Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Mike McKone
Tblunka, capital city of Sorenia, nestled between Iran, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. A mercenary, part of a force formed by the unseated regime trying to retake the country from the democratically elected government, shoots down something strange with ‘US Air Force’ on it.
Stark Towers. The Avengers: Captain America (Steve Rogers), Hawkeye, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Iron Man, Black Widow, Wolverine; the characters are introduced by Ellis in a clean, quick, efficient manner but with lovely sharp banter that essays character (Stark: ‘Captain America wants to stomp on me.’ Pepper: ‘Well, in his defense, he has met you.’) The news in the briefing room shows the shot-down drone – Steve recognises the name, ‘Hereward’, a military contractor based on the Norwegian island of Skrekklandet.
Time for a flashback to 1944: Steve was investigating ‘wonder weapons’ being built on the island, a Wunderwaffe station that exploded and fell into the ice. In the present, Steve is focused on investigating the drone, almost to the point of anger (the other Avengers react when Steve is stern with Tony). Upon hearing that Slorenia has outsourced the action, Steve reacts: ‘You’re serious. We hired a corporation to fight a war for us.’
Steve wants to go into Slorenia; the others are against it until Thor turns up. He recognises the drone creature – it is related to a Nidhogg, a vile creature trapped under Yggdrasil, the world tree, and that escaped to Midgard; Thor fought it and killed it, but only after going into a berserker rage. So now, the Avengers are after ‘Norse Nazi maggot robots. Of death.’
Thor takes Captain Marvel ‘and also, sadly, Stark’ to hunt the creatures; Steve takes the rest of the team to the launch base, where they find a scientist who says that the creatures started going crazy but there are other models, more efficient and deadly, in a SHIELD base on American soil. SHIELD knows all about them because they’re a threat against the Avengers, so they drop Bruce Banner on the SHIELD base, but before he turns to emphasise the point. But Bruce delays things until the Avengers go to where they need to stop everything: Skrekklandet. (Hawkeye: ‘It never, ever ends, Steve. Only old people think things end.’)
Ellis does a very efficient job with this book: snappy banter, character-revealing dialogue, a clean plot that links Captain America and Thor but also requires the Avengers, action that requires the full use of the team, as well as portraying different sides to the same philosophical aspect of the fight. This is a lot harder than it seems – a lot of writers over-dialogue pages when there are lots of characters, causing the art to be obscured by word balloons; other writers also have trouble providing a plot that uses all the characters in a team and gives them all something important to do. This is a lean, mean superhero graphic novel, the equivalent of a self-contained four-issue story that gives you a beginning, a middle and an end, and it’s something that Ellis does well (see RED, Ocean, etc.); it’s also good to see it as a graphic novel instead of a mini-series to be collected later in trade paperback (if only Marvel were doing more of that …).
As a relatively straightforward superhero graphic novel, Avengers: Endless Wartime has a solid superhero artist in McKone – his art style is solid, with slick lines, smooth shapes, sharp anatomy, clear storytelling and an approach that favours collaboration with the narrative instead of flashy pages intended for selling off later. I’ve always enjoyed his action scenes – they are dynamic, easy to follow, knowing where to focus, with a bit of flavour and colour to the panels – but he also does a good job with the dialogue-based panels, infusing the characters with reactions and individuality that enhance the story without distracting from the plot.
In summary – Avengers: Endless Wartime is a very good superhero graphic novel; it’s not essential, but it does the job well and provides you with a complete, enjoyable story.