*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Esad Ribic, Mike Deodato, Butch Guice and Salvador Larroca
Coloured by Dean White, Frank Martin, Paul Mounts and Laura Martin
Cover by Esad Ribic
Dated February 2014
Infinity is finally over! Time to start fresh (ish)! Time to sit back and let the brilliance that is Jonathan Hickman take over and surprise us again and again, pushing the Avengers to new heights and telling stories so grandiose in scope one cannot comprehend them in simple two dimensional thoughts! Right!?
Marvel likes to “start fresh” quite a lot these days. Back in February of 2014 they had themselves a little “Marvel NOW” initiative—I suppose we were expected to buy these books because they promised bold new directions, fresh creative teams or at least a sense of friendliness towards new readers. Something must have worked (or not) because Marvel keeps doing these every few months or so now. Some people dig it—it annoys the heck out of me. Either way, to prove the “now-ness” of it all, Marvel plastered a big fancy #1 on this cover and officially numbered it 24.NOW (yes, really). It’s not really a first issue, or even much of a jumping on point, but it’s got a huge #1 on it, so seal it up in a little baggie and hide it under your bed till you’re an old man—it’s going to send your grandkids to college I’ll bet! Right!?
So what does this comic actually offer? Well, if we take another gander at the cover, it promises to be drawn by Esad Ribic. Judging by the cover painting, it’ll be well worth the stupid $5 price (trust me, my issue has a $4.99 on it, despite what the above image says)—I mean that’s one pretty picture, am I right? Opening the book up, we learn that a few pages are brought to us by Ribic, while the rest is a hodgepodge of Mike Deodato, Butch Guice and Salvador Larocca (and an army of colourists, for some reason). In fact, the Esad Ribic that we do get isn’t even that fancy-pants painting style of his; it’s just plain old (though decent) pencils, with some Dean White colour over it to make it look all high quality. No, this book does not offer amazing, or even consistent art. It’s a mess.
How about story? We begin with an Iron Man from the future attempting to come to the present day. Hickman muse grown-up Franklin Richards busts down the door to stop him, and then just sort of changes his mind and suddenly Future-Iron-Man lands at Avengers tower, interrupting a barbeque.
Now the Avengers are having some down time, so Hickman decides to flex his “humour” muscles. Thor grills up some meat and informs us that hotdogs are gross, Starbrand and Hawkeye shoot skeet and the Hulk brings out mammoth-sized platters of “beer pie”. Oh, and when the Avengers relax, they do it in full uniform. Seems normal until you think about it—I mean let Captain Marvel take off her helmet at least, it’s gotta be sweaty under there! This is no Claremont-makes-the-Xmen-play-baseball issue, but despite my somewhat crass summarizing, it’s quite funny and an enjoyable little way to start an otherwise disappointing issue.
And I almost forgot the best part! Captain America officially kicks Wolverine out of the Avengers! It’s nothing juicy, just a throwaway panel, but it’s about time! I’ve been waiting years to see Wolverine go.
Fortunately, when Future-Iron-Man lands, the Avengers don’t go into stupid “let’s all beat up the guy until we understand what’s going on” mode. They help him out. He informs them that a rogue planet is headed for Earth. It’s crashing through space in a straight line—meaning, perhaps, that it was sent hurtling through space on purpose. Like a bullet from the gun of a god. Oh, very mysterious (and even genuinely interesting), but forget the who/what/when/where/why/how! Leave that to the empty promises of tomorrow!
The rest of the issue follows the Avengers as they blandly prepare a machine as per Future-Iron-Man’s instructions. At first it seems fascinating, then you quickly realize that the Avengers are fully prepared, there is virtually no threat and we waste away page after page of executing a neat-looking but otherwise boring plan. This is where we get the mix of artists—there’s really two ways of looking at it: either Ribic didn’t have time to do the full issue and Marvel gathered a cadre of fill-ins, or Hickman really only provided enough plot for a handful of pages while Marvel felt the need to stretch it to a $5 sized book. Either way, we get a book where one thing happens and it’s interesting in concept, but not really in execution.
At the end of the book we find out that Future-Iron-Man isn’t really a man at all, but a black woman who claims to be a descendant of Tony Stark. It’s not much of a revelation, however, as the unveiling adds nothing to the character or plot; it’s just attempted shock value. We also learn that the rogue planet is now sharing the same space as earth, albeit on a different wave-length or something. Apparently it can be used as an unlimited power source, but instead of solving the world’s energy crisis Future-Iron-Not-a-Man tells Tony it’s even more powerful that the anti-matter bombs or Sol’s Hammer (remember that thing!?). Starks sure love their weapons of mass destruction…
So there you have it, a book without much of a plot—a book that sets up a mystery, tells you to ignore it, tells you this “rogue planet” will come in handy one day and leaves us with nothing but promises of exciting issues in the future. None of that here folks—not yet.
It’s a “fresh new start” that isn’t. It’s a #1 that isn’t. It’s drawn by a superstar artist, but not really. It’s written by Marvel’s most maverick mind—but is he? It throws more toys in the pen, but only hints that someday we’ll get to play with them. Empty promises, expensive cover price.
If one was hopeless, now would be a good jumping-off point. But not I! No, I figured someday all this endless set-up would pay off, and I went ahead and bought every last issue of the Avengers Jonathan Hickman wrote. And I’m reviewing them all, here, for you now. Stay tuned folks, you’re going to need a guide for the road ahead—it’s a rocky one; one you shouldn’t travel alone…