When word got out that Jonathan Hickman would be taking the reins of Marvel’s flagship superhero team (eat your heart out, X-Men), I was over the moon. I saw nothing but good things ahead. Let me explain…
Back in 2003, the Avengers meant nothing to me. They probably didn’t mean much to you either, unless you had fond memories of their glory days. Well, a new hot-shot writer came along and decided to change all that. Enter Brian Michael Bendis. In 2004 he grabbed the Avengers franchise and wrestled it to its knees. With his New Avengers title he set out to change the way we thought of Marvel’s finest. Spiderman, Wolverine, Luke Cage and Spider-Woman all joined up. He brought back the Sentry. Things were fresh, exciting and controversial to say the least. I took the bait and chomped hard, buying into the new craze, but got severely burned when Bendis decided to kill off my beloved Alpha Flight without purpose. I stuck around for a good while longer, but eventually got annoyed with the slow moving plots, sarcastic and juvenile dialogue, and the preference of flash over substance. Much to my chagrin, the Bendis era would last a very, very long time. Somewhere around 2009 I dumped the New Avengers and Bendis altogether. I figured that would be the end of the Avengers for me.
What was just beginning, though, took me by complete surprise. You see, I was never a Fantastic Four fan. I considered the entire line a bore. Perhaps I grew up in the wrong era, reading an abundance of the Tom DeFalco/Paul Ryan issues, but something about that book just seemed lame. I just didn’t get it. Of course, all that changed in 2009 with writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Dale Eaglesham. It took quite a while, but eventually I gave into the hype surround the incoming creative team and gave the Fantastic Four a try. It was something else, that’s for sure. Hickman seemed to have huge concepts coming out of every pore, borrowing from the rich FF history and creating new, epic scenarios where everything seemed at stake. He built his platform slowly, bringing together everyone from Doom to the Inhumans to the father of Mr. Fantastic, Nathaniel Richards. Yes, things built and built and eventually the big picture was in focus. The climax was well earned and perfectly executed. The conclusion was world-shattering. Hickman didn’t just turn me into a Fantastic Four fan, but he made their book my favourite title, month after month. That is no small feat.
Now if there’s one word that you should take away from that last paragraph, it’s “slowly”. You’ll be hearing that a lot. What was once a simple quirk in Hickman’s storytelling process eventually became the irksome trait that would dominate everything he touched. He builds his stories very, very slowly—Fantastic Four fell into this trap and as we’ll see, his Avengers books took this to the extreme.
So, just having finished the beautiful achievement that was his run on the Fantastic Four, Hickman was primed for an ambitious run to re-invent the over-Bendisized Avengers. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. If buying new comic books is voting with your dollar, I spared no expense. I couldn’t wait to experience this exciting direction for my cherished writer and the super-team that was longer overdue to be a staple of my collecting. Hickman burst out of the gates strong, committing to the main Avengers book (which would hit shelves twice monthly) and the supporting title, New Avengers.
It was the tail-end of 2012, the Avengers movie had just taken the world by storm and Marvel was re-launching their now-flagship franchise in a bold, new direction with an exciting new author and a lineup of top-notch artists. The world was ready. I was ready. What could go wrong?
Now that we’re at the end of Hickman’s reign, I think it’s an appropriate time to take a look back. I’ll be individually reviewing every issue of the main Avengers book, the New Avengers series as well as Hickman’s event book, Infinity. Let’s see how it all panned out…