Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: The Art of The Avengers!

If you're still on an Avengers high and you're ravenously searching for more tie-ins to consume then you could do a lot worse than Marvel Publishing's The Art of The Avengers, written by the surreal Jason Surrell and designed by the powerful Jeff Powell. And it's a weighty 270 page hard cover, packaged in its own mighty box/sleeve, so it's going to keep you occupied for a while.

I love art books and I love behind-the-scenes material. I find buying art books such a no-brainer, in fact I often have to fight the urge to buy two copies so that I can pull one apart to frame my favourite pages. If I ever have to move house and can't face lugging a billion books again I might even have to do just that.

So how does this one stack up? Join me after the jump and we'll find out!

It's a stunningly designed and inviting book containing a diverse variety of material to browse. You'll find costume and character designs, set and vehicle designs (from sketches to final renders), storyboards and script excerpts, maquettes, props and weapon details, and double-page concept paintings. The back part of the book collects the various international posters and promotional items.

The text portions are light, but the scattered paragraphs and quotes do provide genuine insights into the ideas that went into creating the film. Even things that I didn't love in the film, like Cap's costume design, become more sympathetic once you're aware of the rationale and the work behind them. You'll definitely find a deep respect and consideration for the source material, spanning everything from Jack Kirby to the Ultimates.

I particularly loved the character spreads that showcase series of costume concepts:

See those blue glowing "veins" on that last design? Apparently one idea was to have the venom of her "widow stingers" coursing through her suit and firing out of her wrist gauntlets. Did she even use her gauntlets in the film? I can't even remember. Perhaps I wasn't looking at her wrists. I can kind of see why they might have abandoned this design though. It kind of looks like she's shooting glowsticks at a rave.

And I really love the fully painted concept art which illustrates key moments from the film. Any of these evocative images would make fantastic prints:

My only real criticism is that because it's such a large book, the binding is quite deep and it means that a fair portion of the images are often lost in the centre. You'll be reluctant to flatten the book any further for fear of damaging the spine, but this can water down the effect of the double-page images, as seen above with Iron Man's mysteriously missing hand. It's beautiful art, and this production choice stifles it somewhat.

But apart from that, there's plenty to love. The movie is a sensory overload, rocketing along at a rapid pace and it can be hard to take in all of the little details (especially if you're sitting too close to the front, and to the left, because the cinema's booked out, and you're wearing 3D glasses, and the projector is askew). The book provides a very welcome opportunity to really study these details closely. I enjoyed seeing close-ups of the alien weaponry, the vintage Captain America trading cards, the Iron Man Mark VII transformation, and getting a really good look at the many stages of the Ruffalo-looking Hulk:

And can we do some minor spoilers now? The entire free world has seen the movie, right?

I especially enjoyed getting my first proper look at the Chitauri aliens. You get to see their evolution and find out why they ended up like they did, as well as get some good clear looks at the mysterious Other. The only thing you won't get to see is artwork of the late-in-the-game "secret villain" but I think that's the right choice. If he was pictured here he would be all over the Internet and it's a moment that is better served by seeing it the film.

The bottom line is that if you're an "art of the film" collector, or even just a rabid Avengers enthusiast then this is definitely worth a look. This isn't Iron Man 3 or Thor 5 or Ghost Rider: Keep on Fire-Pissing - it's The Avengers, the first huge superhero team up movie, and it's bound to remain somewhat of a milestone that will be considered for years to come.  Zero regrets here. 


  1. If it hasn't been done already, we should set up a group that buys art books and splits up the pages for framing.

    And that is some deeeep binding.

  2. Not a bad idea! We should take turns. Let's get Art of Tron and I'll take Olivia Wilde and you can have beardy Jeff Bridges!

    And trust me, this binding is REALLY deep. There are bio-luminescent fish living in there.

  3. You can have both, I just want the Light Cycles to go next to my framed Lamborghini poster.