This week saw the release of the much-anticipated first issue of Jonathan Hickman's Avengers run, with artists Jerome Opena and Dean White.
The issue lived up to the hype as Hickman appears set to deliver an incredible run of comic books.
Going into this run, a fascinating aspect of Hickman's Avengers that I think we were all curious about was how he was going to highlight the difference between the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe. After all, Hickman was just coming off a strong run on the Ultimates, who are generally the same characters as those featured in this title. However, there has always been a different tone for the Ultimate Universe, especially in how much darker it is than the Marvel Universe. In this issue, Hickman shows that he clearly sees the difference and in fact, seems to be designing his first arc AROUND that difference. In his Ultimates run, Hickman gave the Ultimates an almost unbeatable enemy and the Ultimates responded with, in effect, "Oh crap, we're all screwed." They battled though their fears, of course, but there was definitely this sense of "How the hell are we going to win this thing?" In the Avengers, Hickman sets them against a seemingly unbeatable foe, as well, only the difference is here that the response is, "No matter how bad things look, we'll somehow save the day. I mean, are you dense or something? We're the goddamn Avengers."
Like most first issues, Hickman is spending most of his time setting up his overall plot, and wow, what a great job he does there. Something I really enjoyed during Final Crisis was the way that Morrison used short bursts of plot to give you this overall sense of drama - as in, if this these each individual quick pieces looked awesome, imagine how amazing everything would be put together? Hickman uses a similar approach here in the introduction to the issue, where he throws in a number of intriguing ideas in, and since this is Hickman, you know that every single one of these ideas is not only going to be addressed in his run, but will play an important role in the overall story...
Also, as you can see, Opena and White absolutely kill it in this issue. Hickman asks for a dramatically broad stroke and they give it to him without skipping a beat. What I love about Opena is, like all the great comic book artists, his ability to stand out if he is drawing a big superhero battle or if he is just drawing two people having a conversation. His work has a dynamic feel to it no matter the context of the scene - he can make a conversation seem as exciting as a brawl. And as for White, I mean, come on, what more needs to be said about White, one of the absolute greatest color artists working in comics today? He provides the depth that makes Opena's dynamism pop even more than normal.
Something I especially enjoyed about the issue is how Hickman is using basically the same plot as Giant-Size X-Men #1 to start his run, but doing so in a way that does not seem nostalgic in the least. Brian Michael Bendis did a very similar thing to start his New Avengers run (the New Avengers form in the same basic way that the original Avengers did - just a bunch of heroes show up at the same crisis and decide to stick together), but I believe Bendis actually specifically noted the similarities in his comic. I like it better here where Hickman doesn't actually call attention to it. It is there, but it is not a case of him doing a callback, it is just an awesome trope that works well, so why shouldn't he use it? Why should he be afraid of using a great idea just because someone else might have done something similar? If it works, and it definitely works in this issue, then I don't see any reason to give him demerits for it.
I also got a real kick out of the usage of logos/symbols for the new heroes introduced in the issue. Hickman has his design thing at the end with the wheel of how the heroes all connect to each other, and I loved that all of the new heroes were given identifiable logos. Always good to see new logos. They're a pain in the ass to come up with, so I really appreciate the effort.
So we got hints towards a long, impressive-sounding arc. We have an intriguing group of bad guys that look unbeatable at the moment. We got a cool superhero battle (although Hulk sure seems to get mind-controlled a lot, doesn't he?). We got a cool cliffhanger. We got a bunch of intriguing new characters (I'd love it if Monica Rambeau was the new Captain Universe. That'd be such a good idea, but oh well, a new character is fine, too). We got outstanding artwork.
And that's just in the one issue! If we get an issue like this every other week, while also knowing (from Hickman's history) that the sum of his run will even be better than the individual parts, how lucky are we? A reason to follow each issue AND a reason to collect the whole thing!