By Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena & Dean White
United to face a threat that none of them could handle alone, the Avengers are the Marvel Universe’ most powerful heroes. This game plan ran into some problems when in-fighting prevented the team from working together and when threats came from within the group itself. One-time Avenger Simon Williams AKA Wonder Mam actively accused the Avengers as being more of source of chaos than one of order. As foes became more organized and deadlier, it became clear that the Avengers needed to completely rethink how they functioned.
They had to be not only better, but bigger… and just in time to meet is most cosmos-staggering nemesis.
The latest issue opens with a montage of events including the return of Hyperion (from the Squadron Supreme), the fall of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, an intergalactic war, the vestiges of an Iron Man armor war and Ex Nihilo playing god of Mars. Crafting bombs that cause the wild generation of vegetable matter, he has every intention of declaring himself a grand creator of the universe, bowing to no one… until the Avengers show up, that is.
Re-imagined and revamped, it’s not just Hickman’s Avengers who are bigger and better but the threats have also been raised to another level. When Brian Michael Bendis took when he arrived, he razed the mansion to the ground and started from scratch. This time around, we are seeing a danger far greater than before that demands the response of the Avengers and in a more organized fashion.
Thor, Hawkeye, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk and Black Widow (yes, the same team as seen in the motion picture), attempt to stop Ex Nihilo before he even gets started, but get their asses handed to them, and quickly. The action, artwork, plotting and even humor are excellent in this issue. Seeing Iron Man and Captain America cheerfully and loosely talk shop is reminiscent of the old days which are of course shattered when the enemy is met.
Encountering defeat, Ex Nihilo returns a battered Captain America back to Earth in a crippled Quinjet as a warning. Cap turns that action into a call to arms, one that puts Stark and Roger’s plans forward. Assembling a carefully chosen team, Cap prepares for the mother of all cosmic battles (and it’s only issue two!).
Organization is a key strength of Hickman’s who had excelled at an impressive level of details in his runs on SHIELD, Fantastic Four and Secret Warriors. In each of his previous Marvel series, Hickman meticulously planned out his plots and the usage of each character. Bendis leaves behind him a readership who may be split on their opinions regarding his work, but the staggering size of his body of work cannot be denied. He shepherded the Avengers through the most dynamic period of its long history. Hickman will no doubt build upon that and take it to another level.
The complex wheel seen throughout the issue fits with Hickman’s other works and hints at things to come. I have been very happy with where Marvel has taken the Avengers throughout the past seven years or so. The series has set a new standard for superhero team books that is without equal. I have every confidence that Hickman and Opena will take things even further.
If you are a fan of the classic series, the film or the hit animated series, you should check this out. I’m still unclear on how this will play into the sister series New Avengers or if it will match up with Uncanny Avengers, but it will be interesting to see.