Marvel NOW! Review: Avengers #1 by Jonathan Hickman & Jerome Opeña

Avengers #1
Avengers World

Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Pencilled by: Jerome Opeña
Colored by: Dean White
Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Marvel Comics on Comixology

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

Usually I end up starting working on a review as I am reading a comic. Writing the summary as I go, picking out things that really jumped out at me, and deciding what angle I want the review to take. But I just wasn’t able to do that with Avengers. Reading it, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the book, or what I could possibly say about it.   It took a while of this comic bouncing around in my head, and I am still not sure what this review is going to say, so I am just putting fingers to keyboard and seeing what happens.

Summary (contains spoilers): This comic starts with the strangest “Previously I”n page ever. It seems to give us the history of the universe:

From there, we jump to sometime in the future. An unknown narrator (though hints throughout the issue suggest it is a member of the Avengers) is talking about some kind of event that triggered a similar “big bang” in the present. The narrator offers a few glimpses of what the Avengers team will be dealing with in the future, including Hyperion being rescued from a dyning universe, the Imperial Giard being defeated on the moon, and someone named Ex Nihilo terraformed Mars. We hear about things with names like The Light, The War, The Fall, all with really quick teaser images:

But, the narrator says that the real “spark” that triggered this “fire” were two men: Captain America and Iron Man. Iron Man wakes up Captain America determined to talk about some crazy ideas he’s been having. Cap’s apparently been having bad dreams about the Illuminati. Iron Man breaks his idea down to “We have to get bigger!”

A month later, a being called Ex Nihilo has terraformed Mars, and has his eyes set on doing the same to Earth. He’s already hit Earth with two bombs that dramatically changed the biospheres of the impact zones “creating billions of years of evolution in minutes.” An Avengers team consisting of Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor head to Mars to deal with him. (You know, as much as I love the Avengers movie, I am real sick of this lineup showing up…THERE ARE OTHER AVENGERS).

Ex Nihilo and his associates easily take down the Avengers. They launch Cap back to Earth as a message saying “your heroes have fallen.” When Cap gets home, he starts to put Tony’s plan into action. It’s called “Wake the world” and he summons all the superheroes in the world to join him at dawn to fight back. The comic ends Cap standing with some of the assembled heroes on a rooftop with the narrator saying “We were Avengers.”

Review: I only started reading Hickman’s FF run a few days ago (Comixology had some of the issues on sale). I was impressed by the scale of the stories, but at the same time, I like the characters got a little lost in the “bigness” of it all. And that is really how I felt about Avengers too. The opening pages were terrific. I really felt like something huge was building here, and I wanted to be on board with it. But throughout the comic, the only characters that really got any focus or development were Captain American and Iron Man, and even then it was just glimpses. I read comics primarily because of my love for these characters, and seeing them basically only here to serve the purpose of a bigger story left me feeling a little flat.

Even the villain, who gets a lot of the comic focused around him, never feels like anything other than set dressing. His motivations are never made clear or even who his associates are. They are just basically there and kicking Avengers’ ass while trying to make Mars green and evolve all life on Earth. I really miss when supervillains got developed as well as the heroes. There is a reason that Magneto, Doctor Doom, and Doctor Octopus is still around, and Ex Nihilo will probably never get seen again.

One thing I always hate in comics is when some kind of major disaster happens on Earth, and you know it’s very unlikely it will mean anything. Ex Nihilo basically wiped out millions of people, but too often that ends up being business as usual and will not get touched on in any other comics outside of this run. I still remember when Kang blew Washington DC off the map during Kang Dynasty…and that ended up being no big deal.

All that said, I still liked this comic quite a bit. The narration throughout gives a strong sense that major things are building here. And I loved the whole sequence with Cap shaking off his defeat to start putting the “Wake the World” plan in to motion. Like Hickman’s Fantastic Four, it may not have been what I expect to see from an Avengers comic, but it still was a very worthwhile read. And Hickman clearly has some long term plans for this title, which I am very curious to see how they will play out from here. There are a lot of questions about “what is this team going to turn in to?” and “What are the Light, the War, and the Fall?” If nothing else, this is a great first issue for building up anticipation of what’s to come next.

While I kind of felt wishy-washy about my feelings on the writing here, Jerome Opeña’s art is outstanding. All of the teaser panels have so much detail in it that I ended up studying them over and over again, and getting excited when I discovered things like, “Hey! Look! Arno Stark!” And Captain America is drawn with tremendous grace and presence through the entire comic. The “We were Avengers” panel at the end of the comic is just about the coolest image of Cap I’ve seen in a long time:

All in all, I think this was a solid first issue.  I typically prefer my superhero comics a little more grounded and character-based, but that doesn’t take away from the intriguing groundwork that Hickman has started to lay here.  This has the potential to be some of the biggest Avengers stories ever, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on this series.

Final Score: 8.0 – Hickman’s Avengers seems to be full of big ideas and big stories.  I just hope the characters don’t get lost in the process.  Time will tell.

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