“Avengers World” #3 picks up another plotline from the series’ premiere issue, as Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli shift back over to Madripoor. It’s not often that you get to write a sentence along the lines of, “The island of Madripoor is now on the top of the head of a massive dragon that’s flying across the planet,” but it’s the crazy setup that we’ve been plunged back into. What we really get, though, is an extended battle between the Gorgon and Shang-Chi. It’s well put together, but as with past Shang-Chi spotlights, it also feels like another blatant attempt to try and raise Shang-Chi’s profile.
Hickman’s clearly got a love for Shang-Chi — there are, after all, numerous characters in “Avengers” and “Avengers World” who have yet to get the attention that Hickman lavishes on him — but I’m not convinced that readers are getting quite enough to warrant all this time on center stage. “Avengers World” #3’s plot of Shang-Chi and the Gorgon fighting each other is certainly energetic, but at the same time it’s also incredibly light on plot. When you keep in mind that there are three others Avengers on the island whom we literally only see for one panel on the first page, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Shang-Chi’s pet project status is at times holding back the book as a whole. With so many different plotlines kicked off in “Avengers World” #1, to devote an entire issue to a single fight so early in the game makes me worry about the momentum (or lack thereof) in this title.
Caselli’s art looks great, though, and it’s the star of the show in this issue. Shang-Chi and Gorgon’s bodies are rippling with energy as they jump and explode across the page from one panel to the next. For a fight that’s primarily (although not exclusively) fought with fists and a swinging sword, you have nothing but their bodies to focus on and Caselli never loses the reader. He also works well with colorists Frank Martin, Antonio Fabela, and Edgar Delgado to make the flashback scenes instantly distinctive, with the flat and washed out colors. It’s a simple but effective trick, and it’s handled with great skill here.
“Avengers World” #3 has some of Hickman’s strengths and weaknesses on display when it comes to the Avengers. He’s coming up with huge, brilliant ideas… and then putting them partially or entirely on hold for strange detours. There’s a balance between characters and plotlines that it feels like Hickman still hasn’t quite mastered, and “Avengers World” #3 shows the end result. This would have been a great half-issue’s worth of plot, but without anything else to balance it out, there isn’t quite enough to boost the issue overall.