Jonathan Hickman, much moreso than any other writer I can think of, has perfected the art of having extremely high, heady concepts be communicated with extreme efficiency in both the short and longterm. If that sounds like a word salad, bear with me: in AVENGERS #36, we are introduced both to a series of new concepts (a dimensional gate spanning the multiverse, the trip being one-way, the maturation of the Savage Land people, and more) while following up on things like Incursions, the erosion of the Avengers teams, and the former minions of the Builders. While we learn more about and have the latter firmly established, the former are still wild, heady concepts that are introduced quickly and scarcely expounded upon. This kind of staggered storytelling allows for an absolute ton of content to be introduced in a relatively small amount of time. Hickman gives us a lot to digest, but if you’ve been reading his work for any length, you know you don’t need to fully understand everything up front. He also doesn’t neglect the actual content of the characters themselves, writing each with a voice all their own and a uniqueness of tone that allows the cast to be expansive and still be engaging.
Stefano Caselli is an amazing line artist to pair with Hickman as he’s got an incredible knack for finding just the right facial expression to go with whatever the situation at hand is. He’s an extremely detail-oriented artist, and that’s an important trait to have when an emotional connection is of paramount importance to communicating some very strange, foreign and potentially dry scientific concepts. Frank Martin provides colors and, similarly, is especially qualified to work with Hickman and Caselli as his colors are bright and beautiful, but also incredibly evocative of a very specific tone. In this case, it feels like Martin is trying to get across that, while things look extremely grim, and in some ways are, that hope springs eternal. There’s also an incredible level of detail to the shading so, despite Caselli’s linework leaning toward the cartoonish, it never looks unreal, which is not an easy needle to thread.
If you haven’t been keeping up strictly with this title and NEW AVENGERS, there’s almost no way to be following what happens here. I HAVE been following both titles and I STILL felt lost at certain points, and while I generally enjoy the staggered narrative that I wrote about above, it lends itself much better to reading in a collected form which, as much as I did enjoy this issue, it isn’t. There’s a lot of buildup, but it’s not fully clear WHAT’S being built toward, or where this specific title is going.
This is a concept issue that just happens to have some engaging, fascinating characters. While that gives the reader an emotional core, it’s not without its narrative flaws, but overall the writing and the art meet so well and establish such a strong emotional core, that even though I don’t fully follow what’s happening, I’m still finding myself extremely invested. Wherever this book is going, if this quality keeps up, I can easily suggest coming along for the ride.