Jonathan Hickman’s two major claims to fame at Marvel are his Fantastic Four and Avengers runs. These runs have more than just their main writer in common — a big similarity is that Hickman wrote two ongoing series for both of them, albeit not always at the same time. But this is a pretty surface level comparison. The real similarity between the two is their overall structure and pacing. Hickman’s Fantastic Four/FF run starts off explosively before immediately slowing down and taking its time, sowing seeds for the future. By the time the audience has gotten kind of tired of stories about Atlantis and Nu-World and the Universal Inhumans, he launches the centerpiece of the run, the big climax that reaps what he’d sown prior to a fantastic result. There’s more after that, but it’s not important. All you need to know is that his Avengers run has a similar pacing, and that this collection is the slowed down sowing of the seeds.
There’s only one issue of New Avengers in this collection — issue #7. Most people would agree that this was the stronger book during the first collection, but it just didn’t come out for a while midway through the run, because Hickman wanted to focus on the setup taking place in Avengers. Because of this, this stretch of Avengers is considered the weakest of the run as a whole, because for a while it just feels like a bunch of one-shot stories that aren’t really connected or leading to anything. And with hindsight it’s clear they’re leading to something, but the connective tissue that a lot of readers have come to expect from Hickman is bare bones — he’s intentionally keeping it loose for the payoff to feel that much more satisfying.
The actual collection itself is just as great as the first one. Instead of covers to separate different issues, there’s a stylish title page followed by the cast page for the next issue. I love this a lot — issue titles are some of my favorite things in comics, and Hickman is one of the best at titling stories.
Where I think this collection begins to really suffer, though, is the art, specifically Mike Deodato Jr’s art. He doesn’t do the whole thing, but his style feels reminiscent of early 2000s 3D computer animation, and in all the bad ways. He doesn’t ruin the book by any means, but between Dustin Weaver and Stefano Caselli, Deodato doing the majority of the collection ends up feeling underwhelming. Aside from Deodato, though, Jerome Opeña does a fantastic job on the first issue and both Weaver and Caselli are great in their portions.
I’m doing my best to not really talk about or spoil the actual contents of the stories, because they’ve been talked to death. I personally love the entire run, including this slower portion — I like taking some time to breathe, and I especially enjoy Hickman’s smaller stories that let him spotlight different characters. Hyperion and Thor are especially the standouts of these stories, as Hickman does a great job writing them, but in general he’s really great with letting every character get some time to shine in his ensemble casts.
This is Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers, and it’s the best way to collect the run in paperbacks. It’s absolutely worth the purchase.
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