Last year’s Avengers No Surrender was a surprising hit, and perhaps the best Avengers story since 2015’s Secret Wars. With such a success under their belt, it's not surprising that the team has reunited for this year’s weekly sequel, Avengers No Road Home. And with this latest installment now out, it’s clear that the creative team is taking the story in a much darker direction than anything that’s come before.
That darkness arrived abruptly and very literally in the last issue when all the planets in the cosmos went suddenly black, signifying the arrival of Nyx, Mother of Night. This week’s issue sees the fallout of her arrival, starting with a grim and graphic depiction of the slaughter of Olympus. The comedic elements of last issue -- the team-up of Hercules and Rocket for example -- are gone, replaced by an extended battle between the assembled Avengers and Nyx and her family.
Paco Medina is the perfect fit for this series. There’s something very traditional about his linework that lends itself to this altogether more traditional Avengers tale. Much like No Surrender, Avengers No Road Home is a good old-fashioned knock-down, drag-out between good and evil, and Medina’s excellent pacing and panel structure captures that energy perfectly. Where Medina shine brightest, however, is in his ability to capture the emotions of the characters throughout the issue. Zeus’ anger, pain, and despair are all there in his eyes, and a moment near the end of the issue as Hawkeye wakes to find a gut-wrenching new reality waiting for him is felt by the reader all the more because we see all of the complex, heartbreaking emotions run through Clint’s mind.
Credit also goes to Jesus Aburtov’s colors. Similarly to No Surrender, No Road Home works so well because it leaves nothing on the table. This is an old-school superhero adventure series, and as such, the palette needs to be bold and bright and exhilarating. There’s an abundance of dramatic blacks necessitated by the arrival of Nyx (ably captured by Juan Vlasco’s inking), but the contrast between good and evil is even more apparent thanks to the bright colors of the superheroes. When it comes to dynamic, emotional and powerful superheroic artwork, the team of Medina, Vlasco and Aburtov is entirely formidable.
The fact that Avengers No Road Home is so good shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the caliber of its writing team. Al Ewing is doing some of his best superhero work ever for Marvel right now, and him teaming with industry greats Jim Zub and Mark Waid is almost a guarantee for success. The reason it’s might be surprising that No Surrender and No Road Home work is exactly because of the number of writers on the series. It’s rare that comics like this don’t suffer from a case of "Too Many Cooks." Combine that with a punishing weekly schedule and the fact that this is not only good but great is a genuine delight.
No Road Home #2 is narrated by Clint Barton throughout, and while the choice of narrator is an odd one at first, it all becomes clear by the end of the issue. What’s also great about this choice is not only does he provide a more grounded voice to the brightly colored fight between gods, aliens, and superhumans (an issue that becomes the focal point of his narration), but his point of view wavers, flexes and shifts as we move through the issue. He starts off with a lot more confidence than when he finishes, and in the middle, he goes from certain to doubtful when his mind is influenced by the enemy.
Speaking of which, it’s always challenging introducing new villains into comics like this. There’s a certain ‘tried-and-true’ element to leaning back on the more comfortable bad guys like Ultron or Kang, but here Nyx and her family are given a credible backstory that elevates them beyond mere Monster of the Week. It’ll be interesting to see Nyx’s character develop as the series goes on, as a lot of weight in this issue is placed on providing depth to her point of view. No Surrender was merely a cosmic game, whereas No Road Home is about a whole lot more. There’s almost an element of Thor: Ragnarok about the setup in this issue. Nyx, a child of Olympus locked away by Zeus for thousands of years, returns to lay waste to the home of the gods before setting off for a confrontation with Hercules, a fellow child of Olympus himself.
With Avengers No Road Home releasing weekly, you’d think that it would be more able to slow its pace down without losing momentum. While that certainly could be true, this second issue is showing no indication that it is going to let anyone stop and catch their breath, least of which the reader. The plot reveals in No Road Home #2 more directly ties this series to its predecessor No Surrender, but more than that, it ends with a confrontation between two heroes that has been a long time coming for fans, and with the promise of that to come, readers will no doubt want to keep picking up this series.