Review: AVENGERS: STANDOFF – WELCOME TO PLEASANT HILL #1

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AVENGERS: STANDOFF – WELCOME TO PLEASANT HILL #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Mark Bagley, Scott Hanna, Paul Mounts
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: February 17, 2016

Marvel sets up a new event-between-events with Avengers: Standoff – Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1. Thirty-four pages of story knocking down the first domino that will bring a most anticipated confrontation as it sparks aspects of the Marvel Universe is certain to excite fans.

The preview imagery promised some time with the Winter Soldier, who is the gateway character for this adventure, but is quickly replaced with a mystery character named Jim (cue Blazing Saddles soundbite). Take Jim the stranger, put him in the idyllic setting of Pleasant Hill where the media reminds you that you’re lucky to be there, and then drop in a mention of a top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. program that ruffled feathers recently in the pages of Captain America: Sam Wilson, and you’ve got yourself a page-turner from writer Nick Spencer and artist Mark Bagley.

Inked by Scott Hanna and colored by Paul Mounts, Bagley’s strength shines through in the storytelling. Avengers: Standoff – Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 isn’t your typical Avengers adventure, and, as such, Bagley becomes a smart change-of-pace artist, able to draw the setting and motion of the scenery rather than trying to sell every panel as a frame of high-octane blockbuster storyboard fodder. My biggest quibble with Bagley, however, is that sometimes his characters, while serviceable and consistent, lack individuality. For example, “Jim” reminded me very much of the way Bagley might draw Steve Rogers while “Phil” bears a striking resemblance to Tony Stark. I am keeping it spoiler-free by saying neither character is as he appears, which is the very heart of Avengers: Standoff – Welcome To Pleasant Hill #1, but the red herrings of a comic book story really should be more on the writer than the artist.

Mounts’ colors are bold and unapologetic. In some scenes that works better than in others. It works when we see Winter Soldier snooping around. It works on the big, final-page reveal. It gets a little too much when Jim happens across some townsfolk who, while consistently colored, appear to be dabbling in makeup experimentation.

All the same, Avengers: Standoff – Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 is a good-looking book, it’s just not an explosively intense visual collision of magnificent study-worthy panels. It’s efficient, clean, and strong. The reveals are well-planned to page turns and the art carries as much weight to the success of the adventure as the dialog.

Spencer puts the reader on Jim’s shoulder throughout much of Avengers: Standoff – Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1, compounding the mystery and bolstering the anxiety. The final page payoff sets things up to come, but do so in an unexpected manner. Spencer convinces the reader that we want to know more about Jim. We want to uncover the mystery of Pleasant Hill. And maybe, maybe, we’ll come back and see what’s going on with Bucky. But first, take a look at this little secret.

Avengers: Standoff – Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 isn’t so much about what happens in the pages of this comic, it’s about what it is setting up for other comics. As a standalone, this comic might be a bit of a disappointment, as it has the Avengers branded on the cover, but no one bellows out our favorite battle cry. Rather, this is the start of a sixteen-part, eight-title crossover that will continue through April. This is chapter one of a larger, longer adventure. Spencer, Bagley, and company do a nice job preparing us all, but by the time readers see that final page, they won’t be reflecting much on what they’ve just read, but will, instead, be looking forward to what’s to come and what all of this means to the greater Marvel Universe.

The Verdict: 8.0/10

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