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

The Story: Smasher gets a lesson in what the world will soon turn into, courtesy of A.I.M.

The Review: Beware what you desire, for you may get it.

I am pretty sure I am quoting this incorrectly, but the message behind this is abundantly clear, as expectations and desires should always be kept balanced and in check. One of the main problem I had with Avengers by Hickman was that I though there could be a better emphasis on characters instead of just big concepts and ideas, which made the title a bit frustrating at times. With Avengers World being released with Nick Spencer at the helm, I had high hope that this title could reverse the trend and give readers a title which could focus a bit more on the characters instead of the general huge ideas that Jonathan is rather good at writing.

It seems that this is what both Spencer and Hickman delivered with this issue, with a certain emphasis on Smasher, the new character created by Hickman during his first issues on the franchise, combining certain elements of the whole Marvel universe for his team. With an issue explaining a bit the character and giving us an insight on her philosophy and approach, there is unfortunately a certain oversight that makes this generally less enjoyable that it could be. Simply put, there is close to no progress to this story that is exciting and enticing enough to provide plenty for readers to latch unto.

For sure, the manner in which Spencer and Hickman are able to connect some of A.I.M.’s manifesto to Smasher to her vision and her past with her grandfather makes for some rather touching moment, as the philosophy of her beloved elder and how he says the world is does help in setting the character more for readers potentially interested in who she is and what she does. The manner in which the tale of Captain Terror and how she does her stuff in the Avengers makes for a good exploration of the character, which is something that extrapolate in the issue that focused on her in Avengers.

What’s also extrapolated here in a manner that is very nice is some of the ideas Spencer seeded in Secret Avengers, with A.I.M. being preeminent in this issue as well as their ideals. The scientist supreme makes for a rather interesting villain, with a certain vision of the future that is bleak and that makes for a nice hyperbole of general fears that permeates the human race. The way some of these themes are tied to the general ideas behind Hickman’s Avengers also make for something that does manage to catch the interest of those following along.

Where it falters, though, is in the way the story is told, as there are some scenes that tell that a message will be brought, that danger is imminent, yet nothing of it is shown in an explicit manner. With this issue being told in a rather stereotypical ”villain’s gospel” kind of way, it tells its story competently, yet does not really go out of its way to provide surprises, twists and other such things to circumvent the expectations of readers. It’s a bit too safe in some aspects, with a certain touch of very slow progression as well. The focus on characterization is nice, but it isn’t that much when it comes at the detriment of other aspects.

Still in all, the art by Stefano Caselli is an aspect that doesn’t surprise in its quality, yet please nonetheless despite meeting the readers expectation. The scope shown in some panels and the general attention to architecture and cold designs is a very nice touch, which helps sets in the other elements well in terms of visual storytelling. The emotions are also well put on the pages, with a special mention to poses considering that most characters don’t have any face, which is always commendable to be able to pull evocative expressions through simple body language. The panel layout is also nice, with the panel-to-panel flow helping set in the story and script neatly. All in all, it’s very competent work from Caselli here, which does help set in some of more potent aspects of the script.

The colors of Frank Martin, however, are very good. Playing very well with lighting in both an overt and subtle way, the alien technology and super-science is surprisingly potent in pushing forth some of the themes and the tone of the story that is being told. The way he uses very bright blue to differentiates flashbacks from the present and still pulls off stark contrasts and clear cut tones and other colors is very impressive, which is something he does quite a lot in this issue. The smart use of shadows is also very nice here, with the rather sinister approach of A.I.M. being clear through Martin’s work. It’s good work from one of the best in the business.

The Conclusion: The good approach to the characterization of Smasher, the use of neat ideas from Spencer’s previous work and the very nice art hides a tale that doesn’t have much surprises and that doesn’t progress that much. It’s nice, but a bit slow and uneventful.

Grade: B-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière