*SPOILER ALERT* - Some key events of this comic book are mentioned within the review
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Jerome Opena & Dean White
Stewart R: Oh imagine it; to be able to take the epic-scale ideas wizardry of Jonathan Hickman’s writing, and to be able to slam it with the force of a rail gun into the otherworldly aesthetic stylings of Jerome Opena and the retina soothing colour skill of Dean White. Why, the violent fusion of such things would surely cause the comic progeny of such actions to shine with the greatest of intensities, bathing our bodies and minds in an illustrated illumination of ecstasy. Oh these dreams of marvellous possibilities that we can only ponder helplessly upon...
UNTIL (Marvel) NOW!!
I’ll admit that I’ve always been a fan of Marvel’s other team books - particularly the mutant variety - in preference over the original group of superheroes, but Avengers #1 is by far the best Avengers comic I have read in years. I’d expected good, nay great, things based purely on what I’d read about Hickman’s long term intentions and direction for the story, and somehow all of my hopes have been exceeded.
The first thing I truly love about this debut is the feeling that we’re being given a history lesson on events that have already happened; it feels as if this is a retelling of a legendary story rather than the reading audience witnessing the events with a sense of the present ‘real-time’ and it helps to enhance Hickman’s teasing opening. The wordsmith has a little play with the comic convention, placing the oft seen ‘Previously In Avengers’ as a header for page one to then kick things off with four panels depicting the prelude to and apparent birthing of the universe (or should that be 'a' universe??). It’s a great page which highlights the scope of Hickman’s general vision and just what sort of influence Earth’s Mightiest Heroes can have in their universe, despite being but a speck in one small corner of it.
Opena’s work in his opening salvo is just delicious, providing snapshots of wonder, and offering potential mystery in the same breath. Upon my first read through I thought that we were seeing glimpses of some events that had already transpired in Marvel history; the panel where the Shi’ar Imperial Guard were being ‘broken on the dead moon’ I took to be a reference to their historic battle against the X-Men, the panel with an Armada of ships I took to possibly refer to the Kree - Skrull war of famed Avengers lore, important conflicts of universal consequence, but the more I think about it I can’t help postulate that perhaps these are chapters of the Avengers story to come. Only time will tell...
From there things move into dynamic action territory as we are first introduced to the terrific new antagonists of the piece, The Garden, who instantly come across as something very different from the world-conquering power mongers who have threatened Earth on previous occasions, and then the titular heroes arrive on the scene. Opena’s characterisation is very distinctive for the members of The Garden who seem to represent life, destruction and the void that exists before and after, and Hickman’s dialogue ensures that they appear to be working to some cosmological driven plan rather than to their own ends.
The decision to have the initial Avengers roster here replicate that of the recent live action movie is of no real surprise and the masterstroke for me is that Hickman doesn’t hold back in making sure that these powerful heroes are not even allowed to get their footing before being dispatched. The Hulk is taken out of the game without unleashing the slightest ‘SMASH’, Iron Man can’t even get a repulsor blast off before he’s subdued and while Captain America’s last man standing routine is a brilliant nod to his never give up attitude it certainly brings the lightning quick skirmish to close with the heroes having been clearly handed their own posteriors. This humiliating loss instantly adds weight to the requirement to have an expanded Avengers roster and what follows then is one of those superb smile-inducing sequences that is an example of comic book storytelling; dramatic in delivery and subtle in its simplicity.
I don’t necessarily believe in Marvel’s continued insistence on trying to coax in ‘new readers’ - people who haven’t picked up their printed products previously - but if you were going to try to do that, especially after the aforementioned celluloid success of 2012, and appeal to the majority of comic book readers who regularly pick up Marvel’s wares, Avengers #1 is certainly a fine example on how you would lovingly piece together a script and breathtaking artwork in order to accomplish that. This ladies and gentlemen is by far the best debut from a Marvel NOW! title and I expect it to remain that way. Perfection. 10/10