by Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Salvador Larroca (Artist), Frank Martin with Anres Mossa (Color Artists).

The Story: Hulk Smash, Banner deduce.

The Review: Now this is what I’ve been waiting for! Hickman’s long form Avengers epic has been a frustrating beast at best, I’ve wanted to like it so badly but have often been frustrated by how disparate all of the elements Hickman and his horde of superstar artists have introduced thus far are. I recall being curious but ultimately disinterested during Hickman’s first year on the Fantastic Four title only to be blown away by FF and the confluence of all the seemingly standalone stories that the writer had been crafting. And so it is that I’ve been following Avengers, New Avengers and now Avengers World,  waiting patiently to see how the puzzle pieces fit together.

With issue #28 it seems as though two mysteries are revealed, one to the reader and another to Bruce Banner who’s unravelling of the continued existence of the Illuminati provides the meat of this issue. I’ve often thought of the Avengers as a very epic but ultimately cold book, devoid of much characterisation or humanity but this issue goes a long way to reversing that paradigm by focusing on the conversation between Tony Stark and a Bruce Banner who repeatedly injects himself with tranquillisers in order to keep his monstrous alter-ego at bay. The tension that builds through these scenes is palatable and riveting, bravo to Hickman and Larroca.

The other reveal shows us exactly what the Map-makers are and how they come to be, further marrying the narrative of Avengers to New Avengers and finally giving readers an answer to help orientate themselves within the deluge of mysteries that Hickman has heaped upon us so far in this run. If this issue is an indicator of what to expect from the third act of Hickman’s Avengers saga then I’m cautiously optimistic about what comes next. That last page reveal/cliffhanger should have readers on the edge of their seat like a good episode of 24 or Breaking Bad it’s such a cinematic, ominous can’t-wait-for-the-next-issue reveal.

The wrap up of the evil Avengers storyline is a bit anticlimactic with A.I.M basically cleaning up the mess they caused with the majority of the Avenger’s none the wiser. I suppose it does provide the vehicle to exit the Hulk from this book but it was a little disappointing nonetheless. On the note of A.I.M’s inner council, I absolutely love what Hickman (and Spencer on other books) has been doing with them, there are echoes of Hickman’s development of Hydra in the pages of Secret Warriors which is all kinds of good.

Larroca’s artwork in this issue is technically very competent but it is also highly flat, I know comic book art is 2D images in sequence but they should convey movement, scale and scope. Even with spot on anatomy and perspective it still feels very static, flat and lacking in depth. I think the colors of Frank Martin don’t particularly mesh well with Larroca’s line work, his palettes are very muted, lots of monochromatic greys dominating the artwork does not do the it any favours. You can see what the art team were attempting by making the warmly coloured panels of the Hulk and the incursion event pop in contrast to the grey tones of the rest of the issue but it doesn’t really work as well as I think they’d hoped.

Grade: C

-Liam Kelleher