Avengers Volume 1: Avengers World
Marvel Comics, $24.99, color, 152 pages
Reprinting Avengers #1-6
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jerome Opena, Adam Kubert
Avengers is what Uncanny Avengers should have been.
It's hard to review a Hickman book, because he plays the long game -- everything he's planted here probably won't see fruit for months, if not years! So you have to pick smaller bits to talk about. Here are some of the things I liked (and didn't like):
* There are X-Men on the team, and it is unremarkable. Uncanny Avengers makes a big deal out of having mutants on the team, as if mutants in the Avengers is something new (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, anybody? Beast?). This approach is better. Plus, as I say at length in my Uncanny Avengers Volume 1 review, writer Rick Remender just botches the whole thing. Not here, though. The Avengers call, and Sunspot and Cannonball leap at the prospect of being on the prestige team, as they would.
* I had to play close attention and do a little research, but the new Smasher is the granddaughter of a Golden Age character. Isabel "Izzy" Kane's grandpa is named Dan, and Dan Kane was "Captain Terror," which the Marvel Wiki tells me has had all of seven appearances, three of them in Golden Age U.S.A. Comics. A nice nod to Marvel's rich history, and one that didn't bang you over the head with it.
* Having a Smasher on the team gives Hickman the excuse to visit Shi'ar space a lot, so it's a good idea. And I say "a" Smasher, because it's been established before that Smashers are constantly replaced as they get killed off (the super-powers reside in the goggles). I don't recall it ever being established before that ALL of the Imperial Guard are replaceable, but if not, Hickman does so here. Makes sense, and that means Guardsmen like Izzy can be killed, which raises the danger quotient.
* Hickman gives us a Hyperion -- and again, I say "a," because there's been more than one, even a zombie one. Hickman gives a back story for this one that's really interesting -- and poignant. This Hyperion should be unique, given that back story, and eager to defend Earth.
* The first foe the Avengers face negate the raw power of Hulk and Thor by mind-controlling one into turning against the other. That's exactly what Rick Remender does a few months later in the first Uncanny Avengers arc, when Red Skull mind-controls Thor into attacking Wolverine! I've already beaten up on Remender in my Uncanny review, so I won't suggest he stole the idea. It's quite likely that mind control is the first idea any writer has when writing teams this powerful. Still, boo.
* Speaking of power, Captain Universe is on the team. That's an extraordinary power level, and I hope she doesn't stick around. She was absolutely integral for the first arc, so I'm OK with that. But she needs to go.
* The subtitle is "Avengers World," but it really ought to be called "Avengers Machine." After all, it's being organized by Tony Stark (and Steve Rogers), and that's how he thinks. Plus, each chapter begins with a circuit diagram with symbols for each of the Avengers imbedded. I don't really understand the connections implied there, but it's a cool visual (and serves as a roll call for each issue).
* This book more or less launches from Avengers the movie, as if the six characters in that film are all the Avengers there are. It doesn't SAY that's the case -- even Marvel NOW! can't dump 50 years of continuity -- but Hickman begins with Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye without making any grandiose pronouncements. I'm OK with that -- it's just a story, and this is where Hickman chooses to start his. Other established Avengers appear in the second arc and they are not newbies, so we're cool. That puts into perspective the theme of the first issue, where Steve and Tony keep saying "We've got to get bigger." The second arc puts it all into perspective, in that bigger doesn't mean more members, it means members with larger connections: Hyperion to a dead universe, Smasher to the Shi'ar, Captain Universe to ... well, the universe.
* I love the bon mots Hickman drops in here and there. In reference to Steve and Tony, the omniscient narrator says "One is life. One is death." That's a stunning thing to read, unless you think of Stark as Oppeheimer, and his famous "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds" line at the first successful atomic bomb test, and I love it when comics make historical allusions, especially when they don't beat you over the head with it. It's a subtle characterization of Tony to liken him to Oppenheimer, but if you don't get it, no harm done.
* Elsewhere: Captain America says "We assemble at dawn." That's just cool. There are other nice lines, which you can discover for yourself.
* There's an alien language -- actually, "machine code" -- in the first arc, and Hickman dutifully gives you an English-to-alien alphabet translation in the back of the book. I'm far past the age where I'll take the time to translate what every alien character said, but that was immense fun when I was younger and I bet it still is for today's youngsters.
As you can tell, I enjoyed Avengers World. I can't say I completely understand it, because -- as I said above -- it's a Hickman book, so he's planting seeds willy-nilly which will blossom into things I can't foresee. Ergo, I can't evaluate how successful his themes are, since I can't see them in totality yet. But so far, so good.