By: Jonathan Hickman (writing), Jerome Opena (art), Dean White, Frank Martin, and Richard Isanove (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Cap brings his new recruits to bear on the Garden, fighting the good fight on Mars to save both his friends and his planet.

The Review: Usually when you think of a book like Avengers or Justice League, or what have you, there’s a bit of an expectation for good old fashioned superhero comics in a very specific mold.  Hickman’s Avengers is anything but.  It’s chock full of ambition and there really isn’t anything else like it on the stands.

A key reason for this is Hickman’s emphasis on scale.  Hickman makes it clear that the sheer scale of the stories and conflicts in his Avengers book are greater than they are in perhaps any other Marvel title.   As such, you could say that with ridiculous powerhouses like Hyperion and Captain Universe on the team to go along with Hulk and Thor, all of them battling entities which are, in essence, gods of a sort, Hickman’s book has taken the old line about the Avengers’ being focused on “foes no single superhero can withstand” to heart.  Here, they are battling gods and as the scale of the threat goes up, so must the size and power-level of the team.  That’s the core concept of Hickman’s run and it shines here, so while Hickman’s run feels very different, you could say that it also is perhaps truer to the core concept of the Avengers.

The end result is a book that is plot-driven, baffling the reader with it’s epic scale and giant-sized threats.  While you might argue that this comes at the cost of meaningful character-work, that really doesn’t seem to be the purpose of this book.  Rather, it truly is a book, not about the characters, but about, you guessed it, the Avengers: the concept of the team, the idea behind the team, and the universe that drives it.  Hickman makes that very clear this month:  as a book about the Avengers, this is also more than anything about the “Avengers universe.”  This also, of course, only makes it fitting that if said universe is the real protagonist, that the antagonists be manifestations of life and death.

That said, there are some not insignificant problems this month.  The plot posed a pretty big problem for our heroes to overcome and there’s no getting around it:  Hickman wraps things up with what can only be seen as a deus ex machina.  There’s a sense that he’d put the team in a giant conflict, only to ultimately hand-wave it away.  And because this is Hickman, the reasons that allow this are also unclear:  it all boils down to Captain Universe, and yet because we don’t know anything about this new Captain Universe, we really don’t know much if anything about her unique abilities.  As a result, it’s hard to fully understand what exactly happened at the climax of this issue.

More than that though, it does feel pretty cheap.  She glows a bit with powers we readers know little about, and the plot is nicely and neatly tied up and the conflict resolved.  It’s hard not to be bummed about writing like that.

Opena’s art is, however, very strong.  Together with White’s coloring, the art is supremely detailed but also has a sort grim feel to it that suits the “backs against the wall” desperation of the book and it’s epic scale, where characters are mere pieces on a board.  That said, there is only so much Opena can do when the issue entirely takes place in a Martian wasteland: backgrounds are often sparse to the point of non-existence, leaving the book feeling sparse and empty at some points.  Though perhaps that’s also intentional given the setting.

Conclusion: The ending is a bit frustrating, honestly.  That said, Hickman’s Avengers is still a refreshing read that dazzles with its scope and ambition.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans