Secret Wars 2015 Lead-In Review & Spoilers: Avengers #44 Finale By Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Caselli & Kev Walker, Frank Martin For Marvel Comics

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AVENGERS {5th Series} #44 [FINAL ISSUE]
“One Was Life, One Was Death” (37 pages)
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Stefano Caselli & Kev Walker
Colors by: Frank Martin
Letters by: VC’s Cory Petit
Covers by: Dustin Weaver & Justin Ponsor; Jim Cheung & Justin Ponsor; Tony Harris; Ryan Meinerding

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Bid adieu to yet another volume of AVENGERS. Feel great fear, SECRET WARS is to appear!!

There is a triptych of tales unfolding in this issue. I will do my very best to condense each of them. Jonathan Hickman is no slacker in the word department. That goes double for his higher level concepts that makes the layperson scratch his/her head. FYI: the narratives are deliberately told out of time (no pun intended!)

I will ‘end’ this by saying that after all was said and done, this current series boiled down to Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. The two polar opposites who at times are in synch and at other times violently clash. Together, they endeavoured to build the ‘Avengers Machine’ to deal with far-reaching crises that they deemed no other super-group could handle.

1.

    Tony & Steve

{pp. 1-6}

These giants strove for greatness. Despite the obviously different perspectives, they embraced their like-minded goals and tolerated their conflicting views.

A quinjet touches down in front of a greasy spoon somewhere in Texas going back a few months. Steve Rogers informs the SHIELD agents that he will call on them after he has concluded his business or if he needs back-up. As he makes his way in, Tony Stark is already there to discuss matters. Steve wants to know the point of this rendezvous. Tony, ever the arrogant one, tells him that they are there to discuss things openly but in the end Steve will see his P.O.V. and forgive his ‘failure’ at not getting the job done right the first time around. Steve has determined one, and only one outcome: Tony will accompany him to answer for his misgivings. The entire free world wants Stark’s head on a platter.

Tony coolly states that failure is not an option since EVERYTHING DIES. He’s genuinely surprised that Steve isn’t siding with him. When he makes mention of Namor and the Cabal, Steve tells him that Tony is taking the exact same approach.
The waitress serving the two happens to be none other than Tamara Devoux, the current Captain Universe. Steve only notices and then recognizes her after Tony points her out. Seems like Tony isn’t completely immoral or inhuman: he found Tamara’s lost daughter and reunited the two. Steve really admires the former billionaire who would go out of his way for the little things. Tamara remains amnesiac despite her daughter’s assistance. Tony assures Steve that he has the solution for the crisis at hand. Without warning, Tamara transforms into her cosmic counterpart. She freaks out and blasts the duo out of the burger shack. She orders Tony not to lie and not to plant false hope. Exposed!!! There is no machine! Tony has built absolutely nothing!! Tony Stark, the ultimate deceiver. If an individual imbued with the Enigma Force acknowledges imminent extinction, and affirms that the universe is expiring, what can one mere mortal with genius intellect achieve?

1.1

    Superior Iron Man & former Captain America

{pp. 27-36}

Fast forward to the here and now. The super-hero smackdown of the century is about to begin! Stark’s underground lair is raided by a War Machine ‘drone’. Tony assumes that it’s Rhodey. Nope!! It’s good old Steve with armour fashioned in his familiar tricolour scheme. Iron Man isn’t worried since he designed the armour former Cap is sporting. He tells the super-patriot to snap out of it.
Oddly enough, Steve is roused from his slumber by Tony. It was just a dream…The sequence flitters from present to past. Steve is so enraged that he officially ends the friendship and wants Tony to admit that he lied. The past shows the pair musing the expansion of the team. The philosophical divides could never coalesce. Steve Rogers is about heart, integrity, fighting the good fight; Tony Stark has mind, practicality, and cold, hard logic. Tony really resents Steve’s righteousness and that he is reminded of his pragmatism. The confrontation ends with Steve laying the biggest pounding on his former pal. Despite defeat, Tony gets the last word. Nothing would have changed his plan. And then…[oops! wait til the review is done]

2.

    The Avengers & The Illuminati

{pp. 7-12, 17-18, 25-26}

Things here also happen in threes.

(a) The Rogue Planet has phased with Earth. Superior Iron Man charges up Sol’s Hammer, his latest invention to deal with the situation, and obliterates Majestor’s fleet. That puts a major damper on the Shi’ar leader’s plans. Through this action, the Earth phases back to normal space. Iron Man is the saviour.

(b) The most memorable scene is T’Challa addressing POTUS Obama at the White House. There is no running away, no failsafe, no Hail Mary. He warns the leader of the free world as a courtesy. It is also a chance to die calmly and in peace rather than panic. The Black Panther also iterates that the incursion was unpreventable from the get-go.

(c) Steve Rogers, James Rhodes, Captain Marvel, Beast, Mr. Fantastic, and Invisible Woman convene. Reed mentions the slight possibility of coming out alive. The best individual to execute this is Tony Stark. Sue disagrees with Reed’s assessment. Steve emphasizes that Tony is not and never was an option. Another solution has to be found. Meanwhile, he has to give Mr. Stark a stern talking-to.

3.

    Earth-1610

{pp. 13-16, 19-24}

The past leads to the present. In this reality, Reed Richards went all megalomaniac and re-named himself The Maker. He created The City, a sentient that is exactly what its designation implies. Reed deems himself the do-gooder in this alternate universe. The Incursion is imminent as well but he’s been a busy bee destroying other worlds to preserve his.

Reed introduces General Nick Fury and Hawkeye to two members of the Cabal: Thanos and Maximus. The SHIELD operatives are informed that the latter hail from another Earth. Now that they have been appraised and are on board, City takes off to deal with the matter.

City lands in a desert region. A variant Earth is in sight surrounded by crimson skies. [Hey, isn’t that the Distinguished Competition’s thing?] Fury and Hawkeye are in awe of what they witness. The WorldWorm is about to be launched. It will insert a microscopic singularity into the core thus destroying it. After scanning, City deems it a ‘soft’ Earth meaning that it’s uninhabited. Mission accomplished. Fury is aghast.

Thanos seals the deal by informing the good guys that only two universes remain in all of reality: 1610 and 616. He convinces them to kill the heroes who are nothing but horrors. That is the only assurance of survival. Maximus is unsure of Fury’s compliance. He sees more with that one eye than most. He tells Thanos that his appearance alone does not make him trustworthy. Maximus is overjoyed since it will be a win-win situation for the Cabal.

Fury delivers an impassioned speech to the SHIELD agents. Sixty minutes are all that remain before it’s all over. Sacrifices must be made for the greater good. He will do it in the most valiant way possible: full throttle with guns blazing.

    Worlds Collide!!

Cap and Iron Man’s battle takes a turn for the worse. Tony blasts Cap in the face and presumably kills him. NO!! At that exact moment, the two Earths are dangerously close to colliding. For more, you gotta pick up SECRET WARS #1. Consarnit!!

Jonathan Hickman is one cagey bird. Of course things don’t wrap up neatly here. You have to follow the next chapter of his prolonged narrative. The heroes are helpless despite their best efforts. The villains are more competent. Is there a co-relation between evil and efficiency? He focuses on four characters here: Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, T’Challa, and The Maker. He flushes out each personality effectively. The ‘disjointedness’ emphasizes the scramble each universe is making to continue its existence.

Stefano Caselli and Kev Walker take turns tackling this extra-sized story. Stefano’s pencils are ragged and rough. I love the ‘shock tops’ on Tony and Steve. He brings fervent anger to the protagonists and highlights the determination in the other heroes. Kev Walker’s lines are more concrete. T’Challa is as regal and as imposing as ever. The villains are so subtly menacing that it’s eerie. Proper recognition must be given for the painstaking work in all the background stuff.

Frank Martin has the unique task of keeping it flow even though two individuals alternate. The blood-red skies are the selling point of this entire build-up. Page 35, panel 1 has two subtle shades of red: one for the broken pieces of Cap’s armor; the other for the scarlet shining of the rogue planet.

Cory Petit did something neat that I didn’t notice in the first reading. He used lower-case letters for the dialogue from the inhabitants of Earth 1610. This makes me wonder if that is meant to imply the ‘inferiority’ since the 616’ers (Thanos and Maximus) speak in all-caps. Mayhap it’s the reverse.

For a final issue, some things are left wanting. Since the nature of this serial is to continue in another format and venue, it is acceptable. Nevertheless, I will just say this — I miss the older versions of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The ideas can still be epic, but you need good old-fashioned action, blended with soap operatics to elevate their status. I never saw the point of stuffing a roster with 18-24 members simply to have them stand around, jibe non-stop, or give them minimal screen time while omega-level threats occurred. All the best to Mr. Hickman. His pitch sold all the big-wigs at Marvel but it’s time to go back-to-basics.

Avengers 44 Last Avengers Secret Wars

Going back to the Avengers’ hard cap regarding their membership, I give this book 7 out of 10.

Avengers Assemble again!!

Avengers card

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