Thursday Comics Hangover: Over the top

Every so often I'll read a corporate superhero comic that reminds me why I fell in love with the genre as a child. This week's U.S.Avengers #4 is that kind of a book.

Writer Al Ewing has been pubilshing fun superhero comics for Marvel for a while — his Ultimates has basically grown into a hall-of-fame of the weirdest ideas Marvel writers have ever produced — but his U.S.Avengers series is the best thing he's done yet. Starring the most half-baked collection of superheroes you can imagine — Squirrel Girl, an off-brand Hulk, a pacifist Iron Man — and illustrated with great sincerity by Paco Medina, the book feels like a parody that spins out of control, only to circle all the way back around to become a straightforward adventure comic again.

Every issue of U.S.Avengers has been a standalone story that, in any other series, would be blown out to six stultifying issues. But the most recent issue takes that concept literally: It's an entire four-issue corporate superhero comic crossover crammed into a single, normal-sized issue. And I mean that literally: every few pages, Medina draws another cover to a nonexistent series ("Monsters 'n Shield" is one) followed by another splash page with credits. The comic is made up of four tiny comics.

Medina's art is fantastic for this sort of thing. He perfectly captures the man-in-tights aesthetic, but his work is just cartoony enough to lend a slight satirical bent.

The story involves two characters I loathe — Deadpool and Red Hulk, who is like the regular Hulk only red, and an asshole — trying to fight a monster-making mad scientist. Ewing gets credit for writing the only Deadpool line that has ever made me laugh out loud (and yes, I'm including the wildly overrated Ryan Reynolds movie in this estimation.) It's a ridiculous book starring ridiculous characters who know how ridiculous they are, which is all most of us ask from our superhero comics.

In a time when most monthly corporate comics are overridden with crossovers and bloated stories designed to pad out trade paperbacks, U.S.Avengers #4 openly mocks both those conventions. Maybe mainstream comics have lowered my expectations too much, but right now that's enough to win my heart.