AVENGERS The Red Zone written by Geoff Johns, art by Olivier Coipel and Andy Lanning
I ended up with this story arc (this is the term I’m going to use as it appears when I search for this story) through a Reddit gift exchange over a year ago in which I was also delighted to receive some original art by my gifter. This context lent itself well to the reading of the story as I was very happy to receive it and more likely to overlook flaws – it may or may not be the first physical set of comic books I have owned.
First published in fall 2003, The Red Zone came out just after the first X-Men movie (2000) and the first Spider-Man movie (2002) were showing that perhaps the greater public could like superhero movies if everyone toned down the goofiness a bit. However, I imagine it fits in well with the caped crusaders and wonderfully corny lines of yester-year as well. The Red Zone came about almost exactly when comic book stories started picking up steam on the big screen, and I think perhaps it shows as a transitional piece of AVENGERS lore.
The Red Zone strays into some dark territory, a plot that I wouldn’t be surprised to see reflected fairly closely in the dark and gritty superhero movies today, except that the costumes of The Red Zone still incorporate primary colours and spandex. At times the dialogue is cheesy, but The Red Zone is a story arc that is ultimately rather terrifying. Old enemies resurface in the tried-and-true tradition of no one ever actually dying for real, but the things they manage to accomplish rack up a surprisingly high death toll for such a (literally) colourful set of books.
The real strength or weakness of this story arc (depending on how you look at it) is how much story, plot, and character gets stuffed into 6 comic books. Every plot twist, every double cross, every oh-no-that-guy-isn’t-dead revelation had me grinning uncontrollably. I relished in how quickly The Red Zone became a mess of motivations and espionage, double agents and infallible evil. It made me happy to own this little slice of AVENGERS and to find it almost as over the top as I expected (and hoped).
The Red Zone isn’t a particularly hard-hitting story, nor is it insightful with regards to grander themes happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is everything I wanted it to be: a decently interesting story, some of my favourite characters, and a wonderfully complicated set of circumstances that could only happen in the pages of a comic book.