*of course, huge spoilers ahead*

AvengersVol52AWeWereA71215_fAvengers #2

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Jerome Opena

Coloured by Dean White

Cover by Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor

Dated Feb 2013 

In his first issue of Avengers, Jonathan Hickman introduced us to a trio of new villains: Ex Nihilo, Abyss and Aleph. He told us that Nihilo wanted to reshape Earth, because that’s just what he does. The rest was a mystery and I figured it would remain so for a few issues before any real light was shed on these characters or their origins.

By complete surprise, Hickman not only tells us all about his new creations in this second issue, but does so in a way that isn’t overly cryptic. You can actually read the dialogue and understand exactly what’s happening! Yes, there are little hidden hints and lots of foreshadowing, but there’s enough information that we don’t feel strapped down by excessive wordiness and pretentious language. What a feeling!

Upon inspecting their recently captured Thor, Ex Nihilo decides to give us the rundown on his little troop. Seems at the beginning of the Universe there was a group called the Builders. These builders worshipped the Universe (here referred to as a female) but eventually went out to shape existence to their liking. They created robot type things called Alephs to destroy any life forms they deemed unworthy. The Aleph we’re introduced to found some life worth saving somewhere out there in space and (in a less-creepy-than-it-sounds-way) gave birth to Ex Nihilo and Abyss. So the three of them go around trying to “transcend” the life forms they find. If it doesn’t work out, they bust up the place. With their eyes now on Earth, it’s starting to look like an “evolve or die” situation.

Hickman then plays out what will become a trademark of this run: the Steve Rogers/Tony Stark conversation. It ate up a lot of the first issue and it eats up even more space here. They talk in circles about having to build a bigger, better Avengers. Evidently this all took place before they went to Mars and got beat up.

We then run through a surprisingly quick roster round up, following Steve and Tony as they approach Avengers hopefuls and sign them up. Surprise members include former New Mutants Cannonball and Sunspot. Oh, and do you recall Gateway, from the X-Men’s outback days? Turns out his teleporting powers made their way into a younger lad going by the codename Manifold. Now where have we heard that before?

Switch back to the present and Nihilo’s origin bombs are raining down on Earth. Japan, Norway, India, Croatia and the Savage Land all get bombed with space goo leading to different results. What’s going on exactly? We’ll find out, as it looks like each origin bomb has a different purpose.

avengers 2

The issue wraps up with quite a few pages of repeated information, Cap assembling the new Avengers recruits and ending on a page of the team teleporting to Mars for round 2. One may have guessed that this issue would be the brawl to save the first, captured team, but it’s mostly explanation. Seems our next issue will feature all the fighting.

This was a solid follow-up to the first issue, but I did have one problem, which I didn’t even realize until my second reading. As part of Nihilo’s origin story, we’re introduced to the Builders. The story is fine but I have a real problem with their design. They look very similar to Aleph, perhaps slightly less robotic and more organic, but it’s very easy to get the two confused. Now this isn’t a huge issue right now, but in later issues it becomes rather confusing. Opena’s art is otherwise still brilliant and Dean White’s colours still make it all look like a million bucks.

I was very pleased to get some easily understood (though never dumbed-down) explanations and a nice quick recruitment process. This was something Hickman could have dragged out and he wrapped it all up in a perfectly paced manor. We get little bits from many favourite characters, like Falcon and Carol Danvers, and are teased with previews of the new recruits, like Hyperion and Smasher.

This is all solid setup and I don’t miss the action one bit. Let’s see how these new Avengers handle those overpowered cosmic scoundrels!

AvengersVol53ATheGard72466_fAvengers #3

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Jerome Opena

Coloured by Dean White

Cover by Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor

Dated March 2013 

We all thought this would start with a bang, having the last issue end with our Avengers ready to take back control of Mars, but it’s a different sort of bang Hickman feeds us.

Ex Nihilo’s child is born—his new Adam, his perfect creation for his (planned to be) transformed Earth. Abyss finds it fascinating but doesn’t really care; she plants one on Thor and asks to start a new pantheon with him. Thor thinks she’s gross. And then it turns out the new baby (actually fully grown man) doesn’t speak like you or me; he talks in Builder-code. Ex Nihilo is stumped. Hmmm, what could this mean?

avengers 3 2

Well, we don’t exactly get to find out, because here come the troops! The rest of the issue is your basic fisticuffs with all the new players taking swings at Nihilo and the gang. Of course, these are some tough baddies and they don’t go down from a simple punch in the face. Things look grim for our Avengers until…

Captain Universe. Who saw that one coming? If you’re into your Marvel mythos you might recall the Uni-power merging with different hosts at different times creating a whole bunch of different Captain Universes. This time, it seems the Uni-power has bonded with a woman who may have been in a near-death accident (car crash perhaps?). Her dialogue constantly switches between that of the cosmically aware space deity and an average Earth woman with a particular taste for pie. Good thing they brought her along too, it turns out she’s the Mother of the Universe that the Builders worshipped, so of course Ex Nihilo and Abyss quit what they’re doing and listen up. Aleph doesn’t let up, but it’s all sorted out soon enough. Captain Universe tells them to quit messing around with Earth and play in their own yard—they can do whatever they like with Mars. Then she takes their kid and heads back to Earth with the Avengers.

Avengers 3

Talk about your dues ex machina.

Hickman seems to have a great handle on the dialogue, though there are major hints of redundancy creepy in already. Quite often, the same thing is said in a few different ways, sometimes by different characters. Ex Nihilo won’t shut up about the chaos and beauty of life, while Abyss constantly reminds us that she’s something mysterious and difficult to figure out. Aleph continues with the awful robo-talk. Still, I found all the characters had their own voices and unique personalities. Nobody felt poorly written and though there are a few attempts at cheap laughs, nothing is overly juvenile.

And there you have it, the first arc of Hickman’s Avengers wrapped up in a neat little package. These three issues form a satisfying, contained story (that we all know will certainly effect everything to come). Things are off to a very promising start.

About The Author

<a href="http://comicsbulletin.com/byline/chris-wunderlich/" rel="tag">Chris Wunderlich</a>

Usually buried under a pile of glorious, cheap back issues, Chris Wunderlich occasionally emerges to play guitar for Toronto-based bands Rhyme Jaws and Mellowkotzen. He also shoots and edits videos for Nice Move Media and anyone else who asks nicely.