Writer Sam Humphries visits the Avengers and brings artist Bengal with him as the pair take a closer look at Starbrand in “Avengers” #34.2. Nightmask and Spider-Woman also make appearances, the former due to his existential proximity to Starbrand and the latter to provide a slightly more grounded perspective for these two characters with vast, god-like abilities that have yet to be completely measured or defined.
Part of the fun of a grand, sprawling cast is that diversity comes a little more naturally. Unfortunately, grand, sprawling casts of characters also rarely allow for expansive development of characters that are not media darlings or natural leaders. Such is the case with the lineup of Avengers assembled under Jonathan Hickman. Yes, many of the characters have had a chance to stretch out a little bit, but the developments of those characters are more plot driven than true character evolution.
A story like “Big City” gives a writer like Sam Humphries a chance to tighten the spotlight around one or two characters, focus on their interpersonal relationship and develop the framework for future adventures. Humphries seizes that opportunity to show readers the struggle Starbrand lives with and underscores the battle Kevin Connor fights to maintain his grasp on humanity, which was shaky at best before Connor became Starbrand. Humphries doesn’t teach readers much more about Starbrand, nor does he do much to establish or expand a rogues’ gallery for him. Instead, Humphries just defines some parameters of Starbrand’s power and gives Connor an opportunity to take inventory.
Bengal brings wide-eyed, constantly shouting characters to “Avengers” #34.2 and keeps those characters trim and sleek. In some panels, the appearance is good; in others, it feels underdeveloped. That latter assessment would most likely be more prevalent if not for colorist David Curiel. The colorist adds in some amazing backgrounds, including blue skies with rolling clouds and dazzling, hypnotic star fields. Curiel keeps Starbrand’s energy usage unique and bright, which is a gorgeous combination with the space settings in this comic.
“Avengers” #34.2 isn’t a comic book I would normally pay five dollars for, but Humphries’ work with Starbrand (with a side of Nightmask and Spider-Woman) gives an under-defined character a chance to shine a little bit. Bengal’s art is stronger in storytelling than detail but works just fine for the tale at hand. Independent of the current “Avengers” storyline and higher-priced than a typical issue of any “Avengers” title, “Avengers” #34.2 reads more like an Annual-lite and inherently feels a little bit more dispensable as well.