(p) Stefano Caselli
Well, I'll be damned if Avengers Assemble #9 isn't the best 'Marvel NOW!' title I've read yet. I should have guessed -- being married to Matt Fraction and all -- that Kelly Sue DeConnick would bring a much different approach to the Avengers than we've seen in the past eight years with Bendis at the helm. Instead of nonstop adventures and constant threats against humanity and the Avengers themselves, DeConnick has opted to give readers a look at the Avengers when they're not avenging as much, and it's one of the most refreshing takes on a current team that I've read in a while.
Only a few pages of Avengers Assemble #9 include any fighting, and it's against an unknown, grey group of enemies that doesn't yet have a purpose. Other than that short foray at the end, DeConnick takes the time to flesh out these characters she's just been given. We get to see how Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are polar opposites when it comes to their processes and world views, but almost the same concerning their scientific intellect. It's this dynamic between these two characters that provides the catalyst for a friendly competition between Tony and his partner Thor, and Bruce with Spider-Woman. Both teams will scout out a science lab gone silent after their lead scientist went missing, and the first one to complete the mission gets "bragging rights, then! Whoever wins gets the satisfaction of having the other recognize their point of view and general superiority."
DeConnick is similar to her husband in her ability to write amazingly grounded dialogue. There's no Shakespearean flair here or flowery vernacular. Even Thor's natural high dialect is toned down under DeConnick's hand. And I'll reiterate how refreshing it is to read these characters in a light that's not completely blood-soaked and desperate. Steve Rogers? I can't remember the last time I saw him in an issue out of costume. I was not expecting to like the 'Marvel NOW!' imprinted Avengers Assemble as much as I have. DeConnick's work on Captain Marvel has been phenomenal, but I was worried that her witty reparte would be lost in a team-based series. Fortunately, I stand corrected.