We all knew when Jonathan Hickman took over the Avengers, things were going to get complicated. Hickman loves layered stories that are often dense and include multiple storylines. If you read what Hickman accomplished with the Fantastic Four, then you understand how interesting it was going to be having him write The Avengers. Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers was usually fun, sometimes amazing, but never overly complex. How was Hickman’s run going to compare with it?
Avengers #1 is exactly what you’d expect from a Hickman story. It’s complicated, it jumps timelines, involves multiple story arcs and is so well-crafted that you never lose a beat. This is a darker and more serious Avengers. It seems Hickman is trying to show how the expansion of The Avengers is a necessary evil in the face of all the enemies gunning for them. From the opening panels, Hickman takes the best superhero team in history and dwarfs them. Instead of the all-encompassing power they are always touted as, these Avengers are made smaller by the sheer mass of the evil they fight. This simultaneously makes them less an unstoppable force and more heroic.
Hickman opens the book with quick flashes of varying scenes that have no meaning before settling on Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, the core of the group. Rogers is having nightmares centered around his work with the Illuminati, while Stark is having visions of an Avengers World, a place where all heroes can be called to arms if the situation dictates it. Jump ahead one month to mars, where Ex Nihilo has terraformed the planet into a lush green forest. Feeling his need to spread this life giving ability, Ex Nihilo sends his green force to Earth, where it begins changing the evolution of the planet.
Jump ahead another month and here come the Avengers, ready to slap down this alien force. Problem is, they get beaten, badly, with only Captain America sent back to Earth to tell our planet that the change is coming. So what does Cap do? He summons other heroes to go back and fight again. The book ends with the other heroes heeding the call. It’s time to fight, its time to save the original Avengers and Jonathan Hickman proves it’s time for his run on the world’s greatest superhero team to begin.
Jerome Opeña does a masterful job of bringing Hickman’s written words to life. His penciling style is the same as Hickman’s writing, layered and complex. Opena’s eye for detail is matched only by his love of shadow and texture. Check out Captain America’s costume, you can almost feel it. Same with the look of Iron Man or the cross etching to give Thor’s face a weathered and beaten look. I was especially pleased with the ¾ page panel depicting the Avengers landing on Mars. It’s a tremendous nod to Jack Kirby’s original Hulk work and I appreciate that.
Hickman is a writer of unmatched ability and Opeña’s art is staying with him every step of the way. Avengers #1 is bold, exciting and instantly addicting. Jonathan Hickman is taking The Avengers down a whole new path.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)