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Uncanny Avengers #1
writer: Rick Remender
artist: John Cassaday

In the wake of a mega-event, it's hard to pick up the pieces and move forward with an accessible new series, let alone the fifteen or so that Marvel is about to launch with their Marvel NOW! line. The first shot across the bow is a book spinning directly out of the ashes of Avengers vs. X-Men, which means it has the toughest sell.

Or it would have the toughest sell, if it didn't have the excellent John Cassaday doing the art. Right out of the gate, this book hearkens back to Cassaday's collaboration with Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men, possibly the highest point in the last ten years of Marvel Comics.

Cassaday and writer Rick Remender open with the image of the Phoenix possessing Cyclops, but this is not about picking up exactly where the previous series ended. This image is burned into the retina of a man being dissected by the big bad of this series -- and if you don't know who it is, we need not spoil it here. Just take note that the lighting casts a crimson hue as he picks apart a cranium.

After that hook, it doesn't seem so painful that Remender has to go through the type of scene we've seen in X-books a few times before. Logan studies a portrait of the late (for now) Charles Xavier and remembers the dream, and the moments in which Xavier redeemed him.

Unlike Hugh Jackman's similar scene in X: The Last Nail in the Coffin, Cassaday's Logan looks simply numbed. The question of resurrection is beyond him right now. He cannot inspire, though later Captain America alludes to him trying. The X-Men are lost, none more so than Alex Summers, aka Havok, feeling completely betrayed by his evil (for now) brother Cyclops.

Remender relies heavily on the characters' history to drive them together, but he also presents it in an accessible way. Take his word for it that Alex was a government agent; though some of his time in X-Factor makes for good reading, it's irrelevant here.

But it does make sense that Steve Rogers would seek out Havok to help make a public gesture of healing. Avengers and X-Men should work together, because, movie rights notwithstanding, they are all heroes in the same universe. And the most inspiring of heroes should come together to make that clear.

Of course, the X-Men also tend to be whiners, which the Scarlet Witch points out. Their melodrama often makes them an awkward fit among the more straightforward superheroes. Who cares, as long as you've got Wolverine in your ranks to kick ass and chew some bubblegum?

Not that Remender really plays this for humor. Uncanny Avengers is a fairly grim book, in a way almost as disturbing as this week's Batman #13 with the return of the Joker. It delivers on all its hype, though. Beautiful art (no surprise), intense character interaction, and hints of plotting by a villain not normally associated with the mutants, but holy crap, it makes sense and is long overdue.

It's a good line-up, and a good place to jump on. 1 for 1 on Marvel NOW!

Derek McCaw


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