If you have read any of my reviews of the current AVENGERS series by Jonathan Hickman then you know that five issues in and I am already a big fan. For those of you that haven't been reading and have yet to read the current series, AVENGERS is a book featuring, you guessed it, Marvel's Avengers team. However, this Avengers series is a bit different than previous volumes: this one feels a lot more ambitious. The reason? Based on the charts provided in these last five issues, this series will feature a cast of at least 24 different rotating characters. Now, as with many of Hickman's books, the scope of the story is generally pretty big. You can expect things like going off planet to be something rather ordinary (and something that, in fact, we see occur in the very first issue). So what is so great about this series, and why should you be reading it?
Unlike his NEW AVENGERS title, AVENGERS is moving at a faster pace. The team is bigger and things here seem to move faster, particularly when you compare what happens here to the events in Hickman's other series, NEW AVENGERS. In the first three issues readers get, for example, their first story arc. In this quick, three-issue story Hickman establishes both the scope of the story (how big are their problems going to be?), as well as why it is necessary that each of these characters appear here. In issue one readers are introduced to a group of three, seemingly omnipotent beings whose sole purpose is to destroy and rebuild planets. These three are confronted by the Avengers team and in this first sort of "mini arc," where Hickman establishes that the threats this team will be facing will require not only a strong group of characters, but a lot more characters than we are used to seeing.
One of the great things about this series is that Hickman ropes in far more obscure characters and gives them responsibilities that are vital to the development of the plot. We are only a few issues in and it already feels like everyone has a really important part to play, as if there was some thought put into the construction of this roster. It doesn't feel like the creative team just plucked a bunch of random characters together and threw them into a big; instead, it feels like everyone serves an important purpose. So basically, a couple of important things are set up early on: the scope of the story in total (what kinds of conflicts will the team be facing) and the roles of these characters (why them?).
The first issue of the series served as an introduction to the story as well as to the entire cast. At the very core of the team you have the usual suspects: Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, The Hulk and Thor. This is one of the reasons why this is a great book to pick up if the only background on Marvel characters you have is what you saw in The Avengers movie. This story opens up with the team that is recognizable to most people, and it goes on to build off of that. Hickman not only takes readers by the hand and walks them through an exciting Avengers story, but he builds off this core team in a way that makes sense. He gives each of these characters a purpose, no matter how obscure the role.
The first three issues served to give us an idea of how big this thing and these adventures are going to be. The fourth and fifth issues dive deeper into the identities of more unrecognizable characters. In the series' fourth issue titled 'Death And Resurrection Of Major Titans' veers the focus of the story away from the team as a whole and turns towards the secret origin of Hyperion. But this isn't just an origin story; it is an origin story set in the present timeline. It is a story within a story, and that's what made it so interesting. In it we don't only learn of the true identity of Hyperion, who he is and what happened to his home planet; but we also see his value to the team and their missions.
The fifth, and most recent issue in this series follows suit. The focus turns away from the bigger story and towards Smasher: the first Superguardian. Hickman dives deep, unraveling to readers this character's identity. He gives her a personality, context and charisma. He demonstrates why this more obscur character is worthy of standing alongside the likes of Captain America, Black Widow and the Hulk. It's a great issue that feels grounded and is a great exploration of this character's identity.
One of the concerns with having a roster of 24 different characters is the fact that it might be hard to make all of them seem relevant. Do you really need such a big Avengers team? I mean, won't it just confuse people? Will it become one of those situations where the story is diluted and characters are just there to be there, but feel more like empty shells of themselves? The thing is, that's not what Hickman is doing here. He is giving everyone a little bit of time in the spotlight and he's allowing himself to explore these different characters; to apply them to the story as necessary instead of feeding them all hollow one-liners. The result is a really interesting and fun story that feels like these characters are being placed here on purpose.
This is a solid introductory series for anyone unfamiliar with the Avengers. So far it feels like it stands alone and uses the characters we all know recognize to tell an interesting story. What do you think? Do you like this series so far? Do you feel like a team of 24 Avengers is too many, or do you find that so far things have been pretty well organized?