*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
Written by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Art by Mike Deodato
Coloured by Frank Martin
Cover by Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor
Dated July 2013
Remember the Zebra kids from a few issues back? The ones that hatched from the origin bomb in the Savage Land? Well, according to Iron Man these kids grow up fast. In a short while they’ve become what we humans consider youths of around 7-9 years old. And they don’t need to eat, sleep or breathe. What happens when you want for nothing? Daddies Hyperion and Thor think they have the answer.
I love the dynamic Jonathan Hickman builds between Hyperion and Thor in this series. Too often we see characters buddy up because they are whacky opposites, or they play off each other’s differences like Batman and Superman, or Captain America and Iron Man. I love seeing the realistic depiction of two men becoming fast friends over their similarities—these guys can talk openly and relate to each other because they are both vastly powerful, god-like beings. Sure, Thor enjoys the drink and party while Hyperion is more the stoic type, but these guys both know what it’s like to have the weight of the world (sometimes not so metaphorically) on their shoulders—to be gods among men. I particularly like that this friendship seems genuine—not a simple set-up to lead to an eventual betrayal (but you never know).
So Hyperion and Thor take the kids and break them up into groups to teach them the lessons of life. Thor chucks a rock into the wilds and tasks a group to fetch it, beefing up the activity with a healthy lesson on Asgardian heroes. Hawkeye and Spider-Woman slack off instead of teaching the kids about accountability. Spiderman (fused with the persona of Doc Ock let’s not forget) gets all snarky and shows the kids that trust shouldn’t be so freely given. I see how Hickman wants to show off the characteristics of each Avenger, but it probably would have made more sense to look for teachers outside the immediate cast. I mean, grab almost any X-man/woman, they surely know how to teach. The intention was good and the thought process was solid, but it seems like the only people taking things seriously are Hyperion and Thor.
At the end of the day, it seems everyone learns a valuable lesson. The kids retrieve the rock Thor threw, and he rewards the humble and helpful over the greedy and victorious. Hyperion learns that those without need must learn to provide until there is a world without need. Everyone learns that something’s up in the Savage land, the kids get captured by some crazy looking creatures and Spiderman reminds us that “it’s all well and good to live above the food chain… until you come across a predator”. Now, with a seemingly perfect race (in evolutionary terms) suddenly coming into existence in the Savage Land, it’s no surprise who’s revealed to be behind the kidnappings. The High Evolutionary is in town, folks! Yes, Hickman knows his Marvel U and he wants to play in every corner of it.
But wait, what’s this? Look at those credits again. This isn’t simply the work of one author, but two! Nick Spencer has come aboard, and if you wondered how Hickman could keep up writing three Avengers books a month (two of this main series and one New Avengers) here’s your answer. He can’t anymore, and Spencer is worthy support. Now it’s never specified if one author does the plots and the other does the scripting, but this issue still feels very Hickman-esque, so whatever Spencer has been assigned to do, it certainly hasn’t changed the pace or style of the book. There is plenty of doomsday talk from Thor and Hyperion, some playful banter between Hawkeye and Spider-Woman and Captain Universe chimes in with her cosmic two cents—this is still a Hickman book, for better or worse.
I like the pacing here, the dialogue, and the plot. Sure, there could have been better teachers for these kids, but it’s a tiny flaw in an otherwise enjoyable book. That is to say, the writing was enjoyable…
This book is still drawn by Mike Deodato and it still looks awful. Instead let’s talk about how awesome that cover by Dustin Weaver is—awesome and sad actually, because this is the last cover we get from Weaver. It’s good to see he goes out with a bang. Just look at the beautiful detail! The lighting, the colours from Justin Ponsor—everything about this cover makes me happy. Note how Iron Man flies around the logo, how Thor stands against the sunlight, how Captain Universe stares not at the scene before her but directly into the eyes of the reader. Cosmically aware, indeed! Weaver and Ponsor, you’ll be sorely missed.
Written by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Art by Mike Deodato
Coloured by Frank Martin
Cover by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho
Dated August 2013
Exit Weaver and Ponsor, enter Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho. I’m not crazy about the style of this cover, but I’ll be damned that’s one very cool looking giant robot.
Our story picks up where we left off. The High Evolutionary has kidnapped the Zebra Kids and has some dastardly deeds in mind for them, while Hyperion’s father instincts kick in and he goes nuts looking for them. How will the Avengers find the kids in time to save the day?
In answer to that question, Jonathan Hickman (and, to some degree Nick Spencer) delve into a corner of the Marvel U even I don’t know all that much about. Garokk the Petrified Man, the watcher of the Savage Land, knows where the kids are and he leads the Avengers right to the High Evolutionary’s door. Now I consider myself a pretty big comic buff, but I had to do a little research to figure out exactly who Garokk was. And when the Avengers enter the Evolutionary’s den? Yes, that’s when that giant robot emerges from his underground lair to attack. Apparently the robot is called Terminus, and again my fanboy ego is hurt. Garokk and Terminus have both been around and have encountered their fair share of heroes and villains, but I’d never once read about them. I pride myself on knowledge of the C and D-listers of the Marvel U and here I was stumped. Shame!
All in all, though, a pretty cool issue. Hyperion scraps the traditional heroic practises and charges the Evolutionary, ripping off his arm and demanding his kids back. Thor does what he does best and tries to take down the giant. Hawkeye, Spiderman, Spider-Woman and Iron Man are completely useless and busy themselves fighting off some crazy looking beast-goons. In the end we find out that the Evolutionary had captured the kids to use them as an energy source to power Terminus, who apparently can destroy worlds. Just as Thor is about to bust out his big, bad thunderstorm attack Hyperion flies through the robot’s head and everyone is saved.
Really guys? The Evolutionary wanted to use the kids to fuel Terminus? I’m a big fan of the High Evolutionary—you never know which side this guy will be on and he always has a neat plan up his sleeve. He’s your average scientist that became so much more, but didn’t join up to fight off bank robbers—this guy went into space, developed new races and fought off Galactus. He was mentor to Adam Warlock, a villain to the Fantastic Four, an ally to the X-Men—you name it! He’s a character with a lot of potential and seeing him used in such a frivolous way is disheartening. I mean, the guy is all about evolution—he’s the human that aspired to be an Ex Nihilo—and when he finds his perfect race he hooks them up to a planet destroying robot? Hickman, Spencer… you guys could have done better than that.
Still, it’s a fun story and the fight with both the Evolutionary and Terminus is quite entertaining. Hickman never forgets that Thor isn’t just a foot soldier amongst foot soldiers in the Avengers. He’s the god of thunder! He’s fells giants! He’s awesome and we’re constantly reminded of that. His friendship with Hyperion is examined again and again I’m very pleased with the results. Hyperion has resigned himself to be optimistic and focus on protecting his new world instead of simply mourning his old world. Thor’s the buddy that pats him on the back with an Asgardian version of “I’m here for ya, bro”.
Now the art: the good news is this is Mike Deodato’s final issue (for the time being at least). He also draws a very cool Terminus. The bad news is obvious—this is still an issue drawn by Mike Deodato and I don’t like it. The layouts are often decent (with a few glaring exceptions) and the storytelling could be worse, but my distaste for his style clouds my judgement here. I’ll say it again—it’s downright ugly!
It’s around this time that I began to waiver. Where are you going with this, Hickman? I like what’s happening in your books (for the most part) but we’re sort of meandering now, aren’t we? Get to the point, maybe? I could have dropped the title here—not for lack of enjoyment, but because paying $3.99 for these small segments of story was becoming an expense I wasn’t sure I could justify. Then, right when I think I’m ready to jump ship, Hickman points us to Infinity—the event book that promises more than just a culmination of Hickman’s plans. It promises big. Next issue is the first “prelude to Infinity”… I can’t give up now, right?