Gerardo Sandoval, the artist of the new relaunch of New Avengers, has been working for Marvel for a few years. He drew in particular three issues of Cable and X-Force (2013), some issues of Guardians 3000 (2014-2015) and sometimes the covers, and three of the five issues of Age of Apocalypse (2015), a Secret Wars tie-in. His style is a very recognizable one, very manga-like – which not everyone will enjoy. Gerardo Sandoval is actually working with Al Ewing on New Avengers, who’s also the writer of Contest of Champions and Ultimates. What is the coherence is these three titles ? Although New Avengers and Ultimates are two titles involving Avengers heroes, the third isn’t anything like this. Let’s just hope Al Ewing will manage to keep his stories coherent and different from one another.
On board on Avenger one, the fastest plane on Earth, the New Avengers are heading towards France, where crystal-headed creatures appeared and started attacking people. For their first mission, they are talking strategy and not everyone seems to agree on one. The cutting of the page allows Gerardo Sandoval to draw close-ups on every character to see their reactions when an other talks. Wiccan and Hulkling are reassuring one another, while Power Man seems to hesitate whether or not this is even a strategy. As for Squirrel girl, she want’s to team-up with Tippy-toe, her pet squirrel. Such idea baffles White Tiger, which is visible even under her mask. Meanwhile, Songbird is talking to Sunspot and the base rather than participating to the pointless debate. This way of presenting the characters to the readers lets us understand every one’s temper and feature. Wiccan is not sure about his powers, and need Hulkling to comfort him ; White Tiger is a fighter and Power Man a strategist, whereas Squirrel Girl seems to be a loony girl ready to punch everyone, and Songbird the perfect right arm of Sunspot, their boss. Speaking of Squirrel Girl, she is the only one who’s enthusiastic to fight, and not worrying about it ; moreover, her face and upper-body seems to be the only one not built with the lights and the shadows, but with the colors. Maybe this use of colors reveals her good and innocent nature, while the rest of the team are concerned about their enemies.
Meanwhile, Sunspot on Avenger Island is receiving Timothy Dugan – or at least a robot version of this SHIELD agent dead a long-time ago as revealed during Original Sin – who’s leading an investigation about A.I.M.’s activities. The only condition for A.I.M. to keep acting like it has been since Roberto da Costa bought it is to welcome a spy in their ranks : Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, a prominent member of the Avengers. Gerardo Sandoval is making a great use of the shadows, which really sculpts his characters, giving them a more significant presence on the page. The shadows are carving the characters from the background, from the page itself. Hawkeye’s posture shows his self-confidence and his privileged status on the new team. He’s a SHIELD agent before being a New Avenger, he responds to SHIELD before responding to Sunspot. But as he billionaire and leader of A.I.M., Roberto da Costa is playing with Clint Barton and Timothy Dugan, despite the fact that he must know he doesn’t have a choice. Clint Barton’s face with his open mouth on the last panel is a funny one : he seems upset Roberto had prefer the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop – a former member of the Young Avengers and teammate of Wiccan and Hulkling – on his team rather than him.
In France, the situation got quickly out of hands, and the Avengers hadn’t a choice but to fight back. The battle takes place on a double-page spread, allowing Gerardo Sandoval to represent every character in action. The manifestation of Songbird’s powers cuts the page in half : on the left side we have Songbird, Squirrel Girl and Hulkling, and on the right side we have Power Man, White Tiger and Wiccan. Each time, one character of both sides is in the foreground, in the middle-ground and in the background. The arc of Hulkling’s strong-arm marks the foreground, the arc of Songbird’s orb is the mark of the middle ground, while Wiccan’s cape closes the background. These three arcs or circle are in contrast with the crystal-headed french people. This fight does not end with the limits of the pages, as witness the shoes and pants we see in the foreground. Our space itself is in danger, is involved in this fight against the spirits of the dead, as Power Man discovers it thanks to his glasses.
But these dead people controlling the french people didn’t came back on their own. They are here because of the Maker, aka Reed Richards from Earth 1610. For those of you who’ve read Avengers #0, this is no surprise the Maker is the first antagonist of the New Avengers. With the fusion of Earth 616 and Earth 1610 following Secret Wars, it’s not surprising to see an Ultimate character in the new mainstream universe. Maybe his presence means that our Reed Richards – the original Reed from Earth 616 – doesn’t exist anymore ? At least this is what the Human Torch suggested to Spider-Man in Uncanny Avengers #1. The way Gerardo Sandoval drew the Maker reminds me of Joe Madureira‘s style : a very graphic style, with nervous lines and plenty of hatching for the shadows. The arrogance of the character is what makes him so annoying, so antipathetic. I just love the contrast between the Maker’s self-confidence, his face hidden behind his mask, and the stupidity of the man behind him.
Despite the critics, I like Gerardo Sandoval‘s style. It gives this new series a very graphic side with a slightly manga style. In this way, Gerardo Sandoval is close to Humberto Ramos‘ style, who’s working on Extraordinary X-Men with Jeff Lemire. I liked this first issue because an old villain from a parallel universe is used as the antagonist of a mainstream universe’s team, and this series is the perfect occasion to find Wiccan and Hulkling, who had been missing since the end of Young Avengers. But I don’t understand why Squirrel Girl has been integrated in this team : she seems to be a loony girl with an amazing strength and a pet squirrel, but that is it. Why did Marvel made her an Avenger, I’ll never know. Maybe she’ll be useful in the next issues of New Avengers ?