The Avengers have fought gods, villains who thought they were gods, and even fellow heroes who thought they were both. In the latest collection, out this week in comic book shops, the Avengers must fight each other for the pleasure of the Phoenix Force. Avengers by Jason Aaron Vol. 8: Enter the Phoenix is a bold take on the traditionally X-Men-related character while also supplying a boxing match between many of Marvel’s greatest heroes and grouchy anti-heroes too. I’m looking at you, Namor.
This collection follows the epic Moon Knight story arc — followed up with Heroes Reborn — and is even more proof Jason Aaron is dead-set on making every arc as epic as a Marvel event. The “Enter the Phoenix” story arc opens one million years ago. It details the survival of a lone girl, raised by wolves at an early age, who we discover has the power of the Phoenix. It continues to add to Aaron’s approach to the ancient Avengers narrative while adding a bit of weight to the story here.
Zipping back to the current timeline, Captain America is getting punched in the face by Dr. Doom, who is powered up by the Phoenix. This punch skips over an important detail of why this book works, and that’s the captions. Writer Jason Aaron captures the heart and soul of Cap from the very start, which grounds the narrative in a first-person experience. His personality as a kid growing up in the Bronx juxtaposes well with the infinite power of the Phoenix. Much of this book captures the many heroes showing off varying personalities, from Namor to Black Panther to Echo aka Maya Lopez. She’s a key figure in the book and in some respects, this story advances her character in a huge way.
This book is more of a fight comic, though, and it contains big action. This is a good jumping-on point for casual readers since this story is more about the matchups and the various personalities. It also stands alone thanks to the Phoenix pitting these heroes against each other in some kind of another dimension.
Dale Keown draws the first issue and the ancient caveman setting suits his detailed style. Javier Garrón, backed up by color artist David Curiel and letterer Cory Petit, does exceptional work throughout this story. The character designs are cool and a nice riff on Phoenix. Traditionalists should probably look away, but if you’re open to a big and loud fight comic this does its job. The style makes these characters larger-than-life as they fill the page when necessary. Layouts are casual with panels twisting and turning as needed. The flame effects — and there are a lot of them — don’t inhibit the figures, making them more ethereal, which suits the cosmic character. Joining them is Lucas Maresca, who comes in swinging with the big and close-up action.
Avengers Vol. 8 is a superhero story built on classic character personality and a good old-fashioned fight contest. It’s meat-and-potatoes fight comics with modern visuals and sensibilities.
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