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for Thursday, April 9, 2009

Next Avenger

From January...

When I arose from my annual New Year's Eve food coma, after oh-so-conveniently falling asleep while Sainted Wife Barb and our neighbors cleaned up around the motionless lump on the couch - me - I watched Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow [Lions Gate; $14.99]. It's the fifth direct-to-DVD animated movie to come from Marvel's partnership with Lions Gate and a departure from those earlier features.

Written by Christopher Yost and produced by Craig Kyle - they have also teamed on some pretty good Marvel comic books - Next Avengers takes us over a dozen years into the future. Ultron has conquered half the world, killing several of the Avengers in the process. The only survivors of the team are: Tony Stark, who has taken the children of his teammates into hiding; Thor, who has left Earth to rule in Asgard; a severely-damaged Vision; and Bruce Banner, who lives in the desert and tries to contain the monster within.

Next Avengers is aimed at young viewers - older viewers will be annoyed by the big-eyed manga designs and the occasionally annoying voice acting - but it has an edge to it. Ultron is a true nightmare and watching these kids face their fears of him while growing into their heroic destinies makes for an exciting adventure that's long on heart. The roster:

James Rogers, the son of Captain America and the Black Widow. He hasn't taken well to a life of hiding and doesn't come into his own until he goes into action.

Torunn, the daughter of Thor. She struggles to have faith in the father she's never known and is insecure in both her power and her courage.

Azari, the son of the Black Panther and Storm, though the latter is never mentioned. He's the one character in the feature who I have problems with; he struck me as a bit too acquiescent to authority.

Pym, the son of Giant-Man and the Wasp. He's smarter than his pals and the most annoying of the bunch. But he does come through when things are at their darkest.

Barton, the son of Hawkeye and the one young hero who wasn't taken into hiding by Stark because Stark thought he'd been killed. He's slightly older than the others and, after the death of his father, he inherited the leadership of the free humans in Ultron's Ultra City. He's definitely his father's son.

Next Avengers is a tight story, running but 78 minutes. The movie starts slow, but, once it picks up, it's filled with exciting and emotional and even chilling moments. Yost and Kyle weave a number of character and visual surprises into the story. It's my favorite of the five Marvel/Lions Gate features to date. In fact, it's the first one where, after I'd watched it, I thought I'd like to write a comic-book series based on it. These young Avengers really grew on me by the end of the movie.

Special features include the usual "making of" short, a great piece on the young heroes of Marvel Comics, and previews of the coming Hulk Vs. Wolverine/Thor. With Yost and Kyle's pretty impressive track record, I wanted to be enthusiastic about these features. Sadly, the impression given is that they're little more than violent slug fests. I'll watch them, but I hope there's more to them than is evident in their previews.

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow earns an impressive four out of five Tonys. It brought me right out of my food coma.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Today's letter comes from Dale Martin:
As someone who catalogs graphic novels at my public library and helped developed our adult graphic novel collection there, it was great to see such collections promoted in your high-profile column. Much like your experience with Japan Ai, I have bought graphic novels after first discovering them in the library. More often, though, the library's collection has exposed me to scads of new talent I would not have discovered otherwise - either because I didn't see their work at my local comic shop, or I just didn't want to chance the money on them.

A couple of examples: Jason's collections from Fantagraphics, the Flight anthologies, and Y the Last Man. Not that I was unaware of the latter; I just thought it read better in the graphic novel chunks than in single issue installments.

Thanks for the promotion of public libraries they're a great resource for books, CDs (another collection that led me to purchase even more materials for myself after first discovering them at the library), and - increasingly - comics and graphic novels.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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