By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Adam Kubert (art), Frank D’Armata (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: The Avengers race to a newly discovered sixth impact zone from the Garden’s recent mayhem.  The problem is that this one’s in the Savage Land and everyone’s favourite bee-keeper scientists may have gotten there first.

The Review: Hickman’s Avengers so far has been solid and refreshing, but I’m still waiting for it to fully live up to its potential.  With the start of its second arc, this feels like one step forward but also perhaps one step back (so yeah, thankfully, not two steps back).  The heartening thing is that the back-tread has nothing to do with Hickman.

Instead, it’s Kubert that’s at fault here.  Don’t get me wrong, the artwork here isn’t bad.  I mean, it’s Adam Kubert, how bad could it be?  The problem is that, particularly compared to Jerome Opena’s hyper-detailed, hyper-polished artwork, Kubert’s work feels forgettable and bland.  Part of this may be due to Kubert’s simply being a more conventional artist than Opena, but the real problem is also that this simply isn’t Kubert’s best work.  It feels rougher than usual, perhaps even a little rushed.  Hell, the first few pages, the prologue of the issue, are particularly messy.  Frank D’Armata’s colors don’t particularly help as well, lacking the vibrance and energy needed to carry the day, opting instead to, much like Kubert’s work, not go any farther than merely getting the job done.  Regardless, there’s a pretty big gap between Kubert’s work here and Kubert’s recent work on Avengers vs. X-Men.  The result is a book that while visually functional, is also surprisingly uninspiring for its bulk, with the exception of Hyperion’s origin, which is admittedly nicely rendered.

While the art may have declined, Hickman’s script, however, shows substantial improvement.  If there was one fault of prior issues it was that they were so plot-focused as to feel a little soulless.  With this issue, we actually get a strong, character-focused narrative as Hickman delves into the story of Hyperion both through flashbacks to his origin and through portraying current events from his perspective.  This makes the issue feel a little heftier and more meaningful than prior issues, where characters didn’t always feel much more than pieces on a board.

Hyperion is also a great character for Hickman to work with.  He does a fantastic job of truly portraying Hyperion as a god, emphasizing his alien nature and grander outlook and perspective on the universe.  Hyperion’s mindset is comprehensible, but is shown as operating at a larger scale, one that is necessarily different from that of your average human.  This in itself is a major achievement, as Hickman has essentially managed to make a character both understandable and uncompromisingly “other.”  The result is a real feeling that, much as was the case with the Garden, Hickman’s Avengers is a world where gods walk among men.

The sudden injection of humor also caught me off guard this month.  With the last arc being so dour, it was a welcome surprise to see Hickman use AIM (and their unwitting grad student intern) to work some almost Jason Aaron-like black humour.  This lightened the mood somewhat and made for a much more rounded reading experience that was much appreciated.

Conclusion: While the art is a mixed bag, I think that overall, this was an improvement, despite my opening remarks.  This is largely thanks to Hickman giving us an issue that was perhaps easier to become invested in than his prior outings, with the focus on Hyperion in particular giving something a bit more meaningful to latch onto.

Grade: B

– Alex Evans