Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena’s “Avengers” #3 is a curious issue; it’s a book that has a few flaws that feel like over time they could grow quite easily into something disruptive. Despite that, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable and fun comic, one that I’d still recommend for curious readers to pick up.
“Avengers” #3 wraps up the initial story arc set on Mars with Ex Nihilo, Abyss and Aleph preparing to scrub clean and then redesign Earth from the ground up. One of the things that I feel has worked well in this new “Avengers” right from the start is the feeling that these are big stories. If the Avengers are “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” then it makes sense that they aren’t going to be worrying so much about a robbery and more about global-level threats. Hickman keeps that sense of scale moving here, with a story big enough to affect two planets.
This is also a story where it’s taken more than just the core group of Avengers to stop the bad guys. Again, it’s a decision that I think works really well for “Avengers.” As much as that core group of characters are beloved, if you’re going to need planet-level firepower then you need more than just a small handful of characters. Hickman’s usage of these characters, though, is where the first small flaw appears… in that with a story only spanning three issues, there’s not enough room for half of the cast to be more than a glorified cameo.
That’s not to say that they’re complete non-entities, but several of the characters have already fallen into the trap of getting a single line and a couple of panels before vanishing into the backgrounds. Because of the nature of this opening story it’s a forgivable problem, but it’s something that will need to be dealt with. For now, though, most of the attention goes to one character in particular… and it’s that character that feels a big problematic. Having Thor and Hulk on a team already has upped the power levels to extremely high, but a couple of new additions have pushed it so much higher that it’s hard to imagine a threat that those characters couldn’t obliterate in the blink of an eye. Aleph’s threat to destroy Earth rather than remake it finally comes to a head in this issue, but the defeat happens with the proverbial wave of a pinky finger, and that doesn’t make for an extended exciting narrative. These ultra-high power level characters will need to be used sparingly at best, or this is going to get old very quickly.
Despite these little problems, though, there is a lot to recommend for “Avengers” #3. Opena’s art is still a real winner, for instance. The garden on Mars looks wonderfully alien even as it’s also somehow familiar, and something as simple as a pod bursting is just full of energy. Plants spontaneously sprouting from the red soil of Mars simply shouldn’t be this exciting, and yet it is. And for something as familiar as a team of heroes teleporting in, watching Manifold bring in the team from “Avengers” #2 is instantly eye-catching.
There are also lots of fun little character moments. Captain Universe’s confusion on where she is, and her talking about pies will bring a smile to your face. Likewise, Wolverine and Spider-Man’s attempts to free Thor manages not one but two great moments, including a commentary on how traps for the most powerful characters are always a little different than for the little guys. In true Hickman fashion, the narration at the end of the comic promises ominous times ahead; his ability to plot big epics was used fairly well on “Fantastic Four” and it’s fun to get those first hints on “Avengers” now.
“Avengers” #3 is a satisfying (if slightly speedy thanks to one character in particular) conclusion to the initial story arc, and so far it’s a very good comic. Over time, there’s no doubt in my mind that it has the potential to be great. For now, though, it’s already good enough that I’m willing to call this a big success. In terms of the Marvel NOW! revamps at the company, this is one of the big winners, easily.