Off the back of the critically acclaimed Secret Warriors, Fantastic Four and FF– not to mention Image Comics’ The Manhattan Projects – Jonathan Hickman has replaced Warren Ellis as Marvel Comics’ go-to-guy for grand scale cosmic melodrama, with a side-order of sheer bloody weirdness.
Teaming with artist Jerome Opeña (Punisher, Uncanny X-Force) for but one of Marvel NOW!’s many rebooted incarnations of The Avengers, Avengers World focuses on a wider global network of heroes who respond to the biggest, baddest world destroying threats – bringing in the obvious stalwarts like Wolverine, Spider-Man (in his douchebag Superior incarnation), Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel, some wildcard choice C-listers like X-Force/New Mutants‘ Sunspot and Cannonball, and Shang Chi, Master of Kung-Fu, and a couple of new or forgotten legacy characters – a new human member of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, Manifold from Hickman’s Secret Warriors, and an all-new Captain Universe and Hyperion.
While the focus quickly shifts to the smaller characters, their back stories and neuroses, Avengers World feels like a lot of things we’ve already seen.
The set-up where the original Avengers are captured on a mission and Captain America is forced to assemble a new squad to rescue them is straight out of the iconic Giant-Size X-Men #1, while the misfit mix of odd characters echoes Matt Faction’s dearly missed Defenders, with the general vibe of gods fighting among themselves falls somewhere between Warren Ellis’ run on The Authority and Grant Morrison’s Justice League.
It’s not bad, just difficult to reconcile all of these disparate story elements as we go from mad space entities terra-forming Mars and trying to do the same on Earth in what feels like a rather too glib three issue arc considering the implied destruction, to Sunspot and Cannonball bickering with Spider-Man over half-eaten leftovers.
It’s not exactly an effective Chris Claremont-style move from high drama to personal conflict, because these three characters barely contributed to the actual battle on the surface of Mars, making it look entirely as if they were added to the roster for the sake of overcooked comic asides.
Between the energetic art of Opeña and the story seeds sown by the new cosmic heroes on the team, there’s a lot worth sticking around for. It’s particularly fun to have everyone’s third favourite Seventies back-up character, Captain Universe, get a bit of the treatment that Mar-Vell’s legacy received in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, but one cannot award kudos for things that might happen in the future, can we?