When Jonathon Hickman sets out to put his stamp on a book he really goes all out. Avengers #1, the reboot featuring his debut, was a complex intro to his first arc, and Avengers #2 makes it look like a coloring book. Short only of a spider web, fewer things have as many interwoven strands as this second Avengers book. Hickman seems to be taking Avengers in the same direction Alan Moore once took Swamp Thing - from superhero to an almost god-like entity.
Those god-like ideals start right at the beginning of Avengers #2. We open with the story of The Builders, the very first race of sentient beings to exist in any universe. At first, they simply attempted to better themselves ,but soon they decided that all other races which couldn’t evolve into what The Builders wanted needed to be eviscerated. To do this, The Builders created robots to fly throughout the universe and either create life or destroy it. One particular death machine found a planet that he wanted to see evolve, so he created Ex Nihilo and his sister Abyss. This is all told within the first few pages of Avengers #2.
Leaping forward to the present, Hickman spreads his story even further. On one side, he’s reinventing the Avengers by showing us Steve Rogers and Tony Stark discussing the evolution of the team. The core remains the same but, when necessary, the team needs to expand. On the other side, we have the actual storyline where the captured core Avengers - Hulk, Thor, etc. - are powerless to watch Ex Nihilo, Abyss and their robot Aleph launch an attack on Earth featuring giant bugs, plant life and other bits of organic matter attempting to attach itself to the planet and help it “evolve.” By the end, we have new Avengers and a final desperate attempt to save the world.
In a lesser author’s hands, this type of layered comic book could be either convoluted or horribly boring. Hickman is so fine a storyteller that, instead of pitfalls or problems, he’s generating real anticipation that the greatest superhero team of all time is on the doorstep of something incredibly new and exciting. For the last several years, Brian Michael Bendis has kept Avengers as a strictly A to Z adventure series. Hickman seems to see the Avengers in a bigger light and, with only two issues under his belt, he’s laid the foundation for what could be the best Avengers run yet.
Helping to construct this storytelling juggernaut is artist Jerome Opeña, who pencils with as much complex style as Hickman writes. Detail is king to Opeña, and he wields the pencil in such away that all his panels are as intricate as possible. Whether simple dialogue scenes or elaborate action, Opeña uses his combination of fine art style and thin pencils to give each page depth and emotion. It takes quite an artist to match a writer like Hickman. Jerome Opeña does it flawlessly.
The new age of The Avengers raises the game higher than we ever though possible.