The ‘Marvel NOW!’ comic book initiative began a little over a month ago, but it is just this week that the granddaddy of the line-wide “re-launch” arrives; AVENGERS #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña (each arc will showcase a new artist with Adam Kubert being up next). Promising big ideas and a scale that’s as epic as they come, this fifth volume of the series has been set to become the wet dream of every Avengers fan out there.
The goal for ‘Marvel NOW!’ is to give all of Marvel’s comics a fresh new start for the fresh new readers that they always say will come due to their blockbuster films. Whether that’s the case or not, who knows? All I know is that the consistent renumbering and re-launching of titles such as AVENGERS, UNCANNY X-MEN and IRON MAN (and don’t even attempt to understand in which chronological order the HULK books go in) is beyond aggravating. Still, though, even with Marvel’s strange business tactics, with the right creative team, I’ll still check out certain books and AVENGERS #1 is definitely one that’s had my interest piqued.
AVENGERS #1 launched this past Wednesday and I’ve done my very best to stay away from reviews and interviews so that everything in the book came across as a surprise to me. I purchased the comic over my handy comiXology app on my iPhone and after reading it, I’ve decided to share my thoughts from the point of view of a comic book fan and then from that of a fan of Marvel Studios’ films.
As a comic book fan, the first thing I said when I began reading was, “Wow – some scientist needs to figure out how to clone people ASAP so we can have more than one Jerome Opeña.” This man’s art is gorgeous beyond belief and Dean White’s colors compliment his work perfectly. The writing seems very strong and Hickman appears to have a handle on each character’s individual personality. I especially enjoy the Avengers graph that he’s created for the introductory page (seen to the left).
The issue features Ex Nihilo, Abyss and Aleph in the roles of villains, three characters that I’m not familiar with at all. After a quick Google search, I found that all three are new characters created by Hickman specifically for this Avengers story. Each villain is menacing in their own right and I think Hickman and Opeña have done a fine job with assembling a trio powerful enough to challenge the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
As for the good guys, the first issue follows the film cast of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow, presumably to aid new readers through this first story arc. I don’t want to go too far into details, but I will say that the main idea behind this story arc – the assembly of a larger, worldwide Avengers team – is slightly redundant when it’s already been done in previous volumes of the book as well as spin-off series such as NEW AVENGERS, SECRET AVENGERS and MIGHTY AVENGERS (to just name a few). If you ignore those previous incarnations, though (and it’s slightly easy to do so when this first issue doesn’t carry any real past-series baggage), the book’s a very exciting read and one that’ll have you curious enough to buy the second issue.
As for coming in as a fan of the AVENGERS film, this issue looks a lot more different. First off, while the film’s cast is featured, Hickman’s writing is a lot more serious than that of Joss Whedon, so readers shouldn’t expect quirky jabs and jokes because they simply don’t exist in this world. Don’t get me wrong, this story’s still fun, but just in a completely opposite way. Also, there’s the fact that these new villains and the inclusion of other characters such as Hyperion may confuse the audience who’re entering into the realm of comic books for the first time. Yes, those new readers will probably still come into this and say that the art’s gorgeous and, “Damn, Hulk’s sure awesome,” but by the time they see the final page, there’s an excellent chance that they’ll be left scratching their heads (especially when characters show up who’re exclusive to films from Fox and Sony and who’ll never appear in an Avengers film in the foreseeable future).
Another thing that felt off about this issue is that it completely neglects the other ‘Marvel NOW!’ books that were recently launched. It almost seems like each individual title takes place in its own pocket of time. There’s absolutely no mention of fellow ‘Marvel NOW!’ Avengers title UNCANNY AVENGERS in this issue, so am I to assume that that series takes place after this issue? I know that Hickman likes to write stories that rarely cross over with other series, so maybe those other ‘Marvel NOW!’ books simply don’t exist in this Avengers’ world (at least not at the moment, anyway)?
In the end, I personally enjoyed this issue a lot. I think it’s a better Avengers book than anything that’s appeared in the last seven years or so, so I’m certainly willing to give the second issue a shot. With that said, I wouldn’t be able to recommend this new series to everyone and I’d caution newcomers from reading it. Honestly, while it doesn’t showcase the cast of the film, I’d recommend a newcomer to read UNCANNY AVENGERS instead as it’s a lot more similar in tone to that of the Avengers film. If you’re not worried about a little bit of confusion at first, though, I say give AVENGERS #1 a go. It’s pretty damn good.