Thursday, 6 December 2012

New Beginnings - Avengers #1

As part of the Marvel Now musical chairs, the Avengers franchise bids farewell to Brian Michael Bendis, and welcomes former Fantastic Four, FF and SHIELD writer Jonathan Hickman in to the fold.

Instead of being a complete new beginning, there is a slight external influence as the team and story builds from the success of the recent films we've seen with Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor and Hulk being the starting point.

Hickman is well known for his science fiction stories that push humanity to their potential greatness, from both the aforementioned Marvel titles and things like Red Wing and Manhattan Projects, which bodes well for Avengers and New Avengers. From the cover of issue #1 the story promised to be a strong one. Opening with a quick retro story, this issue is more about the why than the what. It also laces you with ideas and teasers, such as the variety of broken armours in one frame or the intergalactic war that is poised in the preceding image too.

One element of this is Ex Nihilus and his godlike fascination with terraforming Mars and the Earth into something new and better. Ex Nihilus appears to be a new enemy; his name is from the latin for “From Nothing” and is therefore ironic in his approach - trying to renew the Earth into something far more advanced. To be honest it is very “Wrath of Khan” in its approach, but as a catalyst to prompt the Avengers is works perfectly.

Unfortunately for them this isn’t Star Trek and one by one they are all neutralised - starting with Hulk himself surprisingly. Seeing Captain America as a symbol held high by humanity, he is unceremoniously thrown back to Earth - beaten, battered and broken. But instead of humbling them it did the complete opposite. A rally cry was sent out calling those who would stand with him - and what hero wouldn’t stand with him?

With the simple words of “Assemble at dawn,” a new, diverse, roster of Avengers has been brought together.

Hickman’s story is a compelling and motivating one. You feel for Captain America and can understand his drive without it even being stated or pushed. I also liked the understated third party narrative which floats in and out. It’s clear who it is, but it ultimately asks a bigger question of why?

Jerome Opena is the artist for this issue and his work is most recently on display in Uncanny X-Force. On the whole I really like it with a lot of fine detail and great linework, however I disliked his interpretation of Hulk. Very retro indeed and he lost some of the presence that he had under the pen of other artists. I’m also not sure if it is meant to be the overwhelming tone but characters also seem to be very solemn with a lot of downturned facial expressions.

There is one other thing that I did really like from the artwork - which wasn’t really an integral part of it, but does make a fleeting show in the background – the Avengers sign complete with new extra adornments surrounding it. It’s simple, clean but also diverse too. I can’t put a finger on it completely, but the design is attractive and hints at increasing links between this new larger roster.

As a first issue, it is a cracker. It sets up for a whole lot more and with Hickman it promises to be a lot.
It’ll be interesting to see how long he will stay on the title and where he takes it - but since he just did three years with the Fantastic Four, it’s a ride worth taking.

Matt Puddy is wondering what magic Hickman will bring to New Avengers...

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