Or – “Clearly NOT The World Outside Your Window!”

The Avengers were re-assembled in a bigger and better form, just in time to combat the menace of Ex Nihilo.  Their first battle ended inconclusively, but a mysterious “Blackveil” made his way to Earth.  Now, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have discovered that “Blackveil” has another name:  NIghtmask.  And a second (insanely powerful) superhuman known as a Starbrand has made things even more complicated…  It’s a brave new world, with an old New Universe, but will the Avengers survive?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

Avengers9CoverAVENGERS #9
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Dustin Weaver with Mike Deodato
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in The Avengers:  1986 was the 25th Anniversary of the Marvel Universe, and editor-in-chief Jim Shooter planned to mark that big moment with a whole new publishing line, a New Universe featuring characters like Nightmask, Starbrand, Justice and more.  Though initially a separate universe meant to be as realistic as possible, the ramifications of superhuman activity left their world irrevocably scarred.  Though the New Universe was later brought into the greater Marvel multiverse, it remained mostly separate, seemingly considered something of an old shame by Marvel editorial…  until now.  With Nightmask and Starbrand active, warning of the threat of a new White Event (the incident that triggered the New Universe to have superhumans in the first place), even the full roster of Avengers has a big challenge on their hands…


As much as I enjoy Hickman’s take on The Avengers, I’m more than a little bit put off by the publishing frequency of the book, with issue #1 bowing in February.  That said, as difficult as it has been to keep up with the title on it’s seemingly three-times-per-month frequency, the reading experience has been a pleasant one.  Rather than having to wait three-quarters of a year to get the secrets of the new Hyperion and the latest Captain Universe, we’ve had a steady stream of information and story explaining the new, bigger Avengers.  That makes issues like this one, which focus almost entirely on the “villains” of the piece, easier to take, as we’re not going to be ignoring big hunks of our 18-member cast for months at a time, which is one of the biggest complaints that I have about the previous Avengers book, honestly.  Starbrand and Nightmask start this issue be returning to Mars to find Ex Nihilo and try to parse out just why they exist and/or have massive powers to begin with.  Starbrand quickly identified himself as a problem, lashing out with his powers and blasting Ex Nihilo’s compatriot Abyss apart with barely a thought.  (She gets better.)  Things get even more odd as Ex Nihilo reveals what’s really happening:  It isn’t the avatars of the White Event that are broken, it’s the Earth itself, and it is all by design…  His.


There are seven transformed sites on Earth, you see, all of which are evolving, combining to give the very planet a sentient consciousness!  The art team does a wonderful job showing us the alien transformations (some very disturbing to me), really hammering home the madness of the situation, all around the world.  Hickman’s script has a lot of conversation in it, but it doesn’t bog the issue down for me so much as it asks a lot of questions that I really want to know the answers to.  Giving the Ex Nihilo plot room to breathe in this manner works for me, as he has been part of every issue of the book so far, while his endgame is still somewhat obscured.  Again, the tri-monthly (or whatever) frequency of the title works to its advantage.  There is a change in art team in this issue, with Deodato picking up the reins partway through the book, but even this doesn’t harm the storytelling, as the art-styles are similar and compatible, and the moments where the full Avengers roster faces down Starbrand are very well-rendered.  The issue ends on a very ambiguous note, a moment that gels very well with the previous eight issues, and supports the clear world-building of this new Avengers universe…


There are good mysteries, and bad mysteries in story-telling.  Good mysteries draw you in, make you want to know more, and give you tantalizing bits of information, while bad mysteries just continue their endless convolutions, adding smoke monsters and polar bears as necessary.  This is the former kind of mystery, with a little bit of soul-searching, a little bit of action, and a villain who is growing on me in his grandiose insanity.  There isn’t quite enough of the actual Avengers in the issue for my tastes, but that’s clearly by design, to give the agglomeration of (as the book puts it ) “titans, gods and immortals” that comprise the current team the remote feel of a pantheon of strange deities.  It works for me.  All in all, Avengers #9 comprises a strong middle chapter of an ongoing story, and works both in terms of the art and the story, making for an above-average reading experience and earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Once the whole arc is done, I can see readers going back and tearing these issues apart looking for the clues, hints and interactions that built to the final reveal.

Rating: ★★★½☆


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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Hickmans Avengers (and even more New Avengers) is one of the best books coming out right now for me. I reread the titles completly basicaly after every new one comes out.

    The starting words alone are haunting

    There was nothing
    Followed by everything
    Swirling, burning specks of creation that circled life-giving suns.

    And then…
    we raced to the light

    It was the spark that started the fire–
    A *egend that grew in the telling.

    Some believe it began the moment Hyperion was rescued from a dying universe

    Others said it was when The Guard were broken on the dead moon.

    Many more think it was when Ex Nihilo terraformed Mars, turning the red planet green.

    They were all wrong.

    As it happened before The Light

    Before The War

    And before The Fall

    It started with two men.
    It started with an Idea

    The Great Idea was expansion.

    And it started with two men.

    One was Life
    And one was Death

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