Various "Infinity" spawned story threads and subplots begin congealing together in "Avengers" #23 as writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Leinil Francis Yu deliver the end of the line for one of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard and one of Thanos' Black Order. The scope of this story is starting to seriously press the ability of the "Previously In..." page to contain it, but once past the credits page, the tale of space-faring heroes returning home to face calamity once more picks up steam.
First, however, it has to get past a really weird choice of Iron Man hanging out with a lion in Wakanda. As though standing in for Siegfried and Roy, Iron Man is tousling the great cat's mane while catching up on the goings-on from Captain America. It's a beautiful page filled with five very nice drawings of the two critical members of the Avengers, but a weird choice from Yu to get the story rolling. Additionally, there is some weird anatomical stuff going on throughout "Avengers" #23, particularly with the female characters and their breasts. The organic vitality in Yu's lines, as panels are visibly hand-drawn, with ink tails and breaching intersection belies the very real possibility that Yu is clearly working in a more visceral fashion that is evidenced in childlike energy and cliched dynamic poses. Yu does have moments when he shines, as Captain America receives the benefit of a number of strong panels throughout this comic book.
In addition to strong drawings of the first Avenger, Yu does bring the drama in every scene where Gladiator, Ronan, Annihilus and Super-Skrull Kl'rt are present. The direct result of that is the fact that I want more Yu-drawn Skrulls. I know we got a series full of that with "Secret Invasion," but Yu's take on the Skrulls is decisive. Like a Neal Adams-drawn Batman, a Romita Spider-Man or Kirby Darkseid, Yu has placed an indelible mark on the Skrulls, making them his forever and ever, amen. Luckily for us all, Kl'rt has a commanding presence in "Avengers" #23. Throughout the issue, the coloring from Sunny Gho and Paul Mounts is dominated by a faux painterly attempt, which plays well in some scenes, but not so good in others. Rather than truly coming off as painterly, the colors simply look digitally painted. That would benefit from additional details being drawn by Yu, but it gives the overall story an alien ambiance that is chillingly appropriate.
For Hickman's part in this comic, we get a dynamic, rousing speech from Kl'rt countered by cockiness from Shang Chi. Hickman reminds readers of the scope of the conflict and the consequences thereof. One scene in particular is so masterfully measured out that despite the telegraphed conclusion, I found myself conflicted between cheering the outcome and being disgusted by the delivery of that finality. While some comic books would mail in or unnecessarily elongate the penultimate chapter of a major crossover, the prelude to the final issue of "Infinity" is bold and daring, delivering consequences to be felt beyond this issue. "Avengers" #23 has left me anticipating a mighty finish to a summer event I've found myself enjoying rather thoroughly. I just hope the final chapter measures up to the work delivered to this point.