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Avengers #3: Life and Death

The fate of the world is in the balance, and Hickman is bringing heavy metaphor into the mix.

Avengers #3

Usually, comic book heroes are defending us against forces that will destroy the universe. Writer Jonathan Hickman has decided the Avengers will actually battle the universe itself. Well, at least two children of the Universe. As Hickman is prone to do, the end of this first Avengers story arc has multiple plot points firing at the same time. There is a method to Hickman’s madness, a deeper meaning to what he’s doing. It’s the kind of story telling that helps raise comic books into the arena of literature.

The children of the universe, Ex-Nihilo and Abyss, the brother and sister created by a higher sentience, have decided to wipe out the current inhabitants of Earth and restart the biology of the entire planet. To complete their new Earth, the brother and sister team have created a new life, a humanoid child that will lead the new Earth into a blissful existence. The only problem are the Avengers, who don’t take kindly to people attacking their home world. So the Avengers attacked and they lost, badly. Thor, Hulk, all the heavy hitters are either captured or under mind control, only Captain America was sent back to Earth to deliver the message of the new dawn.

Instead of folding his star spangled tent, Cap rallies the other troops and they rise to defend the Earth. Avengers #3 is the final chapter for Ex Nihilo, Abyss and their protector Aleph, though not the way you think it would. Sure, there is fight, and sure, Hulk battles Hyperion while under mind control, but that’s not the key to the story. That key comes with the arrival of the actual Universe, or at least the embodiment of it. She demands that Ex Nihilo and Abyss end their destruction of Earth because they are insufficient enough to create their own world. In short, the children of the universe are scolded by their mother.

In lesser hands, this type of story could seem boring, even pretentious. With Hickman at the helm, there reads a deeper message, one that is only clear at the end. When asked by Abyss why they think the Earth was spared, he says simple “It’s an Avengers world.” That’s when it clicks, Hickman’s deeper meaning. This was a story arc that reintroduces us to the Avengers. Not as movie stars, not as a cartoon, but as the greatest superhero team ever put together. It also allows the Marvel Universe to shed the shackles of the old idea of Avengers and introduce the concept of the team being a constantly revolving source of power, driven by the core of two men. Captain America and Iron Man. It’s heady stuff and Hickman nails it across the board.

While the story of Avengers #3 has great depth, the art really doesn’t. Jerome Opeña’s work is so hit and miss that the visuals never get a good rhythm going. Some of his work with faces is great, others are much too cartoonish to blend with the rest of the art. I enjoy how he renders the Hulk and Captain America, but his Tony Stark and Thor are sloppy. Where Opeña shines is delivering action, when Hulk punches Hyperion, you feel it. It isn’t that Opeña is untalented, it’s more that some pages are glorious and others extremely average.  It might not be so noticeable with a lesser story, but here the art failings are painfully obvious.

8

(5 Story, 3 Art)