It’s been a pretty intense time for the Avengers, recently. Gods overthrowing reality, cosmic entity-sponsored fight brackets, trips to Hell, and, of course, devastating multiversal overlords — just another Avengers Tuesday.
The current volume of Avengers has been dedicated almost exclusively to big, bombastic, over-the-top action and concepts. It’s a book that takes to heart the original Avengers creed of facing threats no single hero can handle alone, but while those threats were initially things like Loki being a jerk or, I don’t know, lava men or something, what constitutes as an ‘Avengers-level threat’ has varied incredibly throughout the team’s history.
Writer Jason Aaron has spent the last 54 issues of the book pushing the outer limit of ‘Avengers-level’, with each story arc prodding concepts and concerns so large as to redefine the workings of the universe (and the multiverse). It’s a book that wants to celebrate the true weirdness of comics, to say ‘yes, and…‘ to the wildest concepts. It’s as Silver Age as modern sensibilities can get.
Issue #55 kickstarts a new arc, spending the first half reintroducing Nighthawk, still reeling from Heroes Reborn, and for a very brief moment feels as if it’s going to bring us back down to earth. . . before, of course, introducing the Mephistos of the Multiverse to jet us back into the stratosphere. Where Hickman collapsed the multiverse, Jason Aaron’s current goal seems to be to populate it.
Artist Javier Garrón produces for us a wide buffet of potential devils, producing a two-page splash so jam-packed with ideas and stylistic flair that you’ll spend ten minutes picking out diverse (and alarming) new Mephistos to wonder at. It’s an incredible sampling and speaks volumes to the sort of creativity we can expect from Garrón during his tenure on a book obsessed with big things.
All that excitement has a caveat, however. With all the high-concept conflicts, the Avengers themselves tend to get overshadowed. All the soap-opera interpersonally of the team gets wiped away, leaving earnest character moments few and far between. While the opening Nighthawk sequence gives us a moment to establish his motives and illustrate how his life has been since Heroes Reborn, the rest of the cast is mostly reduced to action-figure simplicity, delivering the sorts of lines we can picture them delivering without a whole lot of nuance and feeling.
Of course, over half of the Avengers in the issue have the benefit of their own books in which to develop their own intimate narratives—and half of those leftover have had recent turns as main characters. Regardless, without regularly checking in with the characters, the boundary-pushing big moves of Avengers seem to leave its principal players primarily unaffected.
With our check-in with Nighthawk and the Mephisto bomb-drop at the end, Avengers #55 feels more like a Nighthawk tie-in issue in a big event than it does a stand-alone team book.
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