by Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Salvador Larroca (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: Adaptoids versus fascist Avengers from another universe. Fight!

The Review: If there’s one thing that I really enjoy about super hero comics, it’s the inherent ability of writers to bring in multiples universes in their stories. While not a norm nowadays with every series, there is a certain tendency to bring out beings and concepts from alternatives universes and dimensions to the fold that bring out twists to familiar elements that always add a touch of nostalgia and innovation in fun ways. While this concept is not exclusive to capes comics, there is always a certain appeal to see how things might have deviated from the norm with but some simple actions or changes.

With Hickman playing with those very concepts presently in his big Avengers/New Avengers story, there is a lot with which he can advance his ongoing threads in interesting ways. Having dealt with the Marvel universe at large along with its cosmology in his previous big storyline, can he manage to build things up in ways that feel good enough to entice readers to go along with the slow build for the next biggest thing?

The writer, in his ways, does a lot of interesting things in this issue, yet stumbles in a few moments as well. Where he mostly succeed is when he plays with A.I.M. and the approach this organisation has with science. The balance between mad and super science is a sound one with their scientists, with Hickman showing he has some fun with them as he builds them up to become rather big in terms of antagonists in the larger Marvel universe. The adaptoids, their purpose and how A.I.M. tests them make for some rather intriguing threads that could become very interesting down the line.

Where it becomes a bit more mixed quality-wise is with the Avengers from another universe. With the big twists behind them now revealed, it doesn’t seem like Hickman has a lot of material with them, making some of the mysteries around them vague as they don’t really make the plot advance in any way that is particularly interesting. There is some tantalising entertainment to be had in some discoveries, such as how their Bruce Banner reacts and just how their Hank Pym got killed, but their role in this issue is a limited one in terms of effectiveness and progression.

Not making things any better are the scenes with the actual Avengers as they deal with Maria Hill and S.H.I.E.L.D. While there are some laughs and some small tidbits that do show how they operate, such as Tony Stark and his skills with technology or Hyperion examining the corpse of the other Hank Pym, these scenes seems to fill out space more than anything. It’s amusing, yet it only manage to decompress a good lot what could be a simple story.

Where it seems to be more a miss than a hit is the overall dialogue, with Hickman seemingly going overboard at times with his particular style. While he can have a certain flair for the dramatic, Hickman can also be a bit too ominous and vague in some of the interaction and exposition he presents. It sounds impressive at times, yet it can also be a bit hollow when it’s all just teasing for what might happen someday in the title. An area, however, where Hickman goes a bit over-the-top is with the adaptoids and how they talk, giving them the general robot dialogue that is clunky and unnecessary. Forming half-sentences filled with objectives and status on said objectives, the way those robots talk is unfortunately a little bit much on the nose, which doesn’t help the general feeling over how the dialogue is written.

Where things aren’t really helping either is with the art of Salvador Larroca, who brings some of his strengths, yet perhaps too much of his weaknesses here. While the latest issue was certainly not bad at all, there is a certain stoutness in some traits and a lack of range in terms of human emotions that makes a lot of the human characters a bit ugly, which touch the robots as well. There is a certain lack of clear and efficient backgrounds here as well, with a minimalist approach to scenery that doesn’t really work in the contexts in which they are used, like in action scenes. However, not everything is bad in this issue artistically, with Larroca being very apt at drawing various technologies. The latter form of the adaptoids, the machinery used by A.I.M. and their uniform all look quite fine here, making the issue a bit more worthy when they are shown on the pages. The action is also decent enough, with a certain touch of traditional poses done in a correct manner. It might not be the most original of layouts in terms of action, but it does the job in a way that does not hamper the storytelling, which is fitting enough.

Where it works a bit better is with the colorization, with Frank Martin being his very talented self once more. Playing with very classic contrasts such as bright against somber and warm against cold, Martin switch things up constantly in order to provide a bit more life to Larroca’s pencil and inks. Balancing the presence of each colors in ways that never let one overwhelm the other in terms of effects, there is also a very good approach to realistic and exaggerated colors here. With some traditional thunder, energy and super technology being in the same place as old rocks, costumes and other such elements, the colorization adds quite a lot here, which is something the issue needed here.

The Conclusion: There are some nice ideas and a certainly nice direction for the future of the title here, yet the rather weak art, slow pacing and some other smaller problems makes this issue less than what it could be. Tolerable, yet ultimately not the best issue this series has seen so far.

Grade: C

-Hugo Robberts Larivière