutely nails Namor’s narration. Namor’s narration and dialogue are easily the best dialogue in this entire issue. Aaron gives Namor a well-developed and unique external voice.
Namor’s narration forms an effective spine for this issue and helps to pull the reader close to Namor’s character. Namor’s well crafted narration also helps to get the reader emotionally invested in Namor’s plan. By the end of this issue, the reader understands why Namor is doing what he is doing. And, on top of that, the reader feels sympathetic with Namor’s situation and his reaction to how his people have been treated.
Now, I must admit that I have always like Namor’s character. I know that Namor has not always been well written and handled in the past. But, the Sub-Mariner is a cool character with an excellent pedigree and a storied history that dates all the way back to April of 1939. That makes the Sub-Mariner older than Captain America and Wonder Woman and the same age as Batman. That is rarefied air.
At any rate, Namor is a fantastic character and when properly utilized can make for an engrossing story. Aaron certainly seems to understand Namor’s character. Aaron’s Namor is easily the best version of Namor that I have read in a very long time.
To be sure, I prefer Namor to be more of a villain than a classic hero. At the very least, Namor should remain a tweener at best. Sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain. It depends on the situation. If Namor’s objectives align with the heroes in the 616 then he is a hero. If his objectives run contrary to the heroes in the 616 universe then he is a villain. Namor is always a better character when he walks his own path and calls his own shots.
Namor is a naturally proud and regal character. Aaron definitely taps into that aspect of Namor’s character. Namor is also a strong and ruthless fighter. Aaron gets that as well. At the same time, Namor also is a kind and caring King to his people. And Namor is always willing to lay down his life to protect his people. Aaron also gets these aspects to Namor’s personality.
It is incredibly important that Aaron effectively show the reader how much Namor loves his people and his compassion toward them. This helps to balance out all of the terrible things that Namor does to the heroes. Yes, Namor is a killer who brutally murders Stingray. Yes, Namor is ready to fight and kill the Avengers if he must. And Namor is willing to associate with less than reputable characters like Tiger Shark. Yet, the reason for Namor doing all of these bad acts is that he loves his people and wants to protect them and take care of them.
Namor is not engaging in terrible acts for self-gain, greed, or power. Namor is engaging in these terrible acts for an honorable reason: the protection of his people. Namor is doing exactly what a good King should do to protect his people. This is important because the reader can understand and sympathize with Namor and why he is doing these bad things.
Aaron ends Avengers #9 with a bad-ass hook ending that gives us the unveiling of the Defenders of the Deep. I love this new group of characters. Now, I am trying to figure out exactly all of the characters in the Defenders of the Deep. I recognize Namor, Orka, Tiger Shark, and Llyra.
Let’s look at the ones that I am not sure about. We have a ghoulish looking wizard kind of character. I am guessing that is Socus. Then we have the giant crustacean looking character. Could that be Crushtacean from the High Evolutionary’s Ani-Men?
At any rate, this is an interesting cast of characters for Namor’s super team. I am excited to learn more about them. I dig that Aaron conducted some research and found some obscure characters to add to the story like Socus and Llyra. Llyra first appeared in Sub-Mariner #32 back in 1970 and Socus first appeared in Namor the Sub-Mariner #35 in 1993. I love it when writers do some research into a character’s continuity in order to find interesting minor characters to bring back.
Another obvious strength to Avengers #9 is the artwork. David Marquez delivers a gorgeous looking issue. Every page is beautifully crafted. Marquez is able to whip up some phenomenal looking action scenes. Of course, the dialogue heavy scenes are just as beautifully rendered. The panel layouts are creative and each page looks unique.
I also wanted to give some credit to Justin Ponsor. Colorists rarely get praise when the artwork is being discussed. However, it would be a crime not to mention Ponsor’s efforts on Avengers #9. Almost all of this issue is set under the sea. Ponsor’s choice of color palette and hues for this issue are dead on perfect. The dark shaded and muted colors truly makes the reader feel as if they are underwater. The colors make Marquez’s beautiful artwork even more immersive. Avengers #9 is an excellent example of how a talented colorist can influence the final feel and look of a comic book.
The Bad: Avengers #9 had a few warts with this story. Most of it is concerned with the character work, dialogue and a bit of lazy writing. The lazy writing came in the opening scene when Namor kills Stingray. This was such a creatively lazy move by Aaron. Stingray’s death serves zero purpose at all. This is not a heroic death. It is not a death that serves a larger purpose. Nope. This is a cheap and lazy way to show the reader that Namor means business this time. In fact, the death was so pointless and meaningless that it does not come up at any point later in this issue.
At best, Stingray will be basic fridging where his death only serves the purpose of setting our heroes on a question of revenge against Namor and his group. It just seemed like a cheap attempt to “shock” the reader with a death that will have zero impact on anything in this story. Aaron is a better writer than this.
Another problem with Stingray’s death is that it makes it almost impossible to ever rehab Namor’s character. Again, the best role for Namor has always been as a tweener where his character stays in shades of grey as neither a villain nor a hero. However, brutally killing a person in cold blood for absolutely no reason whatsoever? There is no way Namor can come back from that. And we all know that Namor is never going to remain a straight up classic villain. Marvel is going to keep using him as a tweener. But, now it will make doing so all that much harder.
Stingray’s death was shortsighted and lazy writing that did nothing for this current story and also did nothing for Namor’s character going forward. Aaron impressed me with his grasp of Namor’s personality in his dialogue and character development. But, this moment was really counter-productive.
The character work outside of Namor was pedestrian at best. Carol continues to act more like a caricature than an actual character. Evidently, all Carol gets to do is get offended by men near her and punch people. Thrilling.
Tony, Captain America, and Thor are all delivered in a generic fashion. Basically, the big three are just bland caricatures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of these three characters.
Black Panther? Wake me up when Aaron actually gives that guy something resembling a personality. At this point, Black Panther is the comic book equivalent of the comic book version of a bowl of luke-warm oatmeal.
Then we have Robbie Reyes. Robbie’s character already has an uphill battle as he suffers from the stink and stigma of the failed All New All Different initiative. Robbie is a lame character that needs all the help from Aaron that he can get in order to grow into a character that people might actually give a damn about. Unfortunately, all Aaron does is give Robbie the most mind numbingly stupid dialogue possible. The result is that the reader views Robbie as nothing more than an annoying idiot.
Lastly, there is Man She-Hulk. Aaron’s take on Jen’s character is a hot mess. This is such an uncreative and lame direction to take Jen’s character. Jen continues to regress in a spectacularly depressing fashion. Jen has gone from such a wonderful, unique and interesting character into a pathetic rip-off of Bruce Banner’s Hulk. This is doing nothing at all for Jen’s character.
This is such a massive step back for Jen’s character. It is sad to see Jen go from being her own unique, strong and independent character to being just an uncreative and lame rip-off of Bruce Banner’s Hulk. Everyone loses with this direction.
The only criticism of the artwork in Avengers #9 is Namor’s utterly asinine costume design. Namor’s bondage stripper costume is simply atrocious. Period. The bondage neck and sleeve only top, the low-cut waist pants, the fishnets, and the open toed thigh high boots are all beyond ridiculous. What the fuck, people? How did this ever pass Editorial?
Was Marquez trying to find a more ridiculously designed stripper costume than Mike Grell’s Cosmic Boy costume from the 1970’s? Well, congrats, Marquez. You managed to make a costume worse than the Grell Cosmic Boy costume. I never thought it would be possible. This is a terrible design that is going to age like crap. Namor is a regal and noble character who deserves so much better than a bondage stripper costume.
The other problem with a costume as ridiculous as Namor’s outfit is that it makes him look like a clown. The reader simply cannot take Namor seriously at all while wearing this outfit. The ludicrous costume design only serves to make the reader laugh every single time we see Namor. The costume pulls the reader out of the story because we are not feeling the emotions of the scene, but instead are laughing at Namor’s comical costume.
Appearances are huge in comic books. That is why we do not take some characters serious at all. Think Mr. Mxyplyzyk or Ambush Bug. Their costume designs are silly because the reader is supposed to laugh at them. But, characters that are supposed to be taken seriously? They get costumes that do not make them punchlines.
Overall: Avengers #9 was a gorgeous looking issue that delivered a slightly above average story. I dig Aaron’s Namor and I think that this story arc has massive potential to be an absolute blast to read. Overall, Avengers #9 treats the reader to some quality mainstream super hero action and adventure.
I think I would be even more excited for Avengers if it was not for Justice League. Marvel re-started the Avengers franchise at the same time that DC re-started the Justice League franchise. Justice League and the Avengers are like Coke and Pepsi. They compete directly against each other and are two titles that are natural to compare to each other.
Unfortunately for Aaron, Scott Snyder is just killing it on Justice League. Snyder’s writing on Justice League is blowing away what Aaron is offering up on Avengers. Justice League is easily the best mainstream super hero team title on the market right now. And the Avengers does not come anywhere close to the Justice League.
If you are short on funds and want a quality super hero team title then I would recommend buying Justice League. You get a better bang for your buck. However, if your comic budget can allow for it then I would still suggest picking up Avengers #9. I think Aaron is about to kick off an enjoyable story arc with Namor and the Defenders of the Deep.