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

The Story: Problems arise in a lot of areas on Earth, as the collaboration between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers start now.

The Review: I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I first opened this issue. With this being a clear spin-off of the larger Avengers narrative of Jonathan Hickman, it’s a bit unclear what makes this book different. While it is detached from the structure that Hickman developed and it does try to connect with some of the A.I.M. threads that Nick Spencer has installed with his Secret Avengers run so far, there is a certain problem that doesn’t make the book what it could very well be.

That problem is a lack of a certain angle. It’s not particularly humorous, it’s not something that displays more character work or even something that tries to implement big new ideas. It might seem like a boring book, but it isn’t at all, despite this particular flaw.

One of the actual strength here is the use of the large roster, with both Spencer and Hickman using many characters aptly as the story is divided in multiple areas in the book. While Captain America and Bruce Banner are on a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, many teams with characters like Hyperion, Smasher, Cannonball, Hawkeye and plenty more are put on display, with most of them actually contributing through their voice or action for the story. It’s not the entire team, but it is a bit different from the regular title in the respect that not all of them are window-dressing, which is nice.

Another nice aspect of the story is a strength of both writers, who aren’t afraid to go big in terms of threats. The Hand, A.I.M., cities with people disappearing and natural disasters are all there for the Avengers to take care of, putting an emphasis on the fact that they are superheroes here to save the day. Many of the elements put on the page are rather grand and play with newer and older elements of the Marvel universe in a way that does manage to bring some excitement.

Where that excitement falter, though, is in the fact that most of everything in this issue is setup and explanations. The opening sequence of Captain America and Bruce Banner on a helicarrier with Maria Hill has fun with its dialogue and does explain how things did change for the Avengers, yet it is a bit plagued with exposition and explanations without much of a payoff. The same goes for every scenes in the book, pushing forth concepts and ideas that are intriguing, yet only sets them up to be resolved or explored further down the line instead of doing anything else with them. It does make things rather interesting for the future of the title, but as an opening issue, it does not do its job very well.

Still, one aspect that does not disappoint is Stefano Caselli with its approach to facial expressions and how he can adapt the scope of his pages and panels to fit the story. There is a good division between the personal and the grandiose in the comic, going for close-shot in panels without destroying the effect of the catastrophes and threats the team has to face down the line. One of the many methods in which he achieves such a thing is with his knack for backgrounds and scenery, which is something he draws very well. Putting an emphasis on architecture and larger environment, he is able provide enough material for readers to latch onto as he then switch between panels focusing on characters and others on large threats like the giant turtle. His characters, though, are nothing to slouch at, as his anatomy, poses and general demeanour for his characters are clear and clean enough to be easily understandable without pushing too much into the greater hyperbole. For a story that features a large team of super heroes and worldly troubles, Caselli was a fine choice indeed.

Frank Martin also fits that bill nicely, with a certain approach toward lighter tones contrasted with much darker pages. Problem areas are much darker in tones, while those focusing on the Avengers are brighter, creating a very clear contrast that manages to be subtle enough in some pages without being obtusely obvious. Some of the pages are perhaps a bit too busy in terms of diversity and colors, though, with a certain overemphasis on brightness in some panels and pages that disrupt some of the effects. We’ve seen better from Martin, but this is good nonetheless.

The Conclusion: An issue that boast some really great art and some great ideas, yet lacks a certain unique approach despite all this. A good issue, but not the kind that manages to excite in terms of first issues.

Grade: B-

Hugo Robberts Larivière