In “Avengers” #15, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and Stefano Caselli take the team to the Perth, Australia origin bombsite as Bruce Banner seeks to disrupt the mysterious signal that triggers activity at the origin bombsites worldwide. Banner’s mission and the physical battle the Perth squad faces give this issue the feel of a summer blockbuster, minus the popcorn.
Hickman and Spencer spend less time developing the relationships and voices of the Avengers present and focus instead on the threat of the Origin Bombs and their increasing activity. The result is a high-powered battle in Perth that shows exactly why Captain America is the default leader of the Avengers while Bruce Banner adds analytical skills to the battle. Banner receives the richest development from Hickman and Spencer, helping the team with his brain rather than the expected brawn Banner’s other persona is so famous for. The Origin Bombs have elicited peeks back to Ex Nihilo and Abyss, but in this issue, the third member of the Garden, Aleph, raises his shiny metal noggin, looking for trouble. Certainly Aleph and his brethren are heavily involved in everything in “Avengers” #15, just as they have been throughout the run of this series, but Hickman and Spencer give only enough to tease and titillate. Captain Universe doesn’t partake in the battle, but rather appears towards the end of the struggle to complicate the uncertainty of the approaching conflict.
Caselli’s art rises to the challenge Hickman and Spencer construct, taking everything a few more steps forward. The scenes where the two writers step back and let the visuals carry the story are tremendous, like the signal emanating from Earth and beaming through space, or the page-and-a-half of Avengers breaking loose in battle. The colorist duo of Frank Martin and Edgar Delgado washes Caselli’s detailed drawings in luscious color, giving this story more gravity and increased realistic impact. I’ve enjoyed Caselli’s work since “Avengers Initiative” and am pleased to see him come full circle (even if that circle is an ever-widening spiral) with this series. Letterer Clayton Cowles boosts the individuality Caselli establishes for all of the characters quite nicely while contributing consistency to the identification of the worldwide — or galaxy-wide — locations as they appear.
“Avengers” #15 is another rich installment in Hickman’s grand adventure. Filled with excitement, suspense and action, this series continues to build an adventure worthy of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes coming together. By the time the last page hits, it leaves the reader wanting more and wondering what they just saw. All of the creators contribute to the surprise, and I look forward to what Hickman, Spencer and Caselli bring have in store for the next issue in a few short weeks.