By: Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer (Writers), Stefano Caselli (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: The Avengers check out the sites that have been altered by Ex Nihilo as they deal with the multiple repercussions of his actions.

The Review: I had said once that this run on Avengers was full of wonderful ideas, yet almost no execution for them, that there was a lot of build up for close to no payoff. For the last thirteen issues, the book was planting seeds for further stories, giving us some pretty solid visuals and some terrific actions, yet those aren’t always enough or synonymous to a great book. Jonathan Hickman needed to do better as we knew he surely could.

Well, while I cannot say that this issue really paid up for all these previous issues, it can definitely be seen that Hickman is beginning to use all those issues so far. In this issue, the whole team is seen as they try to deal with just what Ex Nihilo has unleashed on their Earth as he tried to make the planet sentient. Here, Hickman and Spencer goes in full scientific mode in a way that is close to Warren Ellis as they gives us the full explanation to what is exactly happening and what the effects of these sites has on the rest of the planet. Giving us a whole unfamiliar and catastrophic scenario, it is there that we see just why the Avengers are so large a team under their pen as the threat they are dealing with is nothing short of planetary.

In a way, seeing them actually save lives and act as a team is very refreshing, as they were much more often the spectators of what was going around. They made the story move a lot, but never seemed to resolve a lot of situations, at least not in a permanent or even truly satisfying way. In this issue, though, we get to see them all share the spotlight as the whole team looks at what is going on or participate in the saving of people from a crashing plane.

Even though every characters are showcased here, there is still that casting problem that makes some of them rather useless or only used as window-dressing rather than full-fledged characters. While Bruce Banner, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Captain Universe and many others gets a piece of the action, many others like Wolverine, Spider-Man are only seen and not heard. The rest of them get a line or two and that’s it. While it is really hard to juggle with so large a cast and Hickman seems to make a real effort in order to make all of them feel relevant in the huge situations around them, he is not entirely successful in his endeavor.

He is a bit more successful in upping the scale, though, as this is not merely a little fight or an unexplained phenomenon. The plot here is still a bit mysterious, yet in a more compelling way than the usual fare as the team tries their best to respond. While the readers might not understand everything that is going on, Hickman and Spencer does their best to make it look interesting. In a different way than usual, most of the bizarre setup here is less frustrating and much more tantalizing, considering it is build up on what came before instead of created from scratch.

What’s also mightily tantalizing would be Stefano Caselli, who continues the tradition of having very talented and high-profile artists on that book. Having worker before with Hickman on Secret Warriors, it is fun to see him still being in splendid artistic form as he has seemingly no problem drawing weird and alien beings and objects. He actually seems to be doing everything pretty smoothly, from the action poses, the energy signatures from each character or even the more atmospheric shot in some panels. He does everything with ease, it seems, yet what he does best are faces. They are incredibly expressive, as he has a knack for drawing just the right muscles in order to enhance the very emotion the characters are trying to convey to the readers. While in his debut he might have been only on smaller titles, it is great to see that he indeed earned his way to such a high-profile book like this one.

Frank Martin also does some splendid work here as well, as his colors cooperate quite well with the way Caselli draws the whole thing. The alien life forms and the mysterious beings are doubly so thanks to his unusual coloring, creating a contrast with the more regular elements in the same panels. He also creates a sentiment of wonder and of awe at the use of several powers or in most scenery, like when Captain Universe uses her power or when Captain Marvel is in space.

The Conclusion: While there are still some small problems in the juggling of the large cast, this book is going somewhere as Hickman and Spencer starts using some of his build up and ideas in compelling ways while Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin illustrates them wonderfully.

Grade: B

Hugo Robberts Larivière