Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer continue to plume exactly how strange and mind-bending a superhero comic can be before it’s just fully reclassified a sci-fi comic. These two have written something that is absolutely on the level of Isaac Asimov or Harlan Ellison. This is hard sci-fi, it just happens to feature an unfrozen super-soldier draped in the American flag, a diminutive, fast-healing Canadian with claws, and a man dressed in spider webbing. But the ideas they put forth are absolutely on the same level as the ‘70s-style hard sci-fi they’re channeling, and that’s not to say that they don’t have their own voice, this might be the same breed, but it’s nothing like what those writers would’ve done...well maybe Ellison, but he never DID! I have a hard time describing what’s actually happening in these issues, because it would require an article, not a review, but suffice it to say the Avengers are facing an enemy unlike any they’ve previously encountered, and I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen next, isn’t THAT something of a feat in this day and age? Obviously, everyone is going to make it through this book, that’s not where the suspense comes from, the suspense comes from not knowing the hows and whys of their survival.
Stefano Caselli, and I think we ALL know how I feel about his art (spoiler alert: I love it. I love it so much), is oddly appropriate for this title. Usually he sticks with more grounded, low-power characters and books, but in this case, his attention to detail and emphasis on facial features is absolutely what the strange concepts and bizarre ideas need to remain relatable and personable. It’s important for a book like this to never lose sight of its audience and to always give them a lifeline to connect to, and that’s precisely what Caselli’s art provides. If pencils and inks are that important, colors are as well and Frank Martin makes things muddled, subdued, bizarre and absolutely beautiful, setting a tone that will, again, communicate with readers when words might be overreaching. This is one of the strangest, most beautiful books on the shelf and I’m absolutely ecstatic to see where it goes from here.
The book can be hard to follow. I actually understood a great deal more of this issue, and it helped me understand past issues but it, like previous ones, should be read more than once. This is a very heady, strange book and it requires an absolute metric ton of thought and comprehension. While there is a lot of action, it’s almost all futile, so this is a book dependent on your enjoyment of characters talking, for better or worse.
I can’t think of a reason to mark down a superhero book for trying something new, interesting and different. This is a book well worth reading, well worth investing in and well worth getting absolutely lost in. I haven’t even mentioned what happens to Banner in the S.H.I.E.L.D. base (another fake spoiler: it’s on the cover) and I absolutely can’t wait to see how that plays into the entire story. A.I.M. Island is still in the mix, with the Scientist Supreme seeming to have, or at least thinking he has, a handle on the situation, but who can tell for sure? One of the things that makes this book amazing is, as I previously said, a complete lack of knowledge of where it’s going or what will happen and I think that’s great news for people growing weary of calling plots a mile off. This is a great book for neophytes or old-timers alike.