I have been catching up on my comic book reading, having recently decided that I was pretty much sticking to the following comics (for graphic novels / collections):
- Marvel’s Ultimate Comics imprint.
- Indie comics, such as Invincible (my current new favorite)
- Creator-owned work from DC’s Vertigo line (such as DMZ, another recent discovery)
For reviews I’ll still be picking up, at least for now, a few DC series (such as Justice League), until my interest in the relaunch peters out. Maybe I’m getting curmudgeonly in my older years (sure, 34 is old, so says my daughter, who likes to remind me at every opportunity) but I’m tired of the retcons, the reboots, and character deaths that simply don’t matter anymore. A creative team will rotate into a comic series for 6 months to a year and then leave, providing a sense of disconnectedness on the title (I’d use the term “discontinuity” but that just wouldn’t sound right in the comic book world). It is rare these days to have an author remain on a title for an extended amount of time. Look at Brian Michael Bendis on Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers and what benefits having a consistent creative force behind a title can have.
This was one of the pluses to the Ultimate Comics: Avengers series. Mark Millar, who helped define one of the cornerstones of the Ultimate range a decade back with The Ultimates, returned when Marvel relaunched the brand as Ultimate Comics in 2009 to script the Avengers, using a different artist on each story arc as well as a shifting line-up for the Avengers Black Ops team (their modus operandi in the Ultimate universe).
For Blade Vs. the Avengers, the collection of the third Ultimate Comics: Avengers series, Millar teams up with artist Steve Dillon of Preacher fame. Millar tackles a tricky subject (Vampires! In New York!) given their current overexposure (although Millar wonderfully lampshades this during a humorous dream sequence). However, Millar wisely uses the Ultimate version of Blade to tackle this (and really, was there any other way?), and along the way introduces a new 12-year old Daredevil, brings back Nerd Hulk, and unleashes all kinds of mayhem.
Of the three Ultimate Comics: Avengers volumes so far, this one is the weakest, both in story and art. It’s not so much that the vampire well has been (oh, pardon the pun) sucked dry, but rather the story fails to do anything new or interesting with it. A vampire uprising threatening the world? Meh. It just never comes across in a very strong manner. There are a few twists in the story to keep the reader interested, and there’s a decent body count by the end, but Millar wastes some characters in the process. There just isn’t a lot of heart in this story, and Blade is hardly as cool as the story tries to make him out to be.
The artwork just doesn’t work for me. Dillon is a good artist, there’s no questioning that, but after the gritty and realistic art of Carlos Pacheco and Leinil Francis Yu in the previous two volumes, Dillon’s clashes badly. Given the tenor of this series and its darker themes, Dillon’s art feels too cartoony.
Blade Vs. the Avengers is definitely entertaining. It’s not the best graphic novel you’ll read in the Marvel catalog, but it is far from the worse. It’s just that, given Millar’s reputation, you expect more than this run-of-the-mill tale.