An amalgamation of bits and pieces of stories scattered across the “Infinity” crossover, “Avengers” #20, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Leinil Francis Yu feels like a fill-in story. Just as there are pieces from previous chapters that comprise this issue, I am certain we will see scenes from this issue elsewhere, but in the interim the story languishes a bit.
In the heart of a galactic crossover, “Avengers” should be battling and scrapping, adding stories of great battles to the tapestry of the war. Instead, “Avengers” #20 features a lot of talking heads and strategizing warriors. Hickman is a master of playing the long game, as illustrated throughout his run on “Fantastic Four” and his work on “New Avengers,” so there is no reason to doubt this issue is a dramatic pause with more subtle developments soon to be revealed. All the same, the action present in this issue is less spectacular than the “Infinity” story has been to this point.
It doesn’t help matters much that the art makes a dynamic shift in this issue as well. The combination of Gerry Alanguilan joining the creative team as inker and new colorist David Curiel makes a big difference in the appearance of “Avengers” #20. The early portion of the issue is filled with Yu’s signature sensory overload level of detailed drawing while the later portion becomes more airy, allowing Curiel’s more atmospheric colors to expand and shimmer. Some of the detail and color melt into one another, which gives “Avengers” #20 an alien appearance, perfect for the confrontation Ex Nihilo and Abyss endure at the issue’s end.
While this isn’t a bad story, “Avengers” #20 is hardly a typical Avengers tale. It is more an “Infinity Auxiliary” adventure: still delivering details and further enriching the late summer Marvel event that happens to star most of the Avengers. This comic book focuses on the Ex Nihilo, Abyss and the Galactic Council’s continued negotiations with the Builder Armada. These are all critical developments, albeit developments certain to be repeated more often than sitcom reruns over the summer. Hopefully, this is simply a pacing issue as the story turns the corner and begins the heated sprint towards the finish line now that “Infinity” is past the halfway point.