Mar 8, 2015
Further On Up The Road to "Secret Wars"
Let me just say up front that, much as I am reading Mr. Hickman's run on the Avengers titles in order that I'm completely up to date and ready for the Secret Wars in May, re-reading his work is always, always, a pleasure. His facility with dialogue, with pacing of story beats is of the highest calibre. He's been paired with some stellar visual storytellers as well, so this run of comics has been just wonderful. There were a couple of moments in "Infinity" that gave me absolute goosebumps all over my body. Thor's "surrender" to the Builder on Hala springs immediately to mind. So, moving on....
Avengers v.5 #10 - 11 - a couple of standalone stories that deal with the fallout of Ex Nihilo's origin bombs. It's nice to see a fair and un-caricatured depiction in #10 of Canada and our superhero program. Don't get me wrong: it's horrendous what happens to all the poor Canadians at the end of the issue, but it's lovely to see them playing a major role in Hickman's every expanding world-ending tale. I do worry that there's some strangely imperialist subtext going on with the Canadian government having to call Captain America in for a rescue mission, but there's also this idea that I've had for a long time about Cap that he's more a spirit of the idea of America than of the geophysical location. Though if I'm learning one thing while studying for my exam, it's that the geophysical and the spiritual are fundamentally linked in American cultural thought. Maybe that's fodder for another paper. #11 is a fun little piece of espionage writing, sort of demonstrating that the main Avengers team can also function on a more subtle level, closer to the covert machinations of their Illuminati counterparts. It's a good story, but not a great one, and I have to say that the best part of the whole comic for me is the cover, where we get a thoroughly Manga'd Avengers. Sailor Spider-Woman is my favourite.
New Avengers v.3 #7 - a brief interlude with the Illuminati. One of the great subtextual stories in this series is the conflict between Namor and T'Challa that spins out of the Avengers vs. X-Men series. Again, Hickman's writing meshes the feelings of hatred, respect, and necessity that these two characters feel for one another quite beautifully. The head to which this story has built of the past few recent issues is just great. Also in this issue is a lovely little interlude where Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, and Dr. Doom have dinner together, and Reed's almost casual dismissal of Victor at the end of it shows us just how far the experience of the Incursions has pushed Reed Richards. Doom used to be a threat. Now he is simply something in the way of Reed solving this problem, and, as the dismissal suggests, Doom has nothing of any value to contribute to the solution. I'm not sure I'd agree, and it's strange that Doom wasn't a member of the Cabal.
Avengers v.5 #12 - 17 - a good long stretch of the main team here. Before the chaos of the "Infinity" storylines, we have an interlude in the Savage Land focusing on the "Zebra children" left behind by one of the origin bombs. I wouldn't quite call it a filler story, but it's more a character building piece than a story building piece. One of the great joys of Hickman's main Avengers title is the relationship that develops between Hyperion and Thor. They are both, fundamentally, gods, and their quiet dialogues musing on the way they perceive experience and life, in contrast to the way their teammates do, are just lovely. The High Evolutionary part of this story I can take or leave, but the interactions of these two entities is some sublime writing. Issue #14 - 17 are the "Prelude to Infinity" issues, which I find to be a bit of a misnomer. The prelude sections, which really could have probably filled 6 or so pages at the beginning of Infinity proper, are background to another tale of A.I.M., who've become a far more interesting organization over the last few years. The ramifications of the A.I.M. story play out in the Hickman/Spencer-scripted Avengers World, which I've not included on my reading order. While the stories are good (and my understanding is that Nick Spencer's solo stuff is pretty good too), they don't really lead us toward the Secret Wars. At least, not that I can tell. I guess my problem with calling these issues(and the next New Avengers issue) "preludes" is that it seems to cast the stories are somehow secondary to the tale that's coming up. And I think the story of the signal and the A.I.M. superweapon is a really good one that shouldn't be asychronously overshadowed.
New Avengers v.3 #8 - another prelude story, all about Black Bolt and Maximus. This one really isn't a prelude at all, but a fundamental part of the Infinity storyline. We need to see the Maximus/Black Bolt plots to even remotely be prepared for the final events of Infinity, and we even get a view of the invasion at the very end of the comic. This is more an expository piece of Infinity than a prelude, but I guess it gets us where we need to be in order for the great event.
Which I'll talk about next time.