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May 16 2013

Review: Avengers – The Enemy Within #1

The Enemy Within #1

A tightly paced opening to one of Marvel’s mini-crossover brings humour and humanity to the superhuman. 

Avengers: The Enemy Within #1 (2013)

Avengers: The Enemy Within

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Artist: Scott Hepburn

Publisher: Marvel

Rating:  ★★★★½

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This is how to do a crossover. Although this first issue is ostensibly a standalone title to introduce the 5-part “The Enemy Within” story arc, the seeds for this meeting of DeConnick’s Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble have been sewn into the pages of the former over the last few months. So while this first issue is somewhat confusingly released as a separate entity, it is effectively a continuation of the events of the wonderful Captain Marvel series.

It looks as though Carol Danvers is being targeted by a malevolent force. Between the reappearance of an old foe and the discovery of a brain lesion that prevents her from flying, a nice elderly woman has been kidnapped in what seems to be an attempt to get to Carol. In the course of pursuing the culprits, Danvers is confronted with surprises from her past, and she can’t shake the feeling that she is being tested by something or someone. Is this all part of her imagination, or is her world being literally turned upside-down?

“The Enemy Within”, as we discovered in our interview this week with DeConnick, can have multiple meanings. Along with the villain present and the illness that is preventing Captain Marvel from fully exercising her powers, Carol is often at war with herself. Aside from literally duelling with manifestations or counterparts of herself in previous arcs, a decent kick to the confidence centre has shaken her faith in her own abilities and reasoning. It doesn’t help that someone with access to her past appears to be manipulating her, which again raises the question of whether this is a conjuration of her own damaged mind. We suspect that DeConnick will keep us off guard until the conclusion in Captain Marvel #14, making this all the more compelling.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to fans of her previous work just how laugh-out-loud funny this issue can be. DeConnick clearly enjoys writing for not just Danvers, but for Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman. Jessica is given the lion’s share of witty one-liners, occasionally to Carol’s irritation but all for wonderful comedic effect. The camaraderie between these two is always a highlight. It is also interesting that, with the exception of a cameo from Thor, the rest of the Avengers don’t really make much of an appearance, presumably being saved for a bigger entry in Avengers Assemble #16

Artist Scott Hepburn (Star Wars: Clone Wars for Dark Horse) adds his own flair to this special outing, even if Carol’s hair takes on epic proportions in some of the panels. The style certainly lends itself to some of the lighter moments earlier in the script, although it should be said that while it is strong, Hepburn has a minimalist approach to faces, which might throw a few readers off. Yet he also does dinosaurs and super villain wrestlers in this issue, so he’s not wanting for versatility.

More than anything, this first issue demonstrates DeConnick’s continuing ability to bring humanity to the superhuman. It may be very much the first chapter in a larger story, but it is one that encourages us to want to spend a little more time with these characters.

To keep going, here’s the reading order for the series:

  • The Enemy Within #1
  • Avengers Assemble #16
  • Captain Marvel #13
  • Avengers Assemble #17
  • Captain Marvel #13

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