Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 12.05.2012 – Avengers #1

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

1218
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 67.6%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Jerome Opeña
Colors by Dean White
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Dustin Weaver, Skottie Young, Esad Ribic, J. Scott Campbell

Size: 32 pages
Price: 3.99

Say what you will about the various relaunches, reboots and other methods of driving sales by the major comic book publishers, but there’s something bubbling under the surface while all that pomp and circumstance is happening. We may not realize it, but I believe we’re currently in the middle of the ever cyclical changing of the guard in terms of comics talent. As far as I can tell from my years of comic book collecting, this changeover happens every 5 to 8 years, as we see a shifting of the names of the people making the comics that we rave about, and the manner that they go about it. I don’t believe Marvel NOW! or DC’ The New 52 or Image’s Experience Creativity is the start of this shift, I think it began a couple of years ago, but if anything this year has been the apex of that new period and no other book embodies this more than Avengers #1 from Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña.

Launching the fifth volume of Marvel’s flagship team book at this point in time is tricky business. Not only did Brian Michael Bendis, Marvel’s premiere writer and talent, just wrap up his run of 8 years on the title, but there’s also the 1 billion dollar plus elephant in the room thanks to this year’s blockbuster movie release of Marvel’s The Avengers casting a long shadow over all of Marvel’s Avengers related releases. As a new age of titles roll out at Marvel Comics, the choice to hand the franchise to Jonathan Hickman as the writer is a telling one. Say what you will about Marvel’s various editorial choices, but if anything, this move will mark the editorial reign of Axel Alonso as editor-in-chief as one that is willing to challenge readers with a more modern approach to superheroes.

Following long running acts often leaves a writer with no choice but to take a radical change in direction. This decision to change in direction can be risky, because you gamble with the established audience’s willingness to try something new. Luckily though, Marvel has seem several successful changes in direction in recent months. Led by Mark Waid guiding Daredevil out of the darkness and into the light, the 180 change is now becoming something expected during this Marvel NOW! roll out, such as Rick Remender’s turn towards sci-fi/action with Captain America after Ed Brubaker’s nostalgic espionage-filled run. So what change has Hickman made on Avengers after following Bendis? Not surprising to me at all, a Hickman fan, that his response to Bendis’ character and dialogue driven approach would be much quieter and focused on action and driving the plot forward, all the while combining what we know and would expect from the Avengers, and at the same time, injecting something new.

Worrying very little about setup, Hickman throws the reader into his new world order of the Avengers. Going with a team lineup that is both traditional and familiar to fans of the movie, we get a glimpse of behind the scenes preparations by Iron Man and Captain America, and a nod to the past (the early first days of the Avengers) while plotting for the future. It’s almost as if it’s an intended metaphor for what Hickman is beginning to unravel with his run on Avengers. We get a sense of preparations by Stark based on the words of Captain America says, “We have to get bigger.” It’s that simple line of dialogue that encapsulates what Hickman is doing with the Avengers.

Giving us glimpses of what is to come, we are introduced to a new villain, Ex Nihilo (Latin for “out of nothing”) who has terraformed Mars. Without debate, the Avengers respond and are summarily flattened by Ex Nihilo and his forces, leaving Captain America to escape back to Earth with a warning of what’s to come. The economy of story telling as this plot develops is what stunned me. All of the above occurs in the span of 10 or so pages. No debating, no discussing around a table, no snappy banter. Just jumping right into the action. It’s a statement within itself as Hickman’s modern manner of comics settles in. Not quite as challenging as his creator owned work, but even within the confines of Marvel Comics, Hickman makes you work for it, and when you do, the results are more than satisfying.

Continuing the changing of the guard in comics talent, I cannot express how happy it makes me to see the artist leading the charge (at least at Marvel) for bringing in the “new” approach to comics is Jerome Opeña. A talented artist that we saw greatness from years ago in the pages of Fear Agent, Opeña wowed the world with his work on Uncanny X-Force two years ago, but with Avengers #1, it’s clear that Uncanny X-Force was simply an opening act. Paired with the always amazing Dean White, Opeña forges a new look for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes that is as perfect a pairing to Hickman’s tonal shift in the book as there can be. Elegantly, subtle and beautiful, each page by Opeña and White deserves to be drooled over. His visualization and character design of Ex Nihilo is both intriguing and threatening at the same time. His representation of these characters in the Avengers that we’ve known and read for decades is at the same time fresh and accessible, even to fans coming from the movies. Opeña’s art has a gentle manner of reaching the reader with an evocative approach, while at the same time balancing the pace and action of the story. There is no way any Marvel Comics fan reaches the last page of this book and isn’t completely excited and inspired for more.

As the next age of comics gets ushered in across all the publishers, it gives me hope for the future of with creators like Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña at the helm. As if following the work of Bendis wasn’t enough, these guys are working to outdo even themselves. With a modern style and approach, the future of comics is here with Avengers #1 and it’s a bigger world that I cannot wait to get lost in. Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four or Opeña’s work on Uncanny X-Force set the bar, but it’s clear with this first issue that their work on Avengers #1 will obliterate all expectations.

Ron Richards
Let’s be honest, he had me at the chart
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. This was a good debut issue, but where was the fun? With FF and Manhattan Projects, Hickman has made me laugh many times. This issue felt much more serious and I hope it lightens up a bit. That said, I was hesitant to pick this up in the first place and will pick the next one up for sure. Not sure if I have seen Opena’s art before but it sure is pretty.

    • Guess you haven’t read just about everything else Hickman’s ever written. Did you not read Fantastic Four? Not exactly a chuckles book.

    • I don’t think this issue was supposed to be “fun”. Hell, it’s an issue of the classic Avengers getting curbstomped for pete’s sake. Considering the new superroster has Logan and Spidey on it (and part of the same subteam if I’m reading the diagram correctly), I’m sure you’ll find your fun in the coming issues.

    • Actually j206, I read every issue of F4 Hickman and there was a lot of humor in there. I guess it’s just the aftereffects of the movie, which had some fun stuff in there with all the end of the world seriousness. I’m not a hater, I guess it was just a little different from what I thought it would be.

    • I laughed at the yield bit.

      I may be a bad person.

    • No the yield bit was hillarious.

    • I really enjoyed the story. I thought Hickman did a great job and I enjoyed the issue as a whole. My only complaint is the scene of Hulk running. In my opinion that scene was horrific. Story was great but that scene almost ruined the entire issue for me. I will probably read issue two but if there is another hulk with that stupid look I will have to drop it immediately.

  2. I’m not even half way through my stack yet and I can already say that this is gonna be my pick of the week. Everything about this issue was well done and it’s done a good job of getting me excited for what’s to come.

  3. This was everything I could’ve wanted & more, I had no idea what to expect of an Avengers book since I’ve never owned one before, so this was all relatively new for me. But not really being a fan of super-team books (except for the good old JSA & obviously Hickmans Fantastic Four run) especially a major one like The Avengers this really excited me & filled me with such intrigue for what is to come with this series & the New Avengers.

    I certainly can’t wait for two weeks time for #2, which I’m sure will be my POTW again!

  4. Great issue and I can’t wait for more. This has the potential to be the fourth book in the “perfect comic list” currently being printed, along with such titles as:

    Batman
    Saga
    Hawkeye

  5. This is by far my fave marvel now book wow

  6. I mentioned this in another thread and it warrants repeating here. This book is everything that JLA #1 should have been to kick off the new 52.

    • I think you were referring to Johns and Lee’s Justice League, but speaking of JLA, this issue reminds me a lot of Grant Morrison’s JLA #1 from over a decade ago.

    • I agree

    • I was referring to the Johns/Lee book, and my flubbing the title shows the problem with that book. It’s just….there. This on the other hand was the perfect way to kick off the new era, it was BIG and grandiose, this book MATTERS. Where thus far in Justice League the character development has been minimal, I have never seen Superman be just so…irrelevant. But the way that Cap is going to rally his new troops, some of which I didn’t recognize, looks like its going to fun and exciting. Which is great for the flagship team book.

  7. I loved this issue. It was a fantastic way to lead into Hickman’s run. I have been a huge fan of Opena’s for quite a while, but the only thing that irked me…and I hate to nitpick on this issue, but everything else worked so well, but his Hulk just…didn’t…quite…work for me. It looks like Tim Sale’s Hulk from Hulk: Grey. Everyone else was spot on looks wise. It was just the Hulk was…lacking to me.

  8. I love how casually Hickman dismissed the “movie team”, pointing out how powerless they are. After years of trying to make comics more like movies (I look at you, Bendis), this is finally saying ‘F– that”, comics should be comics. Comics should be villains we could never CGI, Mars terraforming, a team of 28 heroes we could never cast, and stakes bigger than the big screen could handle. HIckman usually does this very well and quite naturally (capturing the “unfilmable, unadaptable nature of the medium) and it seems he’s bringing his A-game to Avengers. So unbelievably refreshing.

    Sure they’re going to be back (as leaders of all the sub-sets of heroes, if one looks at the chart), but I saw the brilliant idea of completely invalidating (and then expanding on) the “core” team as a very poignant and effective commentary on that. The only reason we regard those 6 as core anything is because they made a billion dollar movie out of it. Comics have infinite budgets. Who’s to say they can’t be better than the movies.

    After a disappointing year completely encroached in Avengers vs. X-men, I feel that Marvel has really grasped something and are going in the right direction.

    On the other hand of the spectrum, you get something like Hawkeye, which is “pure” funny book, and then you get this, which promises to be all the blockbuster we could ever want, all the time, for 3 years and more, if we’re lucky. If we’re so lucky…

    • Don’t agree.

      This comic felt like the Avengers movie. Funny you use the term blockbuster in your last paragraph.

      Also, I wouldn’t underestimate special effects.

      The reason why Thor, Iron Man and Captain America are the core of the Avengers is there long history with the team. The movie has nothing to do with that.

      I think you are too concerned with the film.

    • I agree with tittom. To quote cap- “We have to get bigger” They would could never release this as a movie because its too complex and simple at the same time.

    • If you look at it in terms of a single issue, sure. This could be a movie. But in terms of what Hickman promises, it’s far bigger than that.

      Sure, history has a big part to play in the film incarnation of the Avengers. You couldn’t have the Avengers without Thor, Cap, Hulk & Iron Man But Hawkeye & Black Widow? Please. This is in no way a roster that is set in stone.

      I think Hickman begins his story with the “movie team” very deliberately. The team would’ve been different in a world where the feature film doesn’t exist.

      There are millions of ways to look at this issue. The only reason I was concerned with the film is that it relates to the precise the point I was trying to argue around. Hickman himself has said that the mindset for this new volume was “we made the film, now what comes next”. Whether this was imposed by editorial, or Hickman’s idea doesn’t really matter. I was trying to argue he uses the “film” team quite brilliantly.

      And by that I mean he uses them to set up things and them moves on to better things.

      Now whether this comic felt like “the” Avengers movie, or even like a movie is a whole different conversation. I don’t think it particularly felt like Whedon’s film, but if we’re talking about it feeling cinematic, then I’m all there. It getting past the film and it feeling cinematic is different, I think. Opena’s art style is incredibly cinematic, and so is Hickman’s use of ellipsis, or the way he cuts from scene to scene, so to speak. So in that sense, using the term “blockbuster” is entirely justified, I think.

    • Now, I agree.

  9. Did anyone else think this echoed the Uncanny X-Men story with the original team being held on Krakoa or whatever that island is called?

    I enjoyed this BTW.

    • Do you know what issues of what run? I haven’t read that. Personally, I was reminded of Hickman’s own run of The Ultimates, ha ha.

      I’m sure they have different goals, but the “building” aspect of both The Maker aka Ultimate Reeds Richards and Ex Nihilo were too hard to ignore.

    • I don’t remember but it is very well known.

      Cyclops escapes the island (or is released on purpose) and Professor X recruits a new team of X-Men including Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and others to go save the original team.

      They are even held by vegetation/earth.

    • That’s from Giant Size X-Men #1, which was the start of Claremont’s run on the book.

    • My thoughts exactly. After reading it, I felt this is was essentially pulled right from Giant Sized X-men. I’m inclined to believe it’s intentional (how could it not? it’s one of the most famous x-men stories), but it may have worked a bit better if Hickman had someone make a comment aside somewhere just to acknowledge the similarities (because they are plentiful).

      @Balefuego just an FYI, it wasn’t actually Claremont’s first issue. Giant sized was written by Len Wien, but it basically led into Claremont’s stuff so it’s an understandable mistake 😉

  10. I loved the crap out of this.

    I am looking at this last page and I don’t know who all these people are and that is awesome.
    I believe the one behind Cap’s left shoulder is the teleporter from Secret Warriors but who is the woman on the far left and the guy between Wolverine and Sunspot?

    • I’m pretty sure the girl is Smasher (new character, from the Imperial Guard) and the guy is supposed to be Shan-chi, new costume and all…I’m sure we’ll get proper spotlights in coming issues.

    • I didn’t know the name, but that woman definitely reminded me of the imperial guard. And while the dude could be Shang-chi, I think it’s actually Lei-Kung the Thunderer (I believe he’s an immortal weapon like iron fist?). He was a background character in AVX and I’m pretty sure his symbol is the “brick wall” icon we see on the chart (which I find totally fascinating, by the way.)

    • I don’t think Lei Kung has ever been shown without a mask, and Hickman has confirmed that Shang-Chi is on the team.

    • @balefuego: I think you’re right (it looks like the same outfit Shang-Chi wore in that awesome Warren Ellis/Davis Aja issue of Secret Avengers), but that’s definitely Lei-Kung’s icon on the chart. I think it’d be cool if they were both on the team!

    • Hyperion and the Whizzer from JMS’ Supreme Power are also in there too. Hickman even reference Hyperion in the opening pages and again later on in shackles, which leads me to believe he may have big plans for this character. Kinda exciting 🙂

  11. Really great issue, although I’m not sure how long Marvel will let Hickman do his own thing with the team. He’s clearly got something else in mind then just mindless fighting and bickering. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing to smarten up the book, but will casual fans stay with it? I gotta think some fans were left scratching their head with the opening pages and the patent Hickman-graphics.

    Hellboy in Hell was my POTW though. Holy crap was Mignola back on art a sight for sore eyes.

  12. Unable to enjoy a good thing while it’s happening, I’m already wondering how soon the next big event / crossover will derail this title.

    • Hickman is apprently ignoring Age of Ultron and just contiuning with his stories for the first year. So no event will derail it for at least the first year.

  13. Anyone else intrigued by…who exactly is narrating this? It might become clearer later, but it was beyond ominous here, especially how it used the past tense at the end. “We were Avengers”. This is someone on the team/formerly on the team. And should we assume the worst? Ah!! And I might just be reading too much into this…but I really don’t think so…

  14. Great review, Ron! While this issue didn’t knock my socks off as I’d hoped, it was certainly a refreshing change of pace. I’m in for an arc, at the least.

  15. I loved this more than i thought i would. Loved the story and tone, and the art was really sweet. Very promising first issue and i’m excited to see where he takes it. Also, I appreciate Hickman’s sense of design and how he incorporates it into his storytelling and i know he considers this part of his “brand”. However, I will say that there is a fine line between branding and repeating the same creative solution over and over again, and i feel that he’s doing a bit of the latter with this and his other books. I think he has some room within the design aesthetic he created for himself to spread his wings a bit more. We’re still gonna know its a Hickman either way, so he doesn’t have to be so heavy handed with his brand identity.

  16. I know I’m in the minority but this issue did less than nothing for me.

    The Hulk is drawn like Arnold Schwarzenneger. Not the Conan version but the Governor. Hulk looked like an aging, out of shaoe body-builder, skin hanging off of once great muscles. Hulk looked more gaunt than powerful.

    Captain America delivered some extremly cheesy worthless throwaway lines that were intended to show he’ll never give up? I thought his abilities were tactics, martial arts, agility, etc but instead he throws his sheild once then gets punched in the face repeated while continuing to reiterate he’ll never give up. Cliche much?

    Hulk is brainwashed into thinking Thor believes he is stronger than the Hulk. Never seen that before either…

    Iron man is taken down because his suit, which can survive space and deep water depths somehow doesn’t know how to seal itself…

    What?

  17. I was so-so on this issue after initially reading it. But after reading more glowing reviews elsewhere I’ve really come around. A book like this needs a pretty deep read to get to some of the themes that are hinted at. Definitely Pick of the Week.

  18. This was Avengers Inc…

    Really unimpressed as it was a generic #1 with no real fun to be had and in a week of some great books too.

  19. Really enjoyed this and am looking forward to picking up and seeing where it goes. I too was taken in by the charts.

    Hickman related question that I haven’t been able to find an answer to: What happened to volume 2 of S.H.I.E.L.D. ? Did it get cancelled or is it on hold? last issue I can find is #4.

    • I read in a forum on CBR that with Weaver doing Avengers #7 – 10, he’s working on the last two issues of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well, lets face it hopefully by the end of next year they’ll be out & Weaver obviously isn’t a fast artist!

    • I’ve heard that Hickman is planning to weave some elements from SHIELD and Secret Warriors into this Avengers run (starting, it seems, with Eden). How cool would it be in Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the 6 unrevealed Avengers…

    • That would be good especially since both those series are excellent!

  20. Have to disagree. I had high hopes for this book – perhaps too high – and while this was a fine issue, it was far from what I expected, or what I wanted.

    “Good” is a fair description, for me. A set up issue that felt like a set up issue, that was riddled with cliche, action that felt phoned in, and cardboard characters.

    Interesting villains — villains I want to know more about — with little personality or definition.

    A plot that is essentially identical to Giant Sized X Men.

    Gorgeous art from Opena.

    Was this a good set up issue? Yup. But it’s promising, and interesting, more than it is engaging or compelling.

    For me, Action Comics, Dial H, Animal Man, and Earth 2 were all better this week.

  21. Not my pick, since I’m out on Marvel. No $3.99 for big two.

    I’ll go with HELLBOY IN HELL #1.

  22. So, can someone explain to me what separates uncanny avengers from the avengers (like as the purpose of having 2 titles)?

    • AVENGERS is just The Avengers. UNCANNY AVENGERS is a team comprised half of Avengers and half of X-Men formed in the spirit of healing after Avengers vs. X-Men.

  23. Not sure I understand the wisdom of creating yet another version of Hyperion. Why not just create a new Superman analogue altogether?

  24. I agree that the Bendis run has ended with a whimper but so far this title (and Uncanny Avengers) have been about as exciting to read as a obit section. While I realize that people would lose the will to live if Thor, Iron Man, Cap, etc weren’t part of the line-up it just seems like when you start pulling in every former X-man and some of the Marvel Knights cast you are going to get a weak team that could never hold their own against the Masters of Evil or Ultron. The current roster is redundant and boring and this storyline seemed created to only have the “main” team get beat-up so they could debut a group of either unknown heroes or people who we last saw fighting against the Hand or AIM but now they are up for a battle with a group that took Thor out of action.

    Characters chosen to be Avengers used to be compelling but now it is like a Justice League Europe team. I’m ready to yell Avengers Disassemble already.

  25. I wasn’t gonna get this, and I scoffed at it being POTW (because I knew Ron had the pick), but this was actually pretty darn good and I will continue reading it. I give it 4/5. Some of the art was really gorgeous, but that shot of Hulk running forward once they get to the planet was goofy looking – maybe he was mid-transformation, but that was some weak sauce.