Review: AVENGERS STANDOFF: ASSAULT ON PLEASANT HILL: ALPHA #1

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AVENGERS STANDOFF: ASSAULT ON PLEASANT HILL: ALPHA #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Jesus Saiz
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: March 2, 2016

Avengers Standoff continues, in a sense, as Steve Rogers is brought up to speed about the prison Maria Hill has built.

I say “in a sense” because this issue is, for the most part, the flip side of Welcome To Pleasant Hill. Rather than seeing the view of the prison from the “inside” this issue gives us the stern, condemning looks you can expect from Steve Rogers as Maria Hill (who has seemingly become a quip-happy teenager) attempts to explain what she has built. I’ll get this out of the way and say that I found the vast majority of this issue annoying. Steve Rogers is a fairly stereotypical grumpy old man, Maria Hill has lost all semblance of the character she once was, and the entire plot appears to be somewhat ludicrous. To be clear, I am fully aware this is a super hero event and fantastical and down right silly premises are typical for stories like this, but if this event is being used as a building block to Civil War II I can’t help but feel this is a poor foundation. Turning the town from the movie Pleasantville into a super prison is quite a stretch to turn into a compelling story and having Maria Hill as the architect of it all is an even greater leap. The character, as written here, bears little to no resemblance to the character seen in the Marvel Universe before, and therefore this whole story feels like a farce.

Maria Hill is typically the hardened S.H.I.E.L.D. commander who does what she has to do to keep the world safe. She may operate in shades of gray at times, but more often than not she’s working to get renegade heroes to follow some kind of order, command, or legal obligation. She’s fairly by the book and no-nonsense. She was trained by Fury and she can kick some ass. The Maria Hill found in this comic is some kind of bizarre, wannabe Deadpool or Spider-Man, talking like a teen rebelling against her dad (Steve Rogers). The character’s dialogue is trying so hard to constantly be funny that it becomes annoying very quickly and I found myself wanting the character to just shut up for about 90% of the issue. The far-fetched premise of this prison town is not helped by the constant out of character jokes that erode her role in S.H.I.E.L.D. and her dialogue, in particular, reads like it is trying too hard to be edgy and missing the mark at pretty much every point in the issue. The magic Spencer had in Superior Foes and often times in Ant-Man just didn’t hit the mark with the characters in this story.

The pacing of this story is very slow, and after reading Welcome To Pleasant Hill I couldn’t help but feel like I was just getting a lot of rehashed story. At the end of this comic the story of Standoff really isn’t much further along than at the end of Welcome To Pleasant Hill despite a ton of dialogue and I can’t help but feel like the entirety of this comic could have happened in a much shorter period of time, or as part of the first Standoff special issue. This plot has yet to reveal itself to me as being complex enough to warrant all this hype and the big crossover, and it feels like we may be embarking on another AXIS style event where what could be an intriguing arc for a single book gets stretched too far and made into a mini-event that the foundation of the story just can’t hold up.

Jesus Saiz’s art is the high point of the issue, and his pencils are quite strong at points. He doesn’t have a ton to work with at points from a high octane action perspective, as much of the issue features Rogers being toured around Pleasant Hill. He keeps the issue as visually engaging as possible and the artwork tells the story fairly well throughout. His colour work is strong and he does the cliffhanger justice, which really is the most important part of this comic. I certainly won’t shy away from any other work with his name on it based on what I saw in this comic.

Avengers Standoff: Assault On Pleasant Hill: Alpha #1 was a let down of a story, as it features no assault and very little progression from the surprise ending of Welcome To Pleasant Hill. The concept has yet to be developed into something that captures my attention and the take on characters like Maria Hill left me annoyed by this comic as much as anything. The visuals were not a let down, but the story as a whole had me questioning my future reading Standoff.

The Verdict: 5.0/10

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