Art by Jerome Opena, Dean White, Justin Ponsor, and Morry Hollowell
Letters by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
As Marvel's mightiest flagship title rolls on, it gets both more and less frustrating. While Jonathan Hickman has gone to great lengths to make a case for his new Avengers team, he's also let the story itself fall a little bit by the wayside in favor of exposition and characterization. It's a double edged sword that makes the heroes that much more compelling, and the villains feel that much more hollow.
Basically all of Avengers #2 is dedicated to introducing us to the new characters, both the on the team, and among the Garden. This forces the story's pace to a slow crawl, but makes room for a tour through Captain America and Iron Man's recruitment process for new Avengers. It's reassuring to see the bits of characterization that Hickman gives to each recruit, giving hints of what each character's place will be among the team. Sadly, that doesn't leave much room to see the team in action, or even actually interacting with each other. While their prospective roles may be staked out, we'll have to wait a little longer to actually see them filled.
The Garden fare less well under Hickman's expository microscope. Somehow, every attempt to differentiate them as villains just makes them seem more generic. While they are visually compelling, thanks to Jerome Opena's deft hand, they leave a lot to be desired. There's a definite sense that, while the Garden themselves may be new villains, their gimmick has been done to death in the Marvel Universe. What's to set these characters apart from the Kree, or the Celestials, or any of the other cosmic beings who want to judge mankind's genetic worth? The Garden come off as plot devices more than characters, old concepts in new skins designed only to provide motivation for assembling a new team of Avengers.
A lot of this issue's worth rests squarely on Jerome Opena's shoulders. Without much action to drive the story, there's a lot of heavy lifting in terms of making every page visually interesting. Opena handles it all with aplomb, moving from high-tech control rooms, to beach front resorts, to Mars, and everywhere in between with enough acuity to make every scene stand out. If there's one criticism for the art, it's that Opena's lack of an inker occasionally makes some characters hard to read against the backgrounds, or in certain poses, due to a lack of the depth that solid blacks can provide. Still, Opena's mastery of acting, body language, and composition make Avengers one of Marvel NOW!'s best looking titles.
There's still a long way to go to make Avengers the title it ought to be. While Jonathan Hickman seems to have a grasp on where he wants to take the team, these first two issues have seemed more like a means to an end, rather than a blockbuster opening volley. Issue three will be a crucial point; now that the Avengers are assembled, it's time to see them in action. Avengers #2 continued the previous issue's build up. Now, let's see Earth's Mightiest Heroes really earn that mantle.