For the most part Marvel NOW! has been quite the non-event. For weeks we’ve been bombarded with ads and hype for the next big ground breaking series, almost all of which have failed to deliver with only a few exceptions. The most notable of these exceptions to date is Avengers #1 written by Jonathan Hickman with Jerome Opena on art duties.
Amongst a myriad of average Marvel NOW! Titles, many of which already feature the Avengers, Avengers #1 stands out with its sharp artwork, cinematic layouts and dramatic storytelling. In just 22 pages Hickman and Opena accomplish what the entire Marvel Now event failed to do: Get me genuinely excited about the Marvel universe!
The issue opens with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark discussing the future of the Avengers, and although the events of Avengers vs X-men aren’t directly referenced, there is a real feeling of it having affected the standing of the Avengers in the Marvel Universe. The introductory pages linger on the phrase ‘We have to get bigger’ making it apparent that if this introductory issue does nothing else, it will justify Hickman’s decision to expand the roster to 18. And justify the decision it does, in dramatic Hickman fashion, by pitting the Avengers against a trio demigod like figures hell-bent on cleansing the earth of humanity.
As to be expected from the likes of Hickman the storytelling style is energetic but erratic, jumping from one different location and point in time to another. The book opens on Avengers tower but quickly jumps forward one month to a terraformed Mars where most of the action takes place. After a quick and brutal fight between the antagonists known only as Ex Nihlo, Aleph and Abyss, and the Avengers, the need for more than just six (Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow) becomes painfully apparent.
As well as laying the groundwork for the rest of his run on the title, Hickman delivers what is in itself an enjoyable and somewhat episodic story. The issue has a clear and methodical flow to it both beginning and ending on an emotional and narrative climax. This is comicbook drama at its finest, somewhat at the cost of humour. If you’re looking for a light-hearted take on Marvels’ premier superhero team this probably isn’t the book for you and although the plotting and pacing is immaculate individual characterisation is lacking. This isn’t to say Hickman can’t handle writing a team book but just don’t expect any Joss Whedon style character clashes in this issue.
Last, but certainly not least, is the stunning artwork of Jerome Opena. He really does bring his A-game to the book. His art is tight, dramatic and each member of the Avengers retains their iconic look, the perfect partner to Hickman’s bold writing style. The level of collaboration between these two is also evident with the book utilising well-constructed panels instead of dialogue whenever possible.
This book is easily the best thing to come out of Marvel Now, and deserves every piece of hype it gets. Hickman and Opena simultaneously bring the team back to its roots while charging forth in a new and unique direction. There is absolutely no doubt that the Avengers are in good hands.