I got the first three trade paperbacks of Jonathan Hickman’s 2012 run on Avengers. I liked the first trade so much that I jumped into Comixology ready to pay (gasp!) full price on the next TPBs. But the very next one, volume, four costs a baffling twenty dollars! The only reason I could think about is because it is as Thanos storyline and what with Avengers Endgame Thanos comics are hot right now.
So I’ve decided to be happy with the first three collections for now.
The first collection contains the first six issues if Avengers (2012) – a series that ran for a total of fifty-two or fifty-three issues. If youtube is any indication, and I believe it is, the Hickman run is very much celebrated.
Hickman starts with a story arc for the first three issues and then goes into a showcase-type format for the last three issues focusing on three Avengers: Hyperion, Smasher and Captain Universe.
From the get go it is made clear to the readers that the direction for the Avengers is ‘bigger’. Both in team size and in story. The first story arc involves an invasion of sorts from Mars that reminded me very much of the second volume Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was in turn inspired by H.G. Well’s War of the World. Just goes to show that good stories will get retold over and over.
We are introduced to a core team of Avengers initially and the book will expand this foundational team later on. Still, the core team is quite formidable: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, the Wasp, and Hawkeye – a truly classic Avengers team if I ever saw one. This kind of lineup beggars the question: who will Hickman line up against what seems to be an unstoppable group of heroes. The answer is a trio: Ex Nihilo, Abyss, and Aleph. Ex Nihilo is a carbon-based version of Tony Stark, creating all sorts of things but not using electronics and machines but organic matter (and yes, he has some icky creations, but powerful). Aleph is an Ultron-like villain, a robot destroyer type. Abyss is hard to pin down. She seems to be made of smoke, and is therefore virtually invulnerable and she has a power that reminds me of Shadow Lass from the Legion of Super-Heroes but not quite. Abyss is a get-into-your-head-and-fuck-you-up type of opponent.
And so, yeah, this trio is very formidable. Formidable enough to require the Avengers to expand their roster. I won’t do a roll call of the many Avengers that have been added, but here are some thoughts on some of them . I love the old Master of Kung Fu series, and so did a lot of other people since the comic had a 100+ issue run before it got cancelled. That said, i was less than thrilled when I saw Shang-Chi being called into the ranks of the Avengers. I felt he was too underpowered to belong to the rands of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Happily, I would be proven wrong. Shang simply takes Kung-Fu to another level – a level good enough to make him a worthy Avenger. Not only does he do it in the first collection but on the second collection too. When Manifold got added in, I was like ‘yes, of course’. Manifold gives Hickman and the Avengers there ability to teleport from place to place. With the kind of scope that this book ins ambitious for it was either Manifold, Cloak or that girl from the X-Men, Cannonball’s old flame.
The story builds up wonderfully and ends satisfyingly – refreshingly not a traditional beat the bad guy to smithereens kind of tale. Jerome Opeña does the art and it is exquisite.
The next three issues are one shots focused on members to the expanded team.
The first point of focus is Hyperion, who is Marvel’s Superman. In the second collection the High Evolutionary will refer to him as a ‘sun god’ – if that’s not a near-tacit reference to Superman I don’t know what is. We are given a background history and here is where, once again, my knowledge of Marvel lore makes reading comics a richer experience. If I came into this issue with little or no background I would look at the flashback panels featuring the Squadron Supreme and no clue about those costumed heroes. Back in the day, I did read the Squadron Supreme maxi-series so the flashbacks were more relevant for me. Two things about the Hyperion issue. One, the Squadron Supreme and there entire universe is no more. Hyperion is the only survivor. Two: A.I.M. , who were also in the Mars story arc, showcases same awesome tech as they rescue Hyperion from a universe-destroying event. I would also like to note that A.I.M., not Hydra, is the choice for Hickman to bump intent with the Avengers. A.I.M. is the more scientific organization and is a better fit for these kind of stories. I also appreciate the upgraded, but still familiar, yellow A.I.M. jumpsuits.
The Smasher story adds a much welcome Shi’ar backdrop to the tale. Just as Hyperion is Marvel’s take on Superman, the Shi’ar Elite Guard, the Superguardsmen, is Marvel’s take on the Legion of Super-Heroes. Smasher has a great costume and wonderful powerset that I am hoping Hickman will show more of in future issues. The first three collections certainly does ot show enough.
The last issue of the collection focuses on Captain Universe. Well, no, it really doesn’t. It focuses on Captain Universes’ current host. Captain Universe is the embodiment of the universe (duh), and – since I’m on DC comparison tangent – is like the Spectre in the sense of needing a host in order to manifest. At the end of this issue Captain Universe is every bit as mysterious as when the issue began.
Art for these ‘showcase’ issues is handled by Adam Kubert. Sadly, Kubert falls below the standard set by Opeña, When I focus on the small panels they are sketchy and look hurried – Kubert makes up for it in the bigger panels and when doing extreme close ups.
All in all, it’s a satisfying trade and includes bonus material like the variant covers and sketches. A good buy and a great read.