In the blink of an eye (or at least the journey of a double-shipping comic), the number of universes remaining in the Marvel multiverse is drastically reduced, as showcased in "Avengers" #41 from writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Mike Deodato. For readers, fewer universes means a higher likelihood of familiar universes finally crossing that barrier and bumping into one another, which is exactly what happens in this comic.
Opening in the Ultimate Universe with Miles Morales swinging by as a scene change device, the story in "Avengers" #41 ping-pongs between the 616 Universe and the Ultimates, which gives readers a peek into the prep work that the geniuses of both realms are concocting. Hickman goes to great lengths to show the vastness of Ultimate Reed Richards' intellect and ego as the former Fantastic Four member serves as his own one-man Illuminati. The writer continues to describe the scope of the horror unfolding through the Incursions via a Galactic Council gathering, which just underscores for readers how long and how intensively Hickman has been playing the long game in building this path.
Hickman's machinations are mind-opening, mind-numbing and frustrating. Repetitious panels between titles gives readers the impression that more could be done with the adventure and that Hickman is simply buying time, but that same repetition (like Namor's plight) actually serves to inform the readers who are selectively partaking in the adventures of the "Avengers" titles while also providing a different perspective, something usually reserved for flashbacks or reinterpretations. Hickman chooses to give the reader ample opportunity to consider the calamities from multiple angles, again illustrating his master plan. The characters in "Over There" stand on their own foundations, as Hickman gives readers more than a couple surprises and a great-big "Of course!" moment to finish this issue.
Along the way, Hickman seeds "Avengers" #41 with oodles of moments that provide artist Mike Deodato with some fantastic images to draw. Deodato's "classically exaggerated" style makes every character look like a fitness freak or a steroid user. That works for some characters, adding menace to Thanos and regality to Namor, but it looks miscast on someone like Reed Richards. It's not a gigantic distraction, but it does provide evidence that too much of a good thing isn't always all that great.
On the other side of the coin, Deodato exaggerates the grotesque and the hideous just as much. Corvus Glaive is an exceptional example of Deodato's style amplifying the inherent fearfulness several of these characters command. His choice to employ vast amounts of shadow works to Deodato's favor, adding mystery and uncertainty to every panel of "Avengers" #41. Frank Martin cooperates nicely with Deodato's work, pitching in strong colors with ample shades and gradations. This is the dark, scary side of the Incursions, and Deodato makes it believably terrifying.
"Avengers" #41 brings a payoff many readers have been waiting for but, with three months still remaining until "Time Runs Out," it also leaves readers wondering just what Hickman has in store before the inevitable changes that will accompany "Secret Wars." The Incursions have frayed the nerves of the characters in these comics and piqued the curiosity of readers, but how many Incursions remain and what happens when the last one lines up? Hickman and company provide readers with plenty to feel uneasy about.