The Avengers #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Jerome Opena
If you don't hear the score to the cinematic version of The Avengers (or something else just as epic) playing in your head while reading the first issue of Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena's first issue, then you should probably see your doctor immediately, as there might be something seriously wrong with the Awesomeness center of your brain. While this was undoubtedly my most anticipated launch of the Marvel Now! initiative, it's no secret that recreating the success Hickman brought to Fantastic Four would not be a simple matter with The Avengers as the former had languished in a long directionless period before Hickman's tenure, while the latter had become Marvel's most popular franchise. To what new heights can you take a book that is already enjoying it's greatest cultural relevance in decades? In one issue, Hickman proves he is up for the challenge.
It begins with Steve and Tony. Both men are feeling uneasy, they are convinced that catastrophe lurks just over the next horizon, and so they begin to make preparations. Skipping ahead in time a bit, we see the cinematic Avengers roster confronting a new threat on the planet Mars. While Hickman gives each character a moment to show just how professional and awe inspiring they are, their alien adversaries soundly defeat them, and send a battered Captain America back to earth as a message. While things initially look grim, the issue ends with a new dawn for the team and the franchise as we see just what Cap and Iron Man were planning.
Hickman's script is almost poetic in its diction, both in terms of dialogue and narration. The villains of the piece, though still fresh and unknown, are instantly more interesting than most generic new creation starter threats, as Hickman writes them with distinct identities and motivations that don't seem quite as malicious as the results of their actions. While Captain America and Iron Man are definitely in the spotlight, each character gets a moment to shine. And I seriously got goosebumps reading the perfectly paced final pages of this issue.
Jerome Opena proved he could not only handle, but expertly craft emotionally charged, huge action sequences on Uncanny X-Force. Whether it is the reaction shots of Thor before the battle, or the designs of the terraformed Mars, or the brutal action sequence of Captain America alone against the aliens, Opena nails every demand the script throws at him. My one quibble with the art (and I'm not sure if this can even be directed at Opena), is that some of the characters whose costumes have been redesigned are stuck wearing something that looks a bit super hero generic.
An exciting new era has begun for the Avengers. I know I've used the word cinematic a couple times already in this review, but that is the feel that this issue really evokes. The events unfold at a very measured and dramatic pace, and because of some wise casting choices, the book reads like it could be a direct follow up to the summer blockbuster. If you loved the movie and want more from the Avengers, read this comic book.