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Marvel Action: Avengers: The Living Nightmare | Review

Marvel Action: Avengers: The Living Nightmare coverMarvel Action: Avengers: The Living Nightmare (Book Four)
Writer: Matthew K. Manning
Artist: Marcio Fiorito
IDW Publishing; $9.99

IDW Publishing’s Marvel Action line was always a bit of an experiment. Could the publisher, which has plenty of experience with licensed comics like Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the various Hasbro toy lines and others, make widely appealing, kid-friendly comics featuring Marvel’s characters? Could they, in fact, produce comics featuring Marvel superheroes that are just as good as, or better than, those that Marvel itself was publishing? With the release of Marvel Action: Avengers: The Living Nightmare, the fourth and final collection of the Marvel Action: Avengers series, I think we can say the experiment was a success.

The Living Nightmare concludes writer Matthew K. Manning’s 12-issue run, and, like any good serially published comic, each three-issue arc functioned as its own story while also being part of a bigger, complete story. In this volume, the affiliation of mad scientists known as A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) and led by the evil giant head M.O.D.O.K. seem to have finally won their war against the Avengers, the one that started in Marvel Action: Avengers: The New Danger, when A.I.M. hijacked Iron Man and turned him into the “Advanced Iron Mechanic.”

Here, “Captain A.I.M.erica” is one of several similarly brainwashed and re-costumed Avengers serving as enforcers and helping A.I.M. rule over the conquered New York City, some of whom have even worse-sounding A.I.M. names (Spider Mechanic, Ant Mechanic, Advanced Idea Marksman, Advanced Idea Magician, etc).

A small group of remaining heroes, including Black Widow, Black Panther, and Iron Man, manage to deprogram Captain America and help enlist him in their fight, but it quickly becomes apparent to Cap that he’s not actually in the real world, but some kind of nightmare world he needs to wake up from to truly escape…although none of his allies seem to believe him.

While fighting against A.I.M. in his dream world, Cap eventually finds the real villains, one of the Fear Eaters from the third collection (sub-titled, naturally enough, The Fear Eaters), and a classic Marvel villain.

By treating Marvel’s heroes as just one more license to translate into kids’ comics, Manning (and IDW in general) have managed to avoid many of the pitfalls of long-lived superhero universe comics, instead sticking to the most popular and most familiar versions of these characters. Marvel Action: Avengers seems to owe as much to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” as it does to the Marvel comics universe, while plucking various antagonists and concepts from the latter.

The main weakness of the series has been that Manning hasn’t had a consistent artistic partner for all 12 issues. Each of the artists who has drawn issues and arcs for the series has been good, and this volume’s Marcio Fiorito, who also drew the third volume, is no exception, but it has meant that there’s been no single visual voice or even style defining the book. That’s always unfortunate in the comics medium.

Of course, that’s not a problem unique to Marvel Action: Avengers but to super-comics in general: These days the genre is dominated by the voices of the writers, who can produce more contributions more quickly, than the artists, who are treated increasingly interchangeably.

That aside, Marvel Action: Avengers, like IDW’s Marvel Action line in general, has succeeded in producing high-quality superhero comics featuring Marvel’s characters, comics geared towards young readers and new readers, the two groups that the comics Marvel itself creates and publishes tend to leave behind.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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