REVIEW: Avengers #1

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Or – “Relaunch-O-Rama!”

I’ve been a comics reader for a long time, but the current method of operations at the Big Two leads itself to a lot of cyclical patterns.  This issue is the second Avengers #1 in the last three years, and the fourth or fifth overall, but, coming at the characters peak of popularity, it kind of makes sense to relaunch this book right now.  The big question, though, is what Marvel is going to do to differentiate this from the last ten years of Bendis-driven Avengers stories…  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

AVENGERS #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jerome Opeña
Colorist: Dean White
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor(s): Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in The Avengers:  Iron Man and Captain America have been back and forth on the friend/enemy scale over the last decade or so, working together to relaunch the Avengers more than once, while battling bitterly against one another during the ridiculous events of the superhuman Civil War a few years ago.  Now, they’re once again united in reinventing the Avengers wheel, with Captain America declaring that they need to make one large change:  Go Bigger.  But what does that mean?

THAT TEAM SEEMS SOMEWHAT FAMILIAR…

We open with the beginning.  Literally…  The story seems to start with the Big Bang, then transitions forward to a series of revelations, including the defeat of the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard, the return of (a) Hyperion, and a villain called Ex Nihilo, and gives us some hints as to what lies ahead for the Mighty ones.  (Hint:  It’s not an easy road, and features some dead bodies.)  Jerome Opeña’s art-style is a little bit odd for me, looking somewhat like Jae Lee’s cover work for the Dark Tower series, and the overall effect of the first few pages of the book (while admittedy attractive) was to think how very much this looks like an Ultimate title.  Of course, the story bears some resemblance to Hickman’s work on Ultimates, as well, so that might be an intentional thing.  When the action starts, we find a team consisting of the movie Avengers (Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye) traveling to Mars to confront Ex Nihilo and his minions/partners in crime, which leads me to question Captain America’s skills as a tactician.  Were I to go to another planet to face an unknown threat, my team would not consist of fifty percent normal humans without powers, even if the other fifty percent included a gamma powerhouse, a Norse deity and a man in a powerful suit.  Indeed, things pan out poorly for the Avengers team, and it’s only the villains arrogance and desire to send a message that keeps the team from being wiped off the face of the red planet…

AND THEN… IT GOT WORSE.

The second half of the issue makes me happy, though, as we reveal that Iron Man had a plan up his sleeve (and not in a super-arrogant Civil War kind of way, but more in a clever, cocky Robert Downey Junior sorta way.)  Captain America is able to pull in a number of specialists, agents who have been chosen for their specific skills, and the narrative gives me a little bit of goosebumps.  You can almost hear the swelling fanfare as the word goes out: “Assemble at dawn.”  Hickman has shown himself capable of pulling out ALL the stops with his writing on Fantastic Four, and so I’m psyched to see what this story has in store.  Sure enough, as the last panel shows, Captain America has learned the error of his ways in terms of power-levels, and has called in some seriously heavy-hitters.  For those of you keeping score, the last page features Captain America, the new Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), a female Captain Universe, a Hyperion, a female Smasher (formerly of the Imperial Guard), Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, The Falcon, Wolverine, Cannonball, Sunspot, Shang-Chi (Master of Kung-Fu), and a man that I believe to be Eden Fesi of the Secret Warriors.  THAT, my dear friends, is the kind of team you take to another $&#!$% planet.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  THEY GOT MY ATTENTION.

There are some issues with the narrative this time around, as it occasionally seems to bow a bit under the weight of its own symbolism, and the glimpses of a future apocalypse kind of bother me.  I’m hoping that it’s the same future apocalypse we keep getting hints about with the whole “Age of Ultron” thing, but I don’t have a lot of evidence to back that up.  The art is solid, but has a few peccadilloes that bother me (facial expressions tend towards the demented here and there, and I’m still not sold on Captain America’s new crash-helmet) but all in all, it’s a more successful relaunch than the last Avengers #1.  I had sworn that this issue was supposed to feature Nova, as well, but I can get past that minor disappointment. All in all, this reminds me of the Grant Morrison relaunch of the Justice League in the 1990s, where the characters were treated as a pantheon of incredibly powerful types, each with their own strengths, and the focus was on the epic tales and legendary feats.  Avengers #1 is at least different, and sometimes that’s half the battle, but it’s interesting enough to get me really wondering where ithings are going, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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