“Avengers” #5 provides the origin of and an adventure featuring the first human to join the Shi’ar Imperial Guard — the new Smasher, Isabel Dare — as only Jonathan Hickman could write it, with art by Adam Kubert and ethereal coloring from Frank Martin. Cory Petit rounds out the visual campaign with strong, competent lettering that works quite nicely with the rest of the artwork featuring a woman of two worlds.
Following the “Previously in Avengers…” recap page and Hickman’s cast infographic, the first thing that I noticed in this issue was the moody coloring from Frank Martin on a five-panel page depicting the harshness of interstellar battle. Martin’s colors give Kubert’s artwork a boost, providing a moderate fish-eye type effect on the flashback scenes that the colorist then saturates with liquescent emotion. The flashback scenes are lighter and, more often than not, toned with blues or browns, but the present day sequences are filled with vibrant color.
Kubert skimps on a few characters in a few panels, but the majority of the issue is strong and rough, like sketches gleaned from a private notebook that are given room to develop and become a story. There is absolutely no mistaking this work as Kubert’s, but even so, the artist doesn’t seem content to maintain his artistic status quo. Accepting a challenge of a new character enveloped in a unique situation (which is itself noteworthy), Kubert appears determined to offer some new panel compositions and points of focus. He could show the splendor of Chandilar in a panel of its own, but he chooses to put Smasher in the panel to accentuate her situation and her wonder of it.
As the second of three “standalone” stories that deliver background information on a new Avenger, this issue is a terrific introduction to Smasher. Not only does Hickman provide a concise and poignant introduction to Isabel Dare, he gives readers just enough background on the Shi’ar to inform and stops short of overwhelming. “Avengers” has an extended canvas with the relaunch and Hickman does a fantastic job filling it with bold ideas, unpredictable adventures and agreeable characters. While this issue and the previous are seemingly not connected, I cannot help but feel that Hickman has hidden a thread in the story that is certain to pay dividends later. “Avengers” #5 is the type of comic I enjoyed on the first read and cannot wait to read again, just to analyze and study the details in the art, the nuances of the story and the construction of subplots and character moments. Of the Marvel NOW! titles, “Avengers” is consistently the one I look forward to the most, regardless of the publishing frequency. Hickman made an indelible mark on the legacy of the Fantastic Four and so far he seems to be on track to do something equally memorable with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.