Forget what you think you know about blockbuster comics, because your comic shop is about to get hit with an atom bomb. Big names and even bigger talent are making Earth's Mightiest Heroes everything they should be, and all I can say is it's about time. The hype is real: The Avengers are back, and they're better than ever.
From the beginning, Hickman infuses this comic with a sense of grandeur and myth, that sort of epic poetry that links the Avengers with stories like 300. The high concept is what the Avengers always should have been: They have to be bigger.
And bigger they get. Think Giant-Size X-Men meets Morrison's JLA, and you got this book in a nutshell. You can see that Hickman has paid attention to the monstrously popular Avengers movie, and spends plenty of time with the Big Six of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. What's funny is that for the most part, Hickman gets across a lot of character with very little dialogue — one snort from Thor, for example, says so much more about him than two issues of his own comic have in the Marvel NOW! relaunch. And to say that this is the year of Captain America is putting it mildly, as the Star-Spangled Avenger positively steals every scene he's in, filling the Batman role by taking on opponents way too big for him without an ounce of hesitation.
Hickman is also known for his big ideas and his even bigger plans, and that plays very well to the conspiracy theorist in every comic book fan. From the diagram showcasing the expanded Avengers lineup — who's at the center of the circle, who are the new recruits along its edges? — to the mysterious yet powerful new villains, there's a lot to speculate upon for this book. Hickman has already demonstrated that he can play characters like Iron Man and Black Widow or Hulk and Thor off one another, but with the lineup swelling to new levels, I'm really excited to see what sparks are going to fly in the months to come.
And the art. Man. I've said for years that Jerome Opeña is a superstar, and now the whole world's going to agree. He's basically the new Leinil Francis Yu, only more streamlined and less feathery with his inks — his characters look muscular and confident, whether it's Black Widow and Hawkeye staring down a god-level threat or Captain America single-handedly laying the smackdown to half a superteam with one toss of his mighty shield. Opeña's sense of composition is also second-to-none, making his fight choreography and the visual mood look flawless. Colorist Dean White is a curveball choice for this comic with his blood reds and florescent greens, but ultimately one I think fits for this particular issue, with its alien environments and underlying theme: Everything is going to change. Everything is about to get bigger.
The flagship book of the Marvel Universe is finally upon us, and believe me when I say that it doesn't just meet expectations — it shatters them. Gods, super-soldiers and men of steel unite against a common foe no single super hero could withstand. It's a simple formula: World's biggest superheroes. Comics' greatest talents. The industry's biggest book. A perfect launch. Time to assemble, Avengers fans — your new favorite series has arrived.
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