It is almost impossible for a work of fiction to survive without a strong emotional core holding it together. The book can be about most anything, but unless a severe lack of emotion or investment is the entire point, it simply does not work because interest can’t be maintained with very, very few exceptions. Even history books, for worlds both real and imaginary, try to insert some semblance of narrative, often at the cost of accuracy. All this ties back into Jonathan Hickman’s time jump in his Avengers storylines, all counting down to a catastrophic event month-by-month. The series started out emotionally dry and a huge part of that was because of a lack of context. I’m not sure that problem of context is going to be solved, but I am sure that Hickman has found a way to write around it, giving us one of the most resonant, touching issues of the entire run that also somehow contains Captain Marvel and War Machine (who gets by with a little help from some "friends") throwing down with Hulk and Captain Britain. Reed Richards’ message to his daughter is a terrific reminder that, despite his own emotional failings, he is ultimately a loving father and husband. Maybe it was the focus on Richards that stopped a lot of this resonance from coming through early on, but it’s certainly on full display here. We get thematic parallels between Reed discussing gamecraft both with what’s happening in the issue and how he feels toward Valeria, and it works extremely well.
Mike Deodato handles the linework, and it’s great to see him return again and again to Hickman’s world. His characters are both incredibly stylized, but somehow retain an aura of realness that makes them relatable and easily identifiable. There are no visible corners cut and he makes the action look epic and pack an incredible amount of punch, while still being extremely easy to follow. Frank Martin’s colors are subtle and dark, almost with a bleak, washed-out undercurrent that fits exactly in with this strange new Marvel universe.
I had to double-check and make sure this was, indeed, AVENGERS as it focuses almost solely on the NEW AVENGERS roster and while I absolutely love that book, it’s disappointing to see two titles that had done such a great job of differentiating themselves and being readable to fans of the entire story OR the individual teams break down and go full-on crossover. If you haven’t been keeping up with NEW AVENGERS, even with the recap at the beginning, this book might be difficult to follow. This book, and this issue especially, has had trouble finding its narrative focus.
The whole crossover thing (it will even be continued in the next issue of NEW AVENGERS) isn’t bad on its face, it’s just a bit disappointing that a series that had so perfectly sidestepped all the potholes that come with needing to read other books in order to follow the plot finally stepped in one. It’s still a very, very good issue, the writing and visuals are beautiful and heartfelt while still having an edge of both desperation and hard-hitting action. It’s a tough balancing act to achieve, but this issue manages it with aplomb.