“JONATHAN HICKMAN’S ‘AVENGERS’ RUN SO EPIC THAT IT COULDN’T BE CONTAINED IN TWO BOOKS OR EVEN BE WRITTEN ENTIRELY BY HIM!”
This is what should’ve been at the top of the press release announcing this new “Avengers” title in the wake of “Infinity.” I can’t think of a better way to describe this title’s existence as Hickman is telling one story from two sides in the core title and “New Avengers.” As far as I can tell, “Avengers World” exists to address not just some lingering subplots from these titles, but also in the writer’s other Marvel Universe titles as well. If you’ve read “Secret Warriors” or the first volume of the it’ll-be-finished-eventually “S.H.I.E.L.D.” then you’ll encounter some pleasant surprises in the story here. That being said, you’ve probably already guessed that this is a book for people already onboard with Hickman’s work. If you’re not already down with it, then I’m not sure even the wit of co-writer Nick Spencer will be able to win you over.
One of the major plot points of the latter half of “Infinity” was that after the Avengers helped turn the tide in the Builders’ invasion, the liberated worlds started calling themselves “Avengers Worlds” in a show of solidarity. I imagine it was certainly gratifying for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but what about Earth itself? Could it really be called an “Avengers World” with all of the different factions fighting for control over it behind the scenes? In order to help further safeguard the world, Captain America agrees to teaming the Avengers up with S.H.I.E.L.D. to better combat threats on a global scale. No sooner has he said this than A.I.M. Island starts evolving, Madripoor starts burning, and things start getting weird in a city of the dead under Italy.
I have a hunch that Marvel wants you to think that this is the “Avengers” book that takes place on a worldwide scale with bigger threats and more over-the-top action than its sister titles. Given that “Avengers” and “New Avengers” were already dealing with world-and-universe-ending events, I can’t quite buy that line of thinking. However, this first volume of “Avengers World” does a good job of serving up some epic-level superhero action. The threat of A.I.M. Island would be enough to build a book around, but when you throw in the other threats, with Madripoor’s crisis subsequently taking literal flight and a magic threat from the dead, things get crazy real quick. In fact, seeing what goes on here does manage to stretch one’s suspension of disbelief regarding how everyone here is supposed to cope with all of the action in this title, “Avengers” and their respective solo books (for those who have them).
Even with all of these threats, the series doesn’t forget the rather large cast it’s dealing with. Appropriately, some of the more prominent team members such as Wolverine and the Black Widow are put in the background so we can get to know the likes of Smasher, Shang-Chi, Starbrand and Manifold better. It’s an approach that works, particularly with Shang-Chi’s brand of ass-kicking. Though I’ll certainly concede that Manifold’s crisis of confidence was resolved quickly enough to make its inclusion as a plot point simply ridiculous.
I do think that a lot of the character interaction and dialogue we get in this volume is the work of Spencer rather than Hickman. There’s a snap to the text here that reads like it came from the man who gave us “Morning Glories” and “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” It’s most clearly seen in the dialogue that comes from Bruce Banner, as he owns pretty much every scene that he’s in here. As a co-writer, I get the impression that Hickman mainly provided the ideas and a plot outline for these issues here, giving Spencer a jumping-off point to do his thing. The apparent division of labor works here, though future volumes will show us whether or not Spencer can turn Hickman’s dense, idea-driven setup into his own proper beast.
He’ll have to do it without the help of this volume’s artist, Stefano Caselli, for the short term at least and that’s a shame. Caselli does “big” really well and his visions of an evolved A.I.M. Island and a flying dragon with an island on its head are really something to see. There’s also an element of extra cartoonishness to his character work that I really like. It helps lighten the tone and impress upon the reader that this is a giant adventure more than anything else.
It’s an adventure with a giant “To Be Continued!” at the end of this volume too. Hickman and Spencer don’t even pretend to come to a convenient stopping point with the fifth issue here. Once you get to the end, you will be left hanging and anticipating the big retaliatory strike against A.I.M. that’s set up there. This is a big drag, to be sure. Yet upon reaching that cliffhanger, I was upset with the fact that I was going to have to wait in order to find out next as opposed to being indifferent about it. I had become invested in the story that was being told here. Even if it is made up of the subplots from another book, “Avengers World” still makes for an engaging superhero read.